I love the game of basketball. I grew up playing it and idolized the greats of the 80’s and 90’s. For years, my dream was to someday play professional basketball. I knew I couldn’t be happier doing what I loved the most. Right around junior high school, it was obvious that I wasn’t as talented as my peers and I realized that my dream wasn’t as real as I thought. I guess I don’t remember the exact moment I knew this or how I handled it, but I belonged to a solid group of friends and was raised in a stable family situation. In other words, it didn’t really have a negative effect on my life.
Looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I would have not let go of my dream. Talent is important, but what is it worth without hard work? Every sports fan knows there are professional athletes who are extremely talented but lazy. It’s disappointing, especially when you consider the hard workers whose careers are negatively altered by an injury. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s that the combination of talent and hard work makes the most effective player.
Consider some of the greatest athletes of all time. What do they all have in common? They are dedicated to their sport and they work hard at it. Even though they have separated themselves above and beyond their colleagues, they are still putting in the most hours. They’re the first ones to practice and the last ones to leave. More recently, they adhere to strict diets and specialized workouts to ensure their bodies are in the best condition possible.
Considered the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”. One of the most exciting periods of the season is the playoffs. The best players will always rise to the occasion. I recently watched one player struggle through years of post-season failures until he finally made it to the top. There was no shortage of doubters and critics and even those who wanted him to fail because of his potential. As a fan, it was satisfying for me to see him succeed and I know that for him it was satisfying to quiet the doubters.
I believe that without exception, we are all born with special talents and abilities that help us to reach our potential and bless the lives of others. These talents probably won’t draw the attention of a global audience or be discussed in the media, but just like with a great athlete, there will always be adversity. No matter how big or small our influence may be, there will always be that voice telling you to take the path of least resistance.
As far as I know, successful people don’t just waltz their way to the top. Decca Records rejected the Beatles in 1962, saying “guitar groups are on the way out” and “The Beatles have no future in show business”. Abraham Lincoln failed in business at age 21. Was defeated in a legislative race at age 22. Failed again in business at age 24. Overcame the death of his sweetheart at age 26. Had a nervous breakdown at age 27. Lost a congressional race at age 34. Lost a congressional race at age 36. Lost a senatorial race at age 45. Failed in an effort to become vice-president at age 47. Lost a senatorial race at age 47. Was elected President of the United States at age 52.
The reality is that nobody is destined to end up a failure. Something that has helped me to cope with the challenges of life and keep going is my perspective. A few years ago, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey.” I believe in the eternal nature of the soul. I believe that this life is a gift and it is our opportunity to learn and improve ourselves as individuals and as a society. I believe that we can all uplift and inspire others to do good. Something else I have learned from the game of basketball is that you can’t do it alone. Teams have won when each player shared an equal responsibility and worked hard to fulfill their role. Other teams have won with one or more great players and a supporting cast of basic role players. I don’t belong to a professional basketball team, but I am a husband and a father. This is my calling in life. I can’t count the number of times I have failed in my journey to have a successful and happy family, but I know that it is a process. This is by design. You can’t grow unless your experiences stretch you. It’s been said that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it. You can’t succeed unless you fail. Attitude is everything. Find your calling and dedicate your life to it. In the end, you will succeed.