Today, I choose to want the ball
I’m a complete nut for The West Wing. I think, all told, I’ve watched the entire series—all seven seasons, including the Jimmy Smits period (only mildly regrettably)—straight through about five times.
So this would be my sixth.
The writing is just that good. And of course, many of the political themes remain as relevant nearly 20 years later.
One scene stood out this time around. President Bartlet (aka Martin Sheen) says the following:
I like basketball, but I can’t play. I don’t know why. I played in prep school and I liked being on the team, but I didn’t want the ball and the coach said, “Jed, winners always want the ball.”
I said, “Coach, winners are also better then I am.”
He said, “Son, to be a winner, you’ve got to think like a winner.”
I said, “Coach, to be a winner, you’ve also got to be better than I am.”
Anyway, he was right. Winners want the ball.
I went to dinner with a couple recently. The husband’s company kicked off the New Year by eliminating his department, and the wife—who has owned a very successful PR company for 25 years—had just had a near-brawl with some dissatisfied staff. She was trying to pull back for a bit and focus on her personal life, and they resented feeling like she was neglecting them.
As more wine was poured, the Fuck Those Guys Party transformed into a Strategize for Progress Party. In those moments, the number-one thing you need to survive is adaptability.
I told them the Bartlet parable. That’s good writing—the kind that sticks with you. And it stuck with them. It kept coming up over the next few hours.
Because it has the benefit of being true.
The next time you feel like maybe you don’t want the ball, take it instead. Even when it seems like the odds are stacked against you or like everyone else is doing a better job at life.
Winners want the ball.
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