On Christmas day I took an aimless walk down the beach with very few people around, except for three young boys, whose ages I would estimate at maybe 9, 12, and 14, in front of me, who were clowning around with what looked to be a brand new soccer ball. Coming the other way were two much older guys with totally ripped abs, easily twice the size of all three boys combined who challenged them to a game of soccer, three on two. I stopped, acted like I was looking at the water, and listened, a bit concerned for the three young boys, who at first seemed a little taken aback by the challenge, but agreed to it after some deliberation.
At this point, I sat down on the sand to watch. From the warmup, it appeared that the youngsters were totally outmatched, with their muscular twenty-something opponents, putting on a show of bouncing the ball from their feet to their chests to their heads and then to each other. And then very quickly, the pickup soccer game started, with the goals designated by backpacks and flip flops. The two jocks were going crazy, but the three young boys kept their cool, and when their rivals missed the first shot, one of the boys brought the ball out and somehow passed it to his younger companion who was standing right next to the goal, which was totally open at that point, allowing him to easily score. I wanted to cheer, but feigned indifference. It was so unassuming, yet powerful that it gave me chills to watch these three young kids beat their older, bigger and seemingly far more skilled opponents four to nothing before the latter called the game – and do it without showboating, but just basic get-it-to-the-third-open-person tactics. If grace can be defined as “elegance and beauty of movement and form,” I’d say this was about as as graceful as it gets.
Observing this minor sporting spectacle, I had to ask myself how many times we allow ourselves to be intimidated by the “jocks” we encounter in our own lives and careers. And that prompted me to make a New Year’s resolution: to keep my cool in all situations, no matter how challenging, to not be impressed by posturing or hype, but just look for that open third person whenever possible, and to try to become more graceful in my dealings with people. This was the lesson I drew from observing this spontaneous pick-up soccer game on the beach, and one that I am looking forward to bringing into 2012. Happy New Year!