Don’t do it for the praise you deserve.

A young person in a youth group I help run brings a story or factoid to each session. It’s become a sort of ritual. He comes ever week having researched anything from sleep disorders to questions over the origins of the universe. This week he brought one about Max Woosnam and it really struck a chord with me.

Aged 22, Woosnam enlisted with the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry and is understood to have later joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers, serving in the Gallipoli campaign. Surviving where 180,000 people died and going on to be in the trenches in France in the final days of WW1.
After the war, he went on to:

  1. win tennis gold and silver at the 1920’s Olympics.
  2. He was also a Wimbledon doubles champion
  3. hit a century against the MCC at Lord’s (going on to reach 144 runs)
  4. played football for Manchester City and Chelsea.
  5. Captained Manchester United
  6. Captained England Football team
  7. was a scratch golfer.
  8. Made a maximum 147 snooker break
  9. played table tennis against Charlie Chaplin, beating him playing with a butter knife instead of a bat.

The reports suggest that he was so modest that he never ever gave an interview in his life, thinking it was the height of vulgarity to talk about himself.
When the BBC did the sports Personality of the century he didn’t even make it into the top 100 and yet his achievements are so remarkable that any modern sportsperson would be a world wide sports icon bigger than any other athlete on the planet.
Yet no one has ever really heard of him. Woosnam, who died in 1965, wasn’t interested in fame or fortune and simply played sport because he loved it.

He chose to remain an amateur in all of these sports preferring the fun of the game and wanting to avoid the public eye, while going on to become a top level board member in ICI.

Succeeding at everything he did yet not go looking for the accolades from his achievements that alone each would be worth plenty, let alone from the combination of achievements he had.

I know that I have a need for words of affirmation (one of 5 love language) and when I am feeling very vulnerable or anxious can go looking for affirmation in this way. So this really challenged me.

I have to obviously be asking myself questions around effectiveness and the quality of my provision towards young people but I want to be in the position of finding value in the work that I do not the success it brings me. I want to stay humble, I want to keep supporting and being creative because it’s the process I love. 

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