June 3 – The size of the fight in the dog

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

Tenacity and intensity. Those two words are bouncing around in my head this morning as I ponder this quote. When judging who will reign victorious, it is often a matter of who is the more tenacious and intense.

I am a sports fan, and have watched many championship series and games in my lifetime. I have seen on many occasions that the team which looks to be the best on paper, or even the best in the regular season, can be beaten by a lesser team. In a single game, or a short series, a number of factors can influence the outcome that go beyond the talent level or past success of the teams. The way they match up against each other, the location of games, even the conditions of play can all have an influence. And, which is the more intense tenacious often plays a significant role.

A team that gets up their intensity can often play above their normal capabilities. I think about the 1987 Minnesota Twins in baseball. Their regular season record was only good enough to be 5th best in their own league, and 9th best overall. But because of the playoff structure of the day, they found themselves with the opportunity to make a run at the World Series. They had a lot going for them, including home field advantage with a loud and boisterous crowd. They had good pitching and timely hitting. But I remember watching those games and thinking that they also were far more intense than the teams they faced. They had a tenacity and a hunger that was unmatched by their opponents.

Another example that comes to mind is the New York Giants football team that won Super Bowl XLVI in 2011. In that year’s regular season they were 9-7, a somewhat ordinary record. They made the playoffs as a wild card, and got on a roll. In the Super Bowl they faced a team that was, on paper, vastly superior in the New England Patriots. That year the Patriots had gone undefeated, and set many records for their offensive capabilities. The Super Bowl, though, was a different story. That day the Giants prevailed. There are many reasons the game turned in their favor, including brilliant game planning, fortunate plays and the like. But, again, I remember watching that game thinking that the Giants just wanted it more that day. They had an intensity and tenacity unmatched by their opponents.

Very often in life it isn’t the most talented person who comes out on top. Often what gets a person ahead is their drive. The person who studies the hardest, the person who works the longest hours, the person who spends the most extra effort in pursuit of their goals. These are the people for whom the fight in the dog is so important.

How strong is the fight in me these days? Are there areas in my life where I am relying on my talent and experience to get me through? Are there places where I need to amp up my intensity to have greater success? And, if there are areas where I am not as intense as I could be, is it because I really don’t want to pursue that goal?

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