Friday, January 4, 2013

Respect for Excellence

I'm not a huge professional football fan, but I wanted to write about this weekend's Raven's game.  Ray Lewis has announced that he will retire after this season.  This weekend is a game at Raven's stadium.  Given the way professional football playoffs work, this is likely to be the last game he plays at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore even if the Ravens win.  Then, at most he will have three more games after that even if the Raven's make it to the Super Bowl.  Would it be great if they won?  Of course!  Is that what it is all about at this point?  Not in my opinion.

This weekend and any other send off that Ray Lewis gets is about one thing in my mind: honoring someone who is described as one of the best (if not the best) at his position.  Honoring someone who is described as having redefined his position.  Honoring someone who was able not only to be the best but also to bring out the best in others.

Whether it is being a linebacker (Ray Lewis), being a college professor (me), or being any other job, striving to be the best, to try to define what being the best means, and to bring out the best in others are three very worthy goals.  I can't claim to be the best professor.  Productive?  Yes.  Good at teaching?  Yes.  Interested in teaching?  Yes.  Good at collaborating?  Yes.  Good at working with people?  Yes. Has fun working with people?  Yes  But lots of professors are all of that.

While none of that makes me unique, I do think that I have helped to redefine what success in my environment means.  I was the first of a new generation of health economists to get promoted to full professor.  The approach I took in my research was somewhat different.  And the focus I have placed on education has been somewhat different.  Have I "redefined the position"?  I would not say so.  But I know that expectations of health economists and how health economists are viewed as collaborators and contributors is different now than 17 years ago when I interviewed for the position.  I'm not fully responsible for that, but I have contributed.  It will be interesting looking ahead to whatever my career brings next to see just how much different things are in the future.  I could not predict 10 years ago where I would be now.  I'm not even going to try now to predict where I will be in 2023.  I can only say, with some certainty, that it is likely to be one wild ride with new definitions of success and what is meaningful over that period.

Bringing out the best in others?  I like to think that I have helped others to become all they can be.  I  am not sure I would say that I have necessarily brought out the best in others.  But it is certainly a worthy goal.

Hats off to Ray Lewis as his career as an NFL player comes to a close.  And hats off to anyone who strives for being the best he or she can be, helping to define what best is, and helping others to achieve the same.  

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