The Whole Point of Life
On December 7th, I wrote a post about the Power of Practice. In case you haven’t watched the video in it, I would encourage you to see it. I had taken this video during a Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets basketball match in Boston last month. Before the match started, players from both teams were warming up and practicing. Then I saw something magical in the way one particular player was playing.
I saw “Harden” written on his jersey along with the number 13. I shifted my gaze on the board to see his full name and it was written J. Harden. Besides knowing the names of a few basketball legends such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James (and others), I frankly didn’t know the names of most players. I figured (thank you, Google) that J stood for James. I had not heard of James Harden before but could see that he played like a legend, had that never give up attitude along with trying to be better all the time while he was practicing. It seemed like his team would win and they did. I wanted to capture this spirit of James Harden in a post but somehow, I missed it.
A week or so back, I received this email from Daily Stoic (by Ryan Holiday). I love the Daily Stoic and Ryan Holiday’s work. I was so blown away by it as I had seen James Harden in action just 4 weeks ago and everything that was written in this email “This is the Whole Point of Life” about him was 100% true. I have thus reproduced the email for your quick read.
James Harden has led the NBA in scoring for three of the past four seasons. He’s been named an All-Star nine seasons in a row, he’s made the NBA First Team list six times, and he was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2018. Every discussion about the best basketball player in the world includes James Harden.
But perhaps what is most impressive about Harden is that he refuses to use all of his success as a reason to stagnate. Like the legends who came before him—Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant—he famously commits to adding one element to his game every offseason.
When videos went around of Harden, already a prolific shooter, shooting these bizarre one-legged fade-away three pointers during the preseason, most assumed the superstar was just messing around. In fact, he was working. “I’m always trying to get better,” Harden explained of the one-legged shot. “This is my 11th year [in the NBA],” he said then, “and every single year I want to get better. I don’t want to stay the same. You’ve got to find ways to keep growing.“
Whether in sports, business, or life, the greats are always distinguished by how they’re looking to add a new element to their game. This is the Stoic way. A Stoic always has their eye on improving. As Epictetus said, quoting Socrates, “Just as one person delights in improving his farm, and another his horse, so I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.”
The whole point—of life, of working out, of work—is to push yourself, and to grow, day by day, as a result of pushing against and through difficulty. An athlete betrays their sport if they stop looking to add to their repertoire. A writer betrays their craft if they do not take on projects just beyond their current capabilities. A lawyer betrays their profession if they take on only the cases, they know they will win. And we betray ourselves and our potential if we do not seek out challenges.
Can you imagine one of the finest players saying “I am always trying to get better. Every single year I want to get better. I don’t want to stay the same. You have got to find ways to keep growing.”
Coming to our industry and profession, how many say this?
How many do anything about it?
Are you saying this?
Are you seeking challenges?
Are you challenging yourself to become better?
Author Gail Sheehy wrote “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living.
Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. It may mean a giving up of familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, and relationships that have lost their meaning. As Dostoyevsky put it, “Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” The real fear should be of the opposite course.”
Do you fear taking a new step or do you welcome a new step?
The New Year is almost here and it’s the perfect chance to take on a new step /challenge.
To push yourself, to get better and stronger by pushing against and through difficulty, to inch closer to your real potential.
Why not start 2022 by taking the steps towards being the person you know you can be?
The Best Version of Yourself.
I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Have a wonderful one.