When I was a kid, there were so many school nights I didn’t get to bed until 12am.
Not because I was out messing around (my parents would have never allowed that!), but because I was playing basketball.
When my family moved across town when I was 15 years old, I rode the bus for two hours most days of the summer so I could play ball with the older, stronger, college-level guys from my old neighborhood.
And during my school’s basketball season, I’d spend countless hours working on my skills long after our team practices had ended.
I did all that because I didn’t just love basketball—I was dedicated to it. I wanted to be the best player I could be, and I was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen.
I think it’s sometimes easy to look at those at the elite level—whether it’s in a sport, business, or a particular industry—and assume they got to where they are through talent alone. Like their road to the top was simple, almost inevitable.
But that’s almost never true. You’re just seeing the end result of the years of blood, sweat, and tears it took for them to get there.
Sure, anyone who’s at the elite level has talent on their side, but what really separates them from the rest is their willingness to do whatever it takes to improve.
Yet that’s a characteristic that anyone can embody, no matter what skill level you’re at.
If you’re serious about improving yourself in any area of life, you just need to embrace two things: a willingness to do the hard work + the vulnerability that comes with learning and growth.
As a ball player, I had to use that hard work + vulnerability approach a lot.
Like my freshman year in highschool, when I tried out for the Varsity team and didn’t make it. I started on JV, and had to push myself harder to prove that I belonged on Varsity. (Thankfully, half-way through the season I had my chance!)
Or like in 2004, when I was traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Portland Trailblazers. In Atlanta, I’d been the lead scorer in 2003 and selected for the All-Star Team in 2002. But when I got to Portland, the team was younger and the talent was higher. I had to learn how to play a different role—to share more, to help more, and to give more of myself, all while (quickly!) finding a way to produce the results I needed to.
I’ve also had to embrace this approach in my post-playing career as well.
Going through business school after I retired from basketball, it was like entering a whole new world. I had to learn new subjects like finance and marketing, and collaborate with professors and mentors. There was so much I didn’t know and I had so much anxiety — but I had to find the courage to be vulnerable, to keep pushing through until I was successful.
And in all of my additional roles, I’ve had to be open to learning new things and understanding different perspectives, so I can develop into an influential and effective leader.
My goals have always been very important to me, so I’ve been willing to do whatever it takes to see them through. As I look back, it’s been worth every bit of hard work and sacrifice it took to achieve them.
I know the same goes for you.
I know your goals are important to you, too, and I know you have it in you to do the hard work as well as embrace the vulnerability that’s necessary for growth.
Now matter what you’re trying to achieve the fundamentals are the same; you’re just exercising different muscles. Here are three things that will hopefully make the process a little easier:
- Have a plan.
It’s nearly impossible to see and feel improvement if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. That why you’ve got to have a plan. If you want to improve your jump shot, figure out exactly how many shots you need to take each day. If you want to improve your fitness, how many days will you be committing to the gym? And if you want to improve the way you deliver presentations at work, determine how many practice presentations you’ll need to give in order to see the improvement you’re hoping for.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Let’s be real: growth in any area of life isn’t easy. In fact, it can often be frustrating and scary, but it’s in those uncomfortable times that you really see what you’re made of. That’s exactly where the growth and improvement happens, so embrace it as much as you can.
- Persist, persist, persist.
One of the frustrating things about growth is that you often don’t see immediate results; it takes time to learn and grow. Adopt an attitude of persistence and keep trying. Besides, it’s the hard-earned wins that are always the most satisfying.
I want to hear from you!
Please leave a comment below and let me know…
What is one area in your life where you’re trying to grow or improve? What have you learned from the process?