How We Win

25 Mar 2014 by gebhard, No Comments »

master-GG365I’ve been an IT contractor for much of my mundane career. I’ve found myself at many large corporations that had, among many things, cube farms, more meetings than is rational and large break rooms. In said break rooms often would be a ping-pong table.

I’ve never been very coordinated.  Any “sport” that you play on a table inside, I promise will end with my breaking something glass, expensive, or both.

During lunch, a lot of the guys would play Ping-Pong (or table tennis, as they referred to it) and would even have small tournaments.

I never played, but I would watch every day while eating my tasty sandwich. Over time, I got a pretty good feel for who was good. But one player stood above t he rest; his name was Ming. He was by far the best.  I never saw him lose.  He was always cool and level headed. He took down guys that claimed to have played their entire lives, guys from other countries where they played Ping Pong in school leagues.

He was lighting fast and could make the ball spin any direction he wanted.  I’m pretty sure he could make it spell his name, and he could hit the ball hard enough to break the sound barrier.

Near the end of my contract, I asked someone “Just how good to do you think Ming is?”

He responded, “We have no idea how good Ming is.  No one here can give him a challenge.” However, Ming was never one to brag.  If you asked, he would say he wasn’t good enough yet, and was still working on improving.

I had heard Ming went to the Olympics. This was a shock to me to learn.  I never would have guessed they played Ping Pong at the Olympics. The idea of Ming being able to compete wasn’t a question. I have no doubt he gave them hell.

Then it happened, one day the the pressure became too great for me to eat lunch in the cafe and only watch, as I had for months.

It was Ming who wanted me to play. I thought to myself, “Well at least I can take a whooping like a man”.  I had played Ping Pong exactly never in my life (not counting electronic Pong or Ping Pong on Atari).

I stepped up to the table, touched the ball, and ducked. I expected a mock 3 missile to be headed back at my head. Instead he just tapped it.  It slowly bounced it’s way back to me, so I could do the same. Ming won by seemly by a narrow margin of 2 points. (As he did every game we played)

Why didn’t Ming blow me out of the water? I’m sure the onlookers would have been entertained, and I would be telling story about losing an eye in a dreaded Ping Pong match of death, instead of just barely losing a very uninteresting and slow paced game.

It’s because Ming loved ping pong so much he became a master of it. When you love the game, you want to do what’s best for the game, rather than your personal satisfaction.

If he had taken an eye or skunked me whatever to zero, I likely would have never played again. Instead, every day at lunch for as long as I worked at the company, I played with others in the break room.

He played just little above his opponent. Is there any better encouragement to improve than losing a close match?

How much do you love what it is that you do? Do you love it enough to foster it above short term gratification? That’s not to say there is anything wrong with winning, but it’s how we win (and lose) that defines us.

This personal question is one we all must find our own answer to, but that answer shows every time someone new approaches us. It is worthy to win.  It is also worthy to challenge others and bring them up with you.

All who play are worthy.

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