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From Mess to Magnificent

How Basketball Changed My Mind About My Business

Can you believe that coaches could not talk to their players during the game when basketball was a new sport? In 1910, the rules barred coaches from speaking to their teams during the progress of the game! It took 38 years before they changed this to at least allow coaches to talk to their own players during a timeout! Here’s another weird thing I discovered. Players could not dribble the ball! It took a few decades before they would drop that strange rule.

I’m not a huge fan of basketball and the NBA is struggling with the pandemic, yet there is something fantastic to learn from the history of this game.

There has been an enormous amount of changes in 129 years of basketball. The game has morphed from a little winter activity designed to help athletes to have something to do during the off-season (and less injury-prone than football), into a multi-billion dollar industry. Would it be amazing to have Dr. Naismith, the creator of the peach basket game, come back from the grave to see what his invention has become over the years?

What started with a soccer ball and a peach basket hung over a balcony, has become widely different today. What if you set out to create a sport that would eventually become the dominant indoor activity for the world? Can you imagine the pressure if you thought this idea of yours had the chance to be worth billions of dollars and change the lives of thousands of people forever?

This is wonderfully encouraging when I think about my fledgling author business, how many stops and starts I’ve had, flat out failures, and mess-ups. How ridiculous would it be to go back to Springfield, MA, in the 1890s, and demand of Dr. Naismith that he figure out the entire game perfectly before he started! At first, he didn’t even have a limit on the number of players. Early games had 50 people on a team! Later on, he changed it to 9 on each side, but only because he had 18 guys show up for his class.

There is no way that any of us can sit and think long enough and figure out our businesses. No matter how sure you are of your idea, or how much in love you are with your site, your book, or your song. It will change if it will survive!

That is the massive dividing line between success and failure, and I’m realizing this because of my curiosity about how this game of basketball got to where it is today. I am convinced that successful people, no matter how you define them, are the ones that realize this truth (even if they can’t cognitively state it). Everybody has great ideas! People all around the world think of how things could be better or how stuff should be different. Your ideas, your business, your sales, your creations, your voice, your expert opinions are NOT inferior to others that are wonderfully successful in those fields. The powerful difference is this notion that the thing you start out with must be changed, refined, fumbled with, and beat up and changed so more before it succeeds.

At one point in the history of college basketball, the players actually just sat down on the court during the game because they could hold the ball forever! There were games that literally were 7 to 0 at halftime. Finally, somebody added a shot clock to the rules and forced these teams to take a shot instead of just endlessly passing the ball!

Here’s the uplifting news that I’m telling myself and you. The business you hold in your hands right now will look different in time IF it will survive and thrive. For example, I started with this idea of a children’s bedtime storybook called Sleepy Beach. I based it on what I told my kids when I put them to sleep. I had a naïve, perfect picture in my mind of how it would all work. I knew the story. I had the words. I just needed to find the illustrator. It was shocking that it took so much time to figure all this out, even after I found her. For example, I must have rejected the first four or so dogs that she drew before we agreed on the one I wanted for the story. I had to have a dog that loved the water, and one that would play fetch with the kids in the story, but not a hyper dog.

That’s not even touching all the struggles I had with printing the book. In my desk, I keep four of the horrible printing failures of my book. I had the hardest time trying to figure out how to get a printing company to give me the landscape results I wanted. I finally finished the book and then was told the shocking news that I completed about 5 – 10% of the project! Now I have to sell it and get it in front of the right kinds of eyeballs!

Don’t even get me started on my website. I know that it needed major changes, overhauls, fixing up, and other things. You may share a similar nagging voice in your head like there is in mine about your website or other things you need to work on. Sometimes the battle of trying to figure out things like, SEO, WordPress, a workable funnel system, email, autoresponders, getting a coach or a mentor that understands you, paying for another system, setting up a payment cart that works, writing a sales letter or dealing with a bad review, can make you want to just quit.

When you feel like that, realize that it is less important that you figure it all out and more important that you keep playing the game. What would basketball be like today if they just gave up after the first game that ended in a 2–2 tie? It took a long time before they cut holes in the peach baskets, so they wouldn’t have to keep getting the ladder out to retrieve the ball! If you and I could go back in time to that gym, we would have laughed our heads off at how ridiculous the early version of basketball looked. But maybe we would have encouraged the good doctor to not give up on his silly game. “Just keep at it” we may have said, “You will figure this out eventually and it will be incredible!”

I feel like telling you that today. Keep it at. You will create something awesome. Remember, you can’t steer a parked car. Get it in gear! So what if you hit a few cones while learning to drive. So what if your Dad yelled at you when you were pulling into the garage, that first time you were driving, and you hit the gas instead of the brakes! I’m laughing now, but I wasn’t after I smashed into the back of the house and pushed the toilet forward a few inches in the half bathroom, on the other side of the wall. Don’t stop driving! My grandmother had one accident when she was learning to drive in the 1920s and never drove again.

You will create something that’s fantastic. Stay around long enough for it to become that wonderful thing. It just won’t look the same as it does today!


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