How to Become the Greatest Ever
Enlightenment 201
Inmate #811 | Sep 17, 2014
Topic category: Zen Enlightenment

Zen is about pushing boundaries. Testing the extremes. One of the best examples of extremes to me is NBA basketball great Michael Jordon.

I’m a huge Michael Jordon fan. I was a fortunate to be able to watch him play; a witness to the greatest basketball player in the history of the game. I think most fans of basketball would agree. There has never been anyone better.

But perhaps you’re not a fan of Michael Jordon or don’t know who he is. If so, please bear with me. This will be less about Michael and more about what it means to be the best. What type of person is driven to surpass all others.

This is about life at the extremes.

My admiration of Michael Jordon is of course centered on his abilities as a basketball player. And that is why I hope there will be other basketball players to surpass Michael in the future. Someone new that will take on the mantle as the best that ever played. It would it be a gift to future fans.

After all, how often do you get to experience the feeling of being the absolute best at something? And not just in the present, but in all of history. Think about that.

That’s what happened for fans of Michael Jordon. Albeit from a distance, we were able to emotionally invest in him and share in the feeling of being the best ever. For us, whenever he won, we won. His championships became our championships. Through Michael we shared in being the absolute best. For fans, it was literally the “best” feeling ever.

That’s what I hope future fans of basketball will get to enjoy. It is such a rare and remarkable experience. It would be unfortunate if it never happened again.

If you’re not a basketball fan, this may not make a lot of sense. So let me get to the point.

The game of basketball by definition is a competition. Your success or failure is easily measured. If you win a game, series, or championship, you succeed, if lose you fail.

This harsh reality of success or failure imposes a very distinct and objective measure for who you are. Because there is no grey area, you either win or you lose, there are no excuses. There is a clear measure of success on which your identity rests. So if you have won enough games and celebrated enough championships, you can say with proof, that you were the best ever.

And this is what makes being the best so interesting. Ultimately you have a lot to prove. To be the best ever, you must want to stand at the most extreme point. You want everyone else behind you. You want no other equal. You want to stand alone.

What drives someone to go there? How does one get to that place?

There are many answers that question of course, but I’d like to focus on one; the dedication to the idea of being the best and the devotion to the ego, the “voice” in your head, that it creates.

For Michael Jordan this translated into work ethic. His incredible drive and determination are universally cited as one of the biggest reasons for his greatness. His dedication to winning the game was unparalleled. He took pride in working harder and longer than anyone else; to endure greater suffering, pain, and sacrifice than anyone else.

How does one get to that place?

From a zen perspective, it starts with ego and identity. Michael’s identity was completely tied to his performance as a basketball player. His winning was the most important thing in the world to him. Everything else came secondary to that desire.

Because basketball was everything to him, his ego -- the voice in his head, became validated by either winning or losing. With every win, his identity was validated. With every loss, it was diminished.

So when that voice told him to get up at 3 or 4am so he could get to practice, he did so. And he did it day, after day, after day. Beyond all exhaustion, pain, suffering; Michael Jordon’s voice told him to keep going, work harder, sacrifice more and he listened.

That is what it takes to become the greatest ever.

Even when the voice in every other basketball player’s head was saying the same thing, Michael got up earlier and more often than everyone else. Put another way, he had more to prove than everyone else. School, work, family, friends, relationships, everything else came second.

Now let me be clear. I am not judging his priorities. As I said, I am a huge fan. All greatness comes with sacrifice. My point is to articulate how intertwined one’s identity becomes to that which we hold most important.

Because according to zen, that’s all you are. You are a reflection of what you hold important. And the more important it is to you, the more you identify yourself with it. Basketball was so important to Michael that it became who he was. It’s what got him out of bed earlier, practicing longer and sacrificing the most.

And the rewards to being at the most extreme point are by definition indescribable. What must it feel like to be the best in all of history? To have throngs of fans cheer for you worldwide. To win world championships. To have adoring fans want to emulate you. To have admirers everywhere.

It’s why we revere people like Michael. We bask in their reflected glory just so we can share a small piece of that feeling with them.

Ahhh, to be able to walk in Michael Jordan’s shoes for a day.

So, what if I told you being the opposite of Michael could be just as powerful? What if you could experience equally powerful feelings just like Mike?

I’m not referring to the feeling of losing. All the players that had their identities tied to winning that lost to Michael went through a different experience. So long as they measured themselves by wins and losses, the bigger the loss the more crestfallen the ego.

The opposite path I’m referring to is having no ego to be crestfallen.

That is the zen path. Rather than create an identity tied to something, like winning or losing in basketball, zen say’s have an identity tied to nothing. Have no ego.

If you can stop measuring yourself by success or failure, you create a freedom which is just as profound an experience as Michael Jordan’s, albeit in a very different way.

Instead of wins and losses, zen is seeking out the tie game. Instead of having an identity completely tied to one thing, eliminating your identity allows you to hold everything as equally important. It’s life at the opposite extreme.

In it’s own way, it’s the same feeling as being Michael Jordon. But instead of an ego that knows it’s the best, it’s freedom from the ego all together. In either case, you no longer need to prove anything to anyone.

And when you have nothing left to prove, you become the greatest ever.

Tags: TypeZen, Stress Management, Stress, Type A, Type A Personality, Henry Kang, Inmate #811, Zen Asylum
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