mental mondays

Great Balance

The NBA, NHL, and PGA Tour all had pressure filled weekends. Athletes work countless hours to put themselves in a position to perform under that pressure. Sacrifices like missing Mother’s Day, birthdays, and weddings are often made this time of year. Greatness is a word engrained in every athlete’s vocabulary. The one’s who achieve it are applauded and revered. However, what often gets lost in greatness is the power of balance. Balance gives perspective, creates freedom in choices, and allows for the right decision at the right time. It may not be as glamorous as greatness, but it may be harder to achieve, and create more long-term value.

So while continued directed attention to greatness is important, sometimes a little balance goes a long way.

Mountain Climbing

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to hear Allison Levine speak.  Levine has climbed the highest peak on every continent, served as team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied across the Arctic Circle to the geographic North Pole. As Levine spoke I found that her approach and mentality was very similar to the messages I talk about with clients.  With that in mind, below are some of the notes that I took from her speech.

Levine spoke about how it’s easier for someone to say no, then to answer questions.  She spoke about the importance of asking questions to gain information and to push people for specific information.  This is an important message for athletes seeking information regarding role clarity, playing time, and team motivation.

Levine talked about Junko Taibei, the first Woman to climb Mt. Everest, and how she said, “Technique and ability alone do not get you to the top—it is willpower that is the most important.  The willpower you cannot buy with money or be given by others—it rises from your heart.”

In addition to willpower Levine spoke about the importance of fear by saying, “fear is ok, but complacency will kill you.”  Levine talked about fear in regard to the hazardous mountain weather by saying, “storms are temporary and they don’t last forever.”

As Levine continued to talk about her experience it was clear that she valued preparation, moment-to-moment thinking, and the importance of relishing the journey over the end result.  Levine’s ability to conquer some of the largest mountains in the world is a reminder that in order to conquer the most difficult challenges, we need to make sure our mind is in as good of shape as our body.

Thriving vs. Surviving

Survive and advance has become the motto of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.  However, I believe the teams that thrive, not survive, are the one’s that advance.  Surviving suggests doing just enough to get by, while thriving suggests owning an opportunity and being better off because of the circumstances.

The term survivor is used to describe many who have made it through adversity: cancer survivors, Holocaust survivors, and sexual abuse survivors to name a few.  While surviving is certainly the first step in overcoming adversity, perhaps thriving should be the focus.  Allow me to explain.

He is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time.  In 1993 he had a streak with at least one goal in 12 consecutive games and was on pace to lead the league in points, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer.  He missed two months of play and his team struggled.  However, on his final day of radiation he returned and scored a goal and an assist.  Even while missing two months of play he ended up winning the scoring title by 12 points.  Following his return, the team went on to win 17 straight games.  He went on to play for a total of eight more years, while coming in and out of retirement.  Today he is co-owner/chairman of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have been one of the best organizations in sports during his ownership.  Mario Lemieux is not just surviving.  He is thriving.

In 1944, because he was Jewish, he was placed in a work camp in Auschwitz where he became inmate “A-7713”, which was tattooed on his left arm.   He was separated from his mother and his youngest sister, who were killed in gas chambers, while his father was beaten to death at a work camp.   After living in France he moved to the United States where he has written over 40 books (57 total in his life).  In 1986 he received the Nobel Peach Prize.  He has received the Congressional Gold Medal, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, and serves as a Professor at Boston University.  He received an honorary knighthood in London.  Elie Wiesel is not just surviving.  He is thriving.

Starting at the age of nine she was molested by her cousin, uncle, and a family friend.  The abuse eventually led her to run away at the age of 13.  From there she went on to earn a full scholarship to Tennessee State University.  Since then she became the host of her own TV show and became one of the premier interviewers in the world.  She is an actress, producer, businesswomen, writer, philanthropist and publisher.  She currently has her own TV network, magazine, and radio channel.  Lastly, she is a billionaire and one of the most powerful women in the world.  Oprah Winfrey is not just surviving.  She is thriving.

These examples are not meant to minimize the tragedies that each experienced.  All of them had to battle to get to this point in their lives.  Yet their ability to thrive in the face of yesterday’s adversity allows each of them to be great today.   The old saying, “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger”, certainly rings true for all of them.  So, when your time comes and adversity hits, as it does for all who live, how will you react?  Will you be satisfied with surviving and advancing or will you challenge yourself to thrive?  Surviving isn’t always a choice, but thriving is.

Getting Dunked On

Fingers are pointed, laughs are boisterous, and a sense of embarrassment often fills a basketball player when he gets dunked on.  I previously wrote about the reaction to Guard Brandon Knight getting dunked on by Center DeAndre Jordan. Brandon Knight: Dunked ON!

Having worked with basketball players at the high school, college, and pro level I have noticed that the “getting dunked on” phenomenon is something that exists at all levels of basketball.  The act of dunking on someone should have more to do with the dunker rather than the player who was dunked on, yet players around the country often focus on the defender.

After the Knight dunk, NBA players took to twitter to voice their opinion:

Harrison Barnes, the rookie starting Small Forward for Golden State said, “Why jump B Knight?”

LeBron James said, “Hey coach Spo I'm gone have to just give those 2 pts up!! Hahahaha! Damn Brandon Knight. Gots to he more careful!”

Shelvin Mack, who recently signed a 10-day contract with the Atlanta Hawks said, “Why did he jump?”

Brandon Rush, who has played 2 games this year due to a season ending injury said, “Brandon Knight, no bro.”

Knight, who graduated from high school with a 4.3 PGA and was the Gatorade National Player of the Year, took the ribbing by his peers in stride by making light of the dunk.  He also took the ball to the hoop on the very next possession and got to the foul line, where he made 2 free throws.

The perception that Knight did something wrong by making an attempt to block a shot is crazy to me.  He was simply doing his job by playing defense.  Great players are willing to take risks and fail.  What if the 6-3 Point Guard was able to block the 7-foot Center?  Surely that would have been impressive, and more importantly, it would have stopped 2 points from going in the basket.

It is with that in mind that I decided to lookup some of the greatest basketball players of all time and see if they’ve been dunked on.  I found footage of Jordan, Barkley, Duncan, Ewing, Mutombo, O’Neil, Wade, Bryant, and James all getting dunked on.  You can checkout my video here …..

Turns Out, the Legends Get Dunked On, Too!

So it turns out that Knight is actually in quite good company.  And maybe, just maybe, he took his first step toward greatness.  So the next time a guy gets dunked on, how about we give praise to not only the dunker, but also the player who was dunked on.  After all, it certainly is an act work acknowledging, but for completely different reasons.

Lights Out

Lights Out As the lights went out in the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, many began asking how the players would maintain their focus. When uncontrollable distractions throw you off your game-plan what do you do? Do you start thinking about disadvantages? Do you start buying into the idea of momentum? Do you start thinking about the outcome rather than the process? Do you lose control of your energy?

The key is to make sure that you continue the same controlled routines that you use in any other breaks--pre-game, timeouts, halftime, etc. Routines help us direct our attention to a purposeful approach rather than useless distractions. Whether it's a 1 minute timeout or a 35 minute delay, go back to your routine so you are prepared for when the lights come back on.