Eight Life Lessons Learned in the Gym
Basketball has been a cornerstone of my life since earlier than I can remember. Whether it was stealing a key to let down the hoops in my high school gym (Sorry Mr. Janke) or shooting in the middle of the night with the illumination of my mom’s 1998 Tahoe in the backyard, almost every significant memory of my youth involves a ball and a hoop. This sport has acted as a source of solace, friendship, laughter, pain, fear, and joy. Little did I know at the time, my experiences on the court have largely shaped the man that I am today.
Since completing my collegiate basketball career, I have been fortunate to stay close to the sport I love as a coach, parent, and now business owner. In wearing these different hats, although not easy to see while in it, there are lessons in the hoops community that are offered to us every day. These lessons are powerful and transcend long after the ball stops bouncing. Whether or not we choose to absorb them is entirely up to us.
Life is not fair
Whether you’re an underclassman playing behind a senior that you feel you’re better than or you lose out on a job promotion to a peer you feel you’ve outperformed, there are things in life that happen that cannot be described by any word but unfair. Instead of allowing these circumstances to defeat you, appreciate that there are events in life that are meant to test our resolve and perseverance. Stay the course – there are greater things on the other side of every roadblock.
Results are rarely immediate
The process of development as a basketball player is similar to owning a business or working on a major project. You may have a great day, week, or month in the gym and see next to no tangible results. The instinct reaction? “This isn’t working”. The reality of anything worth having is that it takes time. There are no blue prints for building to ultimate success. Trust that every extra sprint and every extra shot will pay off on the court, just like every extra hour in the office and extra networking meeting will pay dividends off the court.
Competition = Respect
Sports are ultra competitive. Experience “competing” is the #1 reason that many companies like to hire athletes. With that said, there is a lesson that gets lost in the “win at any cost” basketball machine. Whether you’re chasing a scholarship, a fellowship upon graduation, or bringing a new product into a crowded industry, competition is something that is woven into the fabric of every day life. It is vital as a young athlete to learn that competition and rivalries are not derived from hatred or disrespect, but from two or more groups chasing a common goal and respecting the work that others are putting in to reach the same destination. Compete out of respect for your opponent. This will ensure that you never underestimate their efforts and that you always operate with a clear head.
Full potential requires 100% accountability
The most convenient response to failure is blame. “Coach doesn’t like me” “He doesn’t pass the ball” “I have a bad sales territory” “My department doesn’t have enough funding”. At every stage of life there are opportunities to make excuses or place blame. What you will learn, hopefully sooner than later, is that the only way to achieve at your highest potential is to take 100% ownership over your circumstances. The highest achievers in the world approach problems with one simple question: “What is this situation asking of me?”
It doesn’t always have to make sense
Over the course of your career, you will be asked to do some things that you don’t understand or that you flat out don’t want to do. I will never forget the third practice of my sophomore year in college when my coach had us run 30 “killers” (a.k.a. suicides or ladders) in 30 minutes. He didn’t say a single word besides “again” for the 30 minutes to follow. Aside from thinking I was going to die that day, I could not fathom why my coach would want us to run this much. As my career went on, we would condition like this regularly almost every practice. Although we despised it, we began building a tough shell as time went on. By my senior year, we were getting to the end of games and executing in situations that we simply lacked the mental toughness to handle in previous years. I have no doubt that a part of this toughness was in direct relation to the conditioning that we never understood over the years. Your coaches, parents, and bosses will ask you to do things in life that you simply don’t understand. If you trust those people, and trust their intentions, I encourage you to throw yourself into those requests regardless of your understanding of why, as those challenges and experiences will shape your character forever.
“Fake it til you make it”
Certainty is everything. Whether you’re leading your team to a late game come back or interviewing for your first job, the confidence (or perceived confidence) with which we operate largely determines the outcome. What about the situations where you aren’t as confident? What if you are playing a team you really don’t think you can beat? What if the other candidates for the job have better resumes than you? In these situations, the most successful people on the court, in the classroom, and in the work place all share the same common denominator. They project confidence when there is seemingly none to be had. Any gym they walk into is theirs’ to own. These are the people that coaches want on the floor and these are the people that companies want to hire.
Define what success means to you
This may be the most important lesson that you will learn from playing this game. Since your first dribble, you have had people defining what success on the court should mean to you. Statistics, social media, parents, college coaches, high school coaches, grassroots coaches, friends, etc. all try to shape your definition of success as a player. This does not stop when you get into the real world. You will have influences telling you what to study in college, what career path to choose, what companies to work for, who to marry, and it goes on and on. It is vital that you take time to reflect on what success means to you.
Some losses are wins
We are analyzing statistics in sports more and more every day. Points per possession, offensive efficiency rating, plus/minus, usage percentage, are all methods of measuring why we win or lose games. Statistics are valuable in showing productivity, but there are some important questions that remain unanswered by the numbers. “Did I play the game with pure intentions?” “Did I work as hard as I possibly could to represent my program, regardless of the end result?” “Did I get better today?” “Did I leave every ounce of effort on the court?” Regardless of winning or losing, if your answers to these questions are “yes”, regardless of the scoreboard, you won that game. The experiences we learn the most from are those where the scoreboard does not go in our favor. This same theme carries over in every day life. Whether you miss on a sales deal or lose a major client, if you competed with maximum effort, a clear mind, and an open heart, then you won that battle.
“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden
I can’t take credit for these wonderful words,but the headline is a saying that I have when the Ball Stop Bouncing what are you going to do with your Mind!! I would like to give Nick Carroll from Prep Hoops credit for this great article.