Alex Trebek, the host of Jeopardy for 37 seasons, passed away this week from pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.

Hearing the news brought back a lot of memories. I used to watch the show with my Mom and my brother. I can’t even say that we “competed” against each other because I was no competition. They would battle for this win, while I would strive for moral victories like answering one question correctly 🙂

In so many of my speeches, I find myself talking about the direction of our attention and raising psychological necessity. Basically:

Inward attention (focusing on you) = suffering and struggling

Outward attention (focusing on others) = striving and serving

I read a few articles about Alex Trebek this week and I’m always impressed with people that can remain purposeful and optimistic, despite staring down a deep black hole like pancreatic cancer.

Here’s an excerpt from an article in the NY Times:

One morning last year, early in the course of his treatment, Trebek felt so sick that he lay down on the floor of his dressing room, sobbing from the pain. Producers suggested canceling the rest of the day’s tapings, but Trebek insisted on hosting all five episodes. When he walked onto the stage and greeted the audience, he felt focused, like himself.

“Once I introduce him on that stage, he is Alex Trebek,” said the longtime “Jeopardy!” announcer Johnny Gilbert. “You can tell that that’s what he’s living for.”

Trebek can’t explain how he summons himself in those moments. Part of it must come from knowing that millions of people are watching.

“They’ve got their ballpoint pens, and they’re clicking away, seeing if they can click in faster than the contestants,” Trebek said. “And if they come up with a few correct responses, by gosh, that makes them feel good, because they know the people on that screen are bright. They’ve been tested. And look at that, I beat them on three consecutive clues. Holy smokes. I should try out for ‘Jeopardy!’”

Serving. Striving. Outward attention on others.

Lots of people are struggling. You may be one of them. Heck, I am too. But there are people—in our community, city, church or company—that need us to Outperform for THEM. And if we focus our attention there and not on ourselves, the world will be a better place.

Keep Outperforming,