I was selfish.
I was caught up in all the things I needed to do, stuck on how I felt and over-focused on the obstacles ahead. I’d ask myself a million questions: What do I need to do? How am I feeling? What will the opposition throw at me tonight? All of them directed at myself.
Leading up to big games, it was natural for me to go inward. It was easy to be stuck on myself. My default focus was self-centered. It didn’t matter that I played a team sport; I was fixated on the pressure to individually perform well.
The same self-centered attitude can surface when challenges arise and adversity hits off the court as well. It’s tempting to preserve, to hoard and to look out for me and mine.
But that attitude is not the antidote.
As my basketball career progressed, I discovered the best way to get myself going was to get others going. So I got out of my own way (and own head) and turned my focus towards my teammates. Instead of replaying my personal track of questions, I considered these instead: “How can I lift up someone else? What do my teammates need to hear to have a great game?” The key was to speak genuinely and directly. Most guys benefited from an encouraging word like, “Stay locked-in. I’ve seen the hard work you’ve put in and you’re ready for this moment,” or, “Attack mode. All game. They can’t stop you.” Another teammate may need to be challenged with something like, “We need a better effort from you. You have what it takes to change this game if you bring it tonight.”
It took discernment and intentionality to communicate encouragement to different teammates. And it became fun to see them take hold of what I said. The paradoxical by-product? The more I focused on others, the better I played myself.
As Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want.” This is a great message for the challenges we face today. It’s tempting to go internal, to be consumed with problems, and to wish things back to how they were a few months ago. But the individuals and companies who are willing to look beyond the challenges to find new ways of helping others will emerge as leaders. They will not only survive. Through their service, they will thrive…
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