In my last year of college, I knew it was going to be the last year of complete freedom before my life starts revolving around work. One of the things I loved at the time was playing basketball. I had a torn ACL from years back and needed surgery (my doctors later told me they don’t know how I kept on playing basketball for years after that injury). So I figured I’d go all out and play as much basketball in my last year, and then get surgery once I graduate.
In college, I never really took care of myself. I ate whatever I want, whenever I wanted. I was about 20 pounds overweight but didn’t really cared. One day, my buddy Rob told me about his diet and training regiment and how it improved his basketball skills. I got excited, because it never occurred to me that I could “improve.” So I thought to myself, “If I work really hard at improving myself and my skills, I’ll win more games.” And winning and staying on the court is definitely more fun than losing and waiting on the sidelines for your next turn.
So I committed myself to getting more fit and improving my basketball skills.. I immediately counted every single calorie I put into my body and wrote it down in a journal, eventually doing an Atkins diet. I woke up early everyday in the morning to hit the gym for an hour, and then did some basketball drills for another 30 minutes. At night, I’d either be playing pickup games at Wooden Gym or running a couple of miles to keep my cardio up.
By the time I graduated, I lost 10 pounds, was able to play full speed for hours at a time, and got noticeably stronger. I was able to impact the game more both offensively and defensively. I was able to help my teams win more than before. The training gradually became my lifestyle. After another 6 months, I lost another 10 pounds.
The training didn’t just help me physically, but it also impacted everything else I did. I gained more confidence in myself and became more outgoing (which meant talking to a lot more girls). It improved my general work ethic in school and, after graduation, my job. I actually like eating healthy. (Til this day, I haven’t touched any processed foods. It just grosses me out.) But most important, it made me believe in myself again. I believed that through determination and willpower, I can do anything I set my mind to. And it left me wondering how much left I can keep on improving myself.
Up until my last year in college, I hadn’t accomplished much. I struggled to stay interested in school, I was a bit socially awkward and couldn’t approach girls, and I didn’t do anything to advance my career (i.e. internships, side projects, etc). I was lost and had long forgotten my dreams and ambitions. But that moment, when I made the decision to commit to basketball and improve myself, changed my life. At the time, it seemed such a frivolous thing. It’s just basketball. But in retrospect, the experience reminded me of what I’m potentially capable of. Gradually, I regained aspirations of doing great things. Since graduation I’ve accomplished more in the past 3 years than the rest of my entire life, and I still feel like there’s much more to do.
So if you’re lost, the inspiration you need is deep inside yourself. Think of all the things you love and are (or were) great at. It could be leading a student organization, playing a video game (Call of Duty anybody?), or even cooking (I’m looking at you Ngoc). Whatever your hobby is, no matter how stupid it looks/sounds, is extremely important to your psyche and continued development. In my case, basketball allowed me to overcome my shitty grades and lack of work experience and do well for myself. You are great at something, and you can be great at whatever else you want.