Milestone Blog

How to Be Great

Posted by Soderquist Leadership on Jun 22, 2014 9:00:00 AM

 "For some reason, ping pong came very natural to me, so I started playing it all the time. I played ping pong even when I didn't have anyone to play ping pong with." -Forrest Gump

My daughter claims that ping pong is the only game that brings out her competitive side.  Those who are serious about the sport call it table tennis and just last month if you watched any of the coverage of the Texas Wesleyan Rams, who were defending their 11th straight national collegiate title here in the U.S., you wouldn’t call it ping pong either.  It’s an amazing sport.

Table tennis originated in England in the late 1800’s as a diversion for the upper class.  Fast forward a hundred years and it became an Olympic sport.   Today, not only is it in the Olympics,  it is a varsity sport on some 300 U.S. college campuses, and its world star athletes are household names in China - most likely because all of the sport’s top athletes come from China.

There are table tennis millionaires, those who play super robots, and a 41-year old man, Ibrahim Hamato, who plays without any arms. His mantra, "nothing is impossible." Thomas Fuller, an English Churchman and Historian once said,

"The real difference between men is energy. A strong will, a settled purpose, an invincible determination, can accomplish almost anything; and in this lies the distinction between great men and little men." 

Regarding ping pong I would qualify as one of the “little men” according to Fuller.  I’m ok being a “little man” (actually “woman”) in the sport.  I enjoy it and it helps me experience my competitive side in ways that are good for me.  It’s great to compete to win in a game that doesn’t matter (to me), one that doesn’t change anyone’s opinion of me, and a game that I can beat my children at without being viewed negatively.  The distinction between the “great men” of the sport and me then, according to Fuller, is my “energy” as he defines it - a strong will, a settled purpose and an invincible determination.  And I’d have to agree my ping pong game lacks all three.

Regarding life though, these three things should distinguish me from others. To determine if they are, particularly at work, I ask myself 3 questions:

  1. Strong Will: What keeps me persevering? Or the better questions might be, when do I disengage or change direction too early?
  2. Settled Purpose: How do my convictions and my values guide my future? How do I get off track?
  3. Invincible Determination: Do I have confidence that the actions I’m taking today will lead me or others to a better place?

As Forrest Gump’s mom would say “You have to do the best with what God gave you.” So the ultimate question I leave you with is “Are you doing the best with what you have right now?”  Are you Great?

Wendy Soderquist Togami, Senior Director, Soderquist Center  

Written by:
Wendy Soderquist Togami
Senior Director


Topics: Leadership

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