Play to win, but always play fair

We live in a competitive world, and my desire if for you both to succeed. Play hard, give your best, and strive to be the best in all your endeavors. Having said that- always play fair: be a good sport, play by the rules, and help others along the way. There is nothing wrong with being competitive, just be careful not to fall into the trap of doing “whatever it takes” to win. It is not worth it.

The past few years we have seen several people who cheated to win, and are now paying the price because their cheating was discovered. Many years ago I was a huge Lance Armstrong fan. I marveled at his achievements on the bike – “winning” seven consecutive Tour de France races. This level of excellence was unheard of, and unprecedented in sport. He was also a hero to many. He survived cancer and went on to found a charity that was having a large impact for the fight against cancer. But, as we all know now, it was a farce. He cheated to win, punished those who tried to reveal the truth, and lied up to the last moment possible before coming clean. It was a great fall for him, and many other who helped him cheat his way to the top of the podium. What a shame. The hero became the villain and the sport of cycling has never been the same since then.

Don’t be that guy – the one who cheats. The one who lies. The one who is willing to take a cheap shot at an opponent in order to gain an unfair advantage. It is not worth it, and no one will trust you again. Competition is not a good thing if it hurts others, or if it separates you from God. In other words, never compromise who you are, or what you believe, simply to win. Win based on your own merits. You can do it, and I will applaud your efforts.

8God guards the paths of the just, and protects those who are faithful to him. 9 Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go.

    – Proverbs 2:8-9

Do your best – apply yourself

Do your best.  Don’t be satisfied with just “going through the motions”.  I am a big believer in applying yourself, and focusing your efforts in areas that you are passionate about.  I do not believe that many people possess the talent to do everything well.  I have seen many people who can do a lot of things okay, but they are not really great at anything in particular. Instead, I want to be someone who is great at something.

Greatness is a difficult thing to achieve, so I recommend pushing yourself until you get there. Look for inspiration from others who have achieved greatness. Athletes like Pele or Michael Phelps come to mind. Musicians like Mozart or Eddie Van Halen. I am not saying that they are great people. I have never met any of them, so I do not know. Rather I am saying that they are great at what they do. Pele revolutionized the game of soccer. Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer and Olympic champion ever. Mozart was a musical genius, and Eddie Van Halen plays wicked guitar.

The hard part for me has been figuring out what I do well, so that I can pursue my talents with a relentless passion to be the best that I can. I have already shared with you some of my passions, now it is time for you to identify your own. I will do my best to support you in your passions, and I am relying on you to do your part…do your best.

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” 

Margaret Thatcher

Heroes do exist – here is one

This week there has been a lot of talk about Captain Humayun Khan, an American hero. His father’s comments at the Democratic National Convention created a tidal wave of media coverage. People have taken sides, the press continues to stir the pot, and I am concerned that the most important part of the story is getting lost in all the noise. So, I am going to focus this blog on the heroic actions of Captain Kahn. Both of you boys have heard this story before, but it is worth telling again.

You will recall that I knew Humayun Kahn when he was a student at UVA. He was enrolled in the Army ROTC program while I was an instructor there from 1999-2001. I remember Humayun as a fine young man. He was pretty serious, focused on success, and responsive to training. He performed well as an ROTC cadet. To be frank – he did not really stand out from his peers. He fit in and showed great leadership potential like all his classmates did when they graduated from UVA and received their commissions. I did not think much about him until years later when I learned that he was killed in action while serving in Iraq. Like everyone who knew him, I took the news hard. I could only imagine what his family was going through. I can think of no greater challenge in life than losing a child.

It is worth talking about the heroic actions Captain Kahn took when he paid the ultimate sacrifice. Here is a brief description:

On June 8, Khan was inspecting a guard post when a suspicious taxicab began approaching too quickly. Ordering his subordinates away from the vehicle, Khan ran forward 10–15 steps and was killed by a suicide car bomb fitted with an improvised explosive device. The car detonated before it could reach the gates or the nearby mess hall where hundreds of soldiers were eating breakfast. Khan was also posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Several years ago I participated in Veteran’s Day activities at a local elementary school. At that event, I shared the story of Captain Kahn with the students. I explained the circumstances of his death, and described three reasons why I believe he is a true American hero.

  1. Captain Kahn put others first. He ordered his troops to take cover so that they were safe while he assessed the situation. He thought about them before he thought about himself.
  2. Captain Kahn possessed the personal courage to face danger head-on. He did not shy away from it. It is not a natural act for any of us to put ourselves in harm’s way. In this case, he saved the life of many, by sacrificing his own.
  3. Captain Kahn built a legacy for others to emulate. His story of courage, bravery, and sacrifice should inspire us to greatness. When I think of Kahn and his sacrifice, it makes me want to be a better person. I hope it does the same for you.

I do not expect that many of us will ever face a similar situation. Lord knows that I hope neither of you ever do. But, it is reassuring to know that we have heroes like Kahn in our midst. Heroes do exist. They don’t wear capes, fly an invisible jet, or come from another planet. Rather they are everyday people – like you and me. The difference is that they do extraordinary things when called into action.

As you know, we used to live in the same house that the Kahns owned when their son died, and that I have met his family. I will share that part of the story at a later date – when the time is right. This blog post is about honoring Captain Humayun Kahn, so I will end here.

John 15:13. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.