Lessons from Ricky Bobby

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Those words don’t make sense but they were the motivating force that drove fictional NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) to achieve greatness.

His dad told him that at an early age and it shaped how he lived his life.

He pushed others down in order to maintain his place as number one.

Even his best bud, Cal (John C. Reilly) was only there to slingshot him to victory and keep Ricky number one.

When Ricky Bobby’s world comes crashing down he is forced to see what life would like outside the winner’s circle.

He must deal with those mysterious and nonsensical words from his father, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

This is the American way. We like to win. We want to win. We have to win.

Okay, okay… Maybe it’s not every Americans’ way, but it applies to me.

The question I’ve been asking myself lately is this:

Is it okay to NOT be the best?

Am I comfortable not being #1? Will I be content if I’m not recognized as the expert or guru? Is it okay to not be the superstar?

I sure hope so, because in truth, I’m not.

The Cascade Range stretches from Southern British Columbia to Northern California.

It is full of tall, prominent peaks. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Shasta all come to mind.

Are you aware that the fifth tallest peak 700-mile stretch of the Cascades is called Little Tahoma?

Yeah, me neither until I looked it up.

Little Tahoma is seen in most pictures of Mt. Rainier. It’s the peak to the left (east) of its bigger brother.

Mt. Rainier, Hood, Adams, Baker, Shasta, and Mt. St. Helens are all celebrated more than Little Tahoma.

In fact, some don’t even consider Little Tahoma to be its own peak. It’s often classified as a satellite peak because of its proximity to Rainier.

I feel bad for Little Tahoma. At 11,138 ft of elevation it’s achieved something great; it’s the fifth tallest peak in the entire Cascade Range, yet no one cares.

In our individual, corporate and church pushes to become great let’s not forget about others who have risen to prominence in their own regard.

We love celebrities. We like to aspire to be like someone else. We need them so much that we create them from reality TV shows.

This is not an indictment on our celebrity culture; I have heroes too.

I’m simply saying let’s recognize others, especially when they’re a little less prominent than others for what they’ve achieved.

  • The single mom raising three kids by herself
  • The faithful children’s worker
  • Grandparents who become parents again and raise their children’s children
  • Sound techs (usually recognized when the microphone feeds back)
  • People with special needs and their caretakers

It’s okay to NOT be number one. In fact it’s okay to go unnoticed at times.

Jesus said the way to be great was to be the least.

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

That’s crap. Even Ricky Bobby knows that.

Stop wasting your time looking for recognition and do what God has called you to do.

Serve, love, help and care for others.

Let’s be more concerned with serving others than we are with checking our current “ranking” in the leadership hierarchy.

Let’s take time to recognize those who are doing an outstanding job even though they may be relatively obscure.

Let’s serve those who have nothing to offer us in return.


How can / will you accomplish this today?

5 thoughts on “Lessons from Ricky Bobby

  1. Hey Andy, thanks for your post, and for your list of people who are a little less recognized. I know the list isn’t exhaustive. There are a ton of other types of people whom aren’t mentioned, whom also get less recognition. But, I must say, I got a little happy that my people made the list. I’m a caregiver for special needs adults, I love it, and I’ve been working in that field for 5 years. Just had to say I got a little smile as I read your post, sitting here drinking coffee, about to head off to my job.
    Last week I heard someone on tv talking about their aspirations to be a poet & writer. They made a comment about living and doing our passions, and not worrying about if we become the most successful at it. Like, if you love writing then don’t concern yourself with becoming a ‘writer,’ just write. If you’re a gardener, don’t concern yourself with becoming the teacher of your local ‘Master Gardener class.’ Instead, just make time to get your hands in the earth. And I kinda like that. I think it’s better than aiming for first place. It’s too much pressure to try and figure out the best way to market my talents and make them profitable. Maybe it’s better to simply enjoy them, be them, do them, etc. I think you’re probably right-on with what you’re saying in this post. And I’m ok with allowing Ricky Bobby to be the one fighting for 1st. Victory Lane is better reserved for the drivers who dream of it day & night. I’m more comfortable staying tucked away in the crowd, taking awesome snapshots of him crossing over the finish line with the checkered flag waving in the foreground.

    • Thanks for checking out the post Danielle.

      There are so many names and occupations that could make “the list.”

      I suppose the fact that they’ve been left off only serves to reinforce the point that it’s okay to work under the radar.

  2. Great truth Andy- love it. And if you were hiking Little Tahoma, you’d think it was plenty big. Going to notice some people today- thanks for your post.


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