11 May Can You Be Your Best Without Being Obsessed?


Have you ever been obsessed with something? I surely have been. In 6th grade, I was obsessed with eating one “Whatchamacallit” candy bar every single day. In 7th grade, I was obsessed with collecting as many Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson sports cards as financially possible. In 8th grade, I was obsessed with winning Sega Genesis basketball video games.

My Biggest Obsession Growing Up

My biggest obsession growing up, however, was to become the best basketball player that I could be.  In grade school, I merely played basketball for fun and I was fortunate to be a pretty good player. Then I got to high school, and suddenly I blended right in with just about everyone else on the team. I fit in and played well, but I really didn’t stand out. As a freshman, I scored about 4 points per game and we maybe won 11 or 12 games. The low scoring and the losses really bothered me. During that entire season, I often asked myself, “How did I go from being a pretty good player to feeling so average, so quickly?” Something had to change.

So, my obsession began.  During the next 3 years, I spent 3-4 hours per day in the gym, after school.  Being totally obsessed, I would double those hours on weekends and during summer vacation. I was so obsessed that I missed homecoming one year to spend the extra time working on my basketball skills. I was so obsessed that during a one-week fishing trip to Canada, I brought a basketball along and dribbled it, on the only rock-solid surface within walking distance, for 45 minutes each day.  Even well-intentioned people often told me that I had no life.  I obsessed about becoming a better basketball player and it paid off with results.  As a senior in high school, I averaged over 18 points per game, my team won 25 games, and our winning team competed in the state tournament.

“How Do You Try To Be Your Best, Without Allowing The Pursuit Of Excellence To Become Your IDOL?”

A couple of weeks ago, Coach Jack Bennett… an incredible mentor of mine… head basketball coach of the UW-Stevens Point’s back-to-back national championship teams, national coach of the year, and an even better person provoked some deep thought for me when he asked me a powerful question. He asked me,

Click to Tweet: “How do you try to be your best, without allowing the pursuit of excellence to become your IDOL?” Jack Bennett #movetogrow #movetobeteams

An “idol” is a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered. When I received his email, I dropped everything that I was doing to read it over and over and over again.

Is My Book Becoming My Idol?

After a day had passed, I was a little concerned that I was allowing the pursuit of the book that I’ve been writing to become my idol. After two days, I did a 180° turnaround and began to think that writing my book was simply a hobby. After three days, I told myself that I’m dedicated, but not exactly obsessed. After four days, I was terribly confused.

Am I Dedicated Or Obsessed?

To clarify some things in my mind, I did some research on the words “dedicated” and “obsessed.” Being dedicated is staying devoted to a task or purpose…. dedication is looked at positively. Being obsessed is filling the mind continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent… obsession is looked at negatively.

But is obsession really negative? From my experiences, there are good and bad elements of obsession. Obsession can be bad when you have a painful addiction, are never satisfied, try to be the best at everything, rarely recover, and neglect other important things in your life. Obsession can be good when you focus on your passions, try to be the best version of you, strive to reach your potential, enjoy every minute of your routine, celebrate your wins, and make regular progress.

Today, I wouldn’t be compensated for my passion if I didn’t have the drive, determination, resilience, and perseverance to become a better leader, speaker, and writer. So the question still remains… am I obsessed…or just really dedicated?

The Light Bulb Moment

The light bulb went on for me when I re-read Coach Bennett’s question yet again. His question starts with the words “how do you…” instead of “can you…”  This implies that you absolutely can be your best without allowing the pursuit of excellence to become your idol. It is not an all or nothing proposition.  Realizing this felt like I had removed a ton of bricks from my back. Pursuing excellence in a healthy and productive way is possible!  There are constructive and beneficial ways to pursue your dreams. [Perhaps the answer lies in what type of person you are, and how you get things accomplished.]

It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to be your best. I wouldn’t be a few months away from a completed manuscript without being a little bit obsessed, as well as being dedicated to the process.  Truth be told, waking up at 4:45am every single morning is probably best described as an obsession.  Over the last couple of years however, I’ve tried to make my obsession work for me, not against me. I’m making sure that my obsession doesn’t control me.  I have control over my “bookends,” which are the times between my early wake-up time and the girls getting up, and then after they go to bed at 8:15pm. Doing this allows me to still be great at my day job, spend quality time with my family, and exercise daily… all the while maintaining my pursuit of excellence.

So can you be the best without being a little obsessed? Not really. But can you try to be your best, without allowing the pursuit of excellence to become your idol? Most definitely.

Move You, Move Others

Does your obsession benefit only you, or can you help others along the way?

Let’s go back to my early basketball obsession. My obsession with practicing 3-4 hours per day inspired a number of my other teammates to do the same.  I’m hoping that my obsession with getting up early to work on my own endeavors will inspire others to seek personal growth at the highest possible level.

According to football legend Vince Lombardi, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

In high school, our most dedicated players helped each other to become the best team possible. During Coach Bennett’s national championships, his dedication to pouring himself into his players and coaches on and off the court fueled their runs.

Click to Tweet: If you move yourself to pursue excellence, you’ll move others to do the same. @derekdeprey #movetogrow #movetodevelopothers

ACTION: Reflect on the following life-changing question: How do you try to be your best, without allowing the pursuit of excellence to become your IDOL? Write down the names of 3-5 of your mentors who share similar passions or obsessions. Then, ask each of them “the question” via phone, email, face-to-face, or text. The result… You, and your mentors, will walk away more inspired to make a difference and pursue excellence.

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