In an age overwhelmed by soundbites and Snapchats, we still seem to be lacking some old style substance, the kinds of quotes and phrases that helped positively shape a person’s life when followed. The more athletes wind up in police blotters and in headlines for their off-field performance, the more apparent our desperate need for direction becomes.
This is the second installment of a little Old School wisdom that athletes might find useful today. You can read the first set of five here.
“Nobody owes you anything.”
You may have heard of a big sounding word popping up everywhere today: “entitlement.” Entitlement is the belief or attitude that you deserve some amount of good at the hands of others, that you should be the recipient of blessing simply because you exist. Athlete, you’ve been set up to fail in this area because for so long, adults have doted and fawned over you because of your athletic ability. They’ve set you up to believe that because of your exceptionality in one area you’re somehow owed prosperity in varying degrees in all areas of life. But this is a lie. Truth is, once you’re born, other than your parents keeping you reasonably alive, nobody owes you a thing, and if you don’t keep working at life you’ll get swallowed up by it.
“You are who you are when no one’s watching.”
Character really does matter over the course of life. You may get tons of attention for your performance, but you build a life on your inner self, on whether people can trust you, whether you’ll finish a job well, whether you’ll go the extra mile or just try to get by. These accomplishments matter far more than what sportswriters typically spill ink over—believe it. The course of your life gets set by your inner life, not by people comparing your stats against history.
“Modesty is the best policy”
Put simply, don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself through your dress, speech, or behavior. We live in a time where all boundaries are being erased, a time when you’ll be encouraged to dress provocatively, talk brashly, and act like a fool. These are extremes to avoid for both men and women. You’ll regret embracing them in the end. Make a splash with your counter-cultural modesty and you’ll get both substantive attention and satisfaction.
“This too shall pass.”
The pain of this moment in time will dissipate. Don’t quit or change your circumstances just because it hurts right now. Being steadfast in the midst of athletic discomfort will strengthen you to stand under many other sufferings that life will send your way, so don’t cheat yourself the opportunity to exercise life muscles trying to grow.
“Life is not about you.”
Paralleled by “You are not the center of the universe,” the longer it takes you to realize this truth the more pain and suffering you’ll bring to yourself and to those around you. Indeed, why wait until the crisis of your fifth decade to realize helping and serving others is actually a source of true joy? Don’t let men and women doing their jobs as sports media correspondents fool you into thinking your life as an athlete is as important as they make it seem. ESPN is a bit of a mirage. While your struggle is to play a game well, folks your age around the world are dying for causes. People are fighting for freedom. Others exist every day under oppressive governments. They don’t care about your frustration at not getting playing time or a contract extension you think you deserve. Life is actually about bigger issues than the latest AP or Coaches Poll and your place on it. It’s not really about you at all.