The vanity metric that validates mastery.
To many people, the title “World Champion” denotes a reservation given to an individual in order to signify and celebrate them as a representation of the height of human achievement or ability in any given field at a point in our history. As if to say “We are letting the whole world know where we stand as humans at this point in our civilization, using this individual as a yardstick. And we shall call him — World Champion”.
But there’s also a lot of luck involved.
Two War Zones
I was going to go with What does it feel like to be world champion as the title of this essay, but as we have seen in the World Tennis Championships and the recently concluded World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary; it is accurate to speculate that it definitely feels great to win at the highest level in your craft. But the question that bugs me still, is what does it mean to be World Champion?.
Like most things in life, meaning is hardly found in the end result. It is more often found along the road. Like the late Kobe Bryant would say, — the journey is the reward.
We hardly hear the stories of the individuals that come in second or third place, nor do we hear of the other 50 competitors that set their foot on the stage to compete at the exact same time as their peers, to give their best after years of preparation. They all are world class in their own right, but only one team — most times one person — gets to be called “World Champion.”
Whose Side are you on?
As individuals, we have a very small array of choices on many things in life from our childhood years, however as we gain more experience and grow in responsibility we get to decide on more things. But one thing we hardly get to chose is the geographical location in which we are born. We may chose our line of work, our spouse and the color of our wedding dress — even the name of your company. But this one thing, your place of birth, which has the power to completely determine the trajectory of your life from the point of your birth is decided on for you by your parents.
So in the event of a World War, you would be forced by virtue of your birth to fight for a country whose values you never got to debate on, whose politics you never even contemplated, whose people you hardly even know — let alone die for, and who has given you nothing for which you nor your parents have not had to work.
Playing by Whose Rules?
But what do world wars have to do with being world champion? In my opinion, it has everything to do with becoming one. But don’t take my word from it — you hardly know the man behind the words on your screen.
If you ask someone from a third world country, they would probably mention someone they know who they swear would break every record on the olympic table for their event, if only he had the opportunity to compete.
See my friend, this life is a constant battle for resources. From the time we are born till the moment we breathe our dying breath, there is a constant battle for the attention of those who have the resources that we desire. And at the world stage, this battle takes a greater significance because the winners have all the leverage to greater influence over the rules of the game that is to be played by the rest of the world.
So yes, the world war is very important for the simple fact that the winners of the war set the standard for the rest of the world. So long as these rules are in accordance with the highest principles known to man, anything counter to this principle (a rule by self interest for instance) would lead eventually to a rather short-lived reign — see ancient France.
All the great athletes that have graced the world stage at the highest levels have one common obsession that sets them apart from the other competitors. From Tiger Woods to Kobe Bryant, to Jeff Bezos to Larry Ellison to Phill Knight and Bill Belichick, you would notice that these guys don’t stop at one billion, or one championship. They don’t stop at two, neither do they stop at three. They just keep on winning until winning becomes synonymous with their name, with their team and with the very socks they put on to go to dominate their sport. This is what separates CEOs from the people that are called CEO, and it is what separates world champions from the people that are called World Champion.
It is the art of winning again.
Many other competitors put in a decent amount of breathtaking work, coupled with an insane level of attention to detail and a genuine belief in themselves without which greatness is impossible, whilst facing the challenges of their average team mate who puts in far less work. They plan, they prepare, get in the ring, take endless beatings from their enemies and alas they emerge victorious. Only for them never to step in the ring again.
The Curse of Genius
Imagine a you had a member of your family who was so distinguished in his abilities that from a very young age, he or she had already been recognized by all the major organizations in the state where you live. What do you think living with them would be like?
Most people imagine that they would love to be “friends” with someone like JayZ or Jeff Bezos, but they politely leave out the uncomfortable reality of being compared to them every blessed day of their lives.
Being friends with someone considered a genius at a young age can be disheartening to say the least, because these guys never seem to do anything wrong. They get all the answers right at tests, win all the state championships, get into their dream college and their light shines the brightest— until it doesn’t anymore.
The Courage to Lose
Is it better for one to have never had a good thing at all, or for one to have had it and then lost it?
This is a tough question. And depending on who you ask, the answer is almost always the option that would prevent a loss — and that’s fine. Many men fear losing.
They dread the thought of stepping into the ring and getting their ass whooped by a man much stronger, tougher, better prepared and with an even greater desire to win than them. But I dare say what they fear the most is shame; from the crowd of public opinion.
That almighty crowd that humiliates and bullies those whom they believe they brought up and thus have the right to tear down. They dread the day that the crowd will stop cheering their name, much so that they would rather the crowd had never heard their names.
America has provided us with copious examples of otherwise legendary acts that graced the world stage, only for them to be publicly lynched and stripped of the glory they worked so hard for.s
So for me, apart from the ability to win again, the courage to lose stands out even more in those we call World Champion. Because without that courage, there would not be winning in the first place.
Is Kobe the last Grandmaster of Basketball?
Although Kobe Bean Bryant grew up in Italy with his parents he, was born in Philadelphia in the United States which gave him the advantage most young hoopers around the world could only dream of. Foreshadowed by his Father, he set out from the start to become one of the best basketball players to ever play the game. So from a very young age he started to learn, practice and compete with people at his level and people higher than his level. He did this for many years until he was deemed worthy to compete within the National Basketball Association for his entire career and at certain points, during international olympic games.
Like every other world champion, he set records for the feats performed in his craft, most of which remain unbroken. But accolades aside, he is one champion that suffered defeat, ridicule, pain and triumph at the face of fierce competitors, and an unrelenting crowd that sought to tarnish his image.
But he didn’t stop there.
Unlike many other NBA champions, he dared to share the secrets that made him the legend he is, secrets that have helped players like Lebron achieve near-feats which I doubt we would be seeing anytime soon. Not because they are impossible, but because there is nobody to show you how to make it possible. A 1-on-1 conversation with “LE-GOAT” would tell you everything you need to know.
Masters of their craft are uncommon, grandmasters are the rarity. And often times far too precious to remain on earth, God decides they need to come to where they belong — Goat Mountain.