On being Very Good

I’ve been thinking a bunch about the Stanford-Oregon game yesterday — it was disappointing, because I think a bunch of us felt like this Cardinal team could really be a championship caliber team — one for the ages. But Oregon beat us badly — and showed that Stanford isn’t a championship team — at least not right now — but merely a Very Good team.

It’s funny, though, because college football isn’t an easy place to be “just” a very good team. And Stanford (and Silicon Valley, for that matter) isn’t an easy place to be “just” very good at what you do. Everyone wants to be the best, not just top 5 or top 10 or great. And it’s a good instinct, and obviously productive, because looking around us at the people who inhabit Stanford and Palo Alto and the whole region, we have an awfully damn lot of people and organizations who are, in fact, the best in the world at what they do.  So it’s good — really good — to strive to be the best, because if you don’t try, you sure won’t end up there.

But I have to say that while I’m disappointed — disappointed that we won’t have a shot to win the Pac-12 or go to the Rose Bowl or the BCS Championship — I’m really fired up about how good this team is, about how much fun it is to follow them, about how guys like Luck (but not only him) can be good at football and all the rest of the things they value in a Stanford education.

We’ve had so many good — best — teams at Stanford over the last 20+ years, we get a little too used to it. But it’s been a hell of a fun weekend, and a hell of a fun season to be a Stanford fan. It was really, really fun to hike over with Kathy & SPL to see Gameday filming yesterday morning. It was really, really fun to catch up with my friend Dave Garnett from across the hall freshman year. And it was really, really fun to be at the game.

I think it’s very important not to lose sight of just how good this team is, and how important it is to be Very Good at what we all do, even when we’re not the Best at it. And that’s an easy and important lesson I’ll share again and again with SPL as he grows up.

Now looking forward to Big Game & Notre Dame & a bowl game — should be an amazing few weeks to end the season and Luck’s time on the Farm.


  1. “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.”
    ~ Michelangelo

    Interesting that he said “most” rather than “all”. Perhaps the ones who are the Very Good are the difference?

  2. As with my blog on Sandberg’s comments about ambition, I think it’s always important to keep priorities straight for areas in which it is enough to be “Very Good” and those in which we really must be “Best.” Kathy and SPL are probably pretty happy that you’re very successful in your career, but they won’t care at all if “Best” in VC/tech turns into “Crap” as a husband/father. I look at Steve Jobs’ life and I’m grateful – very grateful – it’s not mine. Yes, I’d like to be the absolute best in my field, but not nearly as much as I’d like to be the best father in my home, and best husband to Jen.

    Sounds hokey, I guess, but it’s true. And you clearly have it right in how you view Stanford. Ultimately, they play to entertain you and other fans. Yes, they could still do that and win it all. But they don’t have to. Clearly.