The official called for the runners to take their marks, and I told Chris that I would be waiting for him at the finish line and that I’d be proud of him no matter what happened. I kissed him and sent him to the starting blocks, certain that I was making a big mistake.
A few seconds later the race began, and Chris took off as if he’d been shot from a cannon. And just as I’d imagined, the two older kids, one to his left, the other to his right, were leaving him in the dust. All of the spectators were going crazy, cheering for all three kids. I jumped up and down, waving my hands, wearing a smile as wide as Texas.
Chris kept his eyes on me and continued to run his little heart out. Finally, he crossed the finished line, leaping into my arms. “Way to go, Chris,” I said, holding back a fountain of tears. “You were soooo good, baby! You ran so hard, I’m proud of you.”
He hugged my neck so tight I was sure it would snap. With his sweaty face buried in my neck, he kissed me, pulled away and asked excitedly, “Did I win?”
Surely, he thought, he must have won as hard as I was smiling. I laughed but didn’t even think twice about the answer to his question. I continued to flash my megawatt smile, took one look at the gleam in his eyes and the joy spilling out of his chest, and said, “You sure did, baby. You sure did.” He hugged me again, this time tighter.
I now realize that the discomfort I had experienced prior to Chris’ race had more to do with my own fifteen-year-old athletic ego. I had already been conditioned to believe that winning wasn’t the only thing, it was everything. But at age five, Chris taught me that winning has many different faces. It’s playing hard and having fun. It’s giving it your absolute best every time you compete. These lessons helped me to land a spot on the Houston Comets’ first WNBA championship team in 1997. These lessons continue to help me build a successful career in entertainment as a broadcaster, producer, and writer.
I can still see Chris on the sidelines on that blistery hot day. Stretching like he was Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson. And there I was sweating bullets because I thought that if he lost, he’d never run again; or worse, that I wouldn’t be able to comfort him.
Chris’s story is one that I share with athletes and parents all over the country. It’s a prime example of the fact that it’s not whether you win or lose, it truly is about how you run the race or how you play the game. That day he received a third-place ribbon for his efforts. In his mind, he’d won because he had enjoyed the race and given it his all. It didn’t matter to him that he’d been the last one to cross the finish line. He ran like a winner.
Chris taught me that on some days, the opponent might simply perform or be better than you. That’s the nature of sports but hardly a reason to give up competing altogether. As a player in the game of life, my goal, thanks to my baby brother, is now very simple: to love what I do, give each day 100 percent, and know that these two things alone, make me a winner—on or off the court. Unleashing your genius is about running like there is no finish line. It’s about running like you have no competitors. It’s about focusing on your race and completing your divine assignment.
When I think back on that scorcher of a day, I realize what Chris gave me was more than a life lesson or a sportsmanship jewel. He was teaching me about “being” rather than “doing.” He was teaching me to be authentic, something that had apparently gotten lost in my short fifteen years of life. He showed me what genius in action looks like. It’s letting go of the outcome. It’s joyfully running your race.
Excerpted from Will The Real You Please Stand Up? - For more information on the book, visit Dr. Fran's website!