We were running around doing the standard beat-each- other-into- a-pulp drills with a little bit of basketball thrown in every now and then. This was how our practices went. They were challenging, they were difficult, they were strenuous, and they were demanding. Most of the time, you were just trying to not quit. Every once in awhile, you got to shoot a basketball.
Apparently today more of those shots missed than the coach was happy with (I didn’t even notice, as I was just trying to stay alive). Next thing I knew, I heard that familiar whistle-when- you-weren’t- expecting-it that almost always ended up in an angry coach lecture and was followed by sprint drills. We all lined up at the
baseline as we did every time. Waiting expectantly for the whistle blast to signal we should start running, I stared at my shoes as the sweat beaded up on my forehead and dropped to the ground, making a puddle in front of me.
This time, it didn’t come. Just long, awkward, semi-intimidating silence. Eventually, everyone looked up and made eye contact with the coach. Unsure if he was waiting for us to say something or if we were supposed to wait for him, we stayed in this unusual standoff for an uncomfortable period of time. He was staring at us blankly, almost as if he wasn’t sure how to say what he was thinking. We had never seen this before and didn’t know what it meant, but we were pretty sure it wasn’t good. Finally, after what seemed like forever, he spoke.
“How many of you want to be better shooters?” he asked.
The entire team, me included, raised our hands. He stared at each of us, making eye contact individually. It felt like a really long time before he made his way down the entire line to look at each member of the team. Too long. So long that I was no longer sweating, and the gym was starting to feel cold. His gaze was intense, issuing a challenge and daring us to take him up on it. We had no idea what was going on, but he had our attention.
“Now how many of you stayed late yesterday to practice shooting?”
Whoa. You’ve never seen so many eyes drop to the floor in perfect unison like that before. Two of us were left to raise our hands. Me, and the scrappiest player on the team. I remembered the night before staying late to shoot on one basket while he shot on the other, neither of us wanting to leave before the other.
The coach just stared at the group of us. There were no bouncing basketballs, no squeaking shoes, no swishing nets, and no clapping hands. It was eerily silent, and every player was left to marinate on the simple, profound statement the coach had just made. Every single one of us had just said we wanted to be a better shooter, but only two of us were able to raise our hands when asked if we were taking steps to make that happen. It was a powerful moment. Just you, your thoughts, your past actions to stand on, and the raw understanding that your actions speak louder about you than your words.
What Does Success Really Cost?
I’ve never forgotten that day. I’ll remember it forever. The coach didn’t have to say anything more. He blew the whistle, and we all began running. We understood why — we had been cheating ourselves, and in doing so, cheating the team.
As I thought, “Of course everyone wants to be a better shooter. Who wouldn’t?” I was quickly countered by the argument, “Well, if they wanted to be better shooters, they would be working on it, right?” Back and forth my thoughts went. It was a very unsettling moment for me. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t just a matter of semantics — it was a matter of sacrifice.
If you want something, you will work, strive, sacrifice, push, sweat, bleed, or otherwise act in a way that costs you something to achieve it.
If you would like to have something, you will open up your hands and take it if someone gives it to you.
And this, friends, is how life works.
This is the message our coach was trying to send. Everyone on the team would like to be a better shooter. If the magic shooter fairy were to descend from the rafters and touch us with her three pointer wand, we would gladly accept the ability to shoot better. No one was going to say no or avoid improved shooting if it was offered to us for free.
But how many were willing to do something that cost them to get there?
When we were practicing, that was the “team” time. We had to be focused, we had to push ourselves, we had to work hard. When practiced ended, that was “our” time. We were free to live our lives as we chose. It was clear to the coach that what most were choosing was to put comfort first. We said we wanted to be the best, but our after-practice actions didn’t support that. Very few were committed to the process of becoming better, improving ourselves, or sacrificing comfort now in order to achieve something worthwhile later. The coach knew this, and he wasn’t happy about it.
The Secret to Success People Don’t Tell You
Here is the secret that successful people understand about success. Success changes you. It changes who you are at your core beliefs. More specifically, it’s the journey to success that changes you. And that is why successful people love chasing success so much. It forces you to grow, it weeds out the worst habits you have. It exposes self-limiting beliefs and forces you to confront and reexamine them. It sharpens the axe of your skill set, so to speak.
Stephen Curry is considered the greatest shooter in the NBA. He is considered by many to already be the greatest shooter of all time. According to an ESPN.com article, when Stephen Curry is in the off season, he makes 500 three pointers a day. Makes, not shoots. He only counts the shots he makes. He also says that when he sets a number as his goal, he stays until he completes it. He won’t take a shortcut and leave early.
The player who is already the best shooter in the NBA shoots until he makes 500 shots a day, every day. He sets and achieves his goal every day, and will not leave his workplace until he does. Imagine the focus that must create in him as he practices the same, mind-numbingly boring motion over and over and over. Imagine the habits that creates in him. Do you think that might possibly serve him well on game day?
Can you say that you do anything 500 times a day? What about 100? What about 50?
The fact is, you likely aren’t as good at your job as Steph is at his. And HE is out there making 500 three pointers a day. What excuse do we have?
If you aren’t doing something every day to learn more about the game, strengthen an area you’re weak in, or confront an aspect of your personality that makes it hard for you to succeed, it’s time you became honest with yourself. You don’t want this. You’d just like to have it. You’re cheating yourself.