I have learned a lot from my friend Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach fame) over the years.
One of the most profound things I have heard Dan teach and talk about is the idea of “Living in the Gap.” It is a metaphor for never being satisfied with achievement, and therefore being constantly disappointed.
When I first heard him talk about the Gap, he described it something like this:
Imagine standing on the shore at the ocean and looking out at the horizon, and imagining that as your set of goals. You then get in a boat and start to row towards the horizon (your goals). As those goals draw closer and closer to you, the horizon continues to move—in fact, it is the same distance it was when you were on shore. By the time you get to that original horizon (your original goals) you are already staring ahead at the next horizon. You are likely tired from the effort, and maybe even discouraged about the future.
One of the other people in the room, upon hearing about the Gap for the first time, hurriedly packed up his stuff. I asked where he was going and with tears in his eyes he said to me, “I have forced my kids into living in the gap for the last 10 years and I am catching the first flight home to apologize and make things right.”
As I watched the end of the NBA finals a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the reaction of Nikola Jokic, the star of the Denver Nuggets, and one of the best basketball players on the planet.
His team had just won the sport’s biggest prize—and he was the most important reason why, and yet he didn’t seem that excited.
When interviewed on the court, he was blasé and made reference to “just wanting to go home.” When told of when the parade would be, and if he was excited, he answered, “no.”
I was amazed by this odd reaction!
Normally when a professional team, at the highest level, wins their sport’s championship, all you see is jubilation, celebration, relief, tears, joy, all of it.
But not Jokic…
It dawned on me in that moment that he was definitely in the Gap, but more importantly, he was exhausted.
He had literally, as the saying goes, “left it all on the court”, and he couldn’t even find joy in the celebration. An hour later, at the press conference, with time to reflect and ponder the accomplishments, he gave the same answer: “I just want to go home to Serbia.”
Now, you may have heard the famous stories about Nick Saban at Alabama, or Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots winning the championship, and being back in the office 24 hours later preparing for the next season.
As a society, I think we glorify this incredible stoicism, dedication, and willingness to leave it all on the court… but for what?
I’d love to ask Jokic one simple question today: if you could do it all over again, was it worth it?
If we expend so much of ourselves that when we reach the final goal, the pinnacle, and we can’t even crack a smile let alone celebrate the achievement, was it really worth it?
Did we set a good example?
Should we be envied or pitied?
Are we the model of success, or is it even success at all?
When I see moments like that, I’m left with a giant helping of “why does all this stuff matter?” and it has me asking myself some of the same questions.
I have a real tendency to live “IN THE GAP” and this was a glaring reminder of what that really means.
Congrats to the Denver Nuggets for winning their first championship. And Nikola, for your sake, I hope you have a quiet moment back in Serbia, with the cameras off.
Get some rest, and hopefully you can look back and at least feel some contentment and maybe crack a smile.
I will close with the advice from Dan for us “Gap dwellers”:
When you start passing those horizons, those sets of goals you set, you can absolutely keep focused on new horizons. But every now and then, drop a few buoys in the water and have a moment to celebrate.
And when things get hard, every once in a while, stand up and turn around to see the string of buoys you have left behind you
P.S. Looks like Nikola dropped a buoy in the water for this one after all! https://www.cbsnews.com/colorado/video/nikola-jokic-glad-he-stayed-for-nuggets-parade/#x
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