Wildcats News · Pass the Test – Travis D.

March 20, 2020

Pass the Test

John Wooden famously said, “Sports don’t build character. They reveal it.” I think he was implying that who we are in our big moments, under the bright lights of the big stage, isn’t usually a reflection of who we want to be, but rather who we’ve prepared ourselves to be. The bright lights simply expose the reality of who we’ve worked to become in the dark – either our champion selves…or something less. I don’t think Wooden was saying there’s nothing we can learn from our big moments, I think he was emphasizing the idea that we can’t just call upon our character at test time and expect that’ll be enough. He was highlighting that it’s the manner in which we’ve prepared for the test that determines how we’ll perform.
He was really pointing to the power of the process in our lives. In his mind, and contrary to popular belief, it’s the daily work that no one sees or celebrates that usually determines who we are – and the character we end up revealing – when everyone’s watching. It’s the same thinking promoted by the Navy Seals, who believe that “under pressure you don’t rise to the occasion; you sink to the level of your training.” At test time, it’s who we’ve trained ourselves to be that gets exposed, for better or worse.
In the past week, the coronavirus and its effects have turned many of our lives upside-down and taken most of our modern world someplace it’s never been. In an instant, it’s changed almost everything. For many people it’s tested them in ways they never could have anticipated. It’s been amazing to see how this crisis has brought out both the best and the worst in us as people. I couldn’t help but think of John Wooden’s words this week as I’ve watched the various responses to this epidemic. What Wooden said about sports seems true in the face of this test, too. The coronavirus isn’t building our character. It’s revealing it.
The coronavirus isn’t building our character.
It’s revealing it.
Regrettably, plenty of us have been failing this character test. Some have made big, reckless decisions that have put people’s lives at risk or shown blatant disregard for basic human decency. Others have failed on a smaller scale by allowing the stressful circumstances of this situation to expose their selfish or rude behavior. Their character’s been called upon here at test time. Unfortunately that character hasn’t shown up.
At the same time, there are so many examples we’ve seen in the past week of people passing this test with flying colors. Caretakers are putting themselves at risk in order to serve the weak or the vulnerable. Others are sacrificing their time, their money, or their energy to make life easier for those in need. On a smaller scale, people are choosing generosity, kindness, and respect in spite of the stressful circumstances. Their character’s been called upon here at test time, and it’s shown up in full force.
It may be easy to give these people credit for rising to the occasion, but I’d argue – and I think both John Wooden and the Navy Seals would, too – that it’s their preparation before this moment that deserves applause. Their character has shown up here at test time because their character has been built and strengthened and developed every day. For these people, what’s always there – their selflessness, their positive attitude, their ability to handle stress and overcome challenges – is simply uncovered in the light of this crisis. They’re doing what they always do in the dark, only now it’s being exposed.
It’s likely your character’s been tested and even revealed in some ways by the challenges the coronavirus has presented. I hope of course that you’re proud of how you’ve performed on the test so far and that you’ll keep validating your identity as a champion each day. If you recognize today that you aren’t proud of what this test has revealed in you so far, then take the time to recalibrate your priorities and reconnect to your discipline. Get back to living in alignment with the type of person you want to be, even – and maybe especially – in those small, seemingly meaningless interactions the public never sees, like the ones with your kids or your spouse or even yourself.
By doing so, you’ll be preparing yourself for the tests to come. I’d say it’s likely they’ll be bigger and more challenging than the ones you’ve had to face so far. Remember, the big moments simply expose the reality of who you’ve worked to become in the dark – either your champion self…or something less. You can’t expect to be your best just because everyone’s watching, and you can’t just call upon your character at test time and expect that’ll be enough. It’s the manner in which you’ve prepared for the test that determines how you’ll perform, so keep preparing well. And together, let’s pass this test.