There’s a human temptation to one-up people.  To be better than.  To win or be right.  Travel down the spectrum and we might meet domination, or always right, always winning. 

There is no shortage of current and historical examples in sports, business, and global politics.

We might contrast domination to the idea of longevity: where the race is mostly with ourselves and less with others.  Where our “competitors” are mostly there to help us improve and vice versa, not beat. Where the name of the game is continual improvement and curiosity.  Where there is no end and we’re comfortable with that.

I recently watched the new Tiger Woods documentary on HBO – the story highlights the rise, fall, and rise again of Tiger. 

Domination, like in the case of much of Tiger’s career, is addicting to watch.  The plot line is typically so heavy.  Not just the effort required and the greatness achieved, but the sacrifice in time and relationships.  Look closely enough, and the collateral damage of rising to the top is usually buried somewhere in the footnotes. 

I wonder, deep down, if we’re all so addicted to watching domination because we know there’s an eventual reckoning.  There will be a falling out.  There will be drama.   Domination is not sustainable.  When will the plot twist?  In varying degrees, it always does.

The plot twist gives rise to the need for longevity.  The focus on something infinite, something that goes beyond us, something that’s sustainable on its own is paramount to long-term success.  Almost always, we can land on something greater if we allow for more time, rather than focusing on beating someone.

The Tiger example is extreme.  We can make this more applicable to us.

A fast and dominant rise doesn’t have to translate into an eventual rock-bottom crash and burn.  However, it likely does mean a lot more peaks and valleys.  And, if critiqued over 20+ years, the peaks and valleys will usually mean: at minimum, more stress for the same result.  Or worse, less than what could have been because our short sightedness cut time short (i.e. Tiger Woods).

At nauseum, I write about time being the greatest wealth creation and preservation vehicle.  Simply staying in the game, longevity, seeking sustainability – and not trying to dominate or be better than – is the best way to get wealthy and stay wealthy.  Being allured by investments we’re not educated in, seeking portfolio outperformance on your neighbor, stock picking/market timing – all live on the fringes of being right, winning, dominating and less in the camp of longevity.

For non-golfers, know that the story for Tiger Woods has always been about beating Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Major Championships.  He’s been very public about this and for over a decade was the most dominant player ever – the rate in which he was winning was unprecedented.  However, the factor of the equation he had not accounted for – that Jack Nicklaus seemingly had – was longevity.  The variable that’s needed not just to rise, but to keep going.

One thing I’ve learned about Tiger Woods is to never underestimate him or count him out.  My childhood hero has provided a number of redemption stories even after I stuffed him in my memory bank.

For him, I hope he finds a way to play competitively for another decade.  But only because it would be an indication of sustainable health and relationship habits.  If he happened to break the coveted major championship record, it would be a function of finally solving for the longevity ingredient.  Not the illusion of domination.

And the same goes for you and I.  The hedonistic rise to wealth, praise, or whatever we seek in short-sightedness is just an addicting plot line with an eventual twist.  There is no finish line.

The rise is wonderful and not to be demonized or envied.  Although, the rise can find itself at odds with longevity and sustainability. 

Working with that tension is a game worth playing.

Thanks for reading,

Mitch

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