Are you trying too hard?

As I write this little reflection, I can’t help but think of the T-Shirt one of my friends used to wear. On the back there was caricature of a wrinkly old man wearing a basketball uniform. Beside this image were these words:

So, this story I am about to tell is true; or, at least as close to the truth as it is possible for an old guy to recall.

When I was in high school (now more than forty years ago), I played on the varsity basketball team. Some who read this may find it hard to believe. A little back story might help. You see, my graduating class totaled only 16 people. Of this number, twelve of us started first grade together. Ours was a small school, located in the sparsely populated panhandle of Oklahoma. For some reason, I seem to recall there was a total of eighty-four students in the entire high school. By contrast, my wife’s graduating class had more than five hundred students. That was more than the population of Keyes, Oklahoma, when all the farmers were in town shopping. So, now you know why it was possible for a kid standing 5′ 8″ with his boots on to play on the varsity basketball team.

On one occasion, we were playing the team that eventually won the state championship, as I recall. Their school didn’t play football. So, they had lots of time to practice basketball. Most of the kids on their team been playing together since they were in grade school. They were well coached; and, they were very good. Still, we were giving them a bit of a challenge.

Because I was swift of foot, I sometimes even led our team in steals. On a couple of occasions our opponents brought the ball to their court, only to have me zip out and intercept a pass between two of their guards. I then drove the length of the court at a furious pace for a lay up. I missed both times! No doubt, this is the reason the memory lingers with me. Embarrassment has a way of searing memories into our minds.

Well, our opponents got the rebounds both times. They then calmly made their way back to their court, becoming more aware of where I was hiding out.

At one point, when the opposing team was bringing the ball up court, the man I was guarding, who was about my height and as fast as me, grabbed my jersey and caught my eye. I’m sure I looked shocked, not knowing what he was doing. He said something that I didn’t understand, So, I asked him to repeat it.

He let go of my jersey and looked me square in the eyes and said, “You’re trying too hard. Let the game come to you. No one can stop you if you will play under control. If you don’t, you are your own worst enemy.”

Could it be that you are trying too hard, my friend? I know life is not a game. Most of what we deal with on a day-to-day basis is very serious. Still, I wonder? Is it possible that some who read these lines need to slow down, take a deep breath, and learn to play under control?

I imagine the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!”

I am also reasonably certain a few additional bits of basic advice would be helpful for those of us who are rushing head-long into life — trying too hard. So, I offer three simple suggestions, which I truly believe will be of benefit to all the over-eager-over-achievers among us. These are:

1. Master the short game.  Okay. I know what you are thinking. The “short game” applies to golf; and, we are talking about basketball. Yes. But, isn’t the principle universal? In life, just like in most sports, the short game really matters. Usually, it is the relationships that are the shortest distance from us, literally, that matter the most. The opportunities we have at hand are usually much more likely to yield fruit than the pipe dreams of something we hope will come to pass at some yet-to-be-determined time in the future. We need to learn to do what we can with what we have where we are now. Master the short game!

2. Make the sure shots. Staying with basketball: How many times have we been frustrated with our favorite team when they lose by 3 or 4 points, while making 7 of 12 free throws? There is a simple, time-tested, three-fold, proven-to-be-effective strategy for making the sure shots. It is this: 1) Practice, 2) Practice, and 3) Practice. Really! Need I say more on this point? There are no short cuts to developing skills for success. So, work on your game, whatever your game is! Learn your sales presentation frontwards, backwards, and every step in between. Know how to deal with objections. Learn the benefits of your philosophy for living so that it flows from you naturally. Become an expert at recognizing and harvesting low-hanging fruit. Someone is going to pick it; and, it might as well be you. Make the sure shots!

3. Let the play develop. Napoleon Hill quite famously said, “Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Most would agree with this sentiment. However, there needs to be a healthy balance. There is a time and place for hard work. In fact, the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary. However, there is no substitute for being patient. There is no better way to be sure there is enough fuel in your tank to persist to the end of the journey than to patiently pace oneself in order to finish the course. To return to basketball for a moment, we must not only wait for the screen to be set, we need to be certain the defender has been screened, before we shoot the shot. We must let the play develop!

Hopefully, these thoughts are beneficial. I hope, also, you’re not trying too hard. If you are, then I urge you to let the game come to you. No one can stop you if you will play under control. If you don’t, you are your own worst enemy.

© Bill Williams
2018.07.21

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