Written By Paul McDonald
Photo By Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.
Arriving on campus at USC as a freshman was a dream. I could not stop pinching myself. I was really here! Here was my chance to finally prove all the doubters wrong and the opportunity to play quarterback for a team that was a regular New Year’s Day fixture in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl and was in the hunt for a national championship almost every season.
It didn’t take long for me to be brought back down to earth.
The first thing that happened was I walked out onto the field for our opening practice and counted eight other quarterbacks. When they all paired up to play catch, I had to grab a student manager to throw with me. As the rookie on the squad, I was on the bottom rung of the totem pole, the 9th String quarterback on a team that had nine quarterbacks!
Can you get any lower?
I had a high school classmate who warned me that if I went to a major program, like USC, there was a good chance I’d be sitting on the bench for four years, a spectator like everyone else in the stadium. I quickly pushed that thought away and reminded myself that I was here to get better each day with the vision of playing in my mind. Ninth was just my starting position. I could do this.
And then I saw Vince Evans.
We were walking down this path that led to the practice field and I saw someone with no t-shirt on, throwing a football. Without seemingly much effort, each ball the guy threw ripped through the air, traveling as much as 70 yards down field. This dude was built like Adonis or some Greek god. I asked out loud, “Who’s that linebacker that can throw the ball like that?” The wide receiver walking with me said, “No dummy, that’s the quarterback. That’s Vince Evans.”
“Oh my god. If you’ve got to look like that and throw like that, I will never play here.”
Vince Evans could throw the ball a mile. My arm strength was adequate. Vince Evans was lightning fast. I wasn’t slow, but there was no comparison to his speed. Vince Evans was big and strong. When I was getting weighed in, Marv Goux, the legendary Trojan assistant coach, yelled out at me, “Hey McDonald, ‘What prisoner of war camp did you just get out of?’” Our quarterback coach, Paul Hackett, was a little bit kinder. He just called me, “Slim.”
I was clearly not Vince Evans.
A problem in modern society is that many people want to be someone who they are not capable of becoming. We all get bombarded with images of a life that seems better than our own and we feel the need to achieve a high level of status that is based on other people’s gifts and other people’s dreams. If the next door neighbor has a new luxury item — or the kid in class just got into a prestigious university — then it must be something that I should have too. Right?
Trying to be someone else’s version of best can point people into various directions, none of which will lead to joy and a path of reaching their personal potential.
There are people who believe that their best self can only be satisfied with the accumulation of things that they’ve seen in glossy magazines. Designer clothing. A luxury car. Fancy jewelry. A big house, yacht, private jet, the list goes on and on. They spend their lives furiously working harder and harder so that they can buy more and more things. On the outside, some of these people have lives that look bright and shiny, but on the inside, things are dark and rotten. The chase is never ending.
Chasing false joy isn’t just a problem of the rich. The need to appear glamorous has led to the phrase, “Living your best Instagram life.” The prominence that social media plays in our daily lives, especially among young people, has risen to levels that many psychologists consider dangerous. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others, which we can’t help but notice, because notifications from our “friends” show up just about every moment on our smart phones.
We post pictures of our exotic vacations or life events and watch to see how many likes we receive from our followers. And, we see similar photos or comments posted from “friends” and we unconsciously compare their coolness factor to ours. This feeling we have, whether it’s one of superiority or inferiority to others, is all about our ego.
Our ego causes us to compare ourselves to see how our lives match up to theirs. But, here’s the thing, there is no need to be anyone else but YOU! Of the almost 8 billion people on this planet there is ONLY ONE YOU!
There is nobody uniquely like you, so why are we comparing ourselves to others!? There is no need. Instead, our purpose in life should be to grow and evolve each moment of every day. So, stop comparing and simply be your best self. Not somebody else’s, just yours.
I clearly was not Vince Evans, but I still had my dreams. What should I do? The answer was simple. Be the best Paul McDonald that I could be and don’t even try to be Vince Evans.
I had to get to work.