We watch sports with our kids. That’s greatness, we say of some 4th quarter comeback win. They’re the G.O.A.T, we explain–the greatest to ever do it. We talk to our kids about the work that went into that success, the practice, the sacrifice. Maybe we even talk about the incredible rewards that follow such greatness. But it’s important that we also remind them where this skill sits in the overall scheme of things.
There’s a story about two Spartans who wrestled and when one was deemed the winner, it was said that “the better man won.” No, a Spartan replied, “the better wrestler won.”
There are a lot of great athletes out there who are absolutely terrible in every other way. Some are abusers. Some are bad teammates. Some are anti-Semites. Some are addicts or cheaters. In many cases, the imbalance required to manage their peak performance fuels these vices. In other cases, their fame and power proved corruptive.
Perhaps their parents simply didn’t take the time to do what you have the opportunity to do right now: Remind them that success, that mastery in their field or on the field, is only one element of true greatness. Remind them that a lack of honor, decency, or discipline undermines achievement–that in most cases, these athletes end up beating themselves, depriving themselves of more championships than their competitors could have ever hoped to. Remind them that the hardest and most impressive and most rare achievement is being great and good.