A few weeks ago, while 2019 was wrapping up, I had the chance to reflect on the year I’d had.
To be honest, it was equal parts catching my breath as it was reflecting because—wow!—what a year it was. And while it was definitely filled with so many blessings (more on that later), if I had to choose one word to sum up 2019 it would be this: challenging.
Man, there were so many challenging times.
Professionally, I started a new role as President of the NBA G-League and it was an adjustment to say the least. I needed to acclimate as quickly as I could, learn to manage so many new responsibilities, communicate more frequently with so many different groups of people, travel way more than I was used to, and get comfortable making decisions that had an impact on so many more people than just myself.
Personally, my family was going through some major transitions, too. Not only did we move into a new house and have the chaos of that, but each of us was growing and taking on new steps and challenges individually. My son was deciding where he wanted to go to college and my daughter started high school. There were adjustments that needed to be made—both for them and for my wife and I as parents—as we adapted to these new roles.
And finally, The Future Foundation—the non-profit we created in 2001 to provide resources to at-risk youth in Southwest Atlanta—had the most challenging year I can remember, as we tried to meet big goals as well as determine the best strategic direction for the Foundation’s future growth.
The whole year was exhausting, filled with one new situation, “first,” and challenge after the next.
And yet despite the exhaustion and the challenges, I watched everything work out okay, and even had some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
For example, my family made it through our transition into a new house. My son decided on a college (Virginia—Go Hoos!) and my daughter is thriving in high school.
The Future Foundation was able to meet our goals, thanks to the fantastic collective effort of our executive director, our board members and our supporters. Now we’re ready for another year filled with solid growth.
And professionally, I successfully made it through my first year with the G-League. With the help of so many people, I was able to acclimate quickly to the role, learn about and manage lots of new responsibilities and demands, and make some good progress on our biggest initiatives.
The most crucial thing I did?
I showed up everyday and took it one day at a time.
I stayed patient and kept things in perspective and continued to put in the time and the effort, even when I was frustrated, exhausted, or uncertain about what I was doing.
And you know what happens when you do that?
You notice there are gifts in your challenges.
Despites all the toil and the struggle, there are moments mixed in that are so awesome it makes all the challenges worth it.
Like in April, when I got to hand out the NBA G-League Championship trophy to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. As with any sports team, they have their own journey filled with hard work, challenges, and ups and downs, and it was great to be able to be there to witness the culmination of that journey as they won the league title.
Or like in November, when we launched a new G-League team in College Park, GA, two miles away from where I grew up.
It was definitely one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. To be there in my old neighborhood, which has seen so many of its own challenges throughout the years, launch the College Park Skyhawks in the brand new, state-of-the-art Gateway Center Arena @ College Park was just an amazing, full-circle moment for me.
Growing up, I would have never imagined that a professional basketball team would be housed in a neighborhood like mine. Honestly, no one would have imagined it. But now there is one—and to have had a part in bringing it into existence for the community that I once called home is extremely humbling and special to me.
But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t have been a part of it—at least not in this capacity—if I hadn’t stepped into the challenges of a new professional role.
This applies to all of us.
What gifts are waiting for you in your challenges? What is potentially waiting for you, right around the corner, as you struggle to transition into a new role, circumstance, or situation in your life?
You’ll only find out if you continue to show up and take things one day at a time.
You’ll only find out if you’re patient, keep things in perspective, and continue to put in the time and the effort—even when you’re frustrated, exhausted, or uncertain about what you’re doing.
If you do, you’ll begin to see the gifts. Because they’re there.
The key is to make friends with your challenges, knowing that it’s only through them that you grow and improve. They’re there to help you, to teach you, and to guide you. Let them do their job.
As I begin to walk through this new year, my hope is to find more challenges. I want to continue to grow and get better—in my job, for my family, and for my community.
I want that for you, too.
So instead of wishing for a less challenging year, let’s embrace challenges and invite them in. Let’s shoot for a year filled with challenges.
Because I’ve learned that it’s only when you do that, that you end up with more growth, and, ultimately, more gifts.
And in my book, that sounds like a really great year.