Staying Hungry or Cultivating #TheRightStuff

I think I can confidently say that hedonism is my biggest fear.

At least that’s one thing I can be sure of.

Hedonism’s the theory that pursuing pleasure should come before all else in life. That if you don’t see the results of hard work instantly, then whatever you’re doing is a waste of time or just not worth it.

I think society enables hedonists by encouraging us to take every shortcut imaginable. To always do things the easy way.

It’s kind of scary. It stops us from building character.

I’m in no way against technological advances – in fact, I’m all for them. Just check out what we’re trying to create with BALLPRK.

It’s important to stay vigilant though, with all sorts of tech now at our fingertips: UberEats for instant delivery, Apple’s Siri for answers in a jiffy, Amazon for one-day shipping, GPS devices that show how to get from A to B in mere seconds. With all of these innovations surrounding us, we’ve come to expect immediate results in all aspects of our lives. We’ve become predisposed to wanting to be gratified right away and to achieve spectacular outcomes from limited labor.

This type of mindset – expecting results before putting in the right amount of work – is toxic to athletes. All of us need to do a better job educating our aspiring athletes on what it takes to get to the next level by encouraging them to adopt the kind of stoic mindset they need to work towards developing their talents both on and off the ice.

For an athlete, being a hedonist is a dangerous attribute to have. It’s a trait that can hold you back from reaching your full potential and limit you from carrying your passion from high school to university, or from university to professional leagues. I’d argue that the same is true for an entrepreneur trying to build a start-up from scratch. If you expect to be satisfied immediately after a few weeks of hard work, you’re probably going to be disappointed. That type of mindset will hold you back from ever being able to scale your business and truly satisfy your user base.

Whenever I speak to young athletes looking to play at the CIS or NCAA level, or in varsity leagues across the UK and Europe, I tell them that the intangibles are what’s going to separate them from other athletes in the long run. Things like grit, perseverance, ambition, endurance, and will. Hunger and desire. No matter how skilled of an athlete they are innately, these are the psychological traits they will need to develop to systematically improve their game.

I share this with them before ever watching them play, because I’ve witnessed first-hand how hard work beats talent on most days of the week (well, except Tuesday).

Back at Babson during my undergrad years, there was something written on the wall above the entrance to the gym – I used to read it as I’d walk through the doors to get a sweat in before classes. I’ve come to live by this quote as I find it embodies the stoic mindset you need in order to succeed as an aspiring athlete or entrepreneur:

“It is important to remember that neither success nor failure is ever final.”

That phrase suggest that it’s dangerous to become comfortable; to think that the way you are now is the way you’ll always be. It provides optimism to people who recently failed or are trying to improve, while simultaneously grounding people who recently had an accomplishment. It suggests that you should always be hungry for more and laser-focused on long-term results as opposed to short-term triumphs.

As an athlete, one game – whether good or bad – doesn’t define your career.

A triple-double? Celebrate the small wins, but let’s see if you can do it again next game. Did your team even come away with the W? Keep working hard.

A -20 rating in a blowout loss? Make sure you know what you did wrong, but hold your chin up high. Hit the showers and shift your focus to preparing for your next tip-off time.

Your career as an athlete, your personal legacy – no matter how big or small it ever gets – is built over time. It’s a built over a series of moments and from a record of continued success that transcends both highs and lows.

The great athletes – the ones that get chiseled into statues after they retire like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird – that principle of constantly challenging themselves to do better is what defined their careers. They understood that Rome wasn’t built in a day. That if you want to be great, you need to come prepared every day to sharpen your craft.

Regardless of whether you hang up your skates in Grade 12 or end up playing professionally, you should have no regrets working hard and putting in the time to improve your game. This is because the stoic mentality the most successful athletes develop is identical to the one that will help you succeed no matter what career path you take.

I’ve worked in corporations before where people have been let go right in front of me. The person might have completed the most astonishing work six months before, but hadn’t come through on key deliverables the week before. They kept sitting back thinking about how well they delivered on that past project, and saw it as an end-result as opposed to an opportunity to set new goals and aim for new heights.

I’ve worked in previous startups where co-founders, who were extremely smart and produced great work when they put their mind to it, walked out the door, quit, and took a paying job when they didn’t see the immediate results of their labor within a week. Hedonism and short-sightedness are close cousins in my books.

I’ve played with athletes that have scored hat tricks in the first game of the season, and then went on to score 5 goals total over the course of the year. After the last game, they’d speak enthusiastically in the dressing room about how awesome they played in the season opener… No one really cared.

In each of these situations, the individual saw their accomplishment as an end-result – as the ultimate of highs – instead of using it as motivation to recalibrate and set new goals.

So don’t you be the one that lets a singular moment, be it positive or negative, define you as an athlete. Keep trading instant pleasure for long-term accomplishments – reaching new highs that make your past ones seem like lows – and stay hungry.

That’s what I call the right stuff. #TheRightStuff.

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