Once upon a time, in a forest on a lake, lived a herd of bucks. For most of the year they played together, sometimes in a clearing in their forest and sometimes traveling to play with bulls, timberwolves, and others.
With each passing year, some bucks arrived, some bucks left, and some bucks stayed. Every buck was treated with respect, but the bucks who stayed were treated with perhaps the most respect. They were respected by many in the forest for their commitment to the herd.
One day, a new buck arrived. It became apparent that this buck was different from the others. His play quickly surpassed the other bucks and many of the others that they played with.
The herd and the forest-dwellers were elated. It was rare to have such a buck in their humble woods. Those of his elk were typically found in greener pastures. What’s more, the new buck seemed content in his new home, away from the glare of bigger bodies of water.
The herd therefore began to hunt for success. Their play, elevated by the new buck, could put them in contention to be crowned the best players in the country, a title they desperately sought.
However, success did not come easily. The annual comings and goings of bucks acquired a greater frequency and urgency. The head buck himself was replaced, over the protests of the new buck. They accumulated other, lesser accolades, but the title remained elusive.
Finally, after putting their woodchips on the table, they achieved their breakthrough. After playing with the hawks and battling with the elements, they won the title. They paraded through their forest with glee. The new buck, no longer quite so new, was triumphant. Surely they were at the dawn of an era; more titles would follow.
That would not be. They played a couple more years, garnering some success but without winning the title. The annual comings and goings of bucks were more marginal, with the herd having committed to the core of bucks that won the title and having mortgaged the future in order to secure them. But the head buck was replaced, this time due in part to the protests of the now old buck.
It was against this backdrop that the old buck spoke.
He wanted the herd to win another title while he played. He did not want the herd to rebuild, improving its chances of winning a title after he finished playing. He was skeptical about the new head buck - the very one he had vocally supported.
And yet, he said that he wanted to remain a buck for life.
This inspired a fair bit of hubbub in the forest.
To be a buck for life, the forest-dwellers proclaimed, you should support the herd. You should not expect the herd to push their limits for your immediate gratification. You should expect that the herd may make decisions to own their future. You should expect that you and the herd can work toward success, but you should not expect that the herd - or you - can guarantee a title.
These voices fell like a tree.
The old buck may hear these voices. He may buck the trend and stay in the forest. He will be revered by the forest-dwellers. He may not win another title.
But the old buck may not hear these voices. He may move to greener pastures. He will be revered by the forest-dwellers. He may not win another title.
Regardless, with each passing year, some bucks will arrive, some bucks will leave, and some bucks will stay. Every buck will be treated with respect, but the bucks who stay will be treated with perhaps the most respect. They will be respected by many in the forest for their commitment to the herd. But, at the end of the day, no buck is above the herd.