Well, it’s official. I’ve made it 36 times around the sun.
I feel peace, purpose, and gratitude.
What I experienced this past weekend helped bring back parts of me that I’m really happy to have again. I went down to Richmond, VA where I grew up to hang out with my two best friends since middle school. I had probably the most active birthday weekend I’ve ever had, including running a total of almost nine miles, doing weight training, and playing pickup basketball for the first time in years.
I played basketball in middle school and high school. I loved it. However, the story I told myself about my athletic ability prevented me from getting better. Neither one of my parents were natural athletes or really played any sports, and so I thought that meant that I wasn’t really an athlete. I played against some people who were really good and seemed to take to it more naturally than I did.
Now that I think about it, I didn’t even know their stories and how hard they had to work to get to where they were. I just assumed they were better than me because they were more athletically gifted.
When I compared myself to them, I didn’t give myself enough credit for my own abilities. I busted my ass in the gym to get better, and I turned myself into a really solid ball-player. The problem was, when I played varsity basketball in 11th grade, I didn’t have any confidence. I loved playing, but I played timidly during practice and didn’t really try to push myself to make solid plays, opting instead to pass it to someone else.
Therefore, I wound up playing for the last five minutes of games where we had a sizable lead. I jokingly dubbed myself part of the cleanup crew. I joked, but damn, it hurt. It hurt to be part of the cleanup crew, and it hurt knowing that I could’ve done better if I had more confidence in my abilities.
Fast-forward to this past Saturday, and my buddy Brian and I played pickup ball with three other guys at Brian’s gym. We played games of 3-on-2. The first game I was on a team of two, and the second game I was on a team of three. The first game, we lost 13-3. I wound up scoring all three points.
Within two plays of the second game, I threw a behind-the-back pass to one of my teammates. It was completely off the mark and went straight out of bounds, but I had the confidence to throw it anyway.
Then a few more plays down the stretch, instead of opting for a jump shot, I tried passing it between two defenders to one of my teammates under the basket. The ball wound up bouncing off of both defenders and hitting one guy in the face. Once again, it was completely off the mark, but once again, I had the confidence to throw it anyway.
The rest of the game, I was locking down on defense, running after rebounds, brushing guys aside when they tried to set picks on me, and otherwise rough-housing in what turned out to be a pretty physical game. My competitiveness was on fire. Even though I didn’t win either game, I was locked in and wanted nothing more than to stop the other team and score points for mine.
Over the past year, I’ve gained confidence in myself as an athlete through running. After what I’ve been able to accomplish, including doing a mile in under seven minutes and a ten-miler in under an hour and a half, I have no choice but to believe I’m a real athlete. I may have to work harder at sports than I did in academics since academics comes more naturally to me, but you can’t accomplish what I’ve accomplished in running without being a real athlete.
The competitive streak extended to video game basketball, where I won three out of four games of NBA 2K. My buddy beat me over and over again for years. I realize now that he mostly beat me because of careless mistakes I made. I would try to force the action and force scoring points to catch up to him only to fall short enough times to fall too far behind in the scoring.
This time, I stayed patient. Even if he had built up a sizable lead, I stayed patient, kept moving the ball around, and waited for the right opportunities to shoot high-percentage shots. The one game I lost, I couldn’t get a good handle on my team and the lead became insurmountable. However, with the other games, I stayed patient and focused and waited for my opponent to blink, which he did.
Being calm, centered, and focused in the task of wanting to take my opponent down made me feel like a cold, calculating killer.
I am generally a more collaborative person than a competitive one. However, I’m sure I can use my competitiveness to my advantage. I already have through running; I use it to meet and exceed goals. I’m sure there’s a way that I can use it for my business as well. Not sure what that is yet, but I will certainly keep it in mind.
I am incredibly grateful that I made it to 36 years old. Life is not promised, so I’m glad to be living and making the most of this life.