As a high school sophomore, I was so skinny and my hair so long I was often mistaken for a mop by the janitor. It didn't matter that I ate like a great white shark. Basketball had become my all-consuming passion and magnificent obsession. I eagerly read every basketball book I could find in the library (and bookmobile). I devoured Sports Illustrated, the local newspaper's sports section daily, and everything else that I could find on the subject of hoops. I dribbled a ball to school because that's what Ernie DiGregorio, the flashy, no-look passing point guard did. I wore floppy, military-issue wool socks because that's what "Pistol Pete" Maravich wore when I saw him on Saturday's game of the week when he blistered the net for 62 points! I put black shoe laces in my white Cons because that's what Julius Erving did when he was at UMass. They were mentors and role models all. I did what they did and said what they said.
I worked hard and practiced two hours every day. I wanted to be the best player on my high school team. That was a tall order because our class was loaded during my sophomore year. The two classes ahead of us were almost as talented. I had my work cut out for me.
One day, a school assembly was announced. Most kids hated assemblies, but not me. It was an opportunity to flirt with girls, shoot spit wads, make wisecracks, and do imitations of Captain Kirk, Rod Serling, and Jimmy Stewart. A speaker was introduced by our varsity basketball coach. The speaker was a former basketball coach. He had won a state championship three years previously. I sat up like a sleeping dog who just heard his owner rattle the car keys. He stepped up to the podium and started to talk. Within 10 minutes I was on the edge of my seat, shushing the "un-shush-ables" around me.
After the assembly, I walked up to the speaker and thanked him. I asked, "Is there more?" He handed me a brochure, Action for Excellence, which provided details for a two-day seminar at Seattle University. I talked my mother into paying the $45 fee with a promise to pay her back.
The seminar was held on Super Bowl weekend and my friends thought I was nuts. I showed up for it with six other high school student athletes. I took 40 pages of notes and learned a great many things that weekend: Become a good mental manager by managing your self-talk. Adopt the thought patterns of successful people. Set written goals. Review and affirm your goals four or five times a day. Put them on 3x5 cards and post the cards everywhere. "Flip Back" on a past Win, "Flip Up" to future success in your mind's eye. Visualize the outcomes you seek.
The instructor had us write our goals out as if they were already true. I wrote, "I'm a good rebounder."
Bob Moawad, the dynamic seminar leader, said to me, "Well, that's a good start. Does it get you excited when you read it?"
I paused for a moment and admitted, "No, not really."
He suggested, "Well, why don't we spice it up a little?"
There was something in his tone of voice, a kind of confidence in me, which made me feel perhaps I COULD be this person. He took out a black fine point marker and wrote on a new card, "I dominate the backboards and rip the ball off the glass!" Whoa!
"Visualize that outcome, for thirty days as a kind of test" he said with a smile.
I did every day for 30 days.
Magical things started to happen to me on the court. I went from seventh man to leading scorer and a promotion to JV in four weeks. At age 15, I was playing with guys two and three years older than me. The final game of the year was against the Catholic powerhouse with seven division one football players and a soon-to-be NFL running back, Joe Steele. We won at the buzzer. The coach called me in his office.
He asked, "Did you know you had nine rebounds in the fourth quarter? That is a school record! You dominated the boards. At one point, you went up so high you ripped the ball off the glass!"
Whoa again! What did he just say? He echoed the exact words I had written on my 3x5 card! I had never shown that card to anyone. The words had manifested themselves in my behavior! It was magic.
At that point, I was certain I saw Rod Serling, in black and white, standing in the corner of the locker room with a cigarette, and saying: You are traveling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead. Next stop-The Twilight Zone!
That was the day everything in my life changed. I set a new goal. I shifted to my academic life. My teachers were astounded to see me go from a 1.8 GPA to a 3.8 GPA in one semester! It was absolute magic. Abracadabra is word, possibly of Aramaic origin, which means, "I create as I speak." Write your #1 goal on a 3x5 card and look at it several times a day. Close your eyes and imagine the outcome and experience the feelings attached to those results. The late, great Earl Nightingale told us about the Strangest Secret in the world, "We become what we think about!" It really is true. Words trigger pictures and bring about emotion.
What is on your card? What if you wrote out what you wanted in personal, positive, present tense, powerful language? It's so much more effective than black shoe laces and floppy socks. Imagine! Why not you? I miss Coach Moawad. He gave me a great gift. Now, that gift is yours. Will you make the most of it? It's the fourth quarter and the clock is ticking.