“Dude, just go play pro.”
“Yeah bro, it’s not that easy.”
“Because there are millions of people out there trying to do the same thing as us. What makes you or I different?”
“Hmm. Good point,” my brother said. “So what did you do?”
“I changed my mindset. I tried to always put more effort into my game than the other kids and secondly, I never cared too much, or for too long. If I pissed people off when I competed against them, I just shook their hand at the end and said great game, man. Win or lose, you have to play with that edge.”
“Yeah, my classmates always get mad when I try too hard.”
“Yep. It’s normal. Kids want to be cool first and try hard second. The other thing I want to tell you is this. Always be humble. Humility will get you much further than arrogance will.”
My younger brother shook his head and started dribbling his basketball towards the park. I hoped my life lesson had come through, but you never know with kids. The notion of gaining self-awareness from time, energy, and money invested versus mindset learned can be lost on the young.
Shit, what am I talking about, and the old.
As a 12-year pro point guard and two-time NBA failure, I learned some odd life lessons along the international road of pro basketball.
Playing pro ball isn’t about actually playing pro ball, it’s about gaining self-awareness from learning why you’ve lost, or are frustrated, or can’t reach your goals. This sport’s process teaches you what mindset to grow, and more importantly, it shows you, your own psychology.
Let me tell you a story about changing cultures, and playing pro ball in France.
Playing overseas, I was constantly introduced to new things, new cultures, new people, and new ideas. And let me start with this: European breakfasts are bullshit. I mean, who eats ham and cheese and curdled yogurt in the morning instead of French toast and remind me again, why is it called French toast? I had to accept this weird fact while living there. Critical American-isms like the French Kiss, French Fries (those are not from France, OMG), and French Toast exist here in the states. It’s weird. The French don’t call their omelet, the American Omelette or a hug, the American Hug.
So let’s just start with this baseline: life can be weird, wherever you are, whatever you do. My life is weird AF at times, so can we stop pretending to label what isn’t ours to label? Can we step off our high horse and walk together?
You are not that special. I am not special. We are both just alive, breathing oxygen until we don’t breathe oxygen anymore. And guess what?
Nobody really cares what you do as long as you try to do what makes you happy.
Homie, if you are happy, I am happy.
And the real challenge is happiness starts with self-awareness and knowing what productivity and peace feels like to you, of doing all the things you’ve wanted to do that you’ve put off. I’ve learned how the mindset of pro athletes relate to learning, doing, and competing without caring too much about what people say about you (the funny thing is, I do care, I’ve just gotten really good at letting go of caring). It’s why I took big shots when the game was on the line, because the truth is, even when you miss those big shots, or let someone or your team down, the most important lesson is that you try to fix it and prepare to take the next big shot, and hopefully make it.
In my head, I forced those missed shots out of my head (really, they’ve never happened) because I only remember the ones I’ve made.
This is part of life. Shot making. Shot taking. And this sports life lesson makes me happy, to know I can be brave for the moment in making those big life decisions to change, start over, try something else, or stay true to myself in what makes me happy. But I still hear that fucking bastard of an ego, that cynical voice that says “you can’t.”
My life is learning and wanting to shut that voice the fuck up.
That voices ruins lives after all, so please excuse my excessive cussing. Now I’m in Chicago, trying to get onto the next phase of my life after pro sports — doing startups, doing real estate, investing my money, living minimally, writing and learning to write, and it can all feel unreal. Playing against Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway, and Cory Maggette, that wasn’t fake. That was really hard, it was really, really, real. I had split moments to fix what I needed to fix to have success.
And yet, life doesn’t always feel real now. It kind of punches you in the face when it wants to remind you aren’t in control as much as you think. The epiphany that each moment represents a game-winning shot is powerful shit that living once can either scare the shit out of you, or it can inspire you to do what the fuck you want to or should be doing. You only get one shot at living your life.
Not that I have the answers figured out yet, but again this is my pro athlete basketball blog, so I don’t care if you hate on me. In fact, fire away. I’ve been hated on my whole basketball life. My career in basketball came with a heavy dose of jealousy, envy, or spite.
In life, some of us know what we want to do, some of us are still searching. And some of us have no fucking clue, we just drink the Cool-Aid that life gives us. Some of us get married early and divorce early and then get married again. Some of us never get married or get a house, a car, and end up traveling the world forever living out of a backpack. The truth is it doesn’t matter what you do. You can do whatever you want. No one is judging you. No one is condoning you.
The truth is, you’re usually condoning yourself for not doing the things you’ve always wanted to do.
Let it go.
And I say that from experience.
Life after pro sports, ah bruh, let me tell you, they don’t give you a happiness playbook. They don’t tell you, “Hey Trevor, your life after NBA and international basketball is gonna suck and not make sense if you don’t have something else you truly love doing, that makes you feel like basketball did.”
No, no one told me a goddamn thing.
So I’m figuring it out and not trying to condone myself in the process. I write international and NBA basketball blogs for Grand Stand Central. I started a startup (that’s what you do, you start them). I bought 13 rentals. I invest in LendingClub. Prosper. Peerstreet. Acorns. Fundrise. I take MasterClass.com. I’m learning to reinvent myself. I want to write a book, like Paul Shirley. I want to create a passive income while I figure my life out.
Pro Athlete Life Lesson #3: F*ck the Money, Stay Humble
I’d like to figure out why I’m single and 39, or why I feel pressed for time in conventional life. Why? I know millionaires that are still figuring and may never figure their life out. One thing I’m good at doing is figuring shit out for myself, and I don’t say that in a cocky sort of way, I mean that in an I’m-scared-as-fuck-sort-of-way. I’ll do it anyways and try to stay humble while I do.
Look around. People live, they eat, they fuck, they work, they spend, they go, they die, they birth, they love, they hate, or they live the best they can where they are. I write about changing to become what you want, because it’s about getting what you want out of life before you die.
What do you want to become? Do?
What makes you happier? Riding a unicorn? Starting a family?
What do you need to let go of? Who do you need forgive?
If you say, “Trevor, I’d like a big house, a nice car, and six-figure salary, that will bring me happiness,” then maybe you are right.
But then again, maybe you are drinking the American Cool-Aid. No, not everyone needs to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to be successful and happy like Kobe Bryant or Steve Jobs. I wake up at 9:00 a.m. and go to bed at 2:00 a.m. and still feel guilty because everyone else isn’t, which is that cynical part of me talking.
I think Mark Manson said, “Being productive is just one way to live happier.”
There is the moment when you stop doing what everyone else thinks you should be doing and do what you know you should be doing. This is a vulnerable place to be, much like playing professional basketball is in front of 10,000 screaming lunatics.
“Trevor, you fucking sucked today.”
“Trevor, you lost the game today.”
“Trevor, you’re going to be fired from the team if you keep playing this way.”
“Here, Trevor, take this check, here is your ticket home.”
Yes, the $5,000 check from Poland, it isn’t real. It’s fake. Yes, playing overseas basketball is weird and yes, I’ve heard all those things in real life. It just comes with the territory.
Yet none of this matters as much as you think. None of this pro basketball stuff matters as much as you taking your shot at living your life. Remember, you have unlimited shots, and no that doesn’t mean, go blow your money on a hooker and some drugs in Vegas. That means, start small. Start learning what you want. Start minimizing your life to the bare essentials so you can enjoy the actual people, passions, and hobbies you love.This is the definition of taking care of yourself.
Another Pro Athlete Life Lesson: Don’t Chase Your Ego — Chase Your Culture
I chased money in Europe. I got cocky. I left teams that had inner cultures that helped me tap into the more significant part of myself, that let me play my game. If you are playing your game, it brings you more joy. If you feel joy, stay there.
I chased money, my ego, and for what?
I’d be exactly where I am now, still sitting at home with some cash in the bank wondering what my life should look like.
So I made a mistake overseas, I missed the shot. But life lets you shoot again. I can’t get stuck on that decision to stay or to go, or take the money and appease my ego. Just look at the NBA players of today. These players are doing exactly what I did.
Stay. Go. Win a chip. Get the max deal. Sign for less. Join forces.
The happiest (and ironically, higher winning) players in the NBA are the ones that live inside the right team and organizational culture that fits who they are as people, which innately brings out their best self.
Not their selfish self.
Every NBA player is going through a glut of emotion, dealing with fame, loss, money, superficiality, ego, and on a small scale, I know exactly how they feel.
“What kind of watch is that?”
“It’s a Fossil,” I’d say, smiling. “It cost about the same as that Rolex on your wrist. I mean, to make, that is.”
And I’m not a spiritual guru, but if you agree with that idea you only live once (in this body, mind, and time period), it means you get one chance to do things your way.
That’s why I’m glad I got to play overseas basketball for 12 years, I got to learn why American values like superficiality, keeping up with the Jones, and materialism can ruin a perfectly happy life. Or not having it and condoning yourself can destroy it.