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Defining Achievement


My childhood friend, Jim Popp, told me in junior high school that jokes are always based upon the pain of others. He'd noticed this and commented about it while we walked home one day as we crossed Grandview Park in Sioux City. Later, as an adult, I learned that Plato, in his dialogue "Philebus," believed comedy to have been borne from pain. Someone once said that comedy is "pain with a happy ending."

It's easy to make humor at the expense of others. I could laugh at someone's awkwardness in a situation, a la Don Rickles. Their bad fashion, a la Joan Rivers. Clumsiness, a la Chevy Chase. The way someone talks, a la Tina Fey's portrayal of Sarah Palin. Much of humor stems from tragedy, mockery, and human error.

Climbing on top of the misfortunes and differences of others to elevate oneself is not unusual. It happens all of the time, in some form or another. But some people take it further and make it a goal to ruin someone else. It becomes their desired achievement.

You can destroy in minutes and days what took years and decades to build. Just ask South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Once whispered as a potential candidate for President in 2012, after very publicly cheating on his wife, it will never happen. Or Tiger Woods... the guy had a golden reputation in so many ways.

You can also ruin the lives of others in the same way - it doesn't have to be personal suicide. Gossip seeks this sort of thing... Michael Jackson is a great example of this. Rumored for years to be a pedophile, his audience left him, even though the charges were never unquestionably proven. Was he?

Some people will work to frame others, or to exaggerate their "sins." A woman who claims her husband hit her, only to find that he did nothing of the sort. But it's an easy charge. We find it easy to believe the negative. Like with those who believe that Bush was responsible for 9/11 - Truthers, as they're called. Amazing how devoted those folks are to proving that the murder of 3,000 Americans was not due to two planes flying into the Trade Towers but was instead an "inside job." That's their desired achievement, and you just won't dissuade them from it, no matter what facts you bring to the table.

What is an achievement?

When two teams meet on the football field, there are two ways of approaching the game. You either aim to win, or you aim to make the other team lose.

If you aim to win, you play your best game. You practice to perfection and strategize with your assets and then on game day, you execute your plan. If you win, you've achieved your goal. By default, the other team lost, but that wasn't the goal.

If you aim to make the other team lose, it's not hard to make the leap that you'll do so at any cost. You might try to hurt the quarterback, crush their spirit with insults, and even cheat. If the other team loses, while you were successful in your goal, is this achievement? By default, you won, but that wasn't the goal.


something accomplished, esp. by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc.; a great or heroic deed. Achievement connotes final accomplishment of something noteworthy, after much effort and often in spite of obstacles and discouragements.
Said simply, achievement comes from building, not from destruction.

Building and creation require talent. They imply that you're able to make something where nothing existed before.

You can't destroy what isn't there already, which means that those who spend their time working for the destruction of others are leeches. They're parasites, who need what others build in order for them to have anything to even tear down. They do it because they don't know how to build.

Anybody can show up with a sledgehammer or a rock. Toddlers are well-renowned for their ability to break things. It takes no skill to destroy.

Every once in a while, it's important to take stock of our ambitions. The only time that we have the right to hurt someone else is in protection of our own achievements. Anyone who seeks to hurt someone else just for the fun of it, who takes pleasure in others' pain - well, we become who we hang around. Be careful of the company you keep. You'll likely waste your time achieving nothing.


by Brett Rogers, 5/16/2010 12:50:40 PM


I love this! What a great approach when coaching a sports team...regardless of the sport. Especially with impressionable teenagers. I just may use it some day. If you don't mind that is?



Posted by Estelle, 6/8/2010 8:19:05 PM

You can do anything you like with this :)



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 6/9/2010 9:12:29 AM

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