A Pro Athlete’s 3 Ideas and Self-Awareness Tools to Change Your Life in 2019
“Yoooo, maaaa, what’s good?”
My teammate Lauren used to say that to me in Aalst, Belgium. He was all bones and tendons, a skinny black guy from the Bronx. He’d grin wide and send his fist out for some dap without looking at me.
“What’s good Lo?” I’d ask back, sauntering into the locker room.
“Life is good Huff — I’m alive, livin’ the dream.”
I loved living my dream. Playing pro hoops was the best time of my life. Yeah, it wasn’t always easy, but the truth was, I got paid to put a ball in a metal hoop in front of thousands of people almost every day.
It seems odd to even say “pro hoops was my career” since I’ve been removed from it for almost four years now. The experience of my transition when I stopped doing what I knew changed me.
It haunted me, actually.
Every time I thought about the direction of my life, I’d lose control of my emotions and feelings and my brain (or physiology) would crap on me whenever it wanted too, like pods of dark pigeon clouds following me like Charlie Brown.
“Yoooo-maaaaa, what’s good?”
Squirt. Bap. Plop. Poop.
Thanks, pigeon pods, but please take all of God’s fury and poop it somewhere else.
It’s been almost four years since the “yo ma, what’s good” question invoked days (even weeks) of anxiety, stress, and rollercoaster emotional pigeon crap inside me. And my insight on this experience may help you handle what you’re going through a tad better. Or maybe it won’t. But either way you are reading this because (kazaaam — I’m a mind reader):
A. You are going through some change, transition, identity shift, new career, relocation and you need to think about what you need to be happy and figure out what to do with the rest of your time here on Earth (which, ironically, we pretend to act like is a lot longer than we actually know).
B. You are stuck, broken, anxious, sad, lost, mad, angry, depressed, beaten down, tired, or want to live a better life, or another dream, or you are my mom (and you read everything I write because you are my mom). If you are mom, please stop reading (okay, don’t, I love you, mom).
If this sounds like you, there are three rules you need to master for an unbreakable life:
#1. Make a Burn and Build Pile
I could be full of dookie-poo, but if you say, “I need money,” then what you are willing to let go of (burn) or create (build) in your life to get more of it?
Most people are amateurs in what they want to become. Go pro. If you say, “I miss having health and fitness,” then what are you willing to pursue to find the right workout solution that will help you get it? Is there something or someone holding you back from pursuing it?
If there is something or someone slowing you down, friggin’ burn it, man.
People, jobs, partners, careers, passions, philosophies, and choices, they all come or happen in your life for a reason. But there is a caveat, you are allowed to make that reason. You are allowed to start over. Your success isn’t defined by anyone but you, brohan. This build or burn question is not always an easy one to answer when the directions of our lives are in flux.
It pushed me to start working on my build pile after basketball was over. What was important to me? What got me in the zone? When did I lose track of time (just like basketball)? What crap sandwich (thank you Mark Manson) could I eat and still look forward to doing the next day?
Writing was in that build pile! So was fitness. Travel. Minimalism. Learning. Passive income investing. Real estate. Startups.
#2. Challenges Are Fun (and Good for You).
I live by this simple rule when working out or working on a business idea in life. If it isn’t fun AND challenging, I’m probably not coming back to it. And I’ll tell you why, because I’ve worked out my whole life and I know exactly what fun and hard should feel like. If something takes my best effort, it helps me grow.
This feels freakin’ good.
And there is a reason it feels good. Maslow mentioned it. A happy soul is one that self-actualizes. Trying your best liberates you. It teaches you that success lies in the consistent best effort. The competition with your best self. The undistracted mind. The focused heart. The Zen state. The lean body. The relaxed smile.
Time is precious, literally, precious, so stop comparing yourself to the world, to your friends, to what was and never will be. If you are a banker and you want to live in Costa Rica, sell your stuff and go live on $1500 a month (but take your camera and write about it so you can inspire us too!). Stop giving attention to all the things that distract you from accepting the next fun challenge, person, workout, hobby, game, business, startup, or education.
Here, while the pigeons were peeing down hot diarrhea on me, I made a simple “Increase Your Happiness” formula you can use:
How to Increase Your Happiness = Sum(Your Time — Your Minutes of Non Meaning/Bad Stuff/Trivial Worries) X (Your Minutes of Good/Meaningful/Fun/Hard/Challenging In-the-Zone-Type Stuff)
#3. Amor Fati, and stop sweating the small stuff.
Yo ma, breathe.
“That one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backwards, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
In sports, Amor Fati means play the next play. Accept your fate and play the next play. Play the next moment. Love the next moment. Fly for the next rebound. Dive for the next steal. Let go of the bad call. There is nothing to get caught up in, to worry about, to stress for, or to get anxious about. If you make the best out of every practice, every day, every moment, you will become successful at whatever you choose to do.
I’ll tell you this:
Passion and purpose AND self-improvement can be BS.
Purpose is a word people tell you so you’ll buy their self-help books. Your purpose is to be alive, to breathe, to define your success and do anything that gives you curiosity, or meaning, or gratitude. Start with a tingle or a spark and listen to your gut, not your head. Or when time stops or flows too fast. Start in this place, where meaningful work is really just productivity in whatever you are meant to do.
This is where you should be. But even there, in this zone, in the disappearance of time, and existence and creation, you can embrace the pain. The struggle. The suck. The grind. The crap sandwich that lacks good flavor.
This is how the best of the best become who they are — they throw it all into their furnace.
Amor Fati is a mindset that you take on for making the best out of anything that happens: Treating each and every moment — no matter how challenging — as something to be embraced, not avoided. To love the bad moments is a special quality and self-awareness tool to practice. Light it up, the kids are saying.
Burn the stuff, ideas, and distractions you don’t need.
Marcus Aurelius’s timeless stoic wisdom can still hold true today:
“A blazing fire makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it.”
Thank you for reading dear wonderers of the world.
Sorry pigeons, I actually do like you (and thank you mom for reading this far).