The Prodigal Hooper: Returning to the game I grew up on

More and more these days, I’m finding out that I discover things that people already know. For instance, making your own coffee is a quiet miracle that is uncomplicated; but that’s not to say it’s a simple art. Sleep is the superfood nutrient for life. The skill of managing boredom and merchandising progress is how we form habits. Having a glass of adult grape juice while petting your dog is the most economical and effective form of therapy.

One of my latest discoveries that is old news to many others comes by the way of sport.

You see, for the last several years, I’ve thrown myself into practical things. Studying. Working. Measuring analytics. Taking on new projects to pad the resume. Washing the dishes. Brainstorming about future ideas and possibilities. Meetings. Replying to emails.

None of it is inherently foul. It’s a part of our days.

But when this dance becomes the exclusive marching order of every hour — only separated by forced recovery — a sodden pile of emotions begins to weigh the spirit. It makes me feel like a castrated zoo-animal.

I looked at the wake of what I had become and my brain signaled that “I missed myself.”

I had only been a hooper growing up in my early years — ball was life. Then the drift towards adulting swooped in and basketball vanished from my entire existence.

When I got the invite from a friend to join a men’s league, the brain did its magic: “I have to drive 60 minutes on a weeknight to play a 40-minute running clock game with refs who post up at half court and air dribble pretending to be like Kyrie Irving the whole game?”

I considered the situation during an evening walk — a part of my hodgepodge routine — and I decided to play.

The squeaks of the shoes. The blow of the whistles. The smell of sour jerseys. The ridiculous slang nobody understands unless you’re a baller. Hell, even the pre-game noodle stomach tickled me.

Immediately I was heaved into a solar system where I lost track of time. I was rusty for sure, but my body remembered how to move. I could feel whole regions of my brain and soul being stimulated that had been neglected for so long.

The absence of basketball reoriented my reality into something incomplete. The irony in this equation is the fact that playing in a men’s league is wildly impractical. It’s not — as the college boys say, profitable. It’s simply a form of play.

And that’s the point.

Many of us find ourselves swallowed by practicality leaving no room for our own interests. By stepping to this beat, we also find ourselves severed from what brings us plain joy.

In an increasingly measured world, where productivity is valued over humanity, we can be blinded to the immeasurable value of how investing in our own “little world” makes us better.

How do we reverse the cycle of a monotonous tune? Simple. Look back. And ask yourself this:

What do I no longer do that used to bring me so much joy?

My answer was basketball. For my mental and physical well-being, pretending like I’m Russell Westbrook on Thursday nights provides enough rebellion to tackle the banalities of the week.

But surely, yours will look different. The right answer is your answer.

After the excavation, the conquest will probably be impractical so don’t bother trying to make it work on the books.

When we succumb to full-time practicalism, something inside us shuts down. In the superabundance of routine, life becomes as thrilling as watching paint dry.

If you need poetic inspiration to make this leap, consider what Emerson says in his essay Self-Reliance:

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

Hi, I’m Brian.

I wrote Upgrade Everything originally as a guide for myself. Once I discovered how well it worked, I figured it would help my fellow creatives too. My aim for this course is to simply help you do better work faster.

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