There is a line in a recent profile of Kirk Cousins, the quarterback who last week, after months of non-stop media coverage, finally signed with the Minnesota Vikings as one of the highest paid players in the game. There’s plenty of interesting Stoicism in the article—from Cousins’ disdain of money, his dedication to family, his pursuit of excellence, but it’s really this one line from the author, Greg Bishop, who happens to be a student of Stoicism, that deserves a second look today:
“Football pundits can argue about how good the 29-year-old is. But they can’t argue that he’s not as good as he can be.”
It seems like a strange observation in a time when sportswriters (and athletes) are constantly obsessed with who is best, who has the best stats, who makes the most money and who has made the most completions on Sunday night games in the snow since 2003 or whatever made up records are pulled from the stat generator. But in truth, the statement that Bishop made is really the only one that matters—for Cousins, for any of us.
Whether you’re better or the best of other people is outside of your control. Whether you’re the best version of yourself? That’s all you. When Epictetus asked, “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?,” that’s what he meant. How much longer are you going waste time as everyone else does—either comparing themselves to other people or leaving their own potential on the table?
There’s only one race that matters in the end, and it’s with yourself. It would be wonderful for Cousins to win a ring and hoist the Lombardi Trophy over his head—and we shouldn’t doubt how driven he is to get there—but it’s worth noting that he’s already wearing a different, better ring, and it’s the one that Bishop noted: The one you get for being the best you can be. As a person. As a professional. As a Stoic.
P.S. This was originally sent on March 19th, 2018. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.