Life’s Timelines

Before each game at Stanford, while the team was in the hotel, we would invite a supporter of the program to come speak, and share some “wise words”. These honorary captains spoke on a wide variety of topics: from how Stanford Football impacts their life, how their job relates to football, or simply how excited they are to be leading us onto the field the next day.

The list of names that have taken on this role is extremely impressive, but isn’t the point of this post. Rather, I wanted to relay one message that has stuck with me because I felt it was thought-provoking and profound. This won’t be a direct transcription of what was said, and it likely won’t be as good, but I’ll try to relay the message as well as I can.

Life’s timelines change as we age. When we are young, the accomplishments that we relish most can be completed in a matter of minutes. As we grow older the timeframes to see the results of our work increase.As a child, a crayon drawing of stick figures could be the peak of achievement for the year. Schoolwork and tests offer great feedback loop opportunities as we grow. Once school is finished though, the length of time to learn if we have met our goals extends significantly. Law cases take months, Doctors’ patients heal over time, construction of buildings don’t happen overnight (unless you prefabricate everything. smartass… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPSxt5A23MI). Even then, the results become far less decisive.

The moral of this speech was to point out how fortunate athletes are to have the opportunity to know for certain if their efforts in preparation for their challenge were good enough to beat your opponent and win. In sports you either win or you lose (and in some weird sports you tie, but that should be abolished) at the end of the game. While there are occasional elements of chance and luck that factor into a victory (or loss), by and large the better team, the team that worked harder, the smarter team, the more efficient team, etc. wins. We should be thankful that we get immediate feedback on what we need to improve upon, and how we can get better. Most jobs don’t easily/regularly allow for this quick and decisive feedback, and more than likely, our “after-sports” jobs won’t be so accommodating.

Note: I realize there are exceptions to these points, and if you’re like me, you were making a mental note of every possible job that could prove the opposite of what I just said. Thanks for that. This post was intended to be thought-provoking and hopefully start a meaningful conversation, not make an argument.