My Only Golden Rule of Success

Sports to Life Lessons: A Pro Athlete’s One Self-Improvement Rule

May 8, 2018 · 9 min read
A Pro Athlete’s One Self-Improvement Rule | Unsplash

At some point in life, you will feel the tug of your soul, but the real question is whether you listen to it or not. As a pro athlete, self-improvement became a daily decision for me to listen to that small tug.

Where I grew up in Northern Michigan, a place called Petoskey, there were no professional or collegiate scholarship athletes coming out of school when I played. But for some crazy reason, I thought I could get a full ride Division One scholarship.

I dreamt I could go pro.

As an adult, I come back to Michigan in the summers to run camps, clinics, and skill academies and I get hundreds of kids and parents asking me how their child can have success on the court; how their child can become a college basketball player; how their child improve; how their child can do this or that.

The parents drop their kids off at my camps and hope for me to impart my influence and infinite basketball wisdom; that I will teach them the secret to success.

Do you want to know the secret?

You are the secret.

If you are still looking for a secret about how to be successful at something you love, you are still part of the problem. If you are a parent that when the season comes around, is hoping and praying that your Joe, Jill, and little Billy are having the time of their lives, finding success, and dominating a sport they love, you may be approaching your life the wrong way.

Joe, Jill, and little Billy, most of these kids won’t have success in a sport they seem to love. They will get beat by inferior athletes and basketball players because you haven’t asked them how much they love playing the game of basketball and what that means towards defining their own success.

And the collateral damage will be you, the parents wanting more for their kids. The entrepreneur wanting more from his customers. The writer wanting more for her writing, or from his audience.

Most of the parents will be frustrated for their kid. Angry. Emotional. Lost. Confused. Most of the parents will want more success. More playing time. More points. They all want little Billy happy and smiling.

But the kids will never get it because the parent never got it.

They will have already lost the chance at teaching their kids an unforgettable life lesson that sports offer us on a silver platter:

The Golden Rule of Success is about embracing your process for passion.

Wait.

What?

What is the Golden Rule of Success?

Success is Development | photo credit: Unsplash

It’s simple. Ask your kid or yourself what they love to do.

If they love (enter anything here) basketball, then ask them what their process for success is. They won’t know the answer. Ask them what they would like to achieve with basketball. Tell them to write it down.

If their goal is to play, start, win, score points, get assists, be on the court, and succeed, then the Golden Rule applies.

Then explain the Golden Rule of Success:

JUST SHOW UP EVERY DAY.

First, show up every day for 30 days straight and do the work you love to do. If it is writing, try writing or publishing an article, poem, short story, or piece once a day. If it is being a successful business, try answering all your emails for work, while contacting every lead, customer, or possible collaborator, every day.

If it is helping your kid train for basketball, wake them up and rebound for them. Run with them. Work out with them. One hour is 4% of your day, so seriously, can you give up 4% to practice the Golden Rule?

Once you get to 30 days, keep going to 60. Celebrate that 60 days. Hell, celebrate that 30. Once your kid get to 30 days, I bet they’ll be seeing some improvement.

Small successes here and there.

But, I bet they may complain too. This is where you tell them about why their mental toughness and grit is a better indicator of their life’s success or getting what they want more than I.Q. or creativity, or how cool they are.

Two years is the sweet spot. If you can do something every day for two straight years, I think you may have a chance at succeeding with it.

More importantly, you’ve already succeeded in many ways and done things that most people can’t do. You’ve learned how to stay true to yourself in ways that people can only dream about. I’m sure there will be missed days. Missed workouts. Ups and downs. But parents, you will have taught your kids, maybe yourself, what it means to go from amateur to pro in something you love doing.

This is so simple, but so hard to do.

Fitness. Startups. Relationships. Love. Business. Retirement. It applies to all passions, goals, and dreams. Go pro and show up.

The secret is playing the work, doing the play.

Start playfully chopping the wood and doing what you enjoy. Remember 4% isn’t a ton of time.

Or you can sit in the stands and ask yourself, why isn’t little Billy playing or having any success?

Are you part of the problem, or the solution?

What does success from 30,000 feet looks like? Photo credit: Unsplash

If kids don’t know what the Golden Rule of Success is, it’s probably not their fault. Parents are the ones that know better. Parents are the ones that have their prefrontal cortex developed and can see the world from 30,000 feet.

Define success as putting in the work, and watch the outcome take care of itself. This is the process.

But parents and humans don’t always see the big picture. They mess up. They fudge up their kids. They fudge up themselves, their happiness, their lives, their dreams, and why?

Why do we mess up?

Because we are humans and humans act childish at times. We get distracted. We get turned around. We go the wrong way.

Since the days of my preadolescence, my mother always told me, “Trevor, you have an uncanny ability to understand people. To listen, to feel things that most people can’t feel. To follow your heart and go straight for what you want.”

Thanks, mom.

Parents are there to support the process, not critique the outcome, the games, or the coaches.

My mom supported me to find my passion and do it. She is one of the strongest, most positive people I know. Yet, seeing my mom — a smart, intelligent, funny, goofy, sweet lady — pinned inside her bedroom in anxiety and depression as a teenager didn’t make sense. But she still woke up and supported me when I’d go to the gym and work out before school, or warm up dinner after I’d stay out at night in the park shooting for hours.

My mom demonstrated mental toughness and strength by pulling herself out of a painful divorce; of letting go of years of unhappiness, anxiety, and sadness that had piled up on her. She was taking it one day at a time, handling her motherly duties, loving us, and supporting her sons as a single mother.

That is showing up every day.

She woke me up. She fed me. She gave me nutrition. She supported me. She gave me hope. She hugged me after bad games. She gave me the strength to keep on ballin’.

Without her, I wouldn’t have made it to my goals. I didn’t always understand my family’s divorce as a kid, but as an adult, I realized she gave me that intuition, self-belief, and power to explore and discover who I was through taking the time to find out what I loved doing.

Stop looking around for answers. You are the answer.

Stop reading this if you know it’s true and do something. That’s really what I want to tell you because me telling you when and what and how you should train your kid to play basketball or succeed in life is only a sentence of words that I’m using to describe the thoughts and feelings and experiences running through my head.

It’s all bullshit.

Just get up and start doing it. Work hard at it. If your kid doesn’t want to put in the time, then stop caring about their success in that sport. Find what they love and help them define their success in the process of becoming better at whatever their passion is.

The truth is, my dad taught me the Golden Rule of Success and my mom supported me in doing it. Then, I tried to pass that onto my younger brother Damon. I have seen the results of showing up and doing the work.

Playing basketball was my oxygen, my team became my water, and my sun was touching, training, dribbling, and shooting a leather ball. It took my mind off my parent’s divorce, and my Golden Rule of Success grew longer than the branches on a white willow tree in summer.

But guess what?

The beauty of passion is the obsession and purpose grows inside you, but instead of just daydreaming about it, you do it. You live it. Be it. Share it.

You burn hot.

If you don’t help yourself or your kid define their success, they won’t know success is happening every time they practice the Golden Rule.

My middle school definition of success was showing up to train and practice for one year straight in 8th grade.

Thanks for helping me get up, dad.

That morphed into high school, where for four straight years, I would go play against the Flint Stones — Charlie Bell, Mateen Cleaves, Antonio Smith — and see how much more training and practice I needed when I got back to Northern Michigan.

Thanks for helping me get up, mom.

Change the success parameters to showing up and doing the work and everyone starts winning more.

But success always starts with showing up to Day 1. Then Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. You get the gist.

I never made a dime playing professional hoops until I was 22. That is eight solid years of showing up and tenaciously doing the work.

No one likes to talk or share what the tough days are like as a kid or an adult; the days when showing up means you have to deal with tough emotions or compartmentalize complicated feelings, and let go of your anger so you can practice through the pain.

I always told myself, “A bad workout is better than no workout,” and it was true, I always felt better after I showed up.

Show up because you want to, because you feel compelled to be there, not because someone twists your arm.

A week ago, I called Kris Gage and asked her how she became the top writer on Medium.com and had so much success, unlike my writing profile. What did she do? What was her process? Her schedule? Her idea creation? Her title choices? How did she deal with writer’s block?

“Simple,” she said. “I just do it. I just show up and get it done. I have to write, there is no questioning it.”

I’m an adult (most of the time), and yet, I wasn’t living a rule I had built the foundation of my life’s success upon.

I wasn’t doing the damn work. I wasn’t showing up every day. I wasn’t writing and publishing anything consistently. I worked when I wanted. I showed up when I wanted. I wasn’t exercising grit or toughness or focus.

Kris is right, the secret is inside of us. If you know the secret, then listen to yourself and do it. Try the Golden Rule of Success and see how you feel.

And then, the people, the parents or adults, we are the ones that help ourselves or teach our kids to mine their own gold. Support your kids, help them learn how to pick themselves up and offer them encouragement, tough, or unconditional love to help them choose their attitude in tough times. In challenging encounters. Explain to them why they have to choose grit over video games, bad body language, distractions, excuses, and complaining.

See, there is no real secret answer for success.

There is no magic cure.

No magic pill.

The work awaits and it is up to you figure out how to get it done.

So let’s start with your why and find the golden answer living and breathing inside you, waiting to come out and play — eh hem, yes, every day.

Want more? Follow me on Medium.com!

Trevor Huffman

Written by

A pro athlete sharing what I’ve learned from my love of the game. I uncover the stoic mindsets, habits, routines, and hacks of top pro athletes in the world.

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