Last week NFL players Miles Garret and Mason Rudolph were locked in a nasty tussle that left one with a bruised head and ego, and the other with an indefinite suspension without pay (his contract is said to be worth roughly $34mm over four years).

Last week Ambassador William Taylor (acting Ambassador to the Ukraine) read prepared testimony giving insight into questionable practices from high ranking members of the United States government.  While the testimony was thoroughly prepared it spawned a news cycle reaction that was swift, biased and opinionated. 

I’ll never forget watching a cable news network anchor standing outside of the United States Supreme Court after a judgement was written as to the opinion of the court regarding the infamous “hanging chad” ordeal in the election results of the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore on December 13th, 2000.  

The on-site reporter was literally trying to interpret the written Supreme Court decision while on air.  No preparation.  No moments of sobriety…just get it out and be the first to arrive.

We are obsessed with being first.  

Yours truly has been known to anticipate the ticket agent who picks up the handheld microphone just prior to welcoming “Group 9” to board creating a mob-rush to the gate door in preparation for boarding so we can grab the coveted overhead space.

In sports we are losing our joy for the game in favor of coming in first.  It used to be that we would sell out stadiums even when a team had a .500 season.  Now, if one college team loses even just one game, they are “out”.

I went back and looked at the U of S. Carolina Gamecock football team I played for from 1994 through 1997 and found we were a combined record of 22 wins, 22 losses, and 1 tie (against LSU in 1995). I am not under the illusion that fans were not unsatisfied.  Our attendance was still pretty incredible through those years.

Just this weekend , Baylor University after having a monumental run being undefeated through nine college football games (an incredible feat in itself) lost in the last minute to Oklahoma and the college football powers TROUNCED them bumping them down in the rankings.   

Why are we obsessed with first?

We assume that first equals easy, recognized, and having the satisfaction of “having arrived”.

We really believe that “first” is going to fix things.  Once we hit “first”, we’ll get the respect, we’ll get the credibility.

It is all empty.  

Of course there are comforts that come with first.  Possibly big pay days, awards, recognition.  If you sat with everyone who has ever come in first, you will probably find a theme.

The “before coming first” was a lot more meaningful than the “after coming first”.  

Many men and women who have successfully sold their businesses (aka coming in first), felt more significance while leading their business than they did upon selling their business with the contracted payout.  

How can we appreciate life without having to have the constant need to come in first?

First, pause.

Start asking yourself realistically, what is the purpose?  Pause, remove yourself from the emotion of the moment and and ask that question.  Currently that same University of South Carolina football team, with different coaches and team members of course, are sitting at a record of 4 wins and 7 losses.  

They have been calling for the head coach (Will Muschamp) to be fired for weeks.  But what if we paused.  

What if we thought, “who else is out there?”  “What would that do to recruiting?”  “Is Coach Muschamp doing a bad job?”  

Turns out, last year the University of South Carolina had the highest graduation success rate in college football behind four Ivy Leagues schools and Northwestern University.  Not first, but pretty impressive.

When we pause, we can think with greater clarity as to the full scope of information.

Second, pause before each transition.

The current research and literature sings in unison, multi-tasking is a lie.  Time blocking is clearly a better way.  Multi-tasking does not work both in research and in my own experience.

Of course time blocking does not make us feel like we are coming in first, multi-tasking does.  As the day goes on today, I am committed to pausing and at least taking a deep breath before transitioning into the next action or opportunity on my Monday checklist (yes, I do have a Monday checklist.)

Third, realize that being first comes with responsibility and burden…not just opportunity.

A friend of mine is a professional musician and sometimes I think he has the life, it seems like he came in first.  Until I realize that he wakes up in a different city multiple days of the week sometimes forgetting where he is because the crowds all look the same.  

Then realizing that even amidst all of the lauding of fans, he has zero flexibility in his schedule.  A road manager guides his every time slot.

A friend of mine has a cousin who is a  NASCAR driver and is still young in his thirties.  My friend got us passess and access to spend the afternoon with his cousin leading up to a famous race that evening.  This driver is a multi-millionaire with major access.  He spent his entire afternoon, and most of each week out of eleven months each year beholden to sponsors and crew chiefs.  His time is not his own even though he came in first.

It almost seemed as if he was bound by his freedom.  There are about 43 drivers on the planet that have the access he has.  He came in first, and yet he’s walking away from full time racing this year.

As you grow and as your business grows, make sure to pause, breath deep, find places of respite, and spend time learning how to navigate your new responsibilities, burden, and opportunity of coming in first.  Not the first of winning, but the first of having the opportunity to play the game.

Scott Beebe is the founder of Business On Purpose, author of Let Your Business Burn: Stop Putting Out Fires, Discover Purpose, And Build A Business That Matters.  Scott also hosts The Business On Purpose Podcast and can be found at mybusinessonpurpose.com.