The Power of Choosing YOU Over Excuses and Distractions
I arrived on campus in the Fall of my freshman year excited to play college basketball and ready to enjoy all the extracurricular, er, activities that come with being in a lively environment filled with 18–22 year olds. I was ready to party and meet girls, hit the bars for some drinks — legal drinking age be damned — and play some ball.
Oh yeah, and go to class and learn! The way my mind worked at that juncture, sadly, that was the order. My priorities were off.
College is a shock to everyone’s system at first, because for most of us, it’s the first time we are free and completely on our own. It’s also the first time that many of us are tasked with the complete day-to-day management of our lives without any parental assistance. No Mom and Dad to keep us in line in case we sleep-in and miss class.
No one to tell us we probably shouldn’t go to that off-campus party the night before a major exam. Discipline is in our hands and at our discretion. And that can be a very scary thing, particularly if we’re not mentally and emotionally prepared to face our challenges.
One month into my freshman year, the college athletic department held an athlete’s symposium that educated us on NCAA requirements. They also brought in a guest— a former college football player and motivational speaker who was all fired up, ready to inspire us and wake us up to the destructive reality of drug and alcohol abuse and excessing partying.
I thought, oh boy, here’s an older guy ready to tell all of us teenagers and early 20-something how to not make the same mistakes he did. Yawn. But, the better part of me kept an open-mind and paid attention to the words Mike Green said. They were powerful, moving and thought-provoking. And they helped me immensely.
Getting Rid of Excuses
Mike broke down what it meant to be a college athlete, to let us know that it was a privilege to play a college sport. And that we could throw it all away with a few careless decisions that involved alcohol and other drugs that we were likely getting introduced to for the first time. Mike relayed his own experiences as a college athlete and how alcohol nearly destroyed his life.
He talked about the importance of decision-making and why we need to give greater thought before we commit to action.
But it was the power of persuasion, his personal appeal to highlight how making excuses commences a gradual fall toward self-destruction. He stood at the front of the room and enumerated the list of excuses we make in life to distract us from what our top priorities and goals are.
He used a list of holidays and events to name days that are typical drinking days for college students and adults, alike. He provided rare psychological insight into why we make the decisions that we do. And how we let our minds deceive us into thinking that what is truly worst for us, can seem like it is best.
I realized we need to be shrewd and astutely aware of how we choose to spend our social time.
Taking Ownership With Greater Discipline
By the time Mike finished speaking, the room gave him a standing ovation. It was a powerful welcome to the arena of becoming a NCAA athlete. It was a wake-up call and introduction to the importance of planning and self-control in how I conducted myself, drove my college career and represented the school and basketball team.
I think about it often in the context of the man I am now and how I apply these lessons to my life. Excuses are worthless. We can delude ourselves into believing falsehoods and we can justify any actions in our minds. That’s how powerful our creative imaginations are.
We can also use our same, beautiful minds to instill rigor and discipline around a set of values to live productive, fulfilling and loving lives that are respected by others and most importantly, by the person who is most responsible for holding us accountable, you.
The most empowering feeling that we experience is not the “high” that comes from getting buzzed, drunk or stoned. It’s the bold feeling of being in control and taking ownership over our words and actions. All it takes is one time of being “out of control” to end everything — in the worst of cases, completely for good.
That is precisely what happened to college basketball great, Len Bias, right as he was on the verge of becoming a professional player.
I’ve seen alcohol and other drugs curtail the high school seasons of good friends, sabotage family relationships and even destroy marriages. While drugs are powerful weapons, we truly have the control of our emotions, thoughts and actions. It is we, ultimately, who must discipline our minds, educate ourselves and guard against alluring activities that offer only short-term “highs” but long-term pain.
Please bear in mind, this is applicable not just to what we intake via drugs or over-eating — discipline is required for us to be more productive, to love more and to ensure we maximize the gifts and talent we’ve received in this life to put them to their greatest use. Discipline guards against excuses and prevents us from harming ourselves and those we love.
Be willing to do the work and examine your life for improvement. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to continue doing the wrong thing while knowing you’re doing the wrong thing. Not only do you have to live with those results. So do your loved ones and friends. You owe it to yourself to strive to be better.
You owe it to yourself to always place your priorities, dreams and goals over the excuses and distractions that threaten to derail you. Life, like basketball, can be a game of limiting negatives. In basketball, the team that turns the ball over to their opponent is bound to lose. In life, the more we take care of ourselves and take ownership over our choices, the greater the likelihood is we will win at whatever we pursue.
Thank you for reading! I am sending out my first newsletter next week. Please subscribe via my website and Like my Facebook writer’s page! My book, A Values-Based Approach to Living will be out in Spring 2017. Follow me here on Medium and recommend my story if this inspired you! My goal is to make both of us a better person. I will always do my best to achieve this. Keep Going on your journey!