John Stockton was asked to give a speech on the importance of self-discipline. They wanted to hear how he was able to spend countless hours in the gym practicing. After thinking about it for a couple days, John decided he wasn’t the right person to give the talk. He knew it wasn’t self-discipline that drove him to practice, but his love for the game.
As a kid, Stockton would hop on his bike and ride around the neighborhood, looking to play pick-up. If the high school was locked, he would head to the grade school and local parks. No one had cell phones in those days, so he had to make the trip and try his luck. It was a small price to pay for the reward of playing ball.
If he came up empty handed, he would practice dribbling and shooting on his own. One great thing about basketball is that you don’t need someone else to play. You can create games and compete against yourself.
When I look back at my career, I shared the same experience. The court was a place where I was most present. My problems at school and home were forgotten when I was shooting hoops. You don’t have time to worry about homework when you’re driving to the basket or trying to get a defensive stop.
Now as a father, I try to create environments that allow my children to fall in love with the game. Instead of focusing on practice, we focus on play. Instead of working on form, we work on fun. If they enjoy being in the gym, they’ll want to spend the 10,000 hours it takes to play basketball at a high level.
It doesn’t take self-discipline to do what you love. I don’t consider watching my favorite show hard work. I don’t need an inspirational pep talk to spend time with my family. Like playing basketball, I look forward to these things every week. It would actually take self-discipline to not do them.
If you find yourself dreading going to the gym, re-evaluate your motives. Are you practicing for a scholarship or money? Are you playing to fulfill someone else’s dream? When your motives lye outside yourself, you add unwanted pressure that can turn a beautiful game into dreadful work.
Stop looking outside and turn your attention inside. Find the joy of basketball and everything else will fall into place.
Today, the highlight of Stockton’s week is playing ball with his friends on Sundays. There are no million-dollar contracts. No TV cameras. No screaming fans. The only thing that was true and sustained was his love of the game.