Thursday, June 04, 2020

There is no finish line

Back in early 1980s, Nike came out with a brilliant print ad.  It's extremely hard to find, so I've included a copy of it here. 

This ad was foundational for the formation of my fund.  I couldn't even really remember the ad fully when I began Thin Line Capital, but I knew that it had to do with perseverance, and a commitment to loftier goals.  Rereading it now makes me feel that it captures the essence of another brilliant quote from literature - Tennyson's Ulysses:

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Yes, we *are* strong in the will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.  Right now we are facing a global pandemic, causing death and destruction greater than any recent war.  The consequences of the response to the pandemic (or, should I say, the necessary response given the initial failed response) has caused unemployment rivaling the Great Depression.  Furthermore, a string of racially motivated killings, and police brutality, on the heels of three and a half years of fascist rhetoric has spilled out into the streets with the last eight days of protests and unrest.  As others have said, 2020 is the worst of 1918 (Spanish Flu), 1929 (Great Depression) and 1968 (Race riots). 

However, our charge is not to complain about the race to be run.  Instead, it is to recognize that race and run it well.  In the US we like to talk about forming "a more perfect union".  However, this has also given rise to recognition globally of changes that need to be made in other countries.  To quote Dr. King - the arc of the universe may be long, but it bends towards justice.  And in what we do, and it all we do, we must recognize that there is no finish line.  There is no point where we quit and stop and say that we are done.  Instead, we recognize that excellence in anything requires the motivation not to compete against some outside force, but to pursue excellence for the sake of excellence.  To pursue justice for the sake of justice.  And to pursue a better world for those that come after us as service to those who come after us. 

I love the last line, and I think it's key for any driven person:

"Beating the competition is relatively easy.  But beating yourself is a never ending commitment."