A Zen Parable
A samurai, a very proud warrior, came to see a Zen Master one day. The samurai was quite famous and had won many battles. He was known throughout his country as one of the bravest, most skilled warriors alive. As he walked into the Zen Master’s humble home his eyes immediately were drawn to the Master. As he gazed upon the old man’s beauty and the air of tranquility surrounding him, the great warrior suddenly began to feel inferior.
He said to the Master, “Why do I feel so small with you? Why do I feel so badly about myself? Just a moment ago I felt fine. I was a great warrior. I was sure of myself. As I entered your home, suddenly I felt inferior. I have never felt like that before. I have faced death many times, and I have never felt any fear — why am I now feeling frightened?”
The Master said, “Wait my son. When everyone else has gone, I will answer you. ” People continued to come and see the Master the entire day, and the great Samurai, as patient a man as he was, began to get more and more tired waiting. By evening the Zen Master’s home was finally empty, and the Samurai said, “Now, can you answer me?” The Master said, “Come outside.”
It had turned evening and the moon was full. Its’ bright white shape was just beginning to rise on the horizon. Under the moonlight the Master, pointing to two trees over by the side of his garden said, “Look at these trees. This tree is high in the sky and reaches for the stars while this one beside it is quite small. Both these trees have existed side by side beneath my window for years, and yet there has never been any problem. The smaller tree has never said to the big tree, ‘Why do I feel inferior before you?’ This tree is small, and that tree is big — why have I never heard a whisper of it?”
The samurai said, “Because they do not compare.”
The Master replied, “Then you need not ask me. You know the answer my son.”
Comparison is the biggest obstacle for confidence. As parents or coaches, we do our athletes a big favor when we don’t compare them to others and teach them to base their self-worth from within not from comparing to others. It’s more productive and beneficial to help them focus on their strengths and what they bring to their sport and team than to compare how someone else does it better (parents and coaches should heed this advice for themselves as well!). “What we focus on grows.”