Who Sharpens You?

There can be little doubt excellence breeds excellence.

I’ve often discussed my athletic career, sharing the connections I see between achievement on the field and in life. Last night I watched my favorite soccer team, Manchester United, face off against the best players from the United States’ professional league, MLS. The score line is unimportant, as it was just an exhibition, yet much of what transpired on the field reflects the importance of environment to success.

Over the course of 90 minutes, the gulf in class became apparent. The Mancunian Red Devils played faster and smoother than their opponents could hope to. Each movement oozed efficiency and precision. To put it simply, they looked they looked more than just better, they seemed smarter.

Testing yourself is crucial to the fulfillment of your potential.

There is something to be said for being immersed in an atmosphere which demands the best of every individual, regardless of innate talent.

The difference between these two teams, apart from the number of practices together (favoring Man United) and level of fitness (better for MLS), can be found in their training sessions. The team from the English Premier League employs some of the highest-rated players on the planet, while the MLS squad is surrounded by many young men who–though capable–are almost semi-professional by comparison.

The former is world-class, the latter is not.

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) tells us “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Think about the comparison again: one group goes up against elite athletes in session after session as the other competes with part-timers of varied skills.

Which is best positioned to make the most of themselves?

Though every one of us is born with a specific purpose, the impact of being forged in the fire cannot be underestimated.

Ability must be developed and commitment must be tested. Without either–or both–the likelihood we’ll grow from amateur to virtuoso diminishes markedly. The men in red have left behind family and friends, dedicating their lives to learning the ins and outs of being a “good professional” from their early teens to even sniff the chance of pulling on the legendary red jersey.

When facing off against long odds, you can wilt or seize the day.

By putting yourself in a situation that draws forth your best effort, you invite yourself to raise to your highest level.

If you decide against facing such a challenge, you settle for “what might have been”.

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