Advice from Jim Valvano and Personal Memories (Part 1)

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Advice from Jim Valvano and Personal Memories (Part 1)

Success is an abstract idea that has captured the minds of humans since they first created it. I would like to now give thanks to whoever was the first person to conceive success as an idea because it has given me something to pursue and work hard towards. With that being said, I want to talk about success a little bit.

Most of you have known me to ask a common question: “What will it take for you to consider yourself a success?” I have gotten such a wide array of answers and ideas that I have come to one conclusion. Success is in the hands of the person willing to work to obtain it. However, this is only true for moments of success. We all have a different idea of that moment in our life that will wash over our body and make us feel we have the right to say, “I am successful.” Those three words to me could be the second most important three words in the world. This would be up for debate, but since this is only my opinion, that’s as good as it’s going to get right there.

I think that in the quest for our own personal success, we should never lose sight of the idea that we have to find a way to be a good person while traveling down our life’s road. Though the destination we all seek to reach has great promise and satisfaction when we arrive, it means next to nothing if we don’t enjoy the journey getting there.

I once watched Jimmy V’s speech on ESPN. For those who don’t know, he was a great basketball coach and an even better man. He was diagnosed with cancer and partnered with ESPN in creating the Jimmy V foundation to help support the fight against the great threat to life. He gave me (not personally, obviously) some of the best advice I’d ever heard. Who knows more about how to live life to the fullest than a man who faces imminent death? I’d like to paraphrase his advice since I don’t have his speech on hand while I freestyle this, “You should laugh each day, you should spend some time in thought, and you should have your emotions be moved to tears.” When I heard this, and looked at this man at the podium, my heart froze over. I’ll never forget where I was when I heard this.

We all are well aware of how laughing can be a cure to anything. It’s no secret that a sense of humor can be a draw for true friendships and even committed relationships. Indulging in deep thought is an amazing point. Sometimes I see people staring off into space and I ask them what they’re thinking about. Most of the time the answer is “nothing” because for whatever reason people don’t like to share their thoughts these days. At any rate, what constitutes as “deep thought”? Well of course this is also all about perspective, but deep thought to me seems like that point when it’s your only focus. At all points of the day our hyperactive society is moving to and fro and putting a heavy emphasis on multi tasking. Deep thought seems to me like that special moment in the day when all of your thoughts fade but one.

Most of my childhood was spent in deep thought. Most of you know that my younger years weren’t exactly filled with laughter and fun. Only the time spent with my mother could do that for me because bless her heart, she tried to make my childhood relatively normal. Though I had to skip laughter for the most part, I did not skip out on Jimmy V’s advice about indulging in deep thought. I have always been a thinker, probably an obvious statement considering how much I write. I will always argue that when I was a kid, I was ten times the thinker that I am now. Sure my thoughts now are a little more intellectual as to be expected, but there is no way I could practice the art of thinking like I could as a boy. Perhaps it was because the world was just so new to me, and so many things were being put in front of me to learn and absorb.

To this day, I can still remember what I was thinking about. My number two thought was basketball. I wanted to constantly get visibly better. I would take a thousand shots from one spot just so the next day I could use it. Training wasn’t enough; I had to accelerate everything. Pushups, sit-ups, and calf raises ruled my mornings and evenings and then I would think about whether or not I should do more. I thought about Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and the likes to try to figure out everything they were thinking. I could sit outside for hours dribbling the ball beside me without realizing it as I contemplated why the professional players made certain moves and things of that nature.

My number one most common thought was about the future. This is what I thought about when I was playing basketball at the courts on the north side, or just dribbling in my driveway when my mom didn’t feel it was safe for me to go by myself to the park. For hours on end I would practice, but never would I think about what was actually going on. My thoughts were deep into the future, thinking about being in the NBA and buying my mother a house. Thoughts of the future were never too far away from thoughts about money. Had it not been for a lack of money, my mother would have moved away from the man that beat her for years long before I turned ten years old. Had it not been for money, maybe I could have gone to basketball camps, better schools, had better learning materials, and seen the different sights of the world.

It’s debatable whether or not these were the best thoughts for a kid to have, but I know I wasn’t the only one thinking them. These thoughts as a child did some good for me in the end anyways, now that I’m a man I have complete ability to think into the future when unfortunately some of my peers cannot. Aside from the future, I thought a lot about the world and why things happen the way they do. Why did my mom have to get beat? Why did I have to be in a school that couldn’t challenge me academically? Why did people talk about a merciful God when he didn’t answer my prayers?

Whatever the thoughts (and I apologize for that trip down memory lane), young Jimi was always indulging in them without choice. It was a natural thing, and it definitely kept me from going crazy all those years ago. In fact, thinking has kept me from going crazy many times, almost as many times as my thoughts have put me on the verge of actually going crazy. Thinking at this age has led me to delve deeper into things that are wrong with society and the next step is seeing how bad things could get from here even. I think this is just fine though; realizing the desperation in the situation can be all it takes to make someone finally decide to do something about it.

Whether you think good or happy thoughts is pretty much beside the point. The world is full of optimists, pessimists, and realists, but that’s exactly why we have to all keep thinking big thoughts, to balance each other out. I’m convinced you can’t be caught in deep thought over some Weezy or Soulja Boy stuff. I know that many people are talking about how bad music is these days, but if we practice deep thought each day, it’s just about impossible to think too hard about what these idiots are saying. Being caught up in deep thought over any one thing dispels the chance of thinking about something not worth paying attention to. However if you’re thinking about why these two are ruining music, at least you’re still thinking about something worth using your time on and are hopefully coming closer to finding a solution.

I can attest my greatest successes in life to thinking. Many people ask me, “Jimi, how can you possibly come up with some of this stuff?” in regards to my ideas about life. I tell them that my advantage over all others is in step one, thinking. I truly feel like no one likes to think about anything these days, and those who can, will prosper. In my two years of college, I have found myself memorizing more material than I ever have in my life. Gone were the days of my youth when I understood what was going on in the classroom because I racked my brain thinking about why things made sense to me. I eliminated my trump card, my meal ticket, my X factor. I committed a crime against myself that I should have classified as unforgivable, conforming.

Jimmy V’s advice about indulging in deep thought is going to come into play now more than ever, it has to if I’m going to be successful. In a society that laughs at the students in the front of the class and rewards the “cool” student in the back hung over from being the life of the party, it’s going to take extra work for anyone to make a real difference. The culture has gotten so out of line that the hope is slowly slipping to be able to return it to the days of glory. We don’t foster and encourage deep thinkers to keep pushing the issues, now we tell them to shut up and get back to being normal because normality is the crutch that the elitist gives us to lean on while they mastermind great thoughts about how they’ll continue to rule our world.

Deep thought is so powerful that it can make you lose simpler thoughts. Deep thought can make me forget what I was writing about and want to talk about something else. Deep thought can change a person’s life in one night. Deep that can turn a man into a boy, a girl into a woman, a fake, out of control, overly flamboyant, gilded society into the world that we’re capable of being. Jimmy V was right, this is not debatable, deep thought can be the start to a cure that we need in the worst way.

Now I apologize for losing my train of thought multiple times there, but I’m not going to edit it. If you’re still reading this jumbled piece of writing, I appreciate it. If you went this far, might as well keep going right? I promise I will keep the rest of it from the heart the same way I’ve always done it.

The beauty that was Jim Valvano’s speech was that it flowed in a particular order. Even as I apply it to my own life it flows so well. Deep thought is the initial step that everyone needs to begin to make great things happen. In life, there are always turning points, moments in time that we look back on and declare as the time when our life changed. If we just look at the moments when we decide to change our circumstances ourselves, and it’s not just a major event that took place, we can always remember crying being somewhere in the picture. I’m not referring to things like natural disasters or meeting a new person. I’m talking about that day when you decided you wanted to be better. The day when you made the choice personally to start working out, to go to college, to eat better, to be a better person is what I speak of. This day doesn’t usually come without being moved to tears as Jim Valvano said we should be.

Part 1 | (Part 2)