3 Simple Ways Basketball Can Teach You to Create Success Conditions

09/08/2016 12:54 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2016
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"The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way." - Phil Jackson

When it comes to taking the mystery out of success, or creating a winning plan, the best approach is to develop a simple strategy that inspires success conditions. A simple approach focuses your process, usually leads to greater consistency in the actions you take, and clarifies the end you desire. Having a strategy allows you to both work towards achieving a goal and develop insights into the process. The following are three simple ways to help you develop a plan that inspires success conditions so that you can make winning moves while engaging in the work that is important to you.

1. Go Hard in the Paint.

Going hard in the paint seems like a given, but one of the chief reasons why people consistently fail at achieving success, is because they do not persist in working on their goal. This basketball metaphor provides a good example because it suggests that focused persistence (to the point of aggression) at a literal goal, is necessary to make headway. One attempts achievement by first being in motion--this means starting and beginning to take the steps required to realize a goal. Then, using the speed needed to reach the target, one must continue the motion--loosely translated, we must repeat successive steps with regularity after we are in motion. Aristotle said excellence is not an act, but a habit, and that we are what we repeatedly do.

Lastly, we build momentum by consistently moving forward. Going hard in the paint is not just the start and continuation of motion, but its progression forward. When you are initially embarking on an endeavor, it is important to give a big push when you first start. Consider Newton’s first law of motion to understand why: An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion. Inertia is unhelpful when you are attempting to get ahead. Inertia includes stops and starts and doing what we need to do only when we feel like doing it (usually ignoring what we should be doing for a Netflix or the Walking Dead binge).

Distraction is not the only way we procrastinate or self-sabotage and is a symptom of our fear or uncertainty that we have not reached the skill level we desire. We often use this as an excuse to delay getting started, or we go hard at first, and then we stop, telling ourselves we need more information or time, or something else. Perfectionism is extremely helpful in standing in the way of us achieving our goals. It is tempting to carve out every reason why you won't have success, and equally compelling to test the waters once you’ve started, by not committing and only giving part of yourself to the effort, but the continuity of motion and repetition are necessary for creating fertile ground for success to blossom.

It is important to go all out because consistency through participating in working on your goal regularly, establishes a pattern of frequency. Frequency is not just pivotal to developing habits, but also increasing the likelihood of your efforts, which increases the chances of serendipity. The idea "The harder I work, the luckier I get," lends anecdotal credibility to the concept of frequency providing greater opportunities. When you engage in work consistently, it will have the effect of placing you in conversations from which you may not even have realized you were previously excluded.

2. Don't be Afraid to Change the Play.

Not being afraid to change a play when it is not working, means that you are regularly making assessments while you are engaged in your work. You measure what you are doing in total, not just the things that are going right. A thorough examination of what is not working, how you are misspending energy, resources, and time, and executing on improvements, are also paramount to success. Measuring and making assessments about the work that you are engaged in means looking at your inputs also, to see how they reflect and affect your outputs. The best performance-enhancer is making a study of yourself, and being unafraid to change what is not working.

You may find that you have not achieved the results that you want because your performance needs to be improved in some way—reviewing the quality of all of your inputs is extremely helpful in determining where to make adjustments. If your writing needs to be improved, perhaps you should read more, or maybe you should read better quality materials. If you want to run faster, then it makes sense to eat better and to drink more water, etcetera. The simple action of reviewing can be helpful in progressing.

We have all heard the adage, that what you don’t measure you won’t manage, and most goal-setting systems (including the SMART system) encourages making assessments on progress so that you can create a feedback loop, and adjust to improve performance. The idea is that once you have crafted a system to examine what you are doing to get good results, you can multiply those high-value activities to get even more results.

3. Build Muscle.

Building muscle is essential to bringing about results. In this case, developing a discernment, or reading-between-the-lines muscle is key to creating and sustaining success conditions. Learning how to hear what people who have achieved what you are attempting to achieve are saying, by filtering out background noise is crucial. Listening means hearing what is said, but also learning how to make inferences and gain insights from what is not said.

Some things that are most helpful are not directly said, and others are not obvious. A process may be simple, though not easy, or not easy to figure out. While you want to take people at their word, it is important to research and engage in your own due diligence. Examine what people say (or write), by looking at what they don’t say (or don’t say often). And ignoring those who have no idea what they are talking about is even more important. At times we allow naysayers, people who have not achieved the things we want to achieve, and even our own self-doubt discourage us from doing what is necessary to realize our aims. While some of this is not necessarily malicious, it is a barrier to success nonetheless.

Some people and books provide surface-level information that does not get to the heart of what you want to know. If you can probe, by asking those essential questions you learned in grade school (why, what, how, who, where), you may gain more information on which you can base your insights. When you do not have the opportunity to push back on responses that do not provide you information on which you can make a determination or inference, learn to gather information from other sources. In these instances, you should do like my Aunt Keta says, and take the meat and throw away the bone (apologies to vegetarians). This phrase represents the idea that you should take useful information and leave information that does not provide value, and move to the next source.

When reading, examine the bibliography and identify the sources of information used by the authors. Some of them will be secondary, and if you can, go to the primary sources. Ask yourself if what you read was the biggest take away from the source. Now you have an insight on how someone else thinks and how they tease out information. Always make it a point to read people and learn from those who are smarter than you. Some people can stare at those weird old woman/young woman photos and automatically see both faces. If it takes you longer don’t lament, just make it your business to build muscle by getting around those who understand more clearly or see things better. You may not become like them immediately, but you’ll certainly improve from where you already are. Muscle development expands your reasoning and understanding, and can be a useful tool in helping you to determine what comes next.

There is no mysterious key or secret to success. The development of certain habits and routines help, and a solid strategy and approach towards achieving your goals are paramount, once you have already decided what you want to achieve. Consistently engaging in a process that more often than not inspires success conditions, makes achieving your goal a lot easier. Engaging in this process regularly creates a framework for examining what inspires success conditions, and helps you to figure out which moves to make in the future.

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