It’s easier to write a letter to your ‘Younger Self’ and tell you to listen to Lucas Walker and invest in Bitcoin and then get out before it’s to late. It would be even easier to simply tell you the Lotto numbers for Draw 1309 which were 40, 41, 13, 6, 14, 22 and 28, while the supplementary numbers were 18 and 17… that would’ve netted you a cool $70 million… but that would just ruin the story. That wouldn’t make this fun!
I’m you, just 31 years young and I’m here to give you some advice from the future. You’ll face a few trials and tribulations both in your personal life and on the court. You won’t be able to avoid these but with my help you’ll get through them and become a better person along the way. There’s plenty of things I could write to you, but I know you, you’re not sitting still for long, your mind is racing a million miles an hour, and you’re most probably thinking, ‘What the hell is Bitcoin?'
Here are some of your professional basketball accomplishments:
A 9-year NBL career spanning 243 games.
Four NBL Championships.
Nearly a decade spent with the Perth Wildcats, a club you always dreamed about playing for. You had the opportunity to Captain a few games – you can thank your best mate Damian Martin for that… and his dodgy muscles.
How do I sum that all up? What would mean the most to you?
You will meet some of your best mates through the game you love. Some of your teammates become groomsmen. One of these groomsmen becomes your brother-in-law.
You will play against your heroes. You will be coached by an idol. You will play alongside and against hall-of-famers. At times you will be scared shitless, at times you will believe you don’t belong. You will have sleepless nights doubting your ability, and for all those reasons you will get to work every day. You will make sure you are the hardest worker out there. You will be relentless in your pursuit in trying to make sure don’t let people down.
I learned early on in our life, through many challenges, that we can change our circumstances with hard work - but we’d have to be willing to go out and earn it.
You will voice this in your retirement speech:
“Somewhere along the way - and this is so easy to get lost - we’re all focused on results and they are important— but what you learn as you get older is that the journey is the reward.
If I’ve learned anything along the way in the last 9 years, it's that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people won't forget how you made them feel.”
You hold this statement close to your heart.
You will create your own charity and be acknowledged for the work that you do in this space… but that’s not why you do it.
It’s the everlasting impact in communities that you cherish, it’s the lives that you change. It’s the relationships that you create which mean the most.
Your aim will be to save lives, that a mental health illness is not a negative thing. That it’s not a weakness. That you shouldn’t suffer alone.
You will talk about the power of a conversation. You will remark about listening without judging. You will learn from your mistakes and failures - it’s what shapes you a person.
You will learn many valuable lessons along the way. There’s the obvious ones - be respectable to others, always listen to your mum… and wife. But if I can help you, and others, I will.
Why are you doing this?
You will win championships, plenty of matches, travel the world, most recently; have represented your country, but now I wonder how I would have competed if I had a better understanding of why I was playing basketball.
That why is important. That’s what I want you to think about before you tie your shoelaces and get ready to bounce that ball.
Why are you doing this?
If you’re competing just to win you’re going to be disappointed either way. Defeat is devastating, and victory is fleeting.
I realised that being a champion wasn’t the be-all and end-all. I couldn’t let it define the other, or me, one-way. Family, friends and integrity were the most important things to me. Everything else was secondary.
It brought me to an understanding: Why am I doing this? Why the early mornings? Why the sacrifices? Why am I putting my body through torture? Why am I consistently challenging myself, physically, and mentally?
Love. That’s why I was doing this. I love the game of basketball, and the process behind it. I love getting better every day, making myself the best player I can be — and person — I can possibly become. To me, it wasn’t about the championships… they bloody felt good! Or the glory or the accolades….wasn’t many. It was just about my love for the sport, and everything surrounding it. Whether I won or lost didn’t matter — all that mattered was whether I gave it my best effort.
Now, it’s my turn to help young basketballers to find out their ‘why’ and the trajectory of young adults. Maybe if I could share my story with kids that are on the precipice of throwing their lives away, maybe I could pull them back from the edge. I can relate to them, and show them that life doesn’t have to go south.
So what’s this other thing I want to teach you?
You will soon discover the world of social media? Don’t worry about ICQ, MSN Messenger… even MySpace. These platforms no longer exist – social media will enjoy exponential growth.
You will embrace the social media phenomenon giving it a platform for you to engage with fans, also allowing you to give an insight into your passion with Mental Health. In the beginning, these interactions are compelling and positive – but if only I can teach you at this stage to ‘switch off’ and to ‘manage’ your social media use so it doesn’t affect your performance.
Unfortunately some of the content you see creates self-doubt, confusion and also affects your closest ones. There may be 1000 positive comments, but it’s the 10 negative ones that become the focus. It is the nature of perfectionism – a common trait of high-performers and professional athletes.
Don’t allow these comments of hate create the insecurities that you have to battle with. Social media has allowed all of us to share our thoughts and ideas with the world. That’s a good thing… for the most part. But the bad news is that social media has allowed all of us to share our thoughts and ideas with the world… seemingly without accountability.
It makes some days harder than others.
You will wonder - when did we become a society full of so much hate?
Twitter and social media didn’t create human behaviour, it has only exposed it for the world to see. It’s sad, it’s scary, and it’s disheartening.
Unfortunately, you will go through times where you battle your anxieties, you allow people’s opinions define you. This happened through out your life, unfortunately as a young kid and teenager when you were picked on and bullied, and were the source of people’s ire…hating the feeling, vowing to change. Trying to avoid of all of this? The answer is… we can’t.
Understandably, everyone has access to social media, and everyone has the ability to freedom of speech. The waters between free speech and distasteful damaging bullying type behaviour is definitely hanging by a thread.
The thing with social media is that it can’t be taken back – images, comments, statements are captured, and the consequences can be everlasting. Fans are what make sport special, passion and enthusiasm. There is a fine balance between supporting your team/player and being overly critical of their performance. One thing you will learn is that you will never say anything out of anger or act on emotion. The age old question ‘would you be proud of your comments if they were back page of the newspaper for the world to see. For your boss, your wife/husband, mum and dad to see.’ This is all becomes even more relevant now that you have children. Always continue to think twice before you post something about someone or something. Keep taking the high road – as hard and frustrating as it sometimes is.
Would you like this stuff said to your children? If only all the keyboard warriors thought this way.
You will see these people out & about. After a basketball game when they come ask for a photo and signature as you walk up the grandstand. At a pub, as they are friends of a friend. To your face, they are and always will be nice as pie. Because that is the definition if a keyboard warrior.
‘A person who behaves aggressively and/or in an inflammatory manner in an online text-based discussion media, but at the same time does not behave similarily in real life, potentially due to cowardice, introversy or shyness.'
But keep smiling for the photos, take the beer they buy you, and keep taking the highroad. Laugh it off, and keep reminding your teammates, other athletes (and even the coaches!) to do the same.
The hell you experience at times will be temporary. You will become far more than just a basketball player. You will become a husband, and the father to two amazing children.
No longer will your priorities be in chasing another championship, or trying to figure out yourself…it’s about finding your son, Sullivan’s, Lightning McQueen Toy Car first thing in the morning or about learning how to do your little angelic daughter, Finley’s, hair… lucky you once had a top-knot.
That’s the reward that awaits you at the end of your journey.
Most people will never really get to know the real you. But they’ll know your work.