MEASURING HAPPINESS BY CHANGING VALUES

MEASURING HAPPINESS BY CHANGING VALUES— (5 Minute Read)–

TrevorHuffman.com is about getting out of our own comfort zone– in sports, in basketball, in life, in traveling the world on a budget, in building a tribe and winning the small battles to succeed big.

I’ll be sharing my uncomfortable failures and short-lived successes as I solo-slow traveled the world playing professional basketball, or as I design basketball training workouts and practices for ‘THBA ELITE,” my Northern Michigan Basketball Skill Development Academy.

Whether it’s following me get out of my comfort zone sailing the Caribbean or talking about building a vision for success, my mission is to give you more than just basketball tips, but rather the authentic stories of my worst defeats, deafening anxiety and depression, sharing and understanding cultural differences, and the detailed obsession of preparing to win at the highest levels.

Hopefully, this blog can be something athletes, coaches, humans, and parents alike can take something deeper from– something that shows the darker (and lighter) side of what I’ve learned from my experiences.

In the end, how we help each other get to where we want to go is all I care about talking about.

 

Measuring Happiness by Changing Values

Written on April 6th, 2017 in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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“Here is your cash. Good game. Keep winning,” the Venezuelan GM says. He grins a cheap smile, pops his collar, and sticks out his hand.

I accept what I know is 10,000 dollars in a manilla envelope.

Straight cash? Really? Hell yeah…

I open the envelope. Exhilaration hits and the dopamine spreads through me like crack (for the record, I’ve never done crack).

“Thanks. We will keep winning.”

I am suddenly the happiest freaking dude in the world. Seriously, what could make you happier than doing what you love and getting paid to do it?

And so the happiness paradox begins.

The next day the alarm clock hits me early. My body is sore and it’s time to get to work. I’m back to two-a-days. I’m back to morning track workouts and evening practices.

Where’s the dopamine now?

Where’s that happiness?

I want that happy feeling again, but it’s gone.

Three weeks later, I get fired and fly back from Caracas, Venezuela embarrassed and heartbroken. Another bad job. Another failed season. I hit an all-time low. I am 24 years old and decide it’s time to stop playing basketball for awhile. Instead, I turn to something I’ve never done.

Partying.

And for awhile, it helps. I forget the pain. The unhappiness. But in the meantime, I gain 35 pounds of fat, stop caring about basketball and constantly want people to stop talking to me about how lucky I am to do what I love.

I didn’t feel lucky when I was measuring my happiness with the wrong measuring stick. But I was young and when you are young, you tend to do stupid stuff.

It’s just that simple.

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Being young doesn’t matter as much as self-awareness does. My self-worth and happiness went up and down like the stock market. One day, I’m up. The next game, I’m down. Do I measure happiness in my life by points scored? By salary earned? By games won or lost?

If you do fall into this trap, it’s a short-sighted, unfulfilling way to live.

If I had continued to measure my professional basketball life with only external basketball success as my metric, I would have never been satisfied, happy, or peaceful from day to day. And I think a lot of competitive athletes (or just humans) fall into measuring their life by the wrong values. By using the wrong measuring sticks. And when we use the wrong measuring sticks for happiness, just like typical American society, we wind up in a rat race with declining happiness levels. We are constantly unfulfilled. We end up using drugs, alcohol, and anything that will give us a high to get us to that next fulfilling high (or happy island).

If I had continued to ride the basketball-success-failure-emotional-roller-coaster, I would have most definitely been in a psychiatric institute a long time ago.

Many high school and college athletes that stop playing go through this when they are done playing and never figure it out.

Dude, it’s over. Your career is over. So stop attaching your happiness and identity to it (as I write about my old career, #hypocrite)!

But changing my values back then took getting fired. It took losing. It took gaining 35 pounds of big ol’ love handles in an eating and drinking depression that lasted four months. It took looking within and figuring out why I really play basketball.

So? How did I do it?

Well first, I wanted to live happier. So I asked myself an internal question: “What do I truly value about playing the game of basketball?”

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My answers: I loved the struggle of winning, the camaraderie of being with teammates, the weight room workouts, the daily expression and practice of my craft, the competition, the will to win, the on-court creativity, the cultural differences of traveling Europe, the skill programming with training, the feeling of a leather ball sliding in between my hands twice a day (usually), and finally, being a teammate with guys from completely different backgrounds.

In the end, this question helped me be aware of what I valued and could start to measure intrinsically about playing the game of basketball.

It helped me be let go of the fleeting trap of valuing money, partying, 10,000 dollars in manilla envelopes, hitting big shots, buying shiny things, big houses, making a good pass, sports cars, winning a big game, and all the popularity from momentary professional (or amateur) basketball success. Not that I had big mansions and sports cars (I still drive my 2007 Hyundai Sonata, yeehhh boyyyyyy), but it seemed like all the professional athletes I knew were talking about the wrong values.

I learned to stop caring about these superficial values (and measuring them) and start measuring values that came from the inside. I started to ask myself, why judge my life by metrics (that I had no control over), metrics that could literally haymaker-gut-punch me into misery?

Well, it’s not for me, I don’t want any part of that rat race, I decided.

Ironically, my own fears, lack of self-awareness, self-worth, and own inadequacy pushed me towards those value traps. It’s kind of like writing this blog. Should I share, should I not share, what if someone thinks I’m soft or a sissy?

The truth is, I am scared to write this blog and share it. What if my grammar sucks (which it does). What if someone laughs at me? What if someone… blah blah blah.

The truth is I write it because it feels good. I learn from writing out my feelings and experiences and seeing my patterns and weaknesses flesh out onto the screen. And it feels good to share my experiences and look at what makes me happy on the inside.

So it’s time. Let’s all hold hands and sing: Kummmm-byeeee-yahhhhh.

If you don’t like singing, guess what, I don’t care.

The truth is, I do hope that I can help people grow and reach their dreams, goals, and self-actualize. If one person reads this or takes one nugget of a sentence they can use to improve their lives from the awkward recesses of my twisted mind, then kudos to them.

It feels good to help people, to have a real impact and the catch is, I enjoy writing this weird life blog anyways, so it’s a win-win.

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While solo-slow travel sailing from Guatemala to Mexico (yes, solo-slow travel sailing is a legit experience, watch my montage there), I thought a lot about happiness, about doing what you love, and learning how to measure the things you love to do in life. I would look into the cosmos at night and wonder why I was alive or how I was connected to all these billions of people around the world.

A thousand miles away, there are people shuffling along dirt roads with no water and no food and still smiling at me.

Yet, when I walk through my own American town, people just put their head down and walk by, disconnected, lost, and most likely, half of them unhappy.

My Caribbean nights star gazing and watching sunrises or sunsets really made me think. I kept finding myself asking, “What are my values now and how am I measuring them?”

I value a sustainable lifestyle, living close to nature, traveling to new places I’ve never been, building a community and tribe of friends that want to push themselves to be healthy, passionate, and take on extreme adventures or projects, helping kids, teams, and people reach their potential (on and off the court) and over-achieve in the process!

So Ask Yourself 3 Happiness / Value Questions:

First, what are your current values and how do you measure them relative to your happiness and once you have those, are these values externally linked (uncontrollables) or internally linked to your happiness?

And second, are these values really giving you happiness or are they just momentary blips on the radar that just raise our brain’s dopamine levels?

Third, are you a valuing crack, kid? Is it time to change your values?

If you aren’t enjoying the daily struggle, the daily ups and downs, maybe it’s time to start asking new questions about what you value or want to do in life. I am not a big cusser (okay, once in awhile it slips out), but this book was interesting to me:

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So okay. We have to change our values. Now what (you ask)?

Maybe you are saying, I still suck at stuff. I am still average at things I care about. Now what? The only thing that will help you find happiness will be figuring out what you value that intersects with your daily struggle to master your craft.

What I demonstrate grit for, what I put effort into surrounding my daily passions, and how deliberately compete, plan, and prepare to win, all feeds my metrics for happiness. It feels good to do it this way for me.

So, just like when I was playing professionally, it’s easy to fall into that trap of measuring success on and off the court with external values that become internal metrics.  I want people to like my game, oh wait, that person doesn’t like my game.

Unhappy.

But who cares about that person, you don’t know them. They don’t know you.

Or you say I want to be a dedicated All-State basketball player, but wait, every time you try to work hard and sacrifice to get better, your classmates, your friends, even your family laugh at you or question why you are doing it.

Again, once you care enough about something, that quote above makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?

This is just like starting a business. Just like being an All-State pitcher. A better parent. A better business owner. Or maybe you are quitting a BS job and self-actualizing a new life goal.

The list goes on and on.

Find a craft (passion) you love and then start measuring your happiness by internal standards you set for yourself to enjoy that struggle of winning in your craft.

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If you value swimming with whale sharks, then do it as much as you can! (From Islands.com)

 

After my long months of darkness, anxiety, and depression, and comfort eating, I had to take stock of what I could control in my life. Just like now. As my Caribbean sailing adventure in Isla Mujeres, Mexico came to a close, I am reminded of how lucky I was to reflect on my current values.

Who knows. Then again, maybe I’ll be a broke beggar writing and living on a beach that teaches, develops, and helps kids (and adults) make a better, happier, more fulfilling life.

Maybe one day, by sharing our experiences, and lending a hand, our world, communities, and tribes will grow closer and we can all help each other self-actualize to reach our potential.

And better, I’m sure I’ll find more happiness moment to moment in that struggle.

Good luck out there.

TrevorHuffman.com

MY TOP 5 THINGS I’M USING FOR ATHLETE SUCCESS IN THBA ELITE BASKETBALL:

  • Doing 1 on 1 Basketball Moves on these bands. Talk about getting more explosive and your heart rate up. These will absolutely make you more explosive, lower your shoulder, and work on explosive starts / stops with a basketball in your hand. Work on defensive slides or linear speed. Your choice. I use these bands at the start of my practices to recruit fast twitch muscle fibers for speed before fatigue sets in later.
  • My favorite raw organic plant based protein bars. These things are like Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. Freeze them. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter, they are that good. And better they are nutrient rich and are made with Chia and Flaxseed, which is rich in Omega 3’s, I feel good about them and have stayed at 185 pounds, which isn’t easy for me.
  • I love to train, shoot, workout and do speed/agility/conditioning in heavier shoes than I play or compete in. These Air Jordan basketball shoes are heavy as heck! When I go from practice to game shoes, it may be a placebo effect, but it’s like going from cushioned running shoes to running flats on a track. Lighter, faster, quicker. All day!
  • My favorite thing is making nutrient-rich smoothies every day. I mix in spinach, kale, avocados, or anything that is a vegetable, green, and doesn’t have a ton of sugar. Then I mix these organic raw protein powders with espresso, peanut butter, and ice.

The 2nd Secret of Basketball Championships

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“Welcome to the hood,” Andrew said, grinning.

“Drew, you sure I’m good here man? Everyone is looking at me.”

“You’re with me. Relax.”

I glanced around, slunk down in his passenger seat. I had just turned 20 years old and suddenly wasn’t sure of my choice to accompany Andrew to his mom’s home in inner city Detroit. At any moment I thought bullets were going to pass through his car and rip through my body.

But there was good news (no, it wasn’t the Kevlar jacket I had on), I had just survived playing in St. Cecilia, one of the most famous basketball gyms and runs in the country. St. Cecilia was a cracker box gym with no space and a raucous, engaging crowd. It was my first time playing there. I was surprised I was even allowed on the court to be honest, because every time I touched the ball, or defended the ball, a certain murmur and electricity went through the stands and opposing players.

“Attack him.”  

“Score on him.”

“Go at him.”

“C’mon, get this dude off the court,” they laughed.

And yet, there was Andrew, playing alongside me, just grinning like a little kid in a candy store.

“Let’s go Huff– you have to earn everything here.”

The 2nd Secret to Winning Basketball Championships.

And this secret came to me decades after realizing and reflecting on the formative years of my college career and how they were about learning how to build relationships inside your tribe or team (even if you have to wear Kevlar from time to time), find your authentic self within your obsession and your tribe, and learn to go through psychological and physical pain or suffering with them to improve your skills.

First of all, it’s a simple idea or personal philosophy to build relationships with people that embrace the struggle to be the best within the same field or obsession as you. I loved the game of basketball, just like Andrew did. I saw Andrew suffering and struggling to be the best everyday. I saw where he came from and how hard it was for him. He didn’t have the resources I had, but yet, we both had our own struggles to get where we were.

Sports offers us an even playing field, where the athlete that can embrace the struggle and the pain, and can build skills for themselves. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are on the court.

Simple right?

Yet, playing at the St. Cecilia with my teammate pushed me out of my comfort zone and brought us closer together.

So focus for a second.  Ask yourself some questions.

  1. Who is in your basketball tribe?

  2. What kind of people do you need in your tribe to be successful with your obsession?

  3. Who will push your kid or program to develop their skills and learn to embrace struggle and create radical self-reliance on the court?

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I can’t answer these questions for you, but I can help you ask yourself the right questions.

There won’t be many people willing to suffer with you, sweat with you, shoot with you, rebound with you, play 1 on 1 with you, and push you to be your best.  And maybe you (yeah, you kid) just like the idea of being a college basketball player. Maybe you just like the idea or vision of being on TV, or in the paper, or having success, but don’t actually enjoy the struggle to get there.

That’s okay if you don’t, but go find a struggle you actually enjoy.

The truth is, you have build a tribe around your obsession to win championships.

Your team has to stick together. Your team has to have strong bonds. And that happens on the micro level first. I learned quickly that building a tribe helped me improve at the game of basketball quicker than if I was trying to do it on my own. And so it begins, when you have a tribe around an obsession, you have quicker growth. And when you have quicker growth, you reach your potential and self-actualize your goals faster.

You have success faster and when the team has more success, you get more accolades. A team that acts as a tribe cherishes those moments together.

 

—————–

 

“Attack them Huff. Attack them every time you get the ball,” Andrew would whisper, as he snatched a rebound out of the air and passed it to me.

Then he would wave his hand, beckoning me forward– beckoning me to face my fears, to grow, and to stop being passive. But we all have to go through our own internal struggles, and to put it simply, I just wanted to fit in (and maybe that was because before I stepped on the court, I gawked and watched NBA great Jalen Rose score 60 points without sweating, only trash talking to everyone that guarded him).

“You’re not in Kansas anymore Huff.”

“No kidding,” I said back, trying to feign a smile, but eventually the game progressed and I started to forget I was a stranger there, what color my skin was, and where I was from. The game doesn’t care what color you are. The ball doesn’t go in the basket because of your religion or race.

Basketball is basketball.

So again, who is in your basketball tribe?

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I left St. Cecilia gym feeling grateful, grateful Andrew took me into a place where legends were made and played and developed their basketball skills at a level most players never get to see. He took a chance on me and I appreciated it. But after playing at the St. Cecilia and visiting Andrew in his home, it started to make sense why he had won a state championship in Detroit East Catholic High School.

Andrew wasn’t afraid to be different. He wasn’t afraid to challenge what society had told him he had to be.

He had a community that never let him settle for anything but his best. He had a brother that pushed him and challenged him. That’s what parents and family and tribe is for– to push people to be the best versions of themselves, through struggles and suffering and all the stuff we don’t usually like. See, Andrew Mitchell was overlooked. People said he was too small. Too light. Too fragile. Kent State had been one of his only suitors.

In my eyes, every championship team I ever played on had players that were developing this obsession and culture within the team. And when that happens, magic happens. So the Kent State University Men’s Basketball tribe formed. This culture was passed down to us, and we passed it down to the next generation of incoming freshman.

And let me brag on Andrew for a second. In my opinion, he was one of Kent State’s greatest competitors and one of the Mid American Conference’s greatest basketball winners. I was lucky to have him as a teammate. He wasn’t the only teammate that pushed me, but he was the first at Kent State. And best of all, no one would tell you that our team would go onto win three MAC championships, three MAC tournament championships, and three NCAA tournament appearances (including our Elite Eight run), and break every Mid-American Conference team record ever made by some of MAC’s NBA greatest players and teams-– from Dan Marjele, Ron Harper, Bonzi Wells, Gary Trent, Wally Szczerbiak, Nate Thurmond and Earl Boykins.

And it all started with our obsession for basketball and building that brotherhood. That’s one of the biggest secrets to winning at anything in my book.

To your continued success,

Trevor Huffman

PS. Need some help with your basketball mind? Join the THBA tribe and start my Elite Mental Training course!

Life After Pro Sports: Athletes on Commitments versus Goals

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.”

My Sports Failures: How an Athlete Learns to Choose

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“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”- Viktor Frankl

When I was in my 10th year of playing professional basketball in Charleroi, Belgium, I read Viktor Frankl’s book: Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor was a prominent psychiatrist and survivor of the Holocaust and lived through a despicable concentration camp experience. He wrote a book about that experience and while I was living in the gray, dilapidated concrete apartments of Charleroi, Viktor’s words echoed something I found helpful as an athlete and human being.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” VF

 

Even when humans are prisoners of war or inside chaos, pain, suffering, death, and atrocious human indignity, the last freedom we have is the opportunity to choose our response to that situation we are faced with.

It’s a powerful epiphany to have and I didn’t always realize what sports or living abroad or playing professional basketball offers us in lieu of stimuli and choice.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl

I can’t say I always chose the best attitude at every 6:00 a.m. morning skill development workout.

Or every grueling weight room session.

Or every season-ending team meeting.

Or every speed and conditioning track workout.

Or every loss that seems to be the end of the world.

But as I got older (and wiser), I realized I could choose a better attitude in any situation, that I could open myself to be a more engaging teammate, to care a bit more for the game plan of the coach, to sign autographs and give back to the fans and treat them with dignity and respect.

With sports, those adverse situations, and losses, and failures, well they can stack up against you. They can be pervasive to your core because they are so important to you, and because they feel so much bigger than they actually are.

Looking back, I failed a lot during my professional and amateur basketball career. I’ve been benched for poor play. I shot 4-22 against Xavier on ESPN and I played like crap in our Kent State 2002 Elite Eight loss. Or the many times in Europe I’ve been fined for losing, or failed to live up to management’s expectations or I’ve been given fake checks for not playing well (thanks Poland!) I’ve been fired for not scoring more than 15 points in Venezuela, and I’ve been cut because I was told I was too slow, too fat, too bulky, too this or that.

Yeah, I failed to respond admirably or positively in many of those situations (especially the early morning ones), but I didn’t choose that mindset for very long. I wasn’t always so self-malicious, so this-is-the-end-the-world, or so negative that I couldn’t find a silver lining for growth and positivity in my life.

Sure, there were days that little-kid-Trevor didn’t get his way and he wanted to rage against the world’s injustices towards him, but I knew deep down, the only way to achieve success was to choose better. 

Choose a better response for myself, regardless of what was happening around me– that was the only way I knew how to get myself off the ground and start working towards my dreams again.

But sometimes in life, like losing love for the first time, or transitioning to a new career, or starting over financially, your heart and soul just don’t know how to choose any response, nonetheless, a positive one. Anguish, sadness, and depression can set in because that’s what happens when you fail, or lose, start over or have meaning taken away from you.

Stimuli. Space and time, then reaction or choice.

That what I love about sports. Sports offers you daily stimuli and you react or choose your mindset in relation to that stimuli. And then the next time stimuli comes along, you start to react consciously. You can choose your attitude, day after day, challenge after challenge, tragedy or comedy.

That book helped me realize that inside a sports season, especially as I got older, my greatest freedom is choosing my attitude inside my next step or action.

It’s how overweight soldiers become green berets. It’s how single moms (and dads) raise amazing kids. It’s how you energize yourself to bounce back.

When I played poorly, I could either choose to get in the gym before everyone the next morning or find the custodian and shoot till 3:00 a.m. while everyone slept. 

No one could stop me from choosing my attitude or mindset. By choosing to be positive, by choosing action– to get back in the gym, to stick with my goals, to fight through my benchings and poor play, to not allow society or coaches or media define who I was as a basketball player or person, I found success and happiness during the moments of my journey.

I am learning that I can do that in life outside basketball now that my professional basketball career is over (but man, does the stimuli feel so different!)

This is the education that sports presents us: practicing athletes learn something about choosing a mindset that they can use as a tool for the rest of their lives. And no amount of failure, loss, tragedy, or condition matter as much as your ability to treat others and yourself, with positivity, love, and respect. Choosing your response day after day is just as important as your vision of who you want to become. We are all painting our own portrait every day. With every stroke, with every dab of paint, with every practice and choice, we start to paint the vision we see of ourselves.

Whether we know it or not, in our worst moments or the best moments, everyone is essentially choosing their own attitude and path, and to the extent that our attitude is positive and internally uplifting, we will find ourselves where our minds take us.

Stay inspired. — Trevor Huffman

Being a Freshman on Varsity – My Basketball Anxiety

 

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Trevor Huffman on Basketball Anxiety

 

Being a Freshman on Varsity: My Basketball Anxiety

“You aren’t worth a damn.”

Breathe.

“You are going to lose.”

Breathe.

“Do you even belong here?”

I slammed the bathroom door behind me and sat on the toilet. As my monkey mind chattered away (I called it my monkey mind because it is that voice that never stops talking), I realized how excited, anxious, and negative I felt. Really, at any moment, I could pass out. And tonight was a big night for me. It was something I had worked really hard to make happen. Unfortunately, this process came with gut-riddling nausea, cold sweats, and racing thoughts.  

Granted, I was a freshman playing in my first varsity game. It had been a dream of mine since I was in seventh grade. But death was above me pounding their feet into a wooden floor. The fans had a certain rhythm, like a hundred thousand soldiers slamming their swords into their shields at once.  I knew up there, on the court, fanatics were waiting for me to fail, standing vigil over their team with judging eyes.

But that’s what anxiety does to you before battle. It makes you think about every single angle, every single move, every single opponent, every strength and weakness and it loops in your head like a video on repeat. I couldn’t sleep the night before and when I woke up in the morning to eat my Frosted Flakes, my hands were cold, white, and shaky as I spooned the cereal into my mouth. My stomach churned. My mom was talking to me, but I didn’t hear what she was saying.

I was obsessing about the game.

Looking back now, at 37, after 22 years of having a basketball in my hand every day, I’m able to understand things that I wasn’t able to when I was younger. See, it wasn’t all anxiety. It was excitement too. It was this nervous excitement to do something I loved. And it was this battle between allowing nervousness and anxiety to swing back and forth like a pendulum and still move forward through it that mattered.

Some people may call this existential decisiveness– moving through the crossroads of anxiety, fear, and nervous excitement through action and meaning.

Fast forward to that infamous first-game-day in St. Ignace, Michigan. We were playing a team ranked in the top ten in Class C basketball. I had just been called up from JV because our senior guard had a sprained ankle, which meant, I would have to play.

The bus ride from Petoskey to St. Ignace seemed like eternal purgatory. The toilet episode had my older brother (a volatile all-state power forward) wondering where I went. And as I ran onto the court and heard the boos, and jeers, and cheers, I could literally feel the heat and energy of a packed gym, feel the unseen hope of thousands of people during that silent moment before the national anthem.

The music was always my cue to breathe and relax, shut my eyes and know everything would be all right– win or lose, fail or succeed, bomb or ace. It was when the music played that I shut my eyes, prayed and repeated bible quotes like: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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Yet, even after my eyes opened, I hoped I was strong enough to run onto the court when Coach called my name. But there was so much meaning for me to play in the game that night, in fact, to play basketball every night. Maybe it was moving away from my dad (my mom had custody) and wanting to show him I was worth that long drive to visit us from Flint. Maybe it was wanting my mom to see me succeed and face our fears. Maybe it was my younger brother Damon (of six years) and his white puffy hair, as he idled by, watching me with gargantuan eyes and an admiring smile. Maybe it was my older brother Jeremy, who played power forward on varsity and had always been tough on me, preparing me for this moment.

Maybe it was the notecard I had made as a seventh grader and pinned to my ceiling that reminded me of my goals:

Play varsity basketball as a freshman with Jeremy.

Workout twice a day with basketball.

Win a state championship.

Play professional basketball in Europe.

————-

This morning, at age 37, in my effort to attach meaning to my new life after basketball, I’m reading notes about Eric Maisel’s book Mastering Creative Anxiety. It is a great book in helping understand why we have anxiety and how to deal with it.

I think about myself as a kid, that teenager that felt like he is awaiting the executioner block. 

That is anxiety.

Procrastinating, worrying, obsessing, and fretting over the blank page of my next game was in many ways like what anyone feels when they want to do something creative, something that matters to them,  something aligned with their purpose, authentic expression, and future.

This could be writing a book. Finishing a painting. Getting a workout in. Playing in a game. Going to get a new degree. Going to work. Finishing a speech. Quitting your job. Giving a speech. Coaching. Creating and teaching a curriculum you believe in. 

As Brian Johnson, one of my favorite collector of motivation and inspirational books says:

  1. Ask what matters to you?
  2. Are your thoughts aligned with what matters to you?
  3. Are your behaviors aligned with what matters to you?
  4. How can I make myself proud?

Good luck out there and stay inspired.

— Trevor Huffman

Traverse City Basketball | Trevor Huffman Basketball Academy | Fall/Winter 2016

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Last week in Traverse City at my Trevor Huffman Basketball Academies, I challenged players to start understanding work ethic and the victor versus victim mindset.

What players can consistently work hard without a coach around and be aware of their actions and know how to auto-correct them from day to day?

What is the victor and victim mindset and what does it sound like in your own head?

I’d rather have a Northern Michigan player work smart and hard for seven days a week by themselves or a teammate than work hard for one day with me.

I challenged players to turn the victim switch mindset off and we all know it– parents, coaches, players– that little voice that complains, blames, and finds the easy way out.

Yet, not all of us are aware of it. Not parents. Not coaches. Not kids.

The goal is to learn about what it is, to start to listen and be aware of that resistant voice that tells you instead of doing something powerful, energetic, ambitious, hard, or something that is aligned and weaved into your dreams, aspirations, and goals, it tells you to be comfortable, to sit on the couch, to eat those chips, to not do anything because you are too sore, too tired, too hungry, too old, too dumb, too anything.

Victim mindset.

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Victors hear that victim voice and rise to the challenge. They rise against the fear and prove to themselves they can take the smallest of steps to achieve their goals.

Trevor Huffman (twitter)

Traverse City basketball is off to a rocking start with the Trevor Huffman Basketball Academy. Trevor has played 12 years of professional basketball and loves to inspire, teach, and lead kids to create work ethic, basketball skills, and self-awareness about what it takes to have success on and off the court.

 

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Traverse City Basketball Academy with Trevor Huffman

You can find all of Trevor Huffman’s Basketball Academies here in Traverse City, Michigan for Fall/Winter 2016.

WHO IS TREVOR HUFFMAN and WHY TRAVERSE CITY?

A 12-year professional point guard from Northern Michigan understands the time, work, and energy it takes to be successful at the game of basketball.

As the all-time leading scorer and mid-major All-American at D1 Kent State University, Trevor Huffman has taught, inspired, and coached youth at his Trevor Huffman Basketball Academies for over 10 years.

Traverse City Trevor Huffman Basketball Academy will:

  • Breaks down basketball movements in a micro and macro manner. Teaching players how to instinctually read the game better, be a better teammate, but also develop faster, more explosive, and better individual basketball skills.
  • Teaches players how to become better leaders on and off the court, how to incorporate  individual work ethic, radical personal self-reliance, and responsibility into their lives through self-awareness.