Sunday, July 18, 2021

"FOCUS ON THE MOMENT"


Gone are the days when I was really invested in the NBA. To be transparent, I do not think I ever really followed the regular season and only occasionally read about teams and players while watching highlights on YouTube or ESPN. I enjoyed the playoffs, though. This is where the stories always appeal to me.

I had been scrolling through Twitter where I saw a great interview with Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis and the Bucks had just evened the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, during which he scored 40-plus points in a double-double over consecutive games while contributing this incredible block during the series-tying game.


The reporter interviewing him asks how someone so young could have figured out his ego, particularly after his recent performances on the court. His response is one which I have watched several times, thinking not just about this "mindset" in basketball but in all aspects of life. If you have not seen it, you should definitely watch it and listen carefully.



I am not a psychologist or even in the ballpark of Sigmund Freud, so forgive me if I do not explain this well. The "ego" allows the person to balance the moral code and lessons we have learned throughout our lives with primal urges and desires we have had since birth.  It is imperative to know how to use the ego effectively. Without doing so, our lives can become full of frustration, distraction, and disappointment. 

Clearly, we can always look at our past and feel accomplishment, but Giannis uses the word "focus" to emphasize that he cannot dwell on what he has done as it is in the past and does allow him to move forward. He suggests that to "focus" too much on the future leads a person to an overabundance of pride. In Giannis' case, his pride would tell him that because he scored 40-plus points in two games, he will score 40-plus points or even more in the next game. 

Giannis' message is to "focus on the moment." We are humble "in the moment" because we are not relying on what we have done in the past or what we say we will do in the future. We must remain engaged in the here and now, doing our best to live by the values and experiences embedded in us to become better people in each moment of our lives. Giannis explains that this does not mean he sets no expectations for himself. It simply means "going out there and enjoying the game." 

Life is a constant challenge. We tend to fall back on previous accomplishments when obstacles stand in our path as we forget what brought us to the accomplishment. We believe that rising to a challenge once in the past will influence the present. It does not. Focus on the moment, savor each minute, do your best, be humble, and let the current experience become part of your ongoing story.  

Bibliography

Ashley Landis. “Giannis Antetokounmpo Signs Largest Deal in NBA History with Milwaukee Bucks,” CNN.com, 15 Dec.2020, www.cnn.com/2020/12/15/us/giannis-antetokounmpo-contract-spt-trnd/index.html.

Cherry, Kendra. “How Ego Strength Is Used to Manage the Id, Superego, and Reality.” Verywell Mind, 30 Apr. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/ego-strength-2795169. 
“Giannis UNREAL BLOCK with 1:15 Left in CLUTCH Time!” YouTube.com, NBA.com, 15 July 2021, youtube/b4-Hi4MeYMY.
“‘When You Focus on the Past, That’s Your Ego.’ Giannis Antetokounmpo Life Lessons.” YouTube, upload by The Milwaukee Bucks, 17 July 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qLchg4xkOY.


Sunday, June 27, 2021

WIDE TURN



I am fairly certain that I did a few things right by my father as I was growing up; however, I know that learning to drive was not one of them. 

To this day, I wince at some of the stupidity I exhibited as we drove our family car around the parking lot at Wheeling Park High School and on the one road in our neighborhood. I practiced driving on a stick shift. I am glad I learned to drive that way, but I was so terrible at pushing in the clutch and shifting the gear from first to second back then. Crunch! Grind! Halt! I could sense the growing disappointment with each of my father's deep sighs. 

The frustration melted from my father's face whenever I could successfully shift into a higher gear and move forward steadily. But, unfortunately, roads are not straight for very long around West Virginia, and I would eventually need to slow down to make a turn.

I grew up watching Speed Racer. Speed was so cool to me. I loved the way he would zip around those turns, repeatedly crossing his arms and spinning the steering wheel of the Mach 5 round and round and round. If anyone came too close or got in his way, he could bump them off the road, through a guardrail, and into a deep ravine. Speed Racer and the Mach 5 would just keep moving ahead on the road in front of them. He made driving look so easy. 

"Stop turning the wheel like that!" my dad would yell. "Never, ever, keep your arms crossed when you are turning! Slow down and move your hands! You are going to have an accident because you have no control over the car! "

I would give my dad this bewildered look as I sat with my left and right arms still locked across the steering wheel because I could not quite figure out the timing to move my hands around the wheel.  One problem had blended into the next. I struggled with down-shifting, so I took turns faster than I should, holding onto the wheel for dear life.  I was such a doofus. 


My issues with turns have followed me throughout life. From time to time, I find myself too close to a curb and ride over it. You see, I am terrified of making a wide turn into someone else's lane. I witness other people doing this all of the time. I am speechless as they leave a parking lot or make a turn at a light only to glide cavalierly into the next lane instead of carefully taking the time to stay in their own lane. 

"Wide turn. Wide. WIDE!" I can hear my dad's crescendoing voice as he tried to appear comfortable in the passenger seat, hoping that I would not lose my confidence. "If another car is coming, you will be right in front of it. That is their lane." While I still wanted to be Speed Racer, I knew my cartoon idol would never drive straight into an oncoming car. So I played small and hugged my side of the road, occasionally riding tires over a curb, eliciting a Bump! and Thump! from the car and a "Curb. That's a curb!" from my father. 

The world has changed since I struggled with the complexities of the clutch and making turns. More country roads and endless highways have opened to me, and more drivers have joined me traveling to their own metaphorical destinations. I learned a long time ago that a wide turn is just not suitable beyond the confines of a quiet road, regardless of how separate from the rest of the world we think we are. A wide turn can take another person by surprise, forcing him off his path. A wide turn can change a person's attitude and how a person sees the rest of the world. After all, we do not drive these roads and highways by ourselves.