I played basketball as a kid/ teenager. Point guard. Fast. Short. Five feet, two inches powered by a burgeoning rage the color of crimson and those little caramel apple suckers.
That is to say: I was a terrible shooter and unreliable athlete, but I was aggressive and determined as fuck, which often went unsuspected by new opponents. I could steal the ball then pass it to someone actually competent at the actual/ main/ most important objective of the game. I’d steal. My teammate would score.
At some middle-school point, though, I must not have been passing enough. My coach, frustrated by my inability to look at anything other than the ball when I was dribbling it—thus missing wide-open teammates who were posted-up undefended directly beneath the basket—had me spend an entire two-hour practice doing drills where I had to dribble with my head up, eyes forward.
That’s exactly what she said.
“Head up, eyes forward, Mantey.”
Over and over again I heard this shouted toward my solitary dribbling practice station. “Head up, eyes forward” rose up above the startling gunshot squeak of sneakers doing suicide drills and basketballs bricking off the backboard (we were, mind you, new to this thing called the three-point shot).
Head up, eyes forward. It seemed so simple a directive. But insecurity mixed with an encroaching need to feel in control of an increasingly uncontrollable teenage body/ mind, kept me turning my face back to the ball. I just wanted to make sure… make sure it was going to bounce back and forth from hardwood to hand… make sure it was still mine, still there, and nobody stole it.
At some point, my coach stopped me and, with head up, eyes forward, I watched her tell me something that has been bouncing up and down in me ever since.
“You have to trust that the ball will come back to you. You have to trust that better results are coming when you keep your head up, eyes forward. There’s no point in having the ball if you’re not going to risk doing something with it. Stop just looking at it.”
I am drawn to the notion of setting a “word” intention for the year instead of a specific annual goal. Specificity, I think, is more effective when it’s applied on a quarterly or monthly basis.
I’ve chosen two word intentions for 2019, one of which is “Focus.” I want to focus on being present with my loved ones; focus the content and tone of my writing; focus my professional work and be more selective in what I take on and why; focus on the shit that really matters to me because, I think, maybe, I’ve finally got the bronze framework of that hammered out into a shape I really like.
Breaking “Focus” down is easy.
“One hour of writing each morning.”
“No phone when Justin and I eat dinner together.”
The other word I’ve picked for 2019 is “Trust.” That’s a little trickier to break down.
How do we “Trust” when we know we might not win?
10. The truth may set you free, but vulnerability will give you the truth.
9. Assume positive intent of those you love, and you will get what you except.
8. Letting go can have surprisingly positive consequences.
7. Ball hogs are never heroes because their arrogance is so obviously fear.
6. Play small, feel small.
5. A game is not a game without the buzzer. A life is not a life without death.
4. But you can always go get the ball back while you’re here.
3. You have been preparing for this very moment your whole life.
2. You are exactly where you need to be.
1. Head up, eyes forward.