As sports fans, we love to cheer on that athlete that stands head and shoulders above their competition. Whether we want a Steph Curry jumper or a Peyton Manning arm or a Novak Djokovic serve, this admiration drives those of us who play sports to want to emulate them but what does it take to get there? Is there a secret formula or something we can get to make us like them?
Before I attempt to answer that, let's start with looking at what most of us try to do to get there. We are spending billions of dollars on training programs, instructional videos and equipment and there is nothing wrong with that. We try to imitate the moves and the workout routines and all that but what we end up with is at best an imitation of our heroes but not necessarily the results. This leads me to wonder if becoming an imitation of my sports heroes is enough to make me as good as them? Is my goal is to become them, or is there another goal I should be shooting for?
As a student of leadership development, I have studied many of our great leaders and there are many things that I have learned but one major theme that has run through all of my findings. That is learning to take on the challenges that lie outside of one's comfort zone is what pushes them and ultimately separates them from their competition.
There's an old expression that says "if you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done". I recently read an article about Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks and how he improved his already great shooting to contend for a record setting season. The article talks about how he used a paddleboarding experience to help him find his sense of rhythm that he needed to improve his shooting. He was encouraged to step out of his comfort zone and do something that challenged him like he had never been challenged before.
Now many of us may not have the opportunity to go paddleboarding in the Pacific Ocean, but we can endeavor to find ways to challenge ourselves outside of our comfort zones. I recently read about how in high school, Kobe Bryant would play 1v1 basketball games to 100. Who does that?
Actually I do.... with my friends, my basketball players that I train and even with athletes that I mentor who play other sports other than basketball. Why you ask...besides being overly competitive, I believe that it's a good way to get someone to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. Most people when they hear about it think it's the craziest thing, but once they play they find it to be not only a great workout, but a challenge that pushes them out of their comfort zone. It moves them into a place where the competitor in them wants to overcome the obstacle that stands in the way between them and victory.
I recently had a conversation with one of my friends who recently retired from playing professional basketball. I asked him about being challenged outside of one's comfort zone and how it can lead someone to that preverbial next level and what he said is something that I have always believed;
to get to the next level, it is absolutely necessary to do the things outside your comfort zone....with repetition and suffering until it becomes a new rhythm inside your newly improved game.
That next level only comes when you set out to change what you do either by doing something you never done before or getting over some physical hurdle that you have never been able to overcome. One of those hurdles I have seen athletes literally want to jump over is the ability to dunk a basketball. Seemingly insignifiant to some, but to those of us who have always dreamed of doing it, it's a legitimate hurdle that once you get over it, opens up the door to other amazing feats.
I've always been close but have never been able to do it consistantly until I decided to change how I trained to achieve it. I got into sports performance training at a local training center that advertised that it could add to your vertical leap. The owner of the facility is a friend and when I asked him if that was possible for a guy approaching his 40's who had two ACL reconstruction surgeries, he challenged me to start training at his place and see if it was true.
Long story short, I am now 44 years old and not only am I dunking consistantly but I lost over 50 lbs in the process and am in some of the best shape of my life, If you follow me on social media, you have seen my random videos of me and my friends dunking. (See video on right: I challenged the guys after an intense hoop session to put one down. I'm the last one in the video)
Although there is an element of pride that comes with posting them, my real point in doing it is to inspire others to push beyond their limits and take their lives to the next level. It's fun being able to trade dunks with the athletes I train and mentor and inspire them to push their limits. For my athletes, if they can find it within themselves to achieve this goal then I simply point out that you can find it within yourself to push yourself in your chosen field to get to the next level and be the best version of themselves they can be.
So what challenge are you going to tackle? If you have a dream, you need to get after it! Start today to push yourself beyond your limits and see what you can accomplish as you become the best version of yourself you can be!
Stay Forever Strong!