My phone was vibrating as the electricity shocked me. I dropped the neon green Ryobi power drill on the floor with a loud thud. I hadn’t mastered this yet, I thought. Add another one to the list.

0e954424b676bbf2d2e1a18d40d85755Thankfully, my friend Charlie was calling, interrupting me from the flow of 110 volts of electricity flowing through my body. 

“Charlie!” I answered, shaking my free hand.

“Hey Huff, are you gonna be late to our workout today or what?”

“Yeah, so what if I am?” I retorted sarcastically. “What do you want? I’m trying to work here!”

“No seriously, you gonna be late or not?”

(I am blushing as I write this).

I paused before answering. I had a list of excuses and reasons for being late already rolling through my head… I  have to drive 40 minutes to get to the gym… and I have to make sure I’m done getting all the new wall outlet covers on… and lastly, now that I’m not a pro basketball player, who cares if I work out.

Well, besides Charlie that is.

But my excuses weighed on my conscious. I knew that traitorous voice as a pro basketball player. It’s that internal voice spouting off every reason to procrastinate and giving you every excuse to not stay committed. Every athlete hears what the War of Art  author Stephen Pressfield calls RESISTANCE. This foot-dragging voice fears becoming the highest version of itself. It manipulates you. It cheats you. It dupes you into believing it is actually you making the decision to delay commitment, discipline, and your goals from happening.

“Well, Charlie, that’s a good question– a fair question. My being tardy isn’t something I have put a lot of thought into lately. Plus, since I give you all my workout knowledge for free and that’s priceless… I can be a little late right?” I joked.

“Yeah, about that,” he chuckled. “Can you be on time today? I have a family, a schedule to stick too. Can you make a commitment to be there and ready to go at 5:00 p.m?”

Fall 2016: Trevor Huffman Traverse City Basketball Training-Camps-Workouts

In the Life and Minds of Pro Athletes

I heard it in his voice this time. He meant business. Charlie was a close friend of mine, a financial advisor that had just become a father for the first time, and I knew driving 40 minutes to work out with him wasn’t a valid excuse for my tardiness. 

Instantly, his question got me thinking about goals versus commitments and how it related to my life before and after basketball.  I knew too many people that couldn’t transfer commitment to their lives and got stuck in their own self-made hamster wheels.

I didn’t want RESISTANCE to win. I didn’t want to look back a year from now and regret not committing to something that I knew was good for me. I didn’t want the internal traitor to spread into other areas of my life.

Another dream gone.

Another goal missed.

“I know, you are right Charlie. I was never late to practices or my own commitments with basketball, why am I late to our workouts now?”

I paused and thought about my current workout goals.

I had none. At least no concrete ones that I had written down on paper.

“Well, it is a long drive,” I said. “And I am doing things for work that sometimes push me back. Errands. Workers. Getting electrocuted, you know, the perfect day–“

“So what! Can’t you just drop it? Can’t you just make a commitment to the workouts and not be late?”

I waited before I answered. I knew this conversation wasn’t like most of our conversations.

“Yes.” I said, pausing. “I can commit to that.”

As I said it, I knew I was in trouble. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because I knew the difference between committing to something and just saying, “my goal is…”

Goals aren’t enough.

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Committing to something is serious to me. Plus, I was busy with my new life after basketball. Trying to become a businessman. Trying to sail the Caribbean. Learning to write. Building an inspirational website. Taking Spanish classes. Training other friends. Teaching and running my basketball academies.

I thought back to my youth. I had written down Titanic-sized goals, but my commitments were even bigger. My commitments to basketball and training were probably viewed as insane to people on the outside looking in, but not sticking to my commitment to touch a basketball twice a day felt like I was deserting my team when they needed me most.

And who cared really cared if I didn’t touch a basketball twice day, every day?

No one but me. And I cared more than anything.

Touching that basketball was my daily commitment to help me reach my goals of being a freshman on varsity, to becoming First-Team All-State, to playing Division One basketball in college, and eventually becoming an NBA or European professional player.

I knew beating the RESISTANCE inside me took:

A DAILY, UNWAVERING CARE TO STICK WITH MY COMMITMENTS.

Rain or shine. Hurt or healthy. Sad or mad. Traveling or at home, I touched that ball.

But now what? What happens after careers end or new transitions begin? How do you wield the power of personal commitment in your daily life?

For example, you could say, “I want to be a millionaire.”

Well then, okay, what are the daily commitments you’ll make every day to ensure that happens?

You could say, “I want to have a forty-inch vertical.”

What are the daily commitments to weight lifting, jumping, and plyometric training you will do every day?

You could say, “I have the goal to be a straight-A student.”

Yeah, I know this one. You get home and your homework isn’t done and you procrastinate. You play video games. You call your friends. Commitments don’t procrastinate. Commitments don’t wait. Commitments don’t whine.

They just get it done.

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Committing to an ambitious goal calls for you to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I got you today commitment.”

That’s how you build trust with yourself.

That’s how you become All-State.

That’s how you play college basketball.

That’s how you become a straight-A student or a millionaire, by caring enough to stick to the small details of doing the work.

So maybe I need to replicate what I did as a seventh grader when I wrote my goals and commitments on notecards and stuck it on my ceiling, my bathroom mirror and my school folders.

These notecards read:

“Play professional basketball.”

“Touch a basketball twice a day, every day.”

I knew if I could commit to just touching a ball twice a day, I would start shooting, dribbling, and playing. I knew I would start sweating and want to improve once I acted upon just touching a ball.

The commitments adapted as I got older– to wake up and practice before school started… to lift weights like a mad man… to play 1 on 1 with older kids or do dribble drills at lunch time… or to challenge my own friends to play me in 2 on 1.

I learned and replicated how Pistol Pete Maravich carried and dribbled his basketball with him everywhere. But I stayed true to my commitment to not only touching a basketball twice a day but to doing more than I thought I was capable of.

Yeah, unfortunately, people stared at me when I wore Strength Shoes to school.

“You are crazy, kid,” they’d say.

Maybe.

But guess what– I was committed too.

Everyday.

365 days straight.

Like Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

There is no trying to do a commitment. There is only doing or not doing. In a book Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win, two Stanford professors (Ryan Babineaux, John Krumboltz) taught a class on committing to doing, failing, and doing it again. They said,  “Happy and successful people tend to spend less time planning and more time acting. They get out into the world, try new things, and make mistakes, and in doing so, they benefit from unexpected experiences and opportunities.”

There is a difference between setting a goal and actually committing to it day after day. You will be acting on commitments and possibly making mistakes, but moving forward, growing, and experiencing the world rather than thinking about it.

As I thought about my goals (and commitment blunders) as a 37-year old man, I heard something on the other end of the line. Charlie was still waiting.

“Oh, hey man, you there? Sorry. I was thinking about something.”

“Yeah, no crap,” he laughed. “So, see you at five?”

Before answering, I reflected on my life. My happiest and most joyful moments come when I’m around people I enjoy. When I’m part of a team. When I’m helping others succeed at something. When I’m sweating and pushing myself, trying to be the best version of myself. 

So why wouldn’t I commit to something that brings me joy and happiness? If commitments are what help me reach my goals and my goals are in line with my values and vision of what and who I want to become, why would I not commit?

If commitments are the life force of professional point guards, millionaires, maestros or savants and success stories, if commitments to never skip your workouts, to save and invest 10% of every payday, to be on time for practice, for workouts, for meetings, for appointments, for work, for anything and everything in life that gives you meaning…

Why let RESISTANCE win by not acting upon new commitments?

An epiphany hit me: if I can’t commit to being on time for something that gives me meaning, what does that say about me?

“Charlie,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“I’ll be ready to go at five– on the dot.”

Stay inspired. — Trevor Huffman

PS. One of my favorite quotes that will inspire us onwards to hunting our new dreams. Mark Twain said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

One thought on “Life After Pro Sports: Athletes on Commitments versus Goals

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