Monday, September 22, 2008

Winning for a Reason

“I said this was going to define my career, but you know what, it made my career.” -Kenny Perry

I watched Sunday afternoon as Kenny Perry, choked with emotion, spoke those words. What was he thinking about? What made this win so meaningful for him? Here's my theory. This grueling Ryder Cup match was not about the big check or the lucrative endorsements or the individual achievement - the kind of things that professional golfers go after every other week of the year.

This was bigger, much bigger. This match was about playing for a team and a cause beyond any one person's ego or ambition. This was playing one's very best for something bigger than a bank account. "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" Competing to restore our national pride in an international sport is a strong motivation, whether in the Olympics or the Ryder Cup or the America's Cup.

I know. It's just a game. Just a silly old golf game. But Kenny Perry reminded me of a significant truth, that we all find our deepest level of fulfillment when we give ourselves to something bigger than our own self interest. Winning only for yourself is just feeding a wolf that will soon be hungry again. But achieving a victory for the teammate beside you and the flag above you fills you up until the tears run down your face and you can hardly talk. Now that's a game worth playing.

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