Today is September 17 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you remind yourself that somethings are bigger than yourself?” People who navigate the chaos understand that somethings are just bigger than their personal goals.
USC head coach Clay Helton is competitive and guided his team to the 2016 Rose Bowl championship. But he also understands that somethings are just bigger than the game itself. Thanks to an arrangement with Western Michigan coach Tim Lester, Helton was able to get USC long snapper Jake Olson into the game.
What’s so special about this is that Olson is blind. Olson ran onto the field with his teammate holding his shoulder and made a successful snap for USC to kick the extra point. Olson had been a part of the USC football team for years. He worked hard and Helton wanted to give him a chance.
To make that happen Helton called Lester and offered to make a most unique deal. USC would not rush Western Michigan’s first extra-point attempt if they would not rush an extra-point attempt involving Olson. “Coach Helton told me what the kid meant to the team, I told him we’d be happy to be part of it,” Lester said.
So, after Western Michigan scored its first touchdown USC backed off. After USC scored a touchdown late in game, and up by more than 14 points, Lester kept his word. Before USC’s extra-point try, he called his defensive players together and gave them an impromptu speech. “I told them the entire situation and said, ‘You can’t touch him, you can’t yell at him, everybody get down so it looks like a football play but nobody move,’” Lester recalled. “I told them, ‘What we’re about to do is bigger than the game. This is about what kind of people we want to be, what we represent; this is bigger than us.’” And what did they say? “They said, ‘Yes sir.’” And with that both USC and Western Michigan helped provided an example of how some things are just bigger than the game.
A similar story of someone who navigated the chaos of life by understanding some things are bigger than they are happened on December 2, 2013 in a cross-country race in Burlada, Navarre. Spanish runner Iván Fernández Anaya was running second, some distance behind race leader Abel Mutai from Kenya. As they entered the finishing straight, Fernández Anaya saw the Kenyan runner – the certain winner of the race – mistakenly pull up about 10 meters before the finish, thinking he had already crossed the line.
Fernández Anaya quickly caught up with him, but instead of exploiting Mutai’s mistake to speed past and claim an unlikely victory, he stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.
According to Fernández Anaya “He (Abel Mutai) was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I could not have closed. I did not deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I could not have closed if he had not made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”
Some would argue that Fernández Anaya should have run past Mutai for the victory. That was certainly an option. But like most moments in life, you have to decide right then and there what kind of person you want to be. Fernández Anaya did not want to be the person who took advantage of another competitor. What is most impressive in his statement is the phrase ‘as soon as I saw he was stopping,’ which means Fernández Anaya instinctively understood he would help Mutai cross the finish line first as he was the rightful winner. Fernández Anaya maintained the self-awareness required to be the type of person he wanted to be at that moment in time. At that moment, winning was not the only thing that mattered. Like so many people that navigate the chaos, Fernández Anaya understood that the moment was bigger than himself.
Navigating the chaos of life demands a daily grind to translate your dreams into reality. Such constant effort does not, however, demand that we take advantage of, dishonor, or disrespect those who are on their own path navigating their chaos. Holding firm to the belief that life is bigger than ourselves can provide the perspective so often missing from our lives.
How often do you remind yourself that somethings are bigger than yourself?