Tag: sports

Pressure makes us

First, I want to thank everyone for your messages of encouragement and support regarding last week’s post. I think downs are just as natural as ups, and that was my point: Sometimes life is overwhelming, and that’s okay. We don’t have to be ashamed of it, we don’t have to hide it. That said, it’s much easier to bear when you have such great people in your life cheering you on. Thank you all.

Second, I want to talk about the US women’s soccer team. If you’re like most people in America, you may have no idea that the Women’s World Cup is going on right now, and that the US is in the playoffs. But it is, and they are.

Yesterday they played Brazil in the first elimination round. Meaning you lose, you go home. And for half the game, it looked like the US women would be boarding a plane at the end of the night. Thanks to a red card (let’s not talk about the refereeing) the US was playing 10 people against Brazil’s 11. The odds were against them.

Somehow they hung on, though, and the regular 90-minute game ended in a 1-1 tie, which necessitated a 30-minute overtime. Brazil scored almost immediately, and I admit: I thought it was over then. As the minutes ticked away, so did my hope. One announcer even said this would go down as the US women’s team’s worst showing in World Cup history.

Then, with less than a minute to go, Megan Rapinoe kicked the ball to Abby Wambach, who headed it into the back right corner of the Brazilian net. The goal was so unbelievable, so exciting, so perfect, that I actually have tears in my eyes just writing about it now. I screamed, sending my poor dog flying off the couch, and I really think my heart stopped.

By tying the game up 2-2 in extra time, the US forced the match into Penalty Kicks. They made 5 out of 5 PKs. The Brazilian team did not.

The US’s mind-blowing comeback win not only revved me up for the rest of the night, it also reminded me that pressure can be a good thing. Sure, sometimes it’s intimidating, and sometimes it can get overwhelming. But sometimes it pushes us to work harder than ever before. Sometimes it brings out our best. Sometimes it makes us who we are.

Game, set, match

No nap this week, but I admit, I’m finding it harder to post on Fridays. Like my brain is checking out early for the weekend. Blargh.

Well, last night Andy and I went to ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) World Tour games in Cincinnati. It was my first time watching tennis live (okay, let’s be honest: first time watching a full tennis game that wasn’t on the Wii) and I loved it! Except for the staring into the sun part…

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American Andy Roddick (seeded 9) was up against Swede Robin Soderling (seeded 5) in what turned out to be an EPIC match. They played all 3 sets plus 2 tiebreakers. I got exhausted just watching them run back and forth across the court, sweating and grunting and slamming their rackets into the ball.

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I have to admit, I had my doubts about whether or not our guy (Roddick) would win. He has killer serves, but his returns weren’t as strong as Soderling’s. He looked tired. He missed a few key opportunities to pull ahead.

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But in the end, he persevered. The odds were not in his favor, but the crowd cheered him on at every opportunity, and he didn’t disappoint. Maybe the victory wasn’t quick or elegant, but it was still victory.

(And as it turns out, he defeated the #2 seed, Djokovic, today too!)

So here’s what I’m getting at: I’m Roddick.

Not actually, because that would be weird. But metaphorically, I am scrambling madly across the court, swinging at every ball I can, hoping to make them land in the right spot. And even though the odds aren’t in my favor, I’ve got y’all cheering me on, and I know that soon(er or later) I will achieve my victory too.

What Kobe Bryant can teach you about writing

Today’s guest blogger is none other than Andy — my roommate, puppy daddy, former-RA, and oh yeah, boyfriend of 3.83 years. Although Andy wrote the “nonfiction novel” New House 5, he claims he is not a writer. Although he claims he is not a writer, he is constantly telling me what I’m doing wrong. (Just kidding!) No, in truth Andy is extremely supportive of me, serving both as cheerleader and butt-kicker, depending on what is needed. Plus he cooks! What more could I ask for?

It makes me really happy to have him guest blogging for me today. (Maybe it can even become a semi-regular thing?) Thanks, Andy!

I never used to think about writers. After all, I’m a businessman. We don’t have much time to think about “creative” professions. I negotiate for a living. I manage millions of dollars every day. I bought my first share of stock when I was 15. What do I care about writers?

But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about writers and more specifically, writing as a profession. I’ve lived with a writer for two years, and I admit, I’ve learned a lot. Being a professional writer isn’t the relaxed hippie lifestyle I imagined. It’s a harsh, demanding, unforgiving industry. If you can get an agent to like you, and an editor to like your agent, and a publisher to like your editor, and the bookstores to like your publisher, and a penny-pinching consumer to shell out $8 for the words you so meticulously crafted, you might be able to afford to feed yourself.

So the businessman (and the closet psychologist) in me began to wonder: what makes a successful writer? I stumbled upon one answer while watching the NBA finals. As the announcers talked about the fanatical work ethic and incomparable talent of Kobe Bryant, the avid sports fan in me began to put the pieces together. The characteristics that make a successful professional writer are the same traits that make a successful professional athlete.

The more I thought about it, the more similarities I found between people who try to make careers out of creative skills (writing, acting, artistry) and those who make careers out of athletics – a group I’ll refer to collectively as “Artists.” Some Artists are simply more talented than most others. I call these people “Gifteds” – those with pure, natural ability. There is a lot that coaching and practice can improve, but you can’t teach a basketball player to be seven feet tall, and you can’t teach a writer to imagine Harry Potter. Then there are Artists who eat, sleep, and breathe what they do – I call these people “ESBs.” ESBs shoot 2,000 jump shots a day during the off-season, or write until 3 o’clock in the morning to finish a story.

Gifteds who are not ESBs rarely become celebrities. They may get one book published, or play professional sports for a couple years, but ESBs who are not Gifted generally don’t end up at the top of their profession. They end up as coaches or professors. It’s the very small percentage of people who are Gifteds and ESBs that become household names. I call these people “Kobes,” after NBA star Kobe Bryant, an Artist who personifies the combination of sheer talent and unwavering dedication that I am talking about.

Bryant has the innate ability to put a round ball into a circular hoop from a variety of distances and angles. But he’s not a superstar just because he has a gift; he became a 4-time NBA champion because he is consumed with playing basketball and improving his game. If you Google “Kobe Bryant Workout,” it returns 320,000 results. Bryant’s famed “666” workout stands for 6 months a year, 6 days a week, 6 hours a day (which includes conditioning, cardio, weight-lifting and basketball). This is in addition to a grueling 82-game schedule. How intense are Bryant’s workouts? In an interview with Men’s Fitness magazine, Bryant says, “The key is to push yourself to a level where you’re hurting… you want to spit up blood, that sort of thing.”

If you’re looking for a writing analogy, you can easily replace “Kobe” with “King.” Stephen King is one of the most prolific and commercially successful writers ever. This is partly driven by his incomparable imagination (which some attribute to his witnessing of a friend being killed by a train when King was just a child), and partly because he is an ESB. King is one of the most disciplined writers in the industry, setting a daily 2,000 word quota and not allowing himself to stop writing until the quota is met. Writing is not just a job to King, it’s a lifestyle. In response to the question of why he writes, King simply says, “There was nothing else I was made to do. I was made to write stories and I love to write stories. I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I can’t imagine not doing what I do.”

This observation goes beyond creatives and athletes. Doctors and lawyers and businessmen are ESBs and Gifteds as well; they’re just less visible than Artists. There’s a perception that “traditional” professions are more conducive to ESBs, “creative” professions more to Gifteds. A closer look shows that regardless of the profession, there are always ESBs, Gifteds, Kobes, and everybody else.

There are a couple points to all of this:

1) To all of you Artists out there, I commend you for trying to make it in such competitive industries. I have a newfound respect for you.

2) Regardless of your profession, it’s important figure out if you’re a Gifted, an ESB, a Kobe or “everybody else.” I’m not saying you can’t have a fulfilling and successful career if you’re not a Kobe, but understanding where you fall, and understanding what differentiates Kobes from the rest of the world, provides a reference point.

A final thought from the Eagle Scout in me: Be Prepared. The one constant for all successful Artists is that they took advantage of their opportunities. The humble Artists (as well as the disgruntled ones) attribute this to luck. I carry a fortune cookie paper in the liner of my baseball cap that reads, “Luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation.” Good luck to all of you.

Marathon

This past weekend, Andy’s family came in for the Flying Pig Marathon. His dad ran the full marathon while his cousin, cousin’s boyfriend, and cousin’s boyfriend’s sister ran the half. I was merely a devoted spectator, but I spent all weekend carbo-loading in support of my runners.

On the day of the race, we woke up painfully early and found the world to be cold, dark, and rainy. The perfect day for a race, no? As we trudged through the gloomy streets of downtown, I couldn’t help wondering who would be crazy enough to run 26 (or even 13) miles in that weather. Or really, to run 26 (or even 13) miles at all! I mean, have you seen some of the hills here in Cincinnati? My muscles quiver in fear just thinking about it…

But believe it or not, there were 13,000 people standing by the Ohio River that morning, waiting for the gunshot that would signal the start of the race. And what amazed me was how diverse the crowd (of crazy people) was. There were all the different shapes and sizes — tall, strong, skinny, young — but also short, weak, fat, old — and everything in between — in all sorts of combinations. I’d always thought that it took a certain type of person to run a marathon, but on Sunday I saw that anyone could do it, even the ones wearing pink tutus, or baseball caps with curlicue tails attached.

(Note: I’m fairly certain the pig-related costumes are unique to this particular marathon.)

Andy, his aunt, and I spent all morning walking to various points along the course to cheer our runners on, and by the end of it, I wasn’t thinking, “God, these people are crazy.” I was thinking, “Wow, anyone really can run a marathon if they devote their mind, body, and heart.

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That’s Andy’s dad just a few steps away from the finish line. This was his first marathon in 10 years, and he beat his personal record by over 20 minutes.

As we walked around the post-race festival, Andy’s family kept joking that we should have “swine flu” now. You know, from the FLYING PIG marathon? (Har har.) In other words, seeing them complete their runs should have inspired us to train and run too. It didn’t.

But it did get me thinking. Writing a novel is a lot like running a marathon. And no, I’m not the first genius to think of it that way.

Depending on the genre, novels can range in length from 50k to 150k words, but even the shortest book can’t be written in a quick sprint. Just like the training that runners do before a race, writers have to devote their minds, bodies, and hearts every day to get to their finish line.

The truth is, I don’t know if I’ve been doing that. Mostly I have been telling myself, Just do what you can. Write however much or however little each day, until you’re done. That’s all well and good for most people, but can you imaging a professional runner gearing up for a marathon that way?

I don’t want to be a hobby runner. I’m not looking for some exercise to stay healthy, or a short-term physical challenge. I am in it to win it. I want to run marathons for the rest of my life. I want to reach not just one finish line, but a hundred.

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I will devote mind, body, and heart to my writing.

A big thank you to my team

Dear friends and lurkers alike,

I just wanted to let you know that I did not advance to the Semifinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Don’t worry, I’m not upset at all. I knew the second half of my book had some problems that I hadn’t fixed, so I was very happy just to get this far.

The best part of this whole thing for me has been the overwhelming support I got from you all. It really energized me at a time that I was feeling a little burnt out, and now I’m ready to get to work making the whole book just as good as the opening excerpt – or better!

So thank you very much for your kind words and encouragement. It’s the end of the Amazon line, but definitely not the end of my journey to publication. ;)

“Everybody in this league is successful,” Allen said. “Everybody in this league has made it to this level where they’re a flagship in their society and their community where they grew up. People look up to them. They’re outliers in their world.

“We’re not outliers among ballplayers, but we’re outliers amongst the people that we grew up around. I started analyzing why that is. What made me successful? I was successful because of the opportunities that I had, outside of the other opportunities that people had, the breaks, people pushing me forward. The communities I grew up in, people were always adding an extra five bucks to get me to camp. The same thing that Bill Gates went through with the computer access. I had access to a gym, just the same. Once I started going there, people started seeing my passion for it, they started helping me.

“That’s why I always tell people, no matter what sport you’re in, whether it’s team or individual, everybody has a team. There’s a crew that helped get you where you are, no matter how you see it, how you look at it. You start thinking about it, analyzing situations. Anybody in this locker room, people helped you achieve your goal.”

(From a great ESPN column by J.A. Adande. Emphasis added by me.)

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