"Your past is not your future; you have the power to make new decisions for your life starting today."
- Deb Sofield

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Do What Is Best for You

Recently I was listening to a story about the famous basketball player Rick Barry, and his underhand free throw shot that he made popular back in the day. It was a great story that he told about why he crafted his underhand toss and how it became a force for free throw points for his team. He recounted for the reporter that his underhand toss never took off in the big leagues because of the simple fact that no one wanted to be seen as doing a “granny shot.” Imagine that, being so cowed by others that many basketball players would not even try the shot for fear of being laughed at by the other players and, worse, the fans.

The big idea I took away from his story is that you should do what is best for you. Never mind the players who will not consider trying a new way, and don’t listen to the crowd sitting in the stands–goodness, they are not players on your team. Stop listening to the peanut gallery.

What I found fascinating is this simple thought. If by doing the underhand toss the percentage of scoring would increase by 10 – 15% wouldn’t that be amazing? Learning how to do the shot in one fluid motion could put a player in the 80-90% bracket of making the free throw shot. Would it be worth it? Heck, YES! 100 times YES, since it could be the difference between victory and defeat.

Listening to Barry’s son, Canyon, talk about his push to do the shot and teach others during his college basketball career was interesting, especially his retelling of how many players just could not and would not bring themselves to learn or use the throw.

Like many of you, I played basketball and was pretty good in my day until I played church basketball and got thrashed by the other denominations. Nothing like playing your heart out on Saturday to be forgiven for fouls on Sunday. That being said, if my memory serves me right only the weaker players would try the “granny shot,” not the rest of us strong, self-important, image-conscious players.

If I had only known the probable chance for increased free throws to make it into the basket instead of bouncing off the rim, I would have set my pride and image aside for the team and the win.

But isn’t that just like so many other things we do in life? We’re too intimidated by the crowd to try or to do something that has a chance to be amazingly successful, yet we don’t, because “no one does it that way.” Well, what we should acknowledge is that no one we know does it that way, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

We’re a nation focused on innovation. Most titans of industry and technology love to share the message of try, fail, try again and don’t give up; fail faster, so you can find success sooner. Well, obviously that is easier said than done since most people will try, fail and then quit. Goodness knows it is embarrassing to fail, especially in the public eye where others (who don’t have a new idea in their head) will snicker and be derogatory to those who try and fail.

My advice for those who want to be truly successful is to stop listening to those who don’t have skin in your game. Maybe you should do what is best for you, as you see it.

And even if you fail, fine, you fail. Get back up and start again. Let me remind you of the words of Albert Einstein – “You never fail until you stop trying.”

It would seem to make sense that you do what is best for you, but in all honesty, you (and I) don’t seem to get around to it for a thousand reasons–some good and some because we are afraid. We’re afraid of failing, being laughed at or, worse, ignored. Fear has a chilling effect on any big, hairy, audacious goal you set out to achieve, so you need a backup plan that keeps you in the game.

As you grow older, if you are not careful, you will be severely disappointed in yourself for listening and allowing your fear to stop all the things you were too afraid to try, places you convinced yourself you could not afford to visit or people you were too timid to reach out to for friendship, courtship or mentorship.

I don’t have to remind you of the thousands of deathbed stories of how people looking back on their life wished they had not been so afraid, so cautious, so limiting, so, dare I say it, boring. No one ever said on their deathbed, “Gee, I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer, or at the office or anyplace that doesn’t provide joy.”

It’s true, youth is wasted on the young because once you are older, wiser, more mature of age, your body slows down, you forget where you left your keys and going to bed at 8:00 pm is what you look forward to doing.

What happened to you?

While you can, would you consider finally throwing off the restrictions that others have placed on you–emotionally, physically or verbally–and do what is best for you? Of course, I am not talking about walking away from life-committed responsibilities, so please don’t have your divorce lawyer call me. What I am asking is that you seriously do a review of your hopes and dreams and then pull out a calendar and start planning, saving and working towards one on your list.

I am thrilled when I see on Facebook that my friends are on trips of a lifetime. Kudos to them for getting out of the rut of busyness and self-doubt and going all in for a grand life adventure.

One of my talks that I give on the speaking circuit is the story of my basketball days because it was such a big part of my life growing up. One thing I know from years of pounding up and down the court is this: If you want to be a player, you have got to get on to the court of life. The best players are on the court, the spectators are in the stands and, remember, no one pays spectators to watch the action. Your job is to get into the game to be seen as a viable player with a rightful position on the team.

Screaming from the stands is fun for others, but not for you. If you plan to be a player, a doer, and a leader, you’ve got to get on to the court and rally your team for success even if that means you have to take the ball and make the play the best way you know how–underhand, overhand or any option you can create–to lead your team to victory.

I understand that it seems obvious to do what is best for you, but for some of you, who after years of being told what to do, where to go and how to do your job, it will be a new adventure to find your way down the court of life by yourself. You can do it. You can handle the ball any way you choose to score for your future, and you can cheer for yourself if no one else does. In the end, it is about running the race, finishing the task and coming up a victor against the odds.

On your journey, you will play against adversaries who look a lot like friends, coworkers and family members and who, for some unknown reason, all want to give you advice on how you should play the game and live your life. They will feel the need to tell you what you should do, where you should go and how you should think. No doubt some of these folks have your best in mind, but others simply don’t want you to succeed or get ahead of them, so they will do whatever it takes to stop you from making the game-winning shot.

I know you’re smart, so figure out who is really on your team, and then put yourself 100% into the game and play to the buzzer. To do anything less is cheating yourself of what could be.

Do what is best for you seems like a no-brainer, and I wish it were, but unfortunately, it is not. Too many people want a piece of the action without the work. That reminds me of the Zig Ziglar quote I like, “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”

When you do what is best for you, you limit the bites that others can take out of you, in fact, you regain control of your time and talent to be used in any way you see fit. Don’t delay stepping onto the court and trying a new shot. It just might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to show the world your skills even if it looks like a “granny shot.” Because, if it makes the basket for the win, then you can rest assured that others will follow your path forging their own style shot for victory.

This week, consider what it will take to do what is best for you, and then move in the directions of your dreams.

Here is the video I mentioned: Rick Barry Underhand Free Throw

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People, even more than things, have to be restored, revived, reclaimed and redeemed. Never throw out anyone. - Audrey Hepburn