I just signed a contract with El Olivar, the subsidiary of CAI Zaragoza. I'll be playing in the Leb Silver division in Zaragoza, Spain. Crazy.
This contract means a lot to me. It means I've accomplished a major goal of mine. I'm now a professional basketball player.
There’s a small part of me wants to take a moment to look back on how far I’ve come. To stop and wonder how I made it this far. To think how improbable it is that I’m now getting paid to play basketball. But that’s only a small part of me.
The rest of me has already moved on. The rest of me wants more. I’m not satisfied with where I am.
And frankly, I’m always paranoid that I’ll lose that mental edge.
In an effort to keep this edge, I tend to deflect compliments and praise. It's a protective mechanism. If someone were to congratulate me on a great game, I would be polite and say thanks. But inside it's a different story.
On the inside, I'm protecting myself from internalizing their praise. I’m afraid that if I absorb compliments, I’ll become complacent. I'll do whatever I can to make sure this doesn't happen.
I'll remember the bad plays I made. I'll remind myself that it's a team game. I'll think forward to all the things I need to improve on. If I feel any sense of complacency creeping in, I'll even go back over the film and watch my missed shots and turnovers.
Obviously, I don't want to go overboard with negative self-talk and lose my confidence. But at the same time, a little bit of it can be helpful to avoid complacency.
It's just human nature. If you internalize everything positive that people tell you, your competitive fire begins to wane*. If I’m as good as everyone tells me, then do I really need that last set of squats? Or, maybe I can just cruise through this shooting drill.
It may not be drastic, but complacency will chip away at you until there’s nothing left. You’ll wake up one day and realize you haven't improved substantially, have terrible habits, and no motivation.
Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for any kind words people have given me over the years. It means so much to have support from friends, family, and even strangers.
But, I write this post for 2 reasons. First, because I think downplaying praise is a useful little trick to keep your edge. Second, to clarify my own mindset as I move into the next phase of my basketball career.
This professional contract means a lot to me. In some way, it validates my hard work. But at the same time, my work is not nearly finished. And to keep my competitive edge intact, I’m going to look forward rather than feel sentimental about what I've accomplished.
*I can only imagine how much more difficult this is for big time recruits. They're completely surrounded by people telling them how good they are. Especially at such a young age, it must be incredibly difficult to avoid feeling satisfied. I was fortunate to go to Claremont McKenna College, an academically-minded division III school where I was just a regular student. It has to be tough to stay hungry when you’re a 5-star recruit at Kentucky who’s treated as some kind of walking demigod.