“Yoooomaaaa, what’s good?”
My teammate Lauren used to say that to me in Aalst, Belgium. He was all bones and tendons, a skinny black guy from the Bronx. He’d grin wide and send his fist out for some dap without looking at me.
“What’s good Lo?” I’d ask back, sauntering into the locker room.
“Life is good Huff — I’m alive, livin’ the dream.”
I loved living my dream.
When my dream and career of playing pro basketball ended after 14 years, the “What’s good” question would give me a panic attack every time I thought about the direction of my life. I’d lose control of the thoughts in my head, and my emotions and feelings would shit on me whenever they wanted too, like a pod of pigeons following me from above.
“Yo ma, what’s good?”
Squirt. Bap. Plop.
Three years have passed since that question invoked days of pigeon shit, but now I’m asking you the “yo ma, what’s good” question because I think I’ve finally figured out why I felt so much anxiety, panic, and sadness about my life change.
And I think my insight may help. Or maybe it won’t. But either way you are reading this so kazaaam:
A. You are going through some change, transition, identity shift, new career, or relocation and need to think about what you need to be happy and grow your inner culture.
B. You are stuck, broken, anxious, sad, angry, depressed, or want to live the dream, or you are my mom (and you read everything I write because you are my mom).
After three years of searching for the what’s good in my life answer, I’ve started compiling three more questions and ideas to begin your journey down the rabbit hole of knowing who you are becoming (self-awareness), what the spiritual/inner nature of your culture is (authenticity), and how you can build/improve an unbreakable culture of growth (self-improvement) for yourself.
#1. WHAT’S ALREADY GOOD IN MY LIFE (THE BUILD PILE) AND WHAT DO I NEED TO LET GO OF (THE BURN PILE):
If you say I need money, then what you are willing to let go of (burn) or create (build) in your life to get more of it?
If you say I miss having health and fitness, what are you willing to pursue to find the right people, fitness community, or fun workout solution that will help you get it? Is there something holding you back from pursuing it?
This build/burn question is not always a fun one to answer when our lives and the directions of our lives are in flux. And change or transition can be a sensitive subject for anyone, especially me.
If you had asked me what was right and where the direction of my life was going three years ago, I would have slapped you in the face, spat on your shoe, and started crying while shoveling Krispy Kreme donuts into my mouth.
I didn’t care for my health. I was doing jobs that didn’t align with who I was. I was having daily panic and anxiety attacks for the first time in my life.
And I would have suffered less if I’d taken a deep breath, sat still, and watched the monkey mind swing from branch to branch. More importantly, I could have found more meaningful questions and more truthful answers about what who I really was and what I should do next.
But fam, listen, I wouldn’t trade my bad experience. Seriously, ironically, it’s why I’m writing and sharing this with you now. The struggle made me focus on what felt right inside me.
It pushed me to start working on my build pile.
Writing was in that build pile!
This rebuilding process created symmetry between my values and actions. All the change, loss of identity, and transition in my life was a chance to redesign the inner architecture of who I wanted to become.
THE BUILD PILE: I was grateful for my family. My most authentic friends, the funny, vulnerable, weird, and goofy ones that challenged me to grow, think, write, create, share, and evolve. My freedom. My dog Bear. My health. Being an athlete. Traveling. Being alive. New cultures. New ideas. My experimental fitness team; my roommate and brother Damon, and new friend Charlie.
THE BURN PILE: I had to let go of not being ready for a girlfriend, of not having a typical career. Commuting. Working for other people that didn’t align with my culture. Working out alone. Playing in competitive hoop leagues. Shooting a basketball alone. Vanity. Superficiality. Expensive things. Being around big egos.
I slowly gravitated towards the soul tug, started practicing the Golden Rule of Success, and finally pursued that pull I felt.
#2. DOES IT FIT WHO I AM, CHALLENGE ME, AND IS IT FUN?
I live by this simple rule when working out. If it isn’t fun AND challenging the first time around, I’m probably not coming back for the second time. And I’ll tell you why, because I’ve worked out my whole life and I know exactly what fun feels like.
And that’s not because I don’t embrace struggle, a good challenge, or enjoy conflict in my life, it’s because time is precious —
WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANNA DO WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
In pro sports, there was no worse culture than one of drama, over-sized egos, and the inner team tug-o-war-for-attention-bullshit. I have been there. I have been with people and friends that take energy instead of give it.
Let it go. Let the energy suckers go.
Do you want your life growing inside your culture or someone else’s?
Find yourself. Find your jam. It’s out there. Be authentic and maybe it will find you.
Stop comparing yourself to the world, to your friends, to what was and never will be. Stop the Instagram sweeps. The Facebook searches. Stop giving attention to all the things that distract you from accepting the next fun challenge, person, workout, hobby, game, business, startup, or education.
It’s time to pursue something different and pursue it hard.
Pursue what your soul needs to breathe. Pursue it like those shitty pigeons pursued me.
To be honest, I never thought professional basketball would stop being fun and challenging, but it did.
And I had to let that version of basketball go.
Here is a simple FUN FORMULA YOU CAN USE:
Your Happiness = Sum(Your Time — Your Minutes of Boring/Bad Stuff) X Your Minutes of Good/Fun Challenging Stuff
I was not a math major so take that with a grain of algebra.
What I choose today, whatever work, partner, business, friends, or customers I give my time too, I aim to do it deliberately and purposefully based on what fits my internal culture. I’m going do it with my own weird, happy, dose of authentic.
CULTURE (verb): maintain (tissue cells, bacteria, etc.) in conditions suitable for growth.
What are your suitable conditions for growth and happiness?
Building my optimal conditions for growth and happiness include laughter, fun, futuristic thinking, activation, work ethic, inclusiveness, embracing the struggle, teamwork, personal health, authenticity, and friends with growth/positive mindsets.
If I’m going to work. Compete. Push. Wake up. Sell. Make. Unite. Build. Call. Email. Clean. Shovel. Create. Struggle. Progress. Plan.
Then I’m going to do it all with people that fit my culture.
#3. AM I TRYING TOO HARD TOO EARLY?
Seriously, breathe in for five seconds, and out for seven. Do you feel that relaxation?
Adults try to swing for the fences the first time they do something new. They let their emotions guide their decision and get attached to the results. Look around, get eye contact with someone, and engage the community you are in.
But remember, when you are brave enough to try something new, don’t push something that isn’t there.
And don’t go Bruce-Willis-Die-Hard-Hero on day one!
I’ll give you an example. As I became closer to my younger brother, a 3x3 USA National Champion basketball player and our overweight friend that wanted to lose 40 pounds, I told them there was one rule to creating a fitness workout group together.
“Rule numero uno — no being a hero on day one and getting hurt. We can’t get better if we can’t show up,” I told them.
Weeks went by, then months. A year. Every day we got a little better. A little closer. Healthier. My passion for training with them grew, and I was finding happiness in building workouts for a micro-community of people that had the same goals, passions, values, and internal culture as me.
This eventually led to my startup idea to build an all-level, inclusive basketball fitness community where athletes can train like a professional basketball player for one hour.
THINK ABOUT BUILDING YOUR SELF-AWARENESS (WHO YOU ARE BECOMING), AUTHENTICITY (KNOWING YOUR INTERNAL CULTURE), AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT (BUILDING YOUR CULTURE) INSIDE LIFE’S CONSTANT STATE OF CHANGE.
1. What’s already good (my build pile) and do I need less of (my burn pile)?
Right now, anything you enjoy every day is a small win. Celebrate it. Practice gratitude and pursue the dumfounded grins, the goofy laughs, and simple things that make you feel better. And ask yourself, is it also challenging me to grow because that question is next anyway.
Don’t be attached to the thing, be attached to the process of building the thing and burn the thing down to ensure you still love the process (once in awhile).
Write out your burn and build piles and start working on them day by day.
2. Is it fun, does it fit my inner culture, and is it challenging me ?
If I try a gym, and the trainers, the people, and the workout aren’t fun, inclusive, and challenging the first time, to me, it means their culture is wrong for me.
Remember the FUN FORMULA. I left for a six month Caribbean sailing trip because I was completely lost in my life and needed to find my superpowers.
Do the work within a culture that fits you. Watch your happiness levels go up. Your anxiety go down.
If you can’t find your culture, make it.
Or move on and pursue a better fit for yourself. You should know what is fun by now. Stop trying to put round peg in a square hole.
3. Am I trying way too hard too soon?
Babe Ruth, relax. Take that deep breath again.
No one finds their way right off the bat (pun intended). If you feel like the culture fit is there, take your time and go slow.
Ease your way in, don’t get hurt, ask these questions, think about these ideas, and hit singles every day as you transition away from what you used to be.