Elite vs. Elitism: Know The Difference

Working to be the best is something I’m all for.  Heck, part of the point of this blog is to detail a little bit about how I am trying to do that with my own life… along with the requisites victories and stumbles that come along the way.  There is a tremendous amount of skill, dedication, discipline and sheer willpower that goes along with the quest to reach that pinnacle… to become part of the elite.  To say I admire those who make that commitment fully is an understatement.

However, elite is something that differs greatly from its annoying cousin that often likes to tag along with it.  That snot-nosed little brat would be the never acceptable elitism.  These two traits don’t always have to travel together as an inseparable pair… but damn it, sometimes they just do.  The sad thing is that they really never need to.

Allow me to illustrate a bit:

Music

This is always one that stuck in my craw a little bit – the way people tend to elevate one band or artistic while simultaneously putting down another for “pandering to the masses” or just being “meaningless pop”.  The latter category would tend to be for music like this from Ke$ha:

And the critically-acclaimed darlings would be something more like this from Arcade Fire:

I can almost sense the level of utter disgust from some reading this post… even though you are doing so in the future.  Yeah, I’m kind of a seer like that – freaky right?  My point is that regardless of why someone may like Arcade Fire and feel repulsed by Ke$ha, I have pretty much zero patience for those who sneer at others for listening to “lesser” music.  If you don’t like Ke$ha, don’t listen to her and the world will just continue spinning along on its merry way with nary a blip in the scheme of the cosmos.  It’s the fact that elitists really are looking for a means by which to set themselves above and apart from others… in this case via their musical tastes… that simply falls flat.  Ke$ha sells a lot of MP3s and albums because people like her music (even if they don’t want to admit it to their friends).  If people like it, why is that such a bad thing?

Fitness

Elitist!

Hoo boy, does this ever happen in the world of strength, fitness, training, exercise and so on.  It’s not enough to be looking to improve yourself or get stronger/leaner/faster/healthier/more awesomer… far too many people are compelled to take that next step from shooting for elite to acting like the elitists will all know and love.  Powerlifters do this.  Bodybuilders do this.  Crossfitters do this.  Triathletes do this.  Hell, I’m sure this even happens in curling, Wiffle-ball and lawn bowling (as this photo proves to a weird degree).  Need I continue?  It’s a disease that doesn’t reside with any one particular clique.

Again, the difference between the two is that someone shooting to be the best is focused on doing what they can… or really… what they must do to improve while elitists focused more of their time on why others are less.  It’s as if the actual work to be better is too hard, so hey, we can look better if everyone looks worse.  YAY!

And truth be told… if you have to resort to acting like an elitist ass to make yourself look better or to feel better about yourself, that’s pretty much the first sign that you were never that great to begin with.

Be humble.  Be great.  Probably one of the most powerful combinations I know.

Authenticity: The Fine Art of Just Being Yourself

Authentic. The genuine article. The real McCoy. The real deal like Holyfield.

The notion of “To thine own self, be true” is one that’s resonated with people for a very long time. Like, easily longer than The Simpsons has been on TV. For real… THAT long. Despite the seeming impossibility, it’s true.

I am fortunate enough to have two similar, but distinct forums from which to speak in the most authentic way I can: a blog I do at work and the humble blog you read this very moment. The topics of the two are different. My work blog is about business ethics and is targeted to thousands of colleagues I am fortunate to have in my company. This blog is about… hmm… truth be told, it’s sometimes a little tricky to describe this blog succinctly. If I were pressed, I would say this blog is about my own journey to make myself a little better daily and share that story with you I hopes you can do the same. How’s that sound? Copacetic?

The handsome kid himself

While the exact topic of any given blog post I do on either blog can vary, the most critical goal I have… besides writing something worth reading… is for the message to be completely authentic to who I am if you just walked up to me to have a chat. I cannot stress enough how important I think this is because I think those who lack authenticity lack any staying power with their message. Plus, it just comes across as disingenuous and maybe even flat out dishonest.

I think that’s a huge reason why I have such a disdain for most Internet forums or the comments that follow many Web articles: they tend to be places where people lob verbal grenades from the safety of hiding behind their monitors. Ugh. Or why I don’t just blindly follow anyone who follows me on Twitter. If all you have to “say” is a solely links to the content of others without even a single personal observation or shred of insight, then consider me uninterested.

I write what I would say if you were standing in front of me. The weird and quirky (to put it mildly) sense of humor? Yeah, that’s me. The yearning to press myself to do a little more and be a little better, but without feeling like I’m somehow incomplete? That’s this handsome kid right here.

In the end, I may not be perfect… but at least I’m me at all times.

From Whence Shall Come Hope?

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Alexander Pope from An Essay on Man

Hope. It’s what keeps us going through the roughest of times and allows us to find a little something extra to pull out when we feel we are closing to giving in. In fact, I would argue that without hope, little progress would have ever occurred in human history. Why toil and struggle in some seemingly noble effort if there was not even the slightest shred of hope?

Sure, there are stories of heroic last stands in the face of insurmountable odds (The Spartans against the Persian Empire or the Alamo), but by and large, we don’t tend to want to put our hearts and souls into anything that feels pointless or predetermined.

Hope has been on my mind on a lot of late, truth be told. I tend to be an optimistic and hopeful person, but the last few weeks have been a struggle for me. If there is one thing that challenges my belief in the general goodness of life, it’s good or innocent people suffering.  I can’t help but think long and hard about the people of Japan, Haiti, Yemen, Libya and Egypt (and I know I likely missed at least one country that has been in the news of late).  But on a much more personal level, the events of a few people very close to me have also weighed heavily on my mind.  The woman that’s meant more to me than words can capture who is still fighting to recover from the after-effects of leukemia treatments and who, while just seeking a few moments of peace within which to recover, finds out the beloved dog who was there for every step of the fight of her illness has bone cancer.  Or one of my absolute best friends relapsing again with leukemia and contracting a bad (and incredibly scary) case of viral pneumonia to the point where he needed to be intubated to breathe.

It could be incredibly easy to lapse into a very gray funk… because, truth be told, hope seems to be missing temporarily or perhaps hiding in some dark corner where it’s waiting to reemerge.  Those two people so close to me… how would I tell them that “This too shall pass” or to keep believing when it seems like every step forward is soon followed by a rude shove forcing them to relent their hard-fought gains?  How do you stem the tears of someone who is trying to find a little solid footing, but now is heartbroken over the very likely need to say goodbye all-too-soon to the furry friend who was an absolute angel the last 8 years?  Anything said can easily come across hollow and insincere to even the most forgiving of viewpoints.

As I’ve often said in this blog, I don’t pretend to have all the answers and write more to share my own experiences as honestly as I can.  I do this in the hope that maybe just one other person will find a bit of insight or an ounce of comfort in what I have to say – that would be a tremendous win in my mind and heart.

So what to do?  Well, for me, the hope can often come from the very fight itself.  The situations that have been on my mind can all reach happy (or at least happier endings) and, hence, are worth fighting for.  My role becomes the shoulder to cry on and the friend to lean on.  Hmm… not sure if “role” even captures it properly.  Duty – I think that’s how I feel about it.  I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate that I do not have these horrible things happening to me and so I take it upon myself as my personal duty to bear as much as I can for those I care about.  If their hope wavers, mine will not and maybe… just maybe… they will fight a little harder or believe a little more because of that.

Life has so much out of our control.  That’s been the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last 10 to 15 years.  My reaction to that is to gut it out and give my best to those precious areas I can control.  Sometimes I do it well and others times… ehh… maybe not so much, but I keep trying.  The fight itself is worth it… but more importantly… those that mean so much to me are worth even more.

Plus, life always will throw a moment like this one at you:

That's one fired up nephew
Christmas hope courtesy of my nephew

I defy anyone not to find hope in something like that.  I do every time I see it.