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Winning On and Off the Court with Determination, Discipline, and Decisions
Determination means refusing to take no for an answer. It means refusing to be rejected. I'm not talking about being stubborn in a negative way; determination means being stubborn in a good way. You are still teachable, you listen to reason. You are always looking to learn, always hungry to get better. You're determined, but not a jerk.
You are determined to let nothing stand in the way of achieving your goal. You are determined to be honest with yourself about choosing the right goal and sticking with it. Whether that goal is to get a new job, change your career, become the CEO, or simply excel at your current job, determination is the first key. Stubbornness—positive stubbornness, that is—can take you places you never thought you could go. It can make you do things you thought you never could do. Determination stretches you, it makes more of you than was there before. It stretches your mental capacities. It challenges you.
In 1982, at the beginning of my senior year at St. Augustine High School, my friend Derrick Lafayette and I didn't want to take the math class that was assigned to us. We wanted to take the higher math class with the gifted students, a trigonometry class taught by Dr. Carl A. Blouin. The administrators told us we couldn't do it. Because we were athletes, they figured we weren't smart enough.
But we were determined. So we jumped through hoops to get into that class. We petitioned the math department; we had our parents call the teachers; we refused to take no for ananswer; we did everything we could to get into this math class. We were determined to get in. Finally the administration let us in. Our determination inspired us to be undeterred by those who had lower expectations for us than we had for ourselves.
Now, what we didn't know was the level of determination needed just to get a C! The other kids in the class didn't need determination. They were just gifted. They didn't have to work as hard. During the first two quarters, we both earned Fs and Ds, but we didn't give up. We decided to do something about it. We went to nearby Xavier University to find tutors. To pay for them, we washed cars on the weekend. We would drive over to each other's houses late at night for extra studying. We were determined to pass that class. We worked harder than we knew we could and ended up with Bs in the third and fourth quarters to pull our overall grade to a C. That's the best C I ever made in my life.
Most people didn't think I was big enough, strong enough, or good enough to play in the NBA. Through determination, I proved all those people wrong. Determination can keep you on the right path, despite the odds against you and any shortcomings you might have. For example, in 1991, three years into my NBA career as a player, I was cut by the Denver Nuggets. A lot of people told me to retire, to quit. My wife even told me to quit—probably because she was pregnant and we were broke—but I said no because I knew that despite my size and my background playing for a small Black college, I was gifted enough to play in the NBA and I was determined to prove myself right and others wrong.
That's why it's important to always play, study, and pursue your craft with determination. There's a premium for playing with passion. Don't be discouraged by a setback—any setback. Even after I was released I knew I was going to make it back. How? Determination.
But hear me on this: Determination shouldn't be blind; it needs to be focused. The first step is to determine your goals, based on a truthful self-assessment of your own passions and skills. What do you enjoy doing? Are you good enough to succeed on the path you've chosen? Your goals should not only be based on what you see and hear, they must come from your heart and your head. You need to be on a path that you love and you need to have the skills to reach your destination. We can all be swayed by what we perceive to be the benefits of certain professions: money and celebrity. Those factors can push you onto a path that's not right for you. There's no sense trying to become a singer or rapper if you can't carry a tune or rhyme. There's no sense in aspiring to be a doctor if you're not truly interested in helping people. Or you can end up on a career path where you're simply not good enough to succeed at the professional level. Sure, you might love to play basketball but if you don't love the sport, that path isn't right for you.
Let's be real here. There are some guys who are determined to play in the NBA, but who simply aren't good enough. They need to sell cars or teach; do the thing they're gifted in. They're just not gifted enough at basketball to play in the NBA. I had a player in training camp recently who was one of the most timid guys I've ever seen in my life, but he was smart. He was an absolute whiz at math. He understood the ins and outs of the stock market. After long conversations with this guy, I knew he needed to be on Wall Street, not in the NBA. Basketball was not his gift. He needed to go start a hedge fund or some kind of private equity firm. He had determination, but it was the wrong determination. Basketball wasn't his gift—numbers were.
Sometimes our determination is framed by others, by what others think we should be doing or by what we see on television or on the Internet. One of the challenges we all have is being true to ourselves and mindful of our real gifts. Too many people want prosperity, but they're unable to focus on whether they have what it takes to get there. If you're honest with yourself, you become determined to choose the right path and stay on it.Aspire Higher
Winning On and Off the Court with Determination, Discipline, and Decisions. Copyright © by Zondervan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.