Being Your Own Hero

OK, I admit it. I was disappointed. I was disappointed when Tiger Woods, just a few short months after the "SUV incident" outside his home in Florida, staged a press conference, stood behind a podium, and recited a canned apology written in corporate-speak by the damage-control PR spin doctors at Nike. Like a dutiful boy, he was dressed in a suit, clean-shaven, looking humble and respectful to the corporate sponsors who made his public career that much more lucrative. But beneath the surface was a whole story waiting to be uncovered, spoken, and shared. I secretly (and not so secretly) cheered Tiger on when he hit the apparent depths of his personal crisis - the extent of his adultery revealed, the intensity of the pain he has kept hidden beneath the socially acceptable, corporate endorsement-worthy veneer of relentless competitiveness and focus. I saw this as an opportunity for Tiger to deliver his real "medicine" to the world, and to show us how a hero falls, journeys through the abyss of his own self-discovery, and emerges whole in a different way. With a different message about heroicism, with a more solid foundation on which to stand, with a deeper message than can be conveyed merely by counting wins and trophies. Continue reading "Being Your Own Hero"

An Open Letter to Tiger Woods

Dear Tiger: Most of the world cannot begin to imagine what you are going through right now, or what you have been going through for most of your life. Because of your position in the limelight, with all cameras pointing on your every move, gossip mongers foraging for table scraps falling from your every misstep, and would-be corporate sponsors hoping you'd remain constant as the next horse to bet on, we now get to see the part of your life you hoped would stay private, hidden away, silent. And it isn't pretty. It doesn't play so well on the billboards, on the covers of magazines, or on websites touting you as a role model for young people, young African-Americans, young athletes, young dreamers of all kinds. But I beg to differ. I am reminded of a phrase spoken to me by a wise teacher: "We inspire others not through our perfection, but through our imperfections." I'm here to say - at some risk to my own reputation, no matter how small in comparison - that how you face this colossal challenge, this deep well you must dive to the bottom of, this unfathomable darkness, could in fact serve as your greatest gift to the world. The few conversations I've had with people about your current challenges have indicated to me that they don't  understand how this could have possibly happened to you. They don't really care. They're just all too eager to drop you from their list of admired public figures, and let you figure out your own mess on your own. They don't want to see how you got to this point. They just want it all to go away. But you can't do that. It's your life, and it's not going away. I have no idea what it's like to be the top golfer in the world, to carry the weight of "legendary" status as you do, to be held up as The One to beat, to be in demand with every breath you take. I also have no idea what it's like to have the responsibility of your own family - a wife and two children to whom you've promised yourself. But I do understand something about what it's like to be trained from early childhood to do something well. To take pride in yourself through your performance, your skill, your ability to compete. While you were in your garage with your dad at age two, swinging a golf club, I was in my home in Libertyville, Illinois, practicing piano and then violin every day from the age of three. I enjoyed performing, I enjoyed competing, and I enjoyed doing well. I reached my own peaks - Carnegie Hall at age eight, Pope John Paul at the Vatican at age eleven, the Kennedy Center at age thirteen, international competitions and performances as a way of life. I also knew that I was not in "full throttle" mode, that our family held back from the complete sacrifices that other families made for their children's musical development, that we were striking our own definition of balance throughout those years. Continue reading "An Open Letter to Tiger Woods"