The 2015 Senior Perspectives is the 10th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
For a complete listing of 2015 Senior Perspectives,click here.
Benjamin Glauser, Men’s Track & Field, Team Co-Captain
Hometown: Athens, Ga.
House Affiliation: Winthrop
I have spent the last four years competing in the throwing events for the varsity track & field team. Through success, setbacks, disappointments, and learning how to respond, I have had the privilege to grow and learn from my teammates and coaches. To reflect on a single meet or performance would ignore others of equal value, thus I want to focus on several large takeaways from my education through athletics.
I have always wanted to be great and I know this sentiment is shared amongst many people fortunate to call Harvard their home. Though athletics are one of many domains for setting goals and working to achieve them, the daily commitment, duration of investment, and clarity of the results offer a unique learning opportunity for competitors to develop a will to succeed.
My mother has always been an advocate for the Big Fish philosophy, meaning that the moment you feel like a big fish, your pond is too small - a doctrine reinforced by my experience with track and field. If an athlete holds him or herself to standards relevant to only their immediate peers, there is a good chance they will become a big fish, and a much greater chance they will never be truly great. Our sport affords the athlete an opportunity to embrace challenge at the highest standard - or in line with the metaphor, living in the biggest pond - competing against him or herself every day.
It has been my experience that only through continued improvement and maintaining an exceptional definition of success that this endeavor for greatness is possible. Thus, it continues that the most successful people in track are those holding the highest standards for their own greatness and are committed to the unwavering pursuit of this goal to align reality with their vision. The essence of this pursuit borders on insanity, for it forces you to believe in something that nobody else can see, a better version of yourself. Only through commitment to this vision of greatness, in spite of setback or temporary defeat, can it become a reality. Past the immediate outcome, rarely do members of our team focus on a specific relative meet performance. Rather, each runner, thrower, jumper, and coach of these athletes is focused on two things that define the intrinsic value of success in our sport: your own bottom number (i.e. personal best) and how you want to move that number, thus becoming a better you. The divergence of your current and future best drive all efforts measurable in miles traversed, pounds moved, reps taken, and seconds of pain withstood.
Not only does status of a big fish limited by a focus on relative position prevent full talent realization, but the concern is nonsensical in this sport where there is nobody in your way. Though the periphery is full of other jerseys, they cannot materially affect you. Thus, you are your own competition, a race it seems you can never escape and you can never win. However, defeating oneself is to fail to set a high enough goal or to give up on something that could have been great, through distraction or the deception of self-limitation. The ability to limitlessly challenge yourself, propelling you to be the greatest version of yourself, is unique in athletics where better is good, but never good enough.
The reality of getting beat is a tough lesson in this sport, where there is no binary outcome of a win or concept of a perfect season. When you compete against yourself, and you have a powerful vision for a new you, you will always fall short. However, losing to yourself is not failure, but expected and unavoidable. In the sport of racing to a lifetime best, failure is when you give up on yourself and abandon your self-created image of greatness, as this is the only assured way to destroy all of which you were capable. Thus, finding victory is the continued investment in the process, itself, of self-improvement, which can never be complete, but is fulfilling as progress is realized.
The pursuit of greatness beyond innate talent and external expectation must derive from the belief in oneself, which requires a tremendous investment of time and energy. Sacrifice means forgoing present enjoyment in some capacity, which too often is used to describe the toll of varsity athletics on an individual’s Harvard experience. However, these complaints are short-sighted and ignore the immeasurable reward of investing in future success with a team of dedicated student-athletes, whose members cross the river to pursue their goals every day, not because they are interested in keeping a scholarship, but because of their own passion for the sport and striving for their own greatness. Harvard track & field has joined me in a co-investment towards the pursuit of greatness by providing tools to work towards a better me - in athletics and beyond - with lessons in personal accountability for outcomes, sustained grit (yes, not every day is fun and there are plenty of exciting distractions), and the will to succeed - the only important force in winning. Thank you Harvard track & field for being the anchor to my day for four years and providing an unparalleled educational experience to approach the future.