From Pro Sports to Life Lessons on Self-Improvement, Growth, and Self-Awareness

Dear 14-year old Trevor,

It’s me (yes, actually you) and I’m writing you from the future.

It’s 2018 where I am — and you are almost bald, your body wants to change in areas you never knew existed, and you still don’t have a girlfriend.

More on that later, this is about you.

Yes, you send pictures, videos, and write electronic handwritten letters to people that get exchanged instantly through time and space. And Google isn’t a name you have heard of yet, but if you start saving your allowance, you should invest in their stock as soon as you can.

Yes, it’s important to do your chores, do the work, and save your allowance because remember that story dad used to tell you about doubling a penny every day or taking a million dollars right now?

Buy all the Google stock you can with your allowance savings — it’s the penny.

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by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

No, seriously, I’m writing this letter to you from the future because I want to let you know how proud I am of your work ethic, your ability to dream big, your ability to play and practice as hard as you can.

But I want to discuss some of the internal issues and questions you are nervous about as you start to reflect on what you want and like to do in life.

Many life lessons (you’ll learn) have come from our journey towards professional basketball. This process will teach you how to handle success and failure in life. I know winning is important to you, but it’s not the only thing you should think about.

It’s important to see the big picture, learn how to laugh at yourself (at times), and learn what’s not really all that important.

People telling you what you can and can’t do is going to happen more and more as you get older. Now, I know you are going to shake your head and think, this isn’t how my family taught me how to think.

This isn’t what I learned in Sunday school. This isn’t what my dad taught me.

And enjoy looking at all the different ways to eat that banana, kid, because listen, all the universe really gives a shit about is that you’re excited about doing the work to make IT happen.

Your IT is sports right now and I love how you practice shooting, even when it snows outside. I admire how you dribble in the basement for hours. I respect how you challenge your older brother to play you in 1v1, even when you endlessly get your butt kicked. I commend you on competing and getting up when you get knocked down, asking questions to the coaches, and everything in between.

This process is a microcosm of how you will succeed in life after basketball.

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by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash


Small amounts of physical suffering are a byproduct of growth or success in sports, in anything really. When you struggle with a math problem, you are growing. When you feel the burn in your legs, you are growing. By learning how to deal with this small momentary discomfort, you’ll learn how to make progress and eventually succeed.

Feeling and rising up to this challenge is one of the ways you will know you are outside your comfort zone.

So shut your eyes.

Go into the darkness.

Envision dribbling a basketball and living all over the world for 14 years playing a game you love. Envision meeting amazing people, having adventures, and seeing things people never see, experiencing foreign cultures, and traveling to the smallest corners of the Earth.

Imagine wearing an NBA jersey and playing with your heroes. Imagine dribbling and passing to Larry, Magic, and Isiah Thomas.

Now squeeze those eyes tight.

See yourself waking up tomorrow and slurping down the cereal and getting outside. Keep watching those NBA highlight reels and eat those peanut butter pancakes and get to it. Go shoot in the rain, regardless of how wet you get. Dribble in the snow, regardless of how numb your hands get. How cold you feel. Wear gloves if you have too, cut the tips of the index fingers off so you can feel the ball a little more. Imagine fighting through the small amount of pain each day it takes to wake up. The small amount of pain it takes do that last sit up or push up or dribble crossover.


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Feel it, and do it anyway, because you love it. Then if you can remember, suffer with a smile because that pain only lasts a few seconds.

Yes, believe it or not, one day, you are going to feel like the luckiest man in the world if you do, so stop worrying about whether you get there or not.

Just do it.

But while your eyes are closed, if you think for a moment, you can skip the hard work, the sweat, the tears, the blood, the small moments of suffering, the struggle, or the pain, you better breathe deep and think again.

This is the process.

And you will grow to love it because this is how you become who you are. Your tenacity will improve if you stay in the moments outside your comfort zone, and the sooner you realize all the beauty and power of this world is wrapped up into this very moment, regardless of how it feels, the sooner you can move into a mentality that nothing can stop you.

So let go of that anxiety you feel.

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Sydney Sims on Unsplash


Good question, buddy.

You can’t say yes to everyone that asks. By saying yes to someone or something, you will be saying no to someone or something else. Be prudent in who and what you give your time to — and that goes for video games, TV, playing with friends, being bored, or practicing bad habits.

I wish I could tell you who to trust, but getting hurt is part of life little man.

So stop trying not to feel the pain. Lean into it, learn from it, and just keep listening to your gut.

You will need to take risks with people and listen to your intuition, so stay focused on what you want to do and shake off those negative voices inside your head or the people that tell you what you can’t become. When your brain or other people try to bully you, stand up to it, and understand it won’t last forever.

People are going to hurt your feelings, it’s just part of the game.

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Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Here is an excellent get-out-your-comfort-zone exercise for you. This is what I want you to do when someone tells you that you can’t do something you are aiming to do one day:

I want you to stop them and say (kindly), “Thank you for your opinion of what my future reality can become, can I have your name?”

They will say yes, believe me.

Now jot down their name on a piece of paper. Next, take a mental snapshot or carry a Polaroid camera and flash a picture of their face. Finally, tell them you’ll be messaging them on “The Facebook” in the future (I know you don’t know what that is, but just do it).

In fifteen years, when you are 21, winning an MVP trophy playing in Elite Eight, I want you to find their pictures and write them this message:

“Thank you for your help, and your motivation, it was much appreciated.”

Can you do that for me?

See, people forget how powerful words and dreams are and this causes you confusion, shame, and angst.

But listen, it doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.

Stop bullying yourself and act like you are an underdog — for life.

I’ve heard it all.


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by Zac Durant on Unsplash

But what they won’t see is how much discipline you have. How much you want to be the best. How hard you are willing to work. How much passion and planning you put into your basketball training.

Yet, I know how much you still doubt yourself, but I want you to plug into a new mindset and mantra, one that is infinitely better and more fun to plug into:

Watch me do it anyways.

Don’t hold back, compete and enjoy your passion for the game, and don’t apologize for it.

If you love something, it’s okay to fail trying. It’s okay to have critics. Pop open your protein shake and just get up and try again.

And again. And again. And again.

Enjoy this process kid because it will never end.

Whether you succeed or fail in the end isn’t the most important lesson you will take from basketball, but instead, learning to continually move through that struggle, doubt, fear, and uncertainty to do what you love is.

That is where your growth as a human, a coach, a friend, a partner, a businessman, a startup, an inventor, a real estate investor, a creator, and a writer will begin.

Basketball will teach you to practice confidence, deal with negative emotions and feelings, take deep breaths, say your prayers, and help you decide to be brave in front of all those people that think you’ll fail.

There is a saying you’ll hear later in life, “Bet on the jockey, not the horse,” so remember you are the jockey of your ideas and dreams, no one else.

You will get lost. You will have to find your way. Basketball will become your biggest passion, your most creative art, and you will learn how to inspire, entertain, and succeed with a brown leather ball in your hands.

So just keep it up buddy, because I’m proud of your hard work this far. Keep on believing and remember that we all feel those scary moments where we don’t feel like we’re good enough. When our mind or adult’s minds think small.

The next time you feel scared, or complacent, or angry, or when someone tells you what you can’t do, I want you to recite this mantra to yourself:

Just watch me do it anyway.

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I know life at 13 feels pretty good. Keep pinning pictures of John Stockton, Larry Bird, Pele, MJ, Isiah, and Magic Johnson to your ceiling. Keep playing sports every day with your Kirkridge friends and dreaming those lofty, big dreams. Keep playing Genesee Star soccer, keep writing, and relax when you call your first girlfriend Kelly to ask her out.

If you can’t relax, take a deep breath and repeat your new mantra.

Then enjoy the moment. Smile. Stay positive. Listen. Learn. Keep playing as hard as you can, but remember, that dream is a seed that needs to be gardened. And that will take getting out of your comfort zone, finding the right people, and believing in your new mantra.

That’s it for now little man. Oh, finish your homework, and really focus on your math. The things you aren’t very skilled at always take more work.

I will be watching you from afar — watching you do it anyway.

Yours truly,
Trevor (you from the future)

PS. Oh, and another thing, start dribbling your basketball home from the bus stop.

If you want to read more life lessons and personal growth stories on self-improvement, staying true to yourself, and self-awareness, click here.

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