Vail Daily column: Burning to be better
August 21, 2014
With each new job, I aim to be the best ever.
That’s my personal quest, under all the “help the community,” “develop our individuals,” “forge a team,” “build the business,” all that stuff.
Scrape the fuzz away, rub the bare steel shiny, and there’s just me. And that one thing.
Don’t get me wrong. I am the quintessential team player, even in play, as we strive to succeed. In the truest Vince Lombardi sense, winning is the only thing, although this mantra has been horribly misinterpreted from what he meant in repeating a less famous coach’s quote. (Hint: He wasn’t talking about cheating or the euphemism “whatever it takes.” He wasn’t talking about spats with his wife, either. He meant the will to win, he said later.)
In any case, winning for me is an “us” thing. It’s why I competed in team sports and have reaped the most satisfaction as part of a fire crew, a newsroom, an organization. Helping get the most out of “us” is far more satisfying, interesting and sure, frustrating, than solitary efforts.
The “me” candle that burns brightest, though, isn’t satisfaction, happy moments when all the world feels just right, giddy victory celebrations around big ol’ bonfires. Not even a cold beer, great steak and Broncos or Lakers game on TV after a long day at work.
No, it’s this weird quest, if you peel the onion to the nub, to be better at whatever job I’m doing than anyone before me. Fine if the next person when I leave is better, especially if it’s someone I helped prepare for the role. I’m just gunning for best ever to my time.
This is not a mantra I repeat to myself, some intellectual exercise to pump myself up for the day, a note on a screen-saver. This one just burns unbidden, inextinguishable and often painfully all on its own.
Now combine all this burning with a sense of security and confidence that scratches at the wrong end of the spectrum from all the “best ever” nonsense, and you get moments like, “Crap, these folks are going to figure out any minute now that I’ve fooled them into thinking I could do this job at all. Dude, you’re a fraud.”
Count yourself blessed if this set of spurs doesn’t own you. Freedom from such constant raking allows for much healthier ways to careen through life.
I mean, I don’t wish on anyone my little voice muttering “crap, crap, oh crap, … crap,” relieved for oh about a second as I leave a job when it actually turned out I did OK after all. That second stretched to almost a minute when one paper had to hire two people to replace me. This utter sickness even brought some brief enjoyment around a bonfire at a reunion, learning that my old fire crew for a couple decades after my time told tales about this one nut who loaded rocks in a knapsack and beat on dirt with a pick-matic while everyone else played volleyball the last hour of workdays we weren’t on fires.
Not smart enough, not talented enough, not strong enough, not good enough. Not enough. Not enough. So what do you do? This fire still burns, incongruously and unquenchably. Any evidence of success shrugs off almost instantly with “well, that was yesterday.”
So imagine following an in-house legend in the role I have now. Bob Brown, now president of our company, was the publisher at the Vail Daily who hired me as editor back at the end of 1999. Chances are you know him. He still lives in the valley. And so you know what I’m talking about.
The other stops and positions were daunting, but ultimately achievable. If I didn’t quite reach my aim, I left knowing I’d be in the conversation. This is different, though. We’re talking impossible this time.
Now, a wise person — or let’s just say it … a sane person — would listen to Clint Eastwood’s in-role advice about knowing your limitations.
There is no end to wise sayings about the foolishness of comparing yourself to others. I believe most of them, too, even have a bunch in my set of screen savers to see and think about.
Still, that ridiculous fire burns, only stoked all the higher now for the impossibility of my current position.
It’s just the dumbest thing.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.