My Pro Sports Life Lessons Blog #5: How to Be Different

October 5th, 2018: My pro athlete blog on why being different means accepting what real “difference” is and why it matters to your success.

“Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”
— Mark Manson

I love this quote. There are have been many times in my life when I quit stuff that I didn’t want to struggle with or do.

There has also been stuff that I have struggled and worked for that most people will never truly understand. I was (literally), the short, white point guard (the little engine that could) with no outside chance given to play in the pros, D1, or get a shot at the NBA.

I was told I’d never make it to any of them.

I did all three.

And graciously (or ungraciously), I learned some crucial life lessons for success along the way:

  1. Mainly that being different means defining yourself by the actions and habits (or systems) that will make you different. And then accepting being different, or strange, or unique, or contrarian is perfectly fine.
  2. Being and acting differently to succeed should open your mind to other’s differences, which makes you more valuable to any team, organization, or business.

As a former overseas pro athlete and D1 hooper, for the first time, I could see people’s differences and identify their struggles, their values, their desires, and mostly, I could empathize.

In 2014, before our road games in France Pro A (or Pro B), I’d wake up and waddle down to the Hotel Ibis breakfast buffet and realize, “I hate the European version of breakfast.” Americans playing pro hoops isn’t some glamour trip. Really, most European breakfasts are bullshit — who eats ham and cheese and curdled yogurt in the morning instead of French toast, a delicious protein fruit smoothie (with no sugar), and remind me again, why is it called French toast in the United States?

I’ve never seen or heard of French toast in France.

Just saying.

Our English culture operates differently. We give the French critical American-isms like the French Kiss, French Fries (those are not from France, O.M.G.), and my favorite breakfast of all time, French Toast.
But living there, I realized the French don’t call their omelet, the American Omelette or the American Hug.

I digress.

If you came here to listen or try to understand the progeny of a basketball coach and million-dollar businessman father, then you’ve come to the right spot. As a pro athlete blogger, I rant about the life lessons of traveling and living differently in foreign cultures, of my childhood, and what it took for my underdog mind and body to win championships.

I’ve realized the most of us miss the entire boat for creating systems and mindsets for our own personal success because we typically define our success by the minds and lives of others.


Now that’s out of the way, we can all relax. But wait. Do you agree or disagree? Most of our success in life comes from accepting the fact you will have to be different to get it. You will act differently. You will go against the flow of traffic. Against the herd of cross walkers. If you do what everyone else does, you will most likely get the same results as those moving in the same direction as you.

But if you risk being different. Ahhh. The sweet nectar awaits.

Until it happens. The stings. Ahh, the stings. I know the stings. The pain. The suffering. This different life you want to live will make you feel like you live naked inside a giant, angry beehive at times.

You will get stung.

The question is, how will you react to this emotional stinging vortex? How will you feel, the one person willing to put their reputation, their feelings, their intelligence, their actions, their videos, their writing, their everything, on the line?

You will be judged. Are you ready for it? Kudos if you say yes. Eventually, you will succeed with this mindset.

Which leads me to my first set of questions: Have you ever felt different? Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of a black guy in an all-white room? Have you ever put yourself in the heels of a woman (first of all, ouch) in an all-male board meeting?

What would you feel like if you were on the other side of the bell curve for your look, size, shape, athleticism, intelligence, or job?

Would you treat the equipment manager or the water boy or the delivery guy just as right as you’d treat someone that was higher up on the hierarchical food chain?

“The mind is just like a muscle — the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand.”
― Idowu Koyenikan

Most coaches that can’t relate to their teams never reach their full potential. Most business leaders that can’t rally the troops regardless of color, background, or creed will lose more than they should.

MJ wasn’t the best hooper of all time because he was the best athlete of all time. It was because he was a relentless developer of new skills.

Steve Jobs wasn’t the smartest man in the world, he was the hardest working developer, programmer, and designer of his time.

Warren Buffet isn’t the best mathematician in the world. He reads more about investing than anyone (for longer than anyone) and understands people and businesses more than his peers.

All three of these men acted differently than those around them.

So let’s bring this to the ground level. Many of you may not want to be the best in the world. Well then, we have that in common now. I just want to be happy, man.

But, that still takes a lot of understanding of how you must be, act, and think to be different. How can this help self-awareness help you? For example, if you could understand the values of your co-workers, your spouse, your friends, your teammates, you would know what they want and how to motivate them to do more. To be more.

You could help them tap into the rising level of byproducts — happiness, joy, productivity — by living better. I’ll finish with this amazing quote by the best writer of all time (I joke, I joke):

“To grow faster, one must focus on improving their system to get out of their comfort zones and align their habits and system for living with their most crucial values to live in a byproduct state of a happier, more joyful, giving, and productive life.” — Trevor H.

Thanks for your encouragement and support of my pro athlete blog! I hope you enjoyed my words of inspiration. Ps. If you want to me to life coach you, I’d probably make you run wind sprints and wake up at 6 a.m. for a month first to know you were serious about your next goals in life. Just saying, that’s how pros do it.

My other newbie Medium pro athlete blogs on startups, entrepreneurship, leadership, life lessons and life coaching are here, somewhere.

A former 13-year overseas pro point guard, head coach, startup founder, and aspiring typist on culture, sports, and self-improvement. >>

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