We Are the Champions

I spent the weekend in Tulsa watching the Big 12 Wrestling Tournament. The Oklahoma State University Cowboys dominated the event and made history several times over. All 10 Cowboys made it to the finals, and eight Cowboys won the championship in their weight. We scored more team points than anyone in Big 12 history, and we won by a larger margin than any team before. This was the Cowboys wrestling team’s 51st conference title and the university’s 400th conference title in all sports combined.

I love to watch wrestling. I wrestled in high school, so unlike many other sports, I actually understand what is going on. I enjoy the individual nature of the sport, yet each wrestler is also competing for the team score. The sacrifice and preparation these men put into becoming champions is nothing short of phenomenal.

You can be sure they prepared for this weekend by studying their opponents, learning their moves, visualizing the encounter, and practicing their responses. They trained hard, punished their bodies to gain strength and stamina, and made weight (which is no small feat). They were ready, and when they faced their opponents on the mat this weekend, their preparation showed.

In life, it is rare that you get to be as singularly prepared for the battle as the Cowboys were. Our opponents don’t usually show up in a defined arena and face us in open competition. Rather, we often find ourselves fighting against unseen and unexpected forces in our lives. Sometimes the deadliest enemies present themselves as our friends, stand next to us (not opposed to us), and even put an arm around our shoulder and talk in our ear as if they were on our side.

Our greatest battles are rarely defined moments that we see coming and can easily identify. The most difficult struggles happen slowly over time in ways that are hard to notice and harder to define. If we are not vigilant, small choices, little concessions, and minor deceptions (internal or external) slowly move us away from our best selves. In many cases, we are our own worst enemy.

We often look at people around us who have failed in ways that don’t match our failures and wonder, “How could they have done that? In what universe did that seem like a good thing?” When the reality is, we too make irrational and unwise choices, often without even knowing it. The voices we listen to and the influences we allow into our lives are stronger than any external demon we will ever face.

The same thing is true for organizations. If we listen to the wrong signals and are influenced by the wrong things, we will end up in the wrong place. Translated: we lose the fight. So, what are we fighting for?

The Cowboys had a very simple objective: score more points than their opponents in each 7-minute match. The ability to do that took years to develop.

Our fight is to stay true to our core values. Always.

Like the Cowboys, we can prepare even though the enemy is not as visible or well defined. The Cowboys wrestle one another every day. They practice their holds and moves and give each other feedback. When something works, they know it. When it doesn’t work, someone gets stuck to the mat. Practicing together in the safety of the Oklahoma State wrestling room is safe. They can fail without “losing” and learn from those mistakes. While there is sure to be some good-natured ribbing, each Cowboy on the team values the input of his fellow wrestlers.

We must personally and professionally have safe places to talk and work out the issues we face. We must be willing to give advice and be willing to take it. We must be honest, even if it means someone gets stuck to the mat. We must do this because if we don’t fail at “home” and learn, we will fail in the fight and lose. No Cowboy becomes a champion alone. It takes the whole team.

If all the Cowboys did was wrestle one another, they would still be vulnerable in a dual. The strength of the OSU Wrestling program is decades of winning that has produced methods and strategies that work. Each new team member must find his own way to integrate himself into the program, but no one ignores the history. They listen to others who know more than they do, and they are humble enough to take advice and change.

Kimray has decades of history that we should honor and acknowledge. As conditions change, the team must adapt and integrate new information into that matrix of our past. Like the Cowboys, we should be humble enough to admit we don’t know everything, and we should seek out the best advice we can find.

We don’t know what conditions we will face in the future. We don’t know what demons we might have to fight personally. We can train each day through all the individual actions and decisions we make. We can support each other, practice with one another, and continue to prepare. But ultimately, we must trust God. He does know what’s coming, corporately and personally, for each of us. Better yet, he already won the fight, and he dominated!

We are a championship team.

That’s The Kimray Way.