How to Say “Yes” to Incremental Greatness

This was a pro basketball life lesson I learned early and often in my life — and it became my eighth wonder of the world.

I work with so many kids and adult athletes on developing their basketball game, athletic fitness, and improving their life through effort, habits, and understanding the power of SMART-ER habit making and goal setting. As a former pro athlete and point guard of 12 years, I’ve seen all the excuses for not practicing, not showing up, not training, or eating healthy. Putting in the work on and off the court as a student-athlete (or adult athlete) really just comes down to the self-awareness you practice and currently have.

There are simple ways to understand if you are part of the growth mindset tribe or the fixed mindset tribe — do you truly do what aligns with your outcome and process goals?

Do you say “yes” when you should say “no?”

Does your “yes” match your process goals and daily practice habits or do you just say “yes” to whatever anyone wants you to do?

The 1% rule of improvement is something I live by. If you get your kid, your game, your fitness, your life, your startup, 1% better per day for a whole year, you’ll crush the mother trucking competition. It’s like Einstein’s eighth wonder of the world — compound interest.


Every small thing I do has to be compounding. It has to make sense to do it now so the little things will add up, start compounding, and make sense a year from now. I run five to eight 400-meter tempo runs today with 1:00 minute breaks to increase my mile time to 5:00 9 months from now. I do three sets of 10 three days a week on the sled pull/push to get faster. I do yoga every morning to ensure my pliability and injury prevention is in check. I walk my dog to make sure he is mentally and physically healthy.

When do small things not matter for the long term success?

It’s the most simple approach to mastery, yet people fuck it up all the time.

Trust the process. Just trust yourself to do more like. People keep saying trust the process, (except Markelle Fultz) but your daily process will be the difference between how much compound interest you make this year.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


Usually, the problem is saying “no” to things, people, distractions, friends, peer pressure, rather than saying “yes” to the things that help you progress towards your goals and dreams.

But we never practice saying “no.”

For kids and adults alike, saying, “No, I can’t hang out, or play Fort Nite, or go to the movies, or the beach, or come over have a few drinks and eat out with you,” is tough because you have to deal with your own feelings of letting someone down. Their feelings shouldn’t be hurt if they really care about you.

This self-awareness concept is lost on most people. Most humans do things because it’s natural to want to be liked. To be loved. It’s always harder to let other people down and say no because of what you will feel.

Young and old athletes always want to be great at their sport or have amazing health or be the best of the best, but can’t learn how to say “no” because of this simple lack of self-awareness fact — peer pressure applies guilt and wins where and when self-motivation and discipline don’t exist internally in athletes.

I personally coach 10 youth athletes per month how to THRIVE in their inner self first. If you can’t learn self-awareness, discipline, and develop healthy habits as an athlete, it will be hard to reach your true potential.

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Photo by Form on Unsplash

As a kid, I had an outcome goal of making varsity as a freshman. This meant my process goal of playing against better, older, more athletic players every day. As an eighth grader, I had this dream and outcome goal, but I focused on the small daily sessions and played and trained and competed to build 1% gains. Almost every day of the summer — in Flint, in Petoskey, in Traverse City at the college, anywhere and everywhere, I took my basketball with me, so I could play or workout at a moment’s notice.

I put in the work and gently told my friends, peers, and distractions emphatically: “NO. Not till I put in my work.”

I hope you and your kids and startups can learn the small efforts over time become your eighth wonder of the world.

Trevor Huffman is a former professional basketball player and top contributor at GrandStand Central, Medium, and just released his new podcast, “The Post Game,” which looks at the game after the game, as he speaks with retired athletes about life beyond sports. Subscribe here.

All Amazon links are affiliates and things I believe in or have bought myself, which I get paid commissions for… Fire me a question about pro athlete life and how to make incremental gains in fitness, basketball, life, business, and sport at

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