I play basketball on occasion; not competitively or seriously, but because I’m tall and people will tell me about my “wasted height” if I don’t. So I do.
The most pertinent issue with my game at the moment is that I am awful at it.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, I went to shoot hoops, and once again, I spent more time chasing after airballs than draining baskets. The frustration was overwhelming.
After about forty missed shots from the three-point line, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small something moving toward me. I turned, and beheld young boy, about 6 or 7 years old. He waddled urgently toward me, high spirits in tow.
The boy looked up at me, and asked in a striking, unexpected British accent, “Excuse me, but could I give you some advice?”
Now, the gym I go to is usually packed with stereotypical attendees. Cycling through the courts everyday were Nike-and-tanktop-clad men and women, drilling relentlessly with layups and free throws.
Thus, I was a bit surprised to see this child, oddly juxtaposed in a gym setting, offering pointers to a 6’ 3” me.
Thinking “why not,” I agreed to hear his recommendations.
Clearly contented by my response, he puffed up a little bit. “Well,” he explained with a little clout, “you have a very good arc in your shot. You just need to increase your power.” With a disarming authority, he said, “Let me help you.”
Partially to humor him and partially out of curiosity, I complied. I heeded his concessions, and began to focus on putting a little more “power” into my shot. To my surprise, it worked spectacularly well, and my shots started going in consistently and easily.
I was stunned. I thought I had found some kind of basketball guru-prodigy-angel wonderchild. (Partially) jokingly, I asked if he had any more advice.
“Well, you can kick the ball into the hoop as well. One time I kicked a ball full-court, and it went swooooosh.” He then attempted to replicate the feat, nearly decapitating one of his fellow ballers in the process.
It was clear that this kid had no idea how to play basketball. He was not one of the gym rats, studying the game and overanalyzing it to the point of idiocy. Using an unassuming, unaffected perspective, he made a simple observation of an apparent problem, and came up with the most basic answer imaginable. I didn’t have enough power in my shot. Solution? Add more power.
In our lives, we spend an absurd amount of time obsessing about how to do what we do better. Because of our obsessive nature, we can work ourselves into these bad rhythms, relentlessly repeating poor habits and never addressing them, to the point where they become engrained in the core nature of the processes. We pick apart minutiae, but never consider the notion that perhaps a basic fundamental tweak could be the difference between frustration and success, or airballs and splashes.