Normally, I write my posts with messages for you to take on into your day and hopefully help you to improve your life in some way. As the name of my site and company is SlamDunk Success, my goal is to help you achieve some type of success in certain aspects of your life.
However, today’s post is written for me. Nobody needs the message in here more than I do. Some of you may need this as much as I do, but I can’t fathom there is anyone who needs to improve on the ideas in here more than me. See where your feelings align with regards to it.
Some of you may be wondering, “What’s this double-edged sword you’re talking about, Scott?”
Consider that a double-edged sword has the ability to cut both ways that it is used. It can be as effective at cutting something going in one direction as the other.
This idea works when thinking about the concept of worrying about what others think.
Many of you know that my first fiction book came out at the end of last year. It is called, Ultimate Team Player. It follows a young man named Remington Roberts. Remington is a junior point guard on his high school basketball team. Like athletes all around the nation, he is trying to lead his team to the state tournament.
Remington is the “ultimate team player.” As the ultimate team player, he is constantly concerned with how his teammates are doing, how they are feeling, what they are thinking about, and how he can help them succeed. He realizes that if they succeed, it gives him a better chance of succeeding, which will ultimately give his team a better chance at succeeding.
This is a great quality for us all to have. We should be concerned about our “teammates,” no matter what field we are in. Whether it is in a sport, like in the story, or it is our family, friends, or work colleagues, it is important for us to consider how those around us are doing as we make our way through our lives with them.
Don’t you want to see your teammates, family, friends, or co-workers succeeding in different ways?
Don’t you want them to enjoy their lives and the experiences they are having with you?
Don’t you want them to have better lives?
Of course, you do.
It’s important that we consider how the other people in our lives are doing and that we help them to have better days, which can lead to better weeks, months, years, and lives. It’s what makes being connected with others such a joy. When we bring joy, impact, and meaning into others’ lives it gives our own lives joy, impact, and meaning.
The problem is that we are not “team players” in every aspect of our lives. In fact, before we are team players, we are just players.
We are individuals walking around on this planet with our own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and desires about the things we each want in life. When we think in this way, we are all about ourselves.
I am not trying to paint the people that we are in this realm in a bad light. I am not saying that we are automatically selfish when we are being the individual people that we are. I’m just saying that we are each focused on our own lives and on getting what we want individually out of our everyday existence.
Is there anything wrong with that?
Of course not.
In fact, it is this part of our lives where we put most of our greatest efforts to succeed in some way. It is here where we strive “to be the best that we are capable of becoming,” to borrow from John Wooden’s definition of success.
We work extremely hard to create the best lives for ourselves and to become the best version of ourselves that each of us can be. That’s a good thing.
“Aye, there’s the rub” (First a line from Wooden and now Shakespeare — this is getting good!)
Those two selves don’t always get along.
There are times when we need to be focused on what we are doing ourselves in order to achieve what we want individually.
There are times, though, when we need to be focused on helping others in order to help them achieve what they want.
And there are times when we need to focus on what all of us want in order to help us all achieve what we want as a team or group.
It’s in knowing when to focus on which “who” we are trying to help get what they want where the rub gets created.
We need to answer the question, “Is this a me-time, they-time, or us-time that I am in right now?”
We also need to answer the questions, “Can we be in two or even all three of them at one time?” and if so, “How do I know where to focus my attention and when to focus it there?”
And that is one of the many paradoxes of life.
We are individuals carving out an existence for ourselves, while at the same time interacting with others who are trying to do the same thing.
We are also team players working to create an environment and existence that is conducive to creating a better experience for others, as well as ourselves.
Knowing when to focus on the one and not the other and then to focus on the other and not the one is the great battle between individual and team.
Worrying About the Wrong People
But here’s the other problem, and the one that I struggle with the most.
It’s one thing to be concerned about other people in your life and making sure that you are there to help those people who you love or who are part of a “team” that you are involved with.
It’s another to be concerned about people who you don’t know or don’t have the same level of commitment to as teammates and loved ones, and who, ultimately, have nothing to do with your life or the life of those who you are connected with.
And yet, I (and I assume other people similar to me) spend way too much time worried about what those people think.
It has been a curse since I was younger. As a teenager, I started worrying about how my fellow teenagers thought about me. This is classic teen behavior. We are so worried we are not going to look cool or be accepted by others in our peer group that we will do almost anything to fit in and be liked.
My problem is that I never truly grew out of that.
Three months after graduating from college, I started teaching and coaching. My life became all about service to others.
I tried to make sure that my students had a great experience in the classroom and that they would take what they learned in my class and it would help them in their lives.
I also tried to help my athletes have a great team experience. So I worked hard to instill a “team-first attitude” in all of them. In so doing, I had to lead by example. Therefore, everything I did with or for my teams was filtered through the lens of, “How will this affect my team?”
Everything & Everyone
A problem arose in that I started filtering everything through that lens, not just things with my teams.
But a bigger problem was that I also expanded the lens to include anyone and everyone out there.
My concern became focused on how anyone would feel about me and what I was doing as I was making my way through this world. I took this way too far.
“Should I wear this cowboy hat? I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and I’m not really a cowboy.”
“Should I wear this cowboy hat now that I live in Montana? I’m still not a cowboy, and out here there are real cowboys, so I don’t deserve to wear this hat.”
“Should I play this soul and funk music that I love so much? These Montana people are more into country music. What will they think of me? Besides, I sometimes wear a cowboy hat, and cowboys aren’t supposed to like soul and funk music. But I’m not a real cowboy, so . . .”
“Should I tell that woman that I don’t agree with how she is talking to that person? She really shouldn’t be saying those kinds of words. But if I do, she might be upset with me and not like me.”
“Should I argue that religious idea or that political point with this man who has a very different viewpoint than mine and who I clearly disagree with, or should I just keep my mouth shut and stay middle of the road or even agree with him?”
Many of you are probably thinking, “Who cares what all those other people think?”
I worry way too much in those and thousands of other situations similar to them.
And while I would like to blame my years as a teacher and coach for which that type of thinking can, in many ways, be a good thing, in my heart I know it’s just that I haven’t been strong enough to stand up and say to myself what many of you were just thinking — “Who cares what all those other people think?”
Here’s a major irony: I just had the thought that many of you may be reading this and thinking that this post is focused way too much on me and what I’m feeling and not enough on you or on other people.
Jeez, I’m messed up!
Like I said near the beginning of this post, I need to work on this. I need to not worry so much about what you are thinking and start worrying more about what I want to get out of the time I have left here on this planet.
Because at 60 now, I have less life ahead of me than the amount of life I have already lived.
I need to focus on making the absolute most of the time I have left and think about others when it’s appropriate to think about others and think about myself when it’s appropriate to think about myself.
That’s how I want to live my life for the rest of my time here.
So I’m going to make a declaration here and now:
I will live life on my terms!
I will focus on others when it is necessary and helpful to our experience together.
I will focus on me and on what I want when that is what is most important.
I will not worry about what others think in those moments.
I hope you’re okay with that.