So really, what is relevance? What’s relevant to you? What’s relevant to me? Perhaps, relevance arises in living a meaningful and purposeful life. Perhaps, that relevance resonates now, and maybe for generations that follow. Valid? Maybe.
What occurs most of all in the relevant life is doing what you love, for as long as you can. I believe we don’t stop doing what we love because we get old. We get old because we stop doing what we love.
That’s the inherent paradox of the Greatest of All-Time (GOAT) conversation. I love the GOAT conversations regarding sports, martial arts or any discipline. I so admire those who pursue the mastery path with their heart and soul.
My pursuit of mastery in Aikido started with my relationship with Sensei Dan nearly 30 years ago. No, I’m no master, like he was. Yet, for me, it’s been about the dedication, the perseverance, the training: working to become greater than, even as I get older.
I’ve got old injuries, aching knees, and back. In Aikido, I practice suwari-waza, doing the technique from the sitting position. I couldn’t do this a few years ago. I follow Sensei Bobby’s direction to “go into the pain” in baby steps, and not resist the pain. Doing so, I begin to heal my body and my mind. Like Bobby says we can use Aikido to either harm or heal. So we choose to heal. O-Sensei said, “The way of the warrior is to give life to all things.” I’m giving life back to me.
Sensei Bobby and I are close to 60 years-old. As we train to open our minds and bodies, we keep doing what we love – Aikido, even when we’re 70 years old. It’s never about being the GOAT. Although, Bobby is nearly the GOAT.
We discovered it’s not about imposing our wills upon another. Rather, training is about growth and evolution. We don’t have to prove anything, to anyone. We work on making ourselves our greater than versions. Fuck what anyone else thinks. Just saying.
Relevance in life gets that I don’t have to prove anything. As Sensei would always say, “Just train.” Stay the path. Give away what I’ve learned. Make a difference for others. Really, that ultimately contexts the GOAT conversation.
41-year-old Tom Brady is the recognized GOAT NFL Quarterback. On stats alone, Tom is the GOAT: 9 straight Conference Championships and 6 Super Bowl Championships. What I admire and love most about Tom is that he loves what he does: playing football. He asks, “What are you willing to do and what are you willing to give up to be the best you can be?” For him, that’s not just about football. That’s why he eats the way he does. He works with his physical trainer. He practices passing drills in the off-season. He has joy.
Michael Jordan is the GOAT of NBA basketball. Absolutely, no doubt. Right now, LeBron James is the best NBA player on planet Earth. Honestly, as much as I’m a fan, I don’t think Lebron will ever catch MJ, even with longevity. Hopefully, Lebron is okay with that legacy. Lebron is an amazing human being. He built a school for kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He’s served many communities and children around the world. I’ve got nothing but mad love for LeBron. For me, he’s the GOAT as a Man.
Conversely, author Wright Thompson of “The Cost of These Dreams” says that Michael Jordan believes “with every cell in his body” that he’s the GOAT. And MJ believes he’ll always be the GOAT. Michael changed the paradigm of the game, dominating above the basketball rim. He was the games’s fiercest competitor. No one was the “closer” like MJ. Not Kobe Bryant. Not Lebron. However, that seemed to cost some of his humanity. What Michael was willing to give up.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith knows Michael pretty well. Back in the day, Michael’s mastery of the game aside from his dunks and fade away jump shots included ‘trash talk’. MJ would find whatever weakness in his opponent and ruthlessly call them out.
Stephen A. said that Michael would do so to make players like Karl Malone or Charles Barkley so angry they would bring their A-game. Michael wanted to let them know that he beat them at their very best. What an ego. It seemed for Michael, “I’m way greater than you. And I wanted to let you know that!” MJ was the GOAT. Michael as the decent human being, maybe not so much. Again, just saying.
So perhaps, the more meaningful GOAT conversation resides in its context. What are you the GOAT of? It’s one thing to be the GOAT of whatever discipline. But if you didn’t make a difference for others or contributed to making people greater than, in other words: “It’s all about me”, then who the fuck cares? Really.
Relevance isn’t about being the master. Relevance isn’t about being called the GOAT of any particular thing. Perhaps, relevance is the humble acceptance that I can always become greater than, even when I’m older and aching. In the big picture, I just want to keep doing what I love, and somehow give something back to others. Again, just saying.
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