The Life Lessons Learned as a Pro Athlete: What 91% of the Championship Teams, Partners, and Startups Do?
4 min read | By Trevor Huffman
These are the life lessons learned as a pro athlete and this is my best attempt at learning how to blog:
“Trevor — I’m not coming back with you,” Lilly said. Her voice was flat, and it came through my ears into my brain like a distant song I couldn’t make out. I was half-asleep, but I immediately rolled over to her. Something was wrong. Her eyes lacked their typical glow of green. She laid stoically on her side, her soft face and athletic body curled into the blankets that she always managed to slide away from me as we slept.
“What?” I asked quietly, a weight dropping from my chest to my gut. “What did you say?”
“I’m not coming with you to Europe.”
But it was too late, I had already lost her and there is a scientific reason why.
#1 LIFE LESSON LEARNED: IS TRUE COMPATIBILITY WITH PARTNERS, TEAMS, OR BUSINESSES BULLSHIT?
First, I always thought most things in life either worked or they didn’t. I was raised with the knowledge and ability to improve myself, but I couldn’t make other people want to improve. This means your life will be wrestling with the mental foe of putting in the work or letting it come naturally.
And I was partly right, my heart and intuition usually led me to certain truths, but I wonder if the facts I thought were true, actually were?
If most people use their intuition or feelings to pick the people, teams, partnerships, and places they spend their time and energy in, how do they know if they’re in the right place if their feelings are the only thing they use for a compass? How can we scientifically prove our compatibility to be in a place, a business, a startup, a partnership, or a marriage?
Ironically, John Gottman, talks about building winning relationships in his books. Live in the “yes” universe, and you may start to see patterns. But saying yes can also take you further from your goal. For example, I love to eat bags of Sour Patch Kids at the movies, but if I eat too many, I’ll puke my guts out.
I’ll literally puke in the goddamn movie theatre.
So how do we spend our time wisely and reach our goals? To whom do we say yes? No?
Every interaction that aligns with our values, purpose, and passion will bring more joy, a feeling of productivity, and happiness. So I ask, should we look inside the matrix of someone else’s minds, or our own psychology first, inside our own values, wants, needs, and desires of who we are and want to be to live a better life?
Presumably, one thing John Gottman talks about is the keys of compatibility — finding people, businesses, startups, and partners that share your mindset for growth, handling change, and communicating through adversity.
But is the growth mindset enough for compatibility?
No, it’s not. It’s just one value. It’s just one spoke in the wheel of a successful life. And never in my life has one thing got me success.
I’ll tell you what is (for me): similar values are the key to compatibility.
What are values? A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life (thanks Google).
#2 LIFE LESSON LEARNED: VALUE THE COMPATIBILITY OF VALUES
Second, if you want to win, value discipline. Bobby Knight basically said, “Discipline is doing it the right way every time you can do it the right way, every time you need to do it the right way.” If you want to be a basketball champion, value sacrificing your numbers and stats for the good of the team, or if you want a happy wife, sacrifice your distractions and do something positive for her.
Due to a most basic truth of life (fellas), “A happy life starts with a happy wife.”
I also think our lives are ruined by not thinking about what we want to think about becoming and act upon:
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.”-Buddha
If you want a happy staff, a happy team, a happy anything, you need to figure out their values, their psychology, and start talking their language. Start sharing with them. Interacting with them. It’s the flow of communication that matters.
If you want to be happy, well, you better hope they share some of those same values. If you build the team, look for those values, or ask the woman out, or join a startup, or make a life decision, then most certainly, ask the “Do we have similar values,” questions.
Consequently, this asking, searching, and authenticity isn’t always easy to find. It’s part jazz, part classical music. For example, if I value being a growth mindset person, it usually means I’ll be somewhat agreeable with someone else with that same value of growth mindset living. But at the end of the day, especially in dating and marriage, if you are an overly selfish, resentful, materialistic, dramatic, volatile, or dishonest person, I’d say, “we just gonna fail, bae,” even if you value living in the growth mindset.
These successful marriages (or teams) I respect the most — the ones that handle conflict with communication, sacrifice for one another, live authentically, build trust, stay away from contempt, build families or share quality time for one another come from the values I practice and I want to be practicing.
Because the shit is going to hit the fan, people. It always does. In sports, in life, in relationships, it’s the one thing you can count on happening at some point.
Oops, there it is. The shit. It just hit me.
So the real question is how do you find the right people, team, or partner to be with?
#3 LIFE LESSON LEARNED: 86% IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
Third, the what, why, when, how, and who someone is, will get me (and you) to want to respond better than anything else. That implicit authenticity and positive interaction between a partner, a team, a coach, a startup, and a friend must hit the 86 percent success rate.
As a professional pro athlete and 12-year point guard that has won multiple championships, one thing I knew I must do was shoot free throws at around 80 percent or higher. Shooting that accurately took a lot of work. A lot of focus and mindfulness.
More importantly, why does 80 percent or higher mean anything to you or me in life?
John Gottman, who has studied relationships and marriage for 42 years, found in a six-year study of newlyweds that those who were still married responded to each other 86% of the time, while those that got divorced only turned towards each other’s bids 33% of the time.
What does Gottman call these responses to each other?
These are called positive bids, simple interactions that leave you feeling better, not worse. A fun talk. A good laugh. Eye contact. Intimate sex. A ritual like connecting at dinner, or hugging/kissing before you go to work, or texting each other funny GIF’s all day.
And what about your workplace? Your team? Startup? Friends? How often do you turn towards positive engagement with them? How often do you reach out?
I may suck at this with potential ladies I’m dating (why I’m still single). Derrr.
I’ll tell you a secret, you can’t always become what you think about if you allow the distractions, the cell phones, the computer screens, the TVs, the workloads, the busy life, and the modern world of electronics to take you away from the people, places, partners, goals, and teams you value.
You and I, we need to change ourselves.
IMPORTANT LIFE LESSONS LEARNED:
Most importantly, if we want to improve, we need to talk, listen, love/enjoy/engage our partners, family, teammates, and connect more without distraction. Turn off the distractions if you want to be mindful. It’s that simple, but we need to know who we are compatible with and how we can improve those relationships while hitting our 86% positive interaction mark.
Value your own values and find those with those values. Stay disciplined in your actions and interaction with those you care about.
Thanks for the read. I appreciate your support and always, always, always, stay smiling, stay weird, and live free my friends,