August 26, 2011

A Boy and his Basketball

Have you ever watched the movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith? In it, there’s a famous scene where Will’s character as a father was on a basketball court with his young boy. The boy was bouncing the ball around, shooting it up, and saying “I’m going pro!” Will admonished the young boy, saying he probably shouldn’t be thinking such things. The boy threw the ball down and hung his head. And then Will walked up to him and said; “Hey, don’t EVER let somebody tell you, you CAN’T do something. Not even me. You got a dream? You got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you YOU can’t do it. You want something? Go get it. Period.” Powerful.

When I was a young boy growing up on a farm in a little town in Western Kansas, I discovered I LOVED basketball. I was outside constantly, shooting the ball around on a goal with no net attached to a small detached wooden garage. No concrete. Just dirt. Before long though, my father, seeing I had some talent, decided to upgrade my “court.” So, he set up a basketball goal, complete with a REAL nylon net, AND a backboard, inside a steel quonset. For those who aren’t aware what one of those looks like, here’s a picture:

This is one I found on google images. Ironically, it looks VERY similar to the one where I spent literally HUNDREDS of hours practicing my art of shooting a basketball. Problem was in my case, my father set the goal up near the entrance on the inside wall near the far right of this picture. Imagine if you will, a goal affixed to a curved inner wall only twelve feet or so from the bottom right of this quonset photo. To the LEFT of the goal was space as far back as I could possibly launch the ball. As I said, on the right, there was only 12 feet or so of space. On top of THAT, my father had a work bench next to this wall, thereby giving me only 8 feet or so to work with on the right side of my “court.”

Now, if you know anything about basketball, you know that players favor their stride with their shooting hand. Since I was right handed, it follows that my instincts would naturally lead me to dribble to my right and shoot from that side, right? Wrong. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. As I said, it was the LEFT side that had the “open court.” Consequently, over hundreds and hundreds of hours of shooting over several years, I developed a deadly outside shot from the LEFT side of the court. I became SKILLED at something most right-handed players never achieve, because that’s where I PRACTICED.

Which brings me to my point. Each of us has unique gifts and talents. All of you reading this have your own. One of mine as a young boy just happened to be basketball. But I didn’t become SKILLED at it without hours and hours of practice. Or, as Will Smith says in his series of interviews, “People may be smarter than me. They may be more talented than me. But where I EXCEL is ridiculously sick work ethic.” More importantly, in my case, I became SKILLED at something I wasn’t even AWARE of at the time. It was only until many years later when I grew into adulthood, long after I gave up playing on a regular basis, did this realization dawn on me. By then, I discovered another talent. I always loved arithmetic and math as a young boy. Turns out that TALENT developed into quite a skill because, after 20 years in my banking career, I became adept at handling various spreadsheets for loan presentations. During the early years of that career, I also developed and honed another talent into a skill with written loan narratives.

My point is each of you has unique TALENTS. It may be washing dishes, selling used cars, nursing, teaching, engineers, or sales people. But ONLY after hours and hours of practice does that talent turn into a skill. Where people get off track is trying to do something they’re not talented at. Let’s say for instance you have a job selling insurance because it makes you a lot of money, but yet you hate that job. Chances are that misery will spill over into your personal life. Before long, relationships suffer and your health suffers, both physically and mentally. Now let’s assume when you come HOME from that job selling insurance, you discover you LOVE cooking. You prepare elaborate and tasty meals for your family and everyone thinks you should be a chef. So, the question is, WHY aren’t you pursuing a career as a CHEF!? It may be because you think there’s not as much money in it or because of peer pressure from family or friends, that maybe it was your father or mother’s insurance business you felt you needed to step in and fill their shoes. WRONG!

Time and time again I see people pursuing something that they dislike doing, only because SOMEONE ELSE told them to, trying to please someone, or that it makes more money. The ONLY person that needs pleasing is YOU. The person INSIDE. The one that secretly and desperately wants to be a chef, regardless of whether it makes more money or not. After all, what makes us HAPPY is what we LOVE doing. And what we love doing, we’ll do it very well, leading to healthier and happier lives.

Just like a young boy and his basketball.


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