Monday, March 21, 2016

77. Tiger Basketball Speech

I'm a little behind on my blog updates. It's been a long couple of days with moving and getting used to a new life schedule. (More sleep! Less time commuting!)

I had the honor of speaking at the Marshall boy's basketball banquet on Sunday. I was originally hesitant to make the drive back to Marshall, but it was nice to appear in town, even if just for a little bit.

As you probably know, Marshal faced Waseca in one of the best high school basketball games in history. Here's what I told the team...

When I got a message a few weeks ago from Weston’s dad asking me to  speak to you guys, I got really excited. I eagerly typed out a speech that I thought would be a coda to an amazing season.

And then Waseca happened. Four overtimes, three buzzer beaters, two exhausted teams, and one excruciating end to a season. I had to start over.

I’m not going to tell you to just brush it off and forget about it. You all worked too hard to let those memories fade away.

I’m not going to tell you to just be happy with what you have. You have every right to shed some tears for the ending of something you love. It’s only human.

I am not going to tell you that everything happens for a reason. That’s the thing we adults say when we actually don’t know what’s going on. The truth is some things random and so bizarre that you’ll never fully understand why it happened.

I am going to tell you to hold on to that game. Embrace it, reflect on it, learn from it.

Everyone has moments where things just seem a little more important. The stakes seem higher. You look around and say, “This is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.” Sometimes those moment are good, but just as often, they are painful.  And you can’t do anything about it. I am going to tell you that you should prepare yourselves for those times.

Here are some ways to cushion the blow from those harsh, cold realities of life as you move forward.

One. Say thank you. This is the best thing you can do to build a good foundation in your adult life. People will think more highly of you. You will be happier. Say thank you to your coaches, your friends who came to see you play, the players who rebound for you in warmups.

Say thank you to your managers, and make sure you go to their softball games.  

Thank Mr. Remme and your teachers for their flexibility when you miss class.

Most of all, thank your parents. While I’m sure they all live for watching you play, I’m sure there were nights in the middle of January when it was 10 below outside and they’d rather be at home. But instead, they drove Windom straight from work.

And make sure you do it right. Don’t text, email, or snapchat your thank yous. Write handwritten notes or say it in person. Learn to make eye contact and have a firm handshake. It will take you far in life.

Two. People will forget what you did, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. I stole that from somewhere, but it’s probably the best advice I ever gotten in my life. While your game against Waseca will go down as one of the greatest in Marshall High School history, it will slowly seep from the public consciousness. People will forget the score or how many overtimes there were, or they’ll argue how far back that kid was when he hit that shot to win the game. It’s nothing against anybody here, it’s just how time works.

One thing people will remember is how you made them feel. Whether you took time for them when they needed it or when you did just that one little thing to make someone’s day.

One of my favorite things about Marshall athletics were the “Meet the Tigers” nights where you all signed autographs for the kids in the community. I’m sure you all felt like pro athletes when you did that. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. Hold on to that feeling. Don’t ever feel like you are too cool to sign autographs for kids if they ask for one. I guarantee you that you taking time for an autograph or a picture meant just as much or more than anything you did on a court.

Three. Cultivate a sense of joy about your life. It’s so easy to be grim about the world. It’s so to complain about your school work, your job, your life. A surefire way to make yourself miserable is to punch a clock and grind your way through life. Don’t do that. You’ll die of a heart attack at age 55.  
Life is not a marathon. It is not some excruciating slog leading up to some mythical end point, no, life just keeps going.

I changed my life philosophy and I am a lot happier because of it. I used to think life was a race followed by a series of checkpoints, graduation, marriage, job, retirement, etc.

I now believe that life like a pomegranate. You know those purple fruits that are a pain to work through, but once you get to the seeds, they are incredibly delicious. That’s life. It’s tiny speckles of joy that you find throughout your day to day living. It takes some work, but the rewards are worth it.

Find and acknowledge those tiny joys that happen throughout your day. Like when you hit that halfcourt shot in practice or win that game of lightning or you finally land an alley-oop.

I know a state title would have been the sweetest victory imaginable, but if you look back at your season, I know there were those little moments of joy throughout your practices, your games, your time on the bus, or maybe even just sitting on the bench. Those are memories worth holding on to.

Finding the daily joy in your life takes practice, but you have time. One easier way to clarify things is to not compare yourself to others.

Don’t look to other people for your happiness. It’s easy to look at others and think, “If I only had his shoes I’d be happier” or “If I only had his jump shot or his girlfriend” That’s a quick road to being miserable.

The secret is, you already know what makes you happy. Some of you go back in the gym. Some of you read. Some of you play music. Those are all good things. Do more of those things.

And to you seniors: Nick, Jacob, Drew, Xavier and Thomas. These things will hit you a little bit harder as you head on to your next adventure. My one extra piece of advice is to call home every once in awhile next year. Your mothers will appreciate it.  Best wishes for all of you as you set out on your next adventure. You all are exemplary young man who I enjoyed getting to know during my time here.

I don’t think many of you will face a situation again like you did a few weeks ago in St. Peter. If we’re lucky, those gut-wrenching moments in life will only come around once every so often. But one will come around again when you least expect it. To help you get back on your feet, say thank you, make people feel good, cultivate joy, and don’t worry too much.

While you may not be state champions, you are all smart and gifted young men with bright futures ahead of you. And that’s a victory in of itself. Thank you.

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