PRO SPORTS TO LIFE LESSONS: MY 5 WAYS TO WAKE UP WEIRD AND HAPPY

Winning the Weird Game One Day at a Time

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“An astronaut looking person in a hazmat suit backpacking in the mountains.” by Jonas Verstuyft on Unsplash

1. BEING WEIRD IS A DAILY PRACTICE

Most of my days as a pro athlete, most of my teammates will tell you, I woke up painfully slow. But even before my pro career, yes, my mom will tell you the same. Since I was a kid, I woke up fighting morning consciousness like whoa.

But hoop dreams always motivated me to get up and start moving. I found ways to succeed despite my incessant knack for wanting more sleep. I found ways to laugh at my own stubbornness and practice happiness to get myself going. I read a study that University of Maryland Medical Center and California’s Loma Linda University that found that people who laugh more and have a sense of humor are less likely to develop heart disease and have lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Bam, I’ll take it.

Science wins again.

But what happens when your life purpose changes? When you retire at 65 and have nothing to look forward too? When you pivot careers (again)? When you have no motivation because there is no grand curiosity to wake you up?

Those feelings and questions, I understand and empathize with, because when my 14-year sports career ended, a part of me had no answers. A part of my weird confidence was lost. Certain days, when I think back about my career that started in Northern Michigan and all that I put into it, my eyes cringe and fill up with tears.

Hey, I have a soft spot for passion.

But what I don’t have a soft spot for is paralysis by analysis. Anxiety hit me, knocked me down like Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch-out three years ago. My emotional stability was lost. Mental illness hit me, and hurt me. My brain was full of high-level static, panic set in at any and all times of the day, and my body was constantly full of adrenaline for a fight it didn’t have in front of it.

I tried prescription drugs. I tried alcohol. I tried more sleep. I tried a 9–5 job. I even tried depression. Then I even tried trying a life coach. A therapist. Nothing helped.

The truth is, I had to go and find where my soul wanted and needed to be.

But even then, armed with that talisman, my weird was lost. My energy and positive vibe was erratic. My life and community gone. My family spread out. My friends mature and married. The life I knew disappeared and any time I tried to do something that didn’t align with me, anxiety knocked me out like Glass Joe.

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photo credit: thanks nintendo and glass joe

Nowadays, adulting after professional basketball, I still wake up painfully slow, but I’ve realized there is something waiting for me. I realized anxiety has been part of my genetics for my entire life. I realize there is no one that knows me better than myself; to listen to my gut and actually follow it. There is no one that knows how to find peace, better than myself. There is no one that knows how to spend mental health days, weeks, and months better than myself.

I deserve to know what my soul and body need to be happy and laugh, just as you deserve to know.

My happiness is inversely related to the confidence, passion, purpose, and weird I decide to practice in every day life, for myself, and those in the community around me.

My sport and being on teams allowed me the confidence to practice being my authentic, weird self. It allowed me to practice something I truly value about life — that this game, this one big, infinite game is something we should approach with laughter, and weird, and authenticity, while detaching from the results of caring too much about whether we succeed or lose.

2. HOW TO PRACTICE BEING WEIRD OR SPECIAL

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don’t stop playing the weird game.

I choose to immediately practice being weird in the morning by watching a motivational, inspirational, or vulnerable piece of work by someone that knows something more about life than me.

To thine own self be true, said Polonius. Thanks brohan, because it means a lot, because my mornings aren’t typically my strong suit.

If I don’t start my day with something different, I don’t feel the right energy. If I can’t watch a video I don’t feel right. If I can’t dance and laugh, something is off. On certain days I may freestyle. Sing. I may listen to Beethoven music. I may chase my dog and play with him.

Feeling special, happy, and weird are woven together inside me. I let go of knowing who I was when I left for Europe and became a person that can adapt to change, be authentic, find their values, work within teams, succeed and hold themselves accountable, and personally grow through experience and assimilation of other cultures, people, and ideas.

And best of all, I do it weirdly.

I value your weird, so please let it shine. It makes all of our days better when everyone pays it forward with kindness, weirdness, and laughter. So let’s start practicing the count down technique to remembering our weird.

3. 5–4–3–2–1… START THE VIDEO.

Heck yeah, fam, I’m up this morning ready to rock! This technique helps me get going, whether it is to focus on writing, watching/making videos, doing work for my startup, or working out.

You ever seen this anxiety-beating life-changing technique? Take a deep breath and count down from five. Have something you want to do at the end that five seconds.

Everyone wants to feel special these days right? Everyone wants less anxiety, right? Everyone wants more hope, inspiration, happiness, and momentum, right? But not many people are willing to change and practice some weird lifestyle hacks.

If you don’t want to be happier and laugh more, fine, but don’t let society blot out your weirdest expression and authentic voice. Don’t let your commute to your cubicle stop you from investing in your future and being you.

Our society does a good job of herding us together so we lose our own bright colors, our own dreams, our own food, and the rich connection of authenticity that links us to the most intimate parts of our community.

4. BE THE DEFINITION OF WEIRD

Merriam-Webster defines weird as:

1: of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic

2: of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural : magical

Yeah! So you are telling me to be extraordinary, magical, or odd, I have to practice it?

Again, yeahhhh! I got you, boo.

I’ll make magical, extraordinary, and fantastic my own daily witchcraft. I can practice things most people won’t. Being a short, white American guy in a pro European sport dominated by different races, cultures, and religions, I have been training to embrace my weird and accept other’s weird as well!

When I practice the weird, it makes me feel special. So who cares about what you say if I feel special and live happy. Set your ordinary stone down and come get weird stones thrown at you. It’s not so bad. Laugh it off. From the moment I wake up, my day is going to be weird and special because I make it that way.

5. ALIGN YOUR WEIRD WITH THE FRIENDSHIPS, BUSINESSES, AND COMMUNITIES THAT ALLOW YOU TO BE YOU

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Being weird starts within.

Our economy may be recovering, but many Americans aren’t any happier and there are ways to beat it. Here is a great article on 8 stats of living happier, which I’ll summarize quickly:

  • Spend 6–7 hours socializing with 10 or more friends (share texts, share weird, share laughter, share it all).
  • 5:1 positive interactions to negative with your spouse and co-workers. Find your tribe of aligned values people.
  • Make more money, save more money. 75k is the hot spot for happier people.
  • 33, 55, 70’s. The happiest ages. I want to debunk the science, I feel happy as ever at 38.
  • 40% of your happiness is up to you. Hey, it’s the stat, I didn’t make it.
  • Live within a mile of your closest friends. Again, find your weird clan and get them together already. Get external, join MeetUp.com, or find someone to talk too.

When the sun goes down on my life, I don’t want to raise my hand on my deathbed and say, “Yo fam, I wish I hadn’t invested so much into my 401k.”

Weirdly, I tend to drift towards building teams, businesses, friendships, and communities around my values, curiosity, and authenticity because it makes me happier. I defined my values and went after them. Found my team. Pursued the weird tribe I need to be happier.

What do you value? I’m value being defiantly weird. Sarcastic. Open-minded. Laughing with friends is my crack, my addiction. I have to find it.

That said, there is no perfect person. No perfect culture or business. Being flexible and adaptable helps us grow into embracing the differences of who are around.

I have to know my weird is just fine by itself. I don’t have to impress these fools with different values, bank accounts, and fancy cars. I don’t have to keep up with them. I don’t have to build bigger things than them. I have to find my own community of weird, laughter, and feel special by owning it.

Want to follow my weird advice? Join my weird vibe tribe.

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“Do it or don’t do it.”

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