Staying Hungry (or Cultivating #TheRightStuff)

I think hedonism is my biggest fear.

Hedonism is the theory that the pursuit of pleasure should come before all else in life. If you don’t see results instantly, then whatever you’re doing is wrong and you should stop wasting your time.

It seems to me that society enables hedonists by encouraging us to take every shortcut imaginable. It’s kind of scary.

I’m in no way against technological advances — in fact, I’m all for them. Yet, it’s important to stay vigilant. Young people grow up with so much tech at their fingertips — UberEats for instant delivery, Amazon for one-day shipping of products, navigation systems that show how to get from point A to B in mere seconds, Apple’s Siri to answer questions in a jiffy — that they’ve come to expect instant results in all aspects of their lives. They are predisposed to wanting to be gratified right away and to see spectacular outcomes from limited labor.

We 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.
 For an athlete, being a hedonist is one of the most dangerous character traits you can have. It’s one of the few negative attributes that can stop you from improving your game and limit your ability to play at the next level.

The same is true for 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.

It takes grit, perseverance, ambition, endurance, and will to systematically improve your game as an athlete.

Whenever I speak to young athletes looking to play at the CIS or NCAA level, or in varsity leagues across the UK and Europe, this is one of the first things I tell them. I make it clear that those five character traits are more important to their success than innate talent. That these intangibles are what are going to help them improve their game and stand out from the competition.

There was something written on the wall above the gym entrance back at Babson College in Boston where I spent my undergraduate years. As I’d walk through the gym doors at 6AM each morning to get a sweat in before classes, I’d read:

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

The phrase is spot on.

As an athlete, one game — whether good or bad — doesn’t define your career. One pass, one shot, one practice session, one whole season… None of it defines your career.

A triple-double? Celebrate the small wins, but let’s see if you can do it again next game. Keep working hard.

A -6 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 next game. Keep working hard.

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. It’s built over 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, or Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr — that principle of constantly challenging yourself 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 during practice so you can improve and spread your success over a stretch of time.

You should have no regrets putting in the work, because the mentality you will develop as an athlete is identical to the one that will help you succeed no matter what career path you take.

I’ve worked in corporations before. I’ve watched people get 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 six months before, 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 start-ups where co-founders, who were extremely smart and produced great work when they put their mind to it, walked out the door, quit, moved to a different country, 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 chase even more success and explore their full potential.
 Don’t let one moment, be it positive or negative, define you as an athlete. Not being a hedonist requires maturity, self-confidence, and a strong sense of one’s self.

Always practice with a purpose so you can experience new successes that make your past ones seem like failures.

Nobody who worked their tail off to accomplish something ever had any regrets.
 It’s just the right stuff. #therightstuff.

Originally published at THE HUDDLE.