#1. How do we grow? A simple pro athlete process: fail or win, learn (watch tape), apply new knowledge to next practice, and then try to fail or win again.
Today, humans seem like they want to have growth without the failures and learning without the experience of failure and everything that entails. Winning or losing comes from understanding the process that most successful athletes naturally learn early in life.
Don’t be afraid of failure.
Yes, failure sucks, but it is part of the process of life.
Maybe parents want to protect their kids, but what is the worst thing that failure can do? If winning and success are the biggest goals, then we should inversely look for more circumstances and opportunities to fail if we want to grow faster.
As a kid, my father loved the sports process for teaching me how to try a new concept, move, or basketball shot against better players. He knew I loved hoops, the battle, and the competition. He knew I loved the process of self-improvement and therefore, he tried to put me in as many growth (micro-failure) opportunities as possible.
After church, in my tan slacks and button up shirt, my dad would drive through downtown Flint, past the red bricks, the dilapidated buildings, and head into neighborhoods we’d never been, to find parks and grown men playing the game they love.
“Hey, do you want to play 1v1 against my son? He said he can beat you,” my dad would yell out the window to a grown man dribbling on a cement court (yes, a bit creepy and awkward).
At 12, I learned to get over the feeling of awkward and I would step out of the Silver Bullet, our Volkswagen van, and the belly laughs would start.
“Wait, what? You sure? Your kid? You think you can beat me?”
Of course not, I’d want to say. Look at you. You are a man-beast, muscles bulging, a huge, intimidating bear of a man and I’m a little shy white kid that had trouble reading the Psalms passage to my Sunday school teacher an hour ago.
And no, I never won any of those 1v1 games, but there were days when I scored a point. These training days offered me the process of dealing with myself. I panicked, cried, lost, failed, laughed, smiled, and battled these grown men that were better than me. I learned something about struggling with fear and insecurity, about analyzing my games, and how I could go back to the drawing board to improve during practice.
This special process offered me redemption, growth, and taught me fear is only an illusion.
#2. Start reading books that inspire and stimulate you. Feed your mind.
As a kid, I would read books about Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and MJ. I quickly realized I wasn’t all that passionate about basketball compared to the NBA players that had the highest levels of success.
If you want to progress with something you love, be something more, or succeed at a craft, why would you not try to live inspired and stimulated?
Why would you not feed your brain and learn from the mentors or respected professionals around you?
When I played professionally in Charleroi, Belgium, I read Viktor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning, a book that changed my life. This book was a severe look at what meaning, happiness, positive attitudes, finding your hope, and staying in the moment mean. Basketball, at that point, was the pinnacle of my life and I felt so much pressure to win a national championship, to reach a goal I had never hit, but listening and reading his words put life in perspective.
There is only the process, the daily choice to be positive and choose your attitude and behaviors over everything else.
We create meaning in our mind, and we find hope in our pattern of thoughts, actions, and behaviors, but then the alarm goes off (like it today), and I sleep, hit snooze, and meander into my morning full of questions.
My Uber car waits for me to drive someone.
My email list grows.
My Facebook ad remains untouched.
My expertise only goes as far as I’m willing to push it.
My 400 jump shots aren’t going to shoot themselves.
But on my bad days or when anxiety gets #turntup, I think, “What about Viktor, what would he do?”
My life isn’t being lived in a concentration camp, but what if it was? If you started at zero, lost your loved ones, would you still find the enthusiasm to wake up every day and find a way to move towards building a better tomorrow for you and those around you?
When the shit hits the fan, do you stay positive? Do you remain calm and centered?
Yeah, but what about my feelings?
I wake up certain days and feel like a freak-a-zoid for not doing what everyone else is doing. I find it hard to connect. I find it scary. I see my life going in directions I never really knew existed. As a professional basketball player, I never questioned my existence.
Now I suspect it every day, but now rush out to meet that suspicion like a bloodhound on a scent.
Because I am a creator. An obsessor. An activator. A dreamer. I know I would rather spend a million days in poverty building a dream, than working six hours a day for someone else’s.
But that is me.