Apr 052020
 

This is a “re-post” of a great article, just so that it doesn’t disappear someday. It appears on a new (not sure how new) site that IMHO has a lot of promise: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us (definitely suggest checking in out).

Overcoming adversity, especially in the dense fog of other people’s expectations — expectations greatly exaggerated by the media — is something few people experience to the level that Chauncey Billups has.

Chauncey is one of my favorite basketball players of all time. I would love to have lunch with him one day. His journey in the NBA was extraordinary, as was his optimism. Here he is in his own words, and there is a lot to learn from him. The original is posted on the web, but I posted it here, just in case some misguided webmaster takes it down someday. This story should not be lost.

Letter to My Younger Self

by Chauncey Billups

Dear Young Chaunce,

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.

It’s June 8, 2004, about 11 p.m. in Los Angeles. You’ve just lost the most important game of your 28-year-old life. And you’re about to walk onto the Detroit Pistons team bus.

You’re going to leave Staples Center on that bus. You’re going to hop on a plane. And sometime early in the morning, hours from now, you’re going to arrive at home — tied with the Lakers, one game apiece, in the NBA Finals. Yeah, those Lakers: Shaq. Kobe. Payton. Malone. The Zen Master. The three-time, dynasty-building, world-beating champs.

But we’ll get to that later. Right now, we’ve gotta focus on this bus — this bus full of teammates, of brothers, of Deee-troit Baaa-sketball. This bus full of guys who are coming off the most brutal loss of their lives, just like you. And they need you.

They need their point guard.

They need you to calmly, sternly tell Coach Brown — bless him — to miss everyone with that Philly talk. To not even let him finish when he starts in, dejectedly, on, “When this happened last time.” To just cut him off (with love), and tell him, point blank: “Don’t care, L.B.” To make sure he understands — the whole team understands — that no one should care, at all, about what happened to the Sixers in ‘01. And that, when Coach Brown says, “last time” — nah. Nah. There was no last time.

This is y’all’s first time. And this ain’t Philly.

This is Detroit.

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Or it will be in a few hours, anyway. But right now, like I said, it’s only a bus leaving Staples Center — and you’ve just gotten on it. And I need you to walk to the back of it — where everyone can see you, can hear you — and I need you to look at your team. I need you to look at all of them — at Ben, at Rip, at Tay, at Sheed — and wait until you have their attention.

And then I need you to say it.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.

Yes. Good. Just like that.

And then, listen, Chaunce: I need you to sit down. I need you to put some music on. Enjoy what’s left of the bus ride. Get a little sleep on that flight. Go home.

Stay home.

And win a fucking championship.

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But first thing’s first. Let’s back up a little.

Let’s back up to before you’re a Piston, or a leader, or a winner, or a Big Shot — before any of that.

You know what? Let’s back up to before you’re even a point guard.

Let’s back up a full six-and-a-half years. To when you’re a 21-year-old, in Boston, with a bad haircut and a rookie contract.

Let’s back up to … now. When you’re reading this.

In 1997.

Why ’97? Well — I have some bad news, my dude.

You’re getting traded.

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I know, Chaunce. I know.

Everyone agrees — it’s messed up. You’re just a rookie, and not just any rookie: A few months ago, you were the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. Third overall. Third overall picks don’t get traded midseason. It doesn’t happen.

Except, it does.

It’s funny — for the rest of your career, people are going to imagine that you had this terrible relationship with Coach Pitino. But the truth is, the two of you will get along pretty well. And I’ll tell you what: When the trade happens, Coach Pitino will — if nothing else — be honest with you. He’ll at least be that.

(This is already better than you’ll get from some GMs.)

Coach will take you aside, and tell you that there’s a lot of pressure on him to make the playoffs — even in his first year with the team. He’ll tell you that, in order to contend, he feels like the team needed a veteran point guard. He’ll tell you that he’s always been a fan of Kenny Anderson’s — I don’t know, I guess the whole New York thing. He’ll tell you that he still feels you’re going to be a great player — but that, with the pressure on him, and the current roster, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do.

Finding out about that trade will be a complete shock. No warning, no nothing. You’re going to feel hurt, and betrayed, and confused. You’re going to feel a lot of things — none of ’em good.

But here’s my advice: Just don’t be embarrassed.

I know that doesn’t sound like much. And I know, I know — it’s easier said than done. But that’s the way you’re going to get through this, Chauncey: by remembering that you get to play basketball … for a living.

And then holding your head up high.

You’re going to get through this, simply put, by not being embarrassedAnd by understanding that you have nothing, and I mean nothing, to be embarrassed about.

Oh, and here’s what else I can tell you:

That trade will be a blessing in disguise. It’s not going to seem like one at the time — actually, to be honest, it’s not going to seem like one for a very long time.

But I promise: It will be a blessing.

You just have to stay patient.

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In the meanwhile, though … Chaunce, I won’t sugarcoat it: it’s going to be tough.

It’s going to be you, on your own, in the basketball wilderness. Boston to Toronto … Toronto to Denver.

“Stud prospect” to “journeyman” in less than two years.

Or that will be the perception, anyhow.

It’s crazy how misperceptions get started.

But in a league that’s covered 24/7, with rabid fan-bases and evolving media: Perception is always going to be an interesting thing. In the NBA, everything needs a story attached to it — a rumor, a label, a whatever. I know that sucks, in moments like this. I wish I had some advice for you on it. But it’s one of those things that you’re simply going to have to accept and move on from. Perception is going to bite you a few times, Chaunce. That’s just real.

I’ll give you an example.

In Denver, you’re going to play for Coach Mike D’Antoni. This will be Coach D before those Phoenix years, before “Seven Seconds or Less,” before all of his accolades — but he’s still going to be that same experimenter, that same thinker, that same outside-the-box type of guy. Y’all are going to have Nick Van Exel — a veteran, and a really good player still — entrenched at the point on that team.

But Coach D will have an idea.

He’ll say, “You know what, screw it — I’m just starting my two best guards, period. I don’t care what positions: The one, the two, it doesn’t matter. I want the guys who can play to play.”

And you’ll take him up on that offer.

You’ll fight like hell, you’ll adapt, and pretty soon you’ll be starting on that Nuggets team — in the backcourt, at shooting guard, opposite Nick. You’re going to be incredibly proud of yourself for that, Chaunce. And between us: You should be. It’s going to take a lot of guts to make those adjustments as a young player, and a lot of talent. When you make that first start at shooting guard, it’ll be a big accomplishment. But here’s the crazy thing about it: That accomplishment is going to dog you for years.

I can already hear you — reading this and thinking to yourself: What do you mean, “dog me” — I thought you said it’s an accomplishment?

Like I said, Chaunce, this league is all about perception. And as bizarre as it is to say: No one around the league is going to care about the adjustments you made, or the versatility you showed, or the skill set you displayed, that made your coach want to start you at shooting guard. No. What people will focus on is this: Chauncey isn’t a point guard.

They’ll see the trade for Kenny Anderson in Boston. They’ll see the short stint and the second trade in Toronto. They’ll see “Chauncey Billups, Shooting Guard” in Denver. You probably won’t even hear it; it’ll just be a whisper. You see they moved Chauncey off the ball? Yeah, he tried, but he’s not a point. And sometimes a whisper is all it takes to manufacture reality. It’s crazy, I know. But that’s the league.

Chauncey isn’t a point guard. That’s what they’ll say.

They’ll be wrong.

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The other thing that’s going to be tough about Denver is that it’s home. When you arrive, of course, people are going to make a big deal out of it. You’re the best basketball player in Colorado history, probably, so for you to land with the Nuggets is going to be big news on a local level. They’ll write things like, Hometown savior, or, This is the change of scenery that Chauncey Billups needs.

But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: You’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.

And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhood is going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

You’re not going to be ready to lead.

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During your next stop, in Orlando … you’re not even going to be ready to play. A shoulder problem will keep you out for the rest of that season. Three trades, four teams — and, now, one injury.

And that’s when it’s going to hit you.

It’s going to hit you hard, like bricks, and stop you dead in your tracks. When it first enters your mind, you’re going to want to dismiss it. You’re going to want to think, Nah, I’m 24, that can’t be right. You’re going to try to ignore it, to push it away.

But at some point, during that offseason, you’re going to let it hit you.

Good.

You need that.

In fact: Why don’t you go look in the mirror, right now, and say it out loud. Go ahead, Chaunce — say it:

This could be your last chance.

Please internalize that, Chauncey. Please internalize it, and accept it, and grasp the urgency of your situation. And choose your next team wisely.

Choose Kevin.

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That’s right — your old buddy Kevin Garnett. He and you go way back, all the way to high school.

Well, the end of high school. For most of your childhoods, you’d only heard about each other: always neck-and-neck on the same prospect lists, the same class rankings. But you’d never actually met. Then, finally, senior year, you were named to the same McDonald’s All-American Team — for that ‘95 game in St. Louis. (You, Garnett and Pierce, all on one team — not bad for high school, right?)

As luck would have it, after the game, your flight and Kevin’s flight both got delayed. And so you ended up with some time to kill at the airport, just the two of you.

And man … you guys just … got to talking. And talking. And talking. Probably two, three hours, you guys spent in that airport. Just a pair of 17-year-old kids: chatting, joking around, asking each other stuff — you know, cutting through the bullshit. About hoops. About life. About the big decisions that you both had upcoming.

That was the first time you really got to have a heart-to-heart with someone who was on your level as an athlete — and who was going through the same growing pains that you were, both as a person and as a kind of celebrity. When your flights finally arrived, the two of you exchanged info and went your separate directions. But that conversation … in this strange way … meant everything.

And Kevin became a friend for life.

And so, with your career hanging in the balance, now, Chauncey — it’s time to align yourself with the people in this world you can actually trust. It’s time to go play with your best friend in the league. It’s time do your thing, and work your tail off.

And see what happens.

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Don’t worry, you’ll have help.

You’ll have Sam Mitchell, a.k.a. “Unc,” and he’s going to be invaluable in teaching you what it means to be a pro. Those little adjustments, those little maturations — those subtle lessons that you didn’t even know you hadn’t learned? That’s Sam. That’s Unc.

Ninety-nine percent of communication is nonverbal, Chaunce. This, Chaunce, is how you dress like a professional. This is how you act on the road, Chaunce; this is how you act at home.

That’s that old head, cool uncle, Sam Mitchell knowledge. And you’ll never forget it.

You’ll have Flip Saunders — and, listen: That’s probably a whole other letter. But all I’ll say, for now, is this: Chauncey, respect that man. And cherish him. As coaches go … he’ll be one of the good ones. And as people go … he’ll be one of the great ones.

(But don’t waste a big goodbye on him in Minnesota. You’ll meet him again later.)

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And then, finally: you’ll have Terrell Brandon.

Terrell will be a star point guard, in his prime, when you arrive in Minnesota — which means that you’re not going to start at the one right away.

But this isn’t about “right away,” Chauncey. Not anymore.

No, this is about building a foundation, now, and earning yourself a career. You want to be a point guard, Chaunce? Then be a backup point guard. Start at the two-spot when they need you, sure — but don’t shy away from the word “backup,” either. Embrace it. Learn from the star vet. Learn from Terrell. And then build something of your own from scratch.

Build the best Chauncey Billups possible.

You couldn’t have a better mentor than Terrell — so make sure you soak it all in. Pay attention to how smart he is, how diligent and patient. Pay attention to his midrange game: a lost art among point guards — and the sort of skill that could come in handy, during a playoff game or two down the road. Pay attention to his court vision, and the thought he puts into each of his passes — never flashy, always purposeful. Chauncey: Soak in all of that.

And that’s just the intro class. Those are just the basics, young fella. Get ready for the advanced lessons, as well.

“Chauncey,” Terrell will say, during one of your daily film sessions. “I’m not just the leader of this team — I’m the guy with the ball in my hands. That’s not to be taken lightly. That’s a status, and it comes with responsibility.”

And then he’ll break it down for you.

“You’ve got K.G., who’s our best scorer — 21, 22 per. You’ve got Wally, who’s our second-best scorer — 17, 18 per. If K.G. don’t have 12-to-14 points at halftime, and if Wally don’t have 8 or 9 — then I’m not doing my job. End of story. There isn’t a moment that goes by during the game where I’m not thinking to myself, What am I doing to fulfill my responsibility as a point guard?

That’s going to be a very big moment for you, Chaunce. A “wow” moment. Before Terrell, your attitude going into games is going to be unsophisticated at best: Play well, and win the game. That’s it. But Terrell is going to put you on this whole other level. Now it’s, When does Kevin want the ball? Where does Wally like to catch it? What specific play do I have to call … to get this specific guy the ball … in this specific spot? When, and where, and how, is it best to get mine?

Now you won’t just be playing hoops.

You’ll be playing point.

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If your first season with the T-Wolves is going to be Terrell Brandon University, then your second season is going to be the final exam. Because that’s when T.B. will go down with a season-ending knee injury … and you’ll be thrust into the role you’ve been preparing for, working toward, all this time: starting point guard.

Before we get to that, though: Read this next part carefully, Chaunce. Because it might be the most important lesson in this entire letter.

A lot of people are going to say that you got your opportunity to start at the point because of Terrell Brandon’s injury. Hell — in the moment, as it’s happening, you might even think that yourself. But here’s the truth: You got your opportunity because of Terrell Brandon’s generosity.

You’re not going to understand this, yet, I know. You’re too young. But one day you will. One day, when you’re knocking on the door of 40, and looking back on this moment … you’ll understand. You’ll understand how, most of those stories people hear, you know, about the vet helping the young guy along? They’re myths.

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Trust me. 80-percent, 90-percent, damn-near 100-percent of the time: The guy in Terrell Brandon’s position would not root for you to succeed. Not for one second. I promise you that.

The truth is: This league is built on a game — but it runs as a business. And a lot of guys are real nice, real nice … right up until the moment where you threaten their spot.

As soon as Terrell goes down, he’s going to know that you’re a threat. In fact, he’s going to know that better than anyone — because he’s going to know, better than anyone, what you’re capable of.

But I’ll tell you what: The first thing he’s going to say to you, when you see him on those crutches after his surgery — you’ll never forget it. He’s going to walk up to you, put his hand on your shoulder, look you square in the eye … and say, “Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

And he won’t stop there. Every time he sees you going forward — every morning at practice, every afternoon shootaround, every night before tipoff — he’s going to have those same four words for you. That will be Terrell’s refrain, that whole rest of the season — and it’s going to help you, more than you can imagine, every time he says it.

“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

“Chaunce. It’s your turn.”

Once Terrell gets injured … yeah, you’re going to play starting point guard, with or without his blessing. But you’re not going to be starting point guard. For that, you need Terrell. And that difference, of having Terrell’s support — it’s going to mean everything to you.

Oh, yeah, and about that final exam?

You pass — with flying colors.

Later that summer, you’re going to sign with Detroit.

A little advice on the jersey: pick No. 1.

No, not because you’re the best — nothing corny. Pick No. 1, as in … one shot. Detroit is the one shot they’re going to give you — this league, that almost spit you out, is going to give you — at greatness. At running your own show. This will be it, and then that will be that.

If you blow it? Hey — you had a good run in Minnesota, Chaunce. It’s not like you’ll be unemployed or anything. You’ll still be a proven role player, no matter what, and you’ll be able to go right back to that.

But you won’t want to go back to that. You’ll have worked too hard, and overcome too much, to go back to that. And that’s what No. 1 will mean. You’ll have been to Boston. Toronto. Denver. Orlando. And, finally, Minnesota. That’s a lot of pit stops in five years.

No. 1, Chaunce, will mean your one shot … at doing better than a pit stop.

At making everything else the journey.

And Detroit the destination.

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The thing about a destination, of course, is that everyone has a different story of how they got there. You’ll have yours, and it’s a wild one. But the best part about Detroit will be the way that each guy’s story on that team seems even wilder than the next.

Take Ben Wallace.

Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. You think that you’ve gotten up off the mat, Chaunce, from being third overall? This dude is going to go undrafted — out of Virginia Union — and is going to find a way to stick in the league. This dude is a 6’9 center — a 6’9 center — and is going to become the best defensive big in the NBA.

And sure, he’ll seem a little mean, at first … but only on the court. You’ll love him, I promise. Ben will be y’all’s protector, in every sense of the word — and will embody all of the traits that [deep breath] Deee-troit Baaa-sketball will come to represent. Hard-working. Battle-tested. Self-made. A cast-off of some kind.

And, of course, defense-first.

Oh, yeah, and that mean-looking face? That’ll be the face of your franchise — and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Take Tayshaun Prince.

Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. He’ll be the young guy of the group — you’ll call him “Nephew.” (Hard to believe, I know. You’ll be The Vet — the “Unc” — to someone soon.) Tay will be that shy, quiet guy. Not going to do a lot of talking. At first, if you don’t see him — I mean, physically see him — in the locker room, you won’t even know he’s there. That’ll just be his way. But give him some time. Let the kid grow. Eventually, he’ll open up a little, and turn out to be one of the funnier guys you’ll ever meet. Yeah, that’s right — Tay’ll have jokes. Who knew?

On the court, Tayshaun will be truly unique. There will just be something about his game, that no one can quite put their finger on. He’ll be like this silent assassin.

And, like any good silent assassin …

… they won’t know he’s coming until it’s too late.

In a lot of ways, as crazy as it sounds, Tayshaun will be the future of basketball. The future — bottled up into one, wiry, 6’9, 200-pound frame. He’ll be the prototype: a guy with long-ass arms, who can guard 1-through-4, and kill a team’s spirit with a single defensive play. And at the same time: a guy with a feathery touch, who can fill it up effortlessly from deep over the reach of even the most athletic wing. Ten years after Tay, everyone in the league will be trying to copy that blueprint.

But there’ll be only one original. And you’ll call him Nephew.

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Take Richard Hamilton.

Who? Trust me — give it a few years. You’ll know. Chaunce — you know all of those years you spent, building yourself, and building yourself, into the best possible point guard? In a way, it will turn out that that was all to prepare you for teaming with one, single player: Rip. Rip is going to be the perfect shooting guard for the point guard you’ll become. And — thanks, Wizards — he’s going to fall into your lap at the perfect time.

Y’all’s games are going to be tailor-made to fit one another’s. And your demeanors, too: You’ll be that calm, laid-back, cerebral kind of player, that steady hand at the point. Whereas Rip — that boy is going to have a motor on him. He’s going to want to cut, and curl, and run, and shake free … all … day … long. That’s that raw energy, that Rip will bring to the table. He’ll be the kind of player who thinks he’s open every single play — like he’s got this rare shooting instrument that never turns off.

But you’ll be ready. You’ll have graduated with honors from Terrell Brandon University, and you’ll be ready. You’ll be that orchestra conductor with the ball in your hands. And you’ll conduct Rip’s instrument to perfection. Sometimes you’ll turn him down. Sometimes you’ll turn him up. Sometimes you’ll do both, within a single possession. You’ll just have this unbelievable chemistry together.

Y’all are going to be great friends off the court, too.

But on it, Chaunce? You’re going to be the best backcourt in the world.

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And last, but not least, take Rasheed Wallace.

Who? Nah, just kidding. With Sheed, you’ll know who. But you won’t really know. In fact, before the trade, you’ll only know Sheed by reputation: some of it good … some of it not so good. The good will be great: This is a guy who will have been through wars, in the Western Conference, against all of those great power forwards: from Duncan, to Webber, to McDyess, to your good friend K.G. And he’ll be one of the very few guys in those wars who could say he won as many as he lost.

But then you’ll also hear things — mostly from the media, and mostly out of context — that will give you a little bit of pause. Bad attitude. Weird personality. Short temper. You know — all of the usual stuff about Sheed. As the leader of a team that places a high value on chemistry, those won’t be things you’ll take lightly.

And so, when you find out that The Infamous Rasheed Wallace is coming onboard … you won’t quite know whether you should be fully excited.

You should be fully excited.

When Sheed arrives, you’re going to know almost instantly: This is the guy who’s going to take y’all from contender to champion. You’re not even going to need a single game to figure that out. For real — it won’t take y’all but a couple of practices.

Sheed will just … walk in the door, and blow you away.

Talking, talking, talking on defense. Quarterbacking that back line, that sacred back line of y’all’s D, like he’s been there for years. Calling out plays. Letting guys know where the screen’s coming from. He’ll literally be predicting, perfectly, where the play is going — every time. Go over here. I need you over there. Watch the corner, Ben. Watch the ball, Chaunce. And then, on offense … being unselfish at every turn: seamlessly fitting into the flow — while single-handedly making the flow that much better.

After that first practice with Sheed, the other four of you — yourself, Rip, Ben and Tay — are going to just … stand there, looking at each other … smiling slyly, in awe. Your eyes are going to be lit up from inside. Your jaws are going to be on the floor. No one will have to say the words. But silently, you’ll all be thinking them:

Holy shit.

This guy is a genius.

And then the next words — you won’t be able to help it, Chaunce — you’ll say out loud:

The rest of the league is in trouble, y’all. They in trouble now.

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So stay patient, young fella.

Like I said at the beginning … just stay patient.

When you get traded, out of the blue, as a rookie in Boston. When you feel confused, and frustrated, and discouraged, in Toronto. When you hear the whispers that Chauncey’s not a point guard in Denver. When the injury bug hits you, at the time you least can afford it, in Orlando. And when you check into the Last Chance Hotel in Minnesota. Stay patient.

Stay patient, Chauncey.

Because that — all of that — is your journey.

And Detroit is your destination.

In Detroit, you’ll have a group of teammates who are nothing like you … and yet somehow, also, just like you. You’ll have a family of brothers who have been through adversity — and come out the other side. You’ll have Ben, and you’ll have Tay, and you’ll have Rip, and you’ll have Sheed. And when you step onto that floor with them … you’ll feel it. You’ll know it: that Deee-troit Baaa-sketball won’t just be your one shot at greatness. It will be theirs, too.

It will be all of yours — together.

And that will make all of the difference.

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We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re not coming back to L.A.

We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A.

It’s June 8th, 2004, about 11 p.m. in Los Angeles. You’ve just lost the most important game of your 28-year-old life. And you’re about to walk onto the Detroit Pistons team bus.

You’re going to leave Staples Center on that bus. You’re going to hop on a plane. And sometime early in the morning, hours from now, you’re going to arrive at home — tied with the Lakers, one game apiece, in the NBA Finals. Yeah, those Lakers: Shaq. Kobe. Payton. Malone. The Zen Master. The three-time, dynasty-building, world-beating champs.

And as you walk onto that bus — climb those big ol’ bus stairs — you’re going to think about how far you’ve come.

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You’ve come pretty far, Chauncey.

And you should feel good about that.

As you walk onto that bus, I’m telling you: You should take a second, a real second, and just … feel good about that.

And you should understand what it will mean to have made it to here. You should know how proud I am of you, for everything you’ve been through, and fought through — and you should know that in advance.

But I also want you to understand that there’s still a long way to go.

That you’ll play over 1,000 games — 1,000 games — before it’s all said and done in your career. But that none of them will be as important as these next three right in front of you.

These next three at home.

To win these next three, Chauncey, you’re going to need all hands on deck.

You’re going to need those Deee-troit fans, in their Palace, at Auburn Hills. You’re going to need Coach Brown, god bless him, in all of his brilliance and crazy. You’re going to need your resilient bench, those unsung heroes, from Corliss Williamson on down. And you’re going to need your brothers … your family … your once-in-a-lifetime starting five.

But they’re going to need you too, Chaunce.

And they need you right now. Right here. On this big ol’ bus.

They need their point guard.

And when you take that next step, Chaunce — that’s just what you’ll give them.

You’ll look at Ben, at Rip, at Tay, at Sheed. And they’ll nod. You’ll promise, We’re winning Games 3 through 5. And you will. You’ll tell them, We’re. Not. Coming. Back. To. L.A. And you won’t.

You’ll think, Detroit is where we belong.

And it is.

Chauncey Billups

Jan 152018
 

In this day and age, marked by hate — on both sides — distrust — on both sides — and blind partisanship — on both sides — here is a quote that I think people should keep in mind:

It is up to each one of us to rise above, to think and plan wisely, to compromise, to get things done, to make a better America for all Americans, especially the coming generations.

I.M. Optimisman 

Jan 032018
 

I’m realizing that folks decide to become old. It is subtle, but your habits usually change from decade to decade.  Old sets in when a person stops doing all the things that help keep a person young.

Consider this thought for part one:

Creativity is the fountain of youth. What did you create this week?

I plan to create a number of quotes in 2018 all around this topic. Staying young, hungry, passionate is a choice. Be younger in 2018 that you were in 2017.

I.M. Optimisman

PS. Don’t ever retire — read this post from the past.

Oct 082017
 

I believe expectations are a surprisingly important factor in success, no matter if the context is sports, business, politics, or parenting. This is evermore true now, in the selfie and social media driven generation. Social media and short barely-legible texts are often misunderstood, yet linger on mediums like Facebook, Instagram, and Messages on a person’s iPhone for days, weeks, even years later.

How often have I seen parents screaming like crazed banshees at their young soccer players and basketball players, demanding perfection? How much pressure is applied to have a kid ace that test or audition? It is hard succeeding as a parent, but here is my quote of the day that I believe can make a big difference:

parenting-and-expectations-quote

I think it can help, if a parent can remember it daily, especially in the heat of the moment. I hope I can remember it myself!

I.M. OptimismMan 

Aug 242017
 

Is your company designed so that its managers and associates will be happy at work?

Probably not.  The executives that build companies tend to focus almost exclusively on financial results.  “we have to make the quarterly earnings or heads will roll…”

But is that smart? Do stressed-out people produce better results?

+++

Is your kid’s select club soccer team, basketball team, or volleyball team designed and concerned about player happiness?

Probably not. Most teams that cost parents big bucks and travel to out-of-town tournaments focus on those win/loss results. “Our team has to win — I’m not paying $3 grand a year to play in Division 2!”

But is that smart? Do stressed kids of stressed, minutes-played-monitoring parents learn and play sports better than happy, relaxed kids?

+++

Is your kid’s school designed to keep kids happy while they are learning and maturing?

Probably not. Results darn it, results! “We must get the grades up to ensure our federal funding.”

But is that smart?

+++

When will leaders, when will companies, when will institutions, when will we — finally realize that happiness is a critical ingredient that leads to above average results and success, not a by product that comes after the struggle?

Start with that which is in your own control: Is your family focused on happiness? Are you focused and committed on making it so? Are you planning and doing things to make the family experience happier? What would it take to add a little more happiness into this week? A little happiness goes a long way.

Do you have influence on the job front? Are you a manager at work? Or are you a leader on your team? What can you do to inspire the spark of happiness within your little sphere of influence? Don’t be too surprised if your group starts out-performing as people smile more — just don’t tell the hard-nosed CEO until you have a one heck of a track record!

“There is no duty so much underrated as the duty of being happy.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Change your own world. Be happy to enjoy your life — you will find that success becomes easier when laughter is the norm. Most people are about as happy as they decide to be.  Don’t pursue happiness — Make it instead.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Aug 102017
 

When it comes to sport, we enjoy watching a hyper competitive match. Rules, referees, and video replay are all in place to keep game day as fair as possible. But in daily life, we all realize that a completely level playing field is not a great situation. Imagine that you are up for a promotion, but that there are 11 other candidates with exactly the same resume and experience? Not a comfortable situation, is it?

The same applies to companies. Imagine that six companies are fighting it out to deliver raw lithium ore to Tesla’s new battery plant. It is hard to win when your product lacks differentiation.

Consider this quote:

Secret Sauce - by Bob Sakalas

What is your secret sauce?  Where do you disagree with crowd-thinking?  How creative are you, and do you have evidence of your creativity?  Make a list on paper, in your journal.  Is it strong or does it barely make a difference? What can you do in the next 18 months to have a better list by the start of 2019?

I.M. OptimismMan

Jun 062017
 

Below are three great thoughts by Charles Buxton.

It is so easy to forget how true these observations are, as you hustle week after week, year after year. In my case, I really yearn for more quality time but I often don’t find it… perhaps, with a little more forethought on a daily basis, I can design my day better so that there is more strategic, pristine time available:

You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.

In life, as in chess, forethought wins.

Experience shows that success is due less to ability that to zeal. The winner is he who gives himself to his work, body and soul.

— Charles Buxton

Plan for success and execute with great enthusiasm.

I.M. OptimismMan

Dec 252016
 

I recently learned that modern society corrupted the word priority. One hundred years ago, there was no plural form: priority was singular only — it meant the single most important item.

Today, we have corrupted the word to mean “important” instead of the most important. I think we should return to the original definition.

So, as January 2017 is nearly here, what is your foremost priority resolution – yes, just one – for 2017?

I would suggest picking a self-improvement habit-of-excellence and focusing on just that one, until it truly is a habit in your life. Once your foremost priority becomes a habit, then and only then, create your next foremost priority resolution. Don’t dilute your effort with the list of 10 or 20 resolutions – that lack of focus is why most of us never seem to accomplish our long list of resolutions each year.

Once you pick your priority, leave reminders everywhere — on your computer, smartphone, and tablet wallpaper screens, your bathroom mirror, in your wallet, in your car. I really like the idea of have a calendar with red X’s on every day you made progress on your one true priority. Excellence comes from focus on building your own habits.

Some goals lend themselves better to the Red X system better than others. For a fitness goal, the Red X feedback is easy. For writing a book, break the long project into small steps, like writing a minimum of two pages or 300 words each day. For complex projects, you will need to pre-plan each day’s progress step with your first cup of coffee, but the idea is the same: make progress daily.

Although I am certain I have used this quote before, I can’t resist including it here:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

— Aristotle

Why not ask people in conversation what their “foremost priority” is — right now — whenever conversation allows. If you listen well, you will learn something of importance about your friend, and you might just inspire him to improve his focus and succeed more easily. Inspiration is a great gift to give, not only over the Christmas Season, but all year long.

Finally, build a habit of saying “foremost priority” instead of “priorities” in conversation. Let’s do our part to get back to the meaning of the word and do our part to beat back the constant distractions of our modern, smartphone, media, and internet dominated life.

Happy Holidays,

I.M. OptimismMan

Jun 122016
 

It is halfway through 2016. Are you halfway done on your resolutions? Do you remember where you put the list? It is a great good time to review what you decided to accomplish this year.

I believe resolutions are a great tool to replace bad habits with good habits. Changing habits is not easy without daily focus, accountability, and willpower. For that reason, minimalist champion Leo Babauta is right: focus on one habit change at a time. Habits take time to change — usually 12 sincere weeks — so quarterly resolutions are a great idea, in my humble opinion.

Job one is to keep “it” — whatever it is — front and center. Front and center reminders might be different for different people. It might be on your computer’s wallpaper, smartphone’s wallpaper, bathroom mirror, and refrigerator door. Whatever combination works for you.

workout-willpower

The next step is to keep an honesty-with-oneself log. Let’s say your resolution is to go to the gym 15 days each month. Be specific: I believe you are better off to say 15 profuse-sweat workouts each month, because quality of effort gets targeted too. Log the days you go, what you did, and how much time you spent. Log the days you didn’t go. Review the situation daily. Pale ink helps willpower.

Finally, each of us has a finite amount of daily willpower. It is much harder to do “it” after we have struggled to overcome ten other objectives throughout our day. I recommend doing “it” as early as you can, when your willpower tank still has a lot of willpower megawatts in it.

aristotle-quote-habits

Quarterly resolutions, one at a time, are the best way to adopt four habits for improvement and success, every year. Just be careful not to lose the previous habit when you move to the next.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. Idea for habits to improve, beyond the obvious fitness example above, include reading for 25 minutes per day (and writing down a couple of lines about what you read), learning one new thing per day (and writing it down of course), watching less TV each day (logging time and what you watched), or eating one truly healthy meal each day (always write it down).

In my opinion, time thrown away watching TV is right at the top of the insidious list of bad habits that is incredibly hard to improve: one main reason is that we are most like to turn the TV on after our willpower has been depleted for the day.

Feb 132016
 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Four words that have survived since the mid-1300’s. Why? Truth thrives.

I have often written about the extraordinary opportunities available to all of us. We live at an extraordinary time, a time of fantastic and rapid change, in the best country in world. I believe that the opportunities to achieve whatever one wants to achieve in today’s America are limitless.

Yet, I know a lot of people that look at the same things I do and simply don’t see it the same. They see scarcity where I see abundant opportunity. It has taken me a while to figure out why but I believe I now understand. There are three fierce guard dogs at the gates of opportunity, and it turns out that most people see the snarling beasts, they miss seeing the gates, let alone the rainbow and waterfalls in the garden on the other side.

The guard dogs are risk, sacrifice, and faith. One or more of these prevent many from jumping on thousands of golden opportunities. Today I’ll spend a few minutes discussing the first one — risk.

Young adults have a great advantage over most of the working population. If they grew up in an optimistic home, they believe they can conquer the world, they have little if anything to lose, they don’t yet listen to (or at least adhere to) the often faulty, limited “wisdom” of their elders, and they have had few disheartening experiences. There is good reason most tech start-ups are fueled by young adults.

As we get older, we tend to take less and less risk. This risk aversion invades most of the facets of a person’s life: financial, emotional, professional, psychological, personal, you name it. Yet the core truth of “nothing ventured” rules nearly every facet of life.

By the time people hit their 40’s, most don’t want to take any chances. This is a terrible mistake that shackles one’s life. Without accepting risk, all you can expect is a lousy return following the path of the risk-free herd. When you embrace good risks, you expand your possibilities and your life.

Overcoming the fear of risk is possible and comes from learning and understanding probability better than the average person. Risk is simply half of the equation: once a person learns to evaluate risk clearly, in relation to probable return, she can start making educated decisions regarding the worthiness of any endeavor. These three guard dogs start to look much more lovable.

It is easiest to understand risk vs. return in simple betting. If someone offered you 3:1 odds on the flip of a quarter, it becomes a good bet – in other words a risk worth taking, because the quarter flip will win 50/50 over time. On a dollar bet, you would get paid $3 the 50% of the time that you win, but lose only $1 the 50% of the time you would lose.

The same is true in life. If you invest $1,000 in a growing, successful company that has a current P/E ratio of 10, a historical low for the stock, because of a short-term sell-off, while all its close competitors have P/E’s of 25 – barring any skeletons in the closet, you generally have taken a good bet – odds are much better that your stock will appreciate to $2,500 (probably more (because I’m ignoring earnings growth over time in this example)) rather than falling to $500 in the future. You can further mitigate the risk by investing $1,000 in 10 companies in similar situations – even if you are wrong on 5 of 10 — and 3 of them get halved while 2 tread water and stay at the price paid — if the other five do move up to their historical P/E, your final tally would be $16,000 on a $10,000 in investments, or a 60% return. If you leave that $10,000 in a money market account at Bank of America, you will earn less than $5 per year in this crazy near “interest-free” financial climate.

Yet many people never overcome the fear of risk. My suggestion is start small and gain momentum gradually. A big misconception is that those who take risks are fearless. Not true. People that take prudent risks, after weighing the probable rewards, are courageous and smart.

I really like John Wayne’s definition of courage….the Duke said “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.

It is incredibly important that a person learns to embrace prudent calculated risk during his entire life, learning from experiences as he grows older. There are always risks worth taking, and when you are 40, 50, or 60, you have a much broader base of experience, connections, and resources than when you were but 22. The idea is not to put more than you can afford to lose in any one investment or idea.

My discussion took a financial turn because it is easy to illustrate with numbers, but taking prudent risks is just as vital on your emotional, professional, personal, and psychological facets of life. If you come up with a great idea that is worthy at work, take the risk and land a meeting with your own CEO. Pitch it! You might just make Executive VP after all. Go to that job interview. Ask that girl out. Go ahead and volunteer when they ask. Speak up at the community meeting. Try helping out at the local soup kitchen or Meals-on-Wheels or Big Brothers Big Sisters — seriously! Start that little business on the side and stick to the project to the finish line. Always remember that it helps to fail spectacularly from time to time in order to become extraordinary in the end.

The great Wayne Gretzky is right when he says “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

Michael Jordan put it this way: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

What have you ventured this month? What have you ventured in 2015? Take more risks to be all you can be!

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 152016
 

Life tests us. Life wants to know what we are made of. One simple rule matters most: never give in. Stay true to yourself, your values, your principles, and your beliefs, no matter what.

All of us makes decisions about ourselves. In essence, we decide our mental DNA, we design our daily habits, we control our attitudes and our outlook.

n-hill-quote

One person stays gung-ho about life, even when he stumbles or encounters unexpected challenges. He decided to go from one challenge to the next without any loss of optimism, enthusiasm, or tenacity. Facing the same situation, another gives in and doesn’t swing the bat with the same gusto after a few strike outs. These two people’s lives will come out remarkably different.

quotes-success-not-final-failure-not-fatal

Giving in becomes a habit. Never, ever, ever give in, and never give up your enthusiasm.

I.M. OptimismMan 

PS> One of my favorites that I’m certain I have posted in the past:

enthusiasm-churchill

Dec 202015
 

It is all too easy to be distracted and not give your family members all your attention. They are there all the time, right? As Christmas draws near, I would encourage you to consider this thought:

dont-take-family-for-granted-quote

I.M. Optimisman

PS> Does dinner look like this?  Or does Apple (not the nutritious one) invade the picture?

fam-dinner

Oct 042015
 

Basic knowledge doesn’t get you far. If it did, everyone with a smartphone and access to Google would become CEO of Skynet or some other growing multi-national corporation.

Ideas are far different than knowledge. Fresh ideas — your ideas — your ideas blended with other ideas — are one of your most important assets. A great idea person is welcome in any group, whether work associates, sports teammate, or personal friends.

The problem is that ideas are often like fine wine — it takes time for them to grow in character.

wine

I have posted often about keeping journals — writing it down is helpful. But, as I personally have discovered, ideas that are inter-dispersed in chronological journals get lost — the signal disappears in the surrounding noise.

Do you keep an ever-growing, well-indexed vault of your ideas? Do you read over your ideas on a regular basis, so that they serve as a catalyst for new ones? How do you distill ideas so that they don’t get lost in the clutter? How do you improve them over time?

Imagine if you started when you were young — lets say as a middle-school student or a freshman in high-school — and wrote down every idea! you ever had in a permanent vault. What if you then re-read and added to your ideas at least once every three months?

This would constitute managing your ideas as an important asset. Do you manage your ideas as an asset?

If you have no idea how to start, I would suggest Day One if you are an iPhone / iPad / Mac person. Evernote is another possibility although I find it cumbersome to review and improve. IdeaMatrix is a good tool that I helped invent, if you are happy with text only idea management (which offers brilliant speed and ease, but gives away pictures). As I type, I realize that I have not done my homework because I don’t know how to effectively export and backup from Day One or Evernote — and it is pretty clear that most tech companies expire after a few years. Trusting one of these with your idea vault also means that you must backup / offline / in a export-import friendly format. I will update this post after I work through the backup capability investigation. [here is an update on Day One — export to an adobe ‘pdf’ file seems to be the best backup — of course, that means you should do so on a regular basis, but in general, I’m comfortable with the capability.]

A few quotes to consider:

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
– Victor Hugo

“Ideas are great, but mostly worthless, without action and optimism.”
— Bob Sakalas

“Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.”
– Alfred North Whitehead

Are you an idea person? Manage and refine your most valuable of assets. If you are not an idea person today, start a vault today — it isn’t magic.

I.M. Optimisman

PS. An article worth reading… how IBM encourages invention.

Jul 252015
 

clock-eye-invest

If you invest your time and money, you will become rich. It’s really that simple.

— Bob Sakalas

Why not keep a daily diary, a small little log, of what investments you make each day?

in·vest·ment
inˈves(t)mənt/
noun
noun: investment; plural noun: investment
  • The action or process of investing money for profit or material result.
  • An act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.
If you keep a daily log, it will open your eyes and you will see: few devote enough daily energy to investments that can or might pay off. Create something, learn something, write something, buy something that will gain value — just re-tweeeting someone else’s article doesn’t really count — but even that is better than watching T.V. or scrolling Facebook and Instagram. Don’t be part of the Just Watch It” nation that wear Nike “Just Do It” t-shirts while sitting on the couch.

 

I.M. Optimism Man
Jul 042015
 

I tried everything to make it happen, but nothing worked.

How often have we heard this? Actually, how often have you said this yourself?  Was this statement ever true? 

The truth is that nearly everyone gives up after trying just one or two ways to achieve a goal. Three distinct attempts is quite rare, reserved for only the most important of endeavors. People shoot themselves in the foot when they announce that they “have tried everything” because nothing can be farther from the truth. When you make announcements, they become your own limiting belief. Sadly, a lot of people get mentally stuck, simply trying the same methods, over and over, expecting different results but not getting them.

I see few examples of anyone trying multiple paths and methods. This is true for the math teacher trying to get her lesson embraced by her student, or the student who tries to memorize the key elements needed for the upcoming exam. This is true for the coach trying to help his team win, the manager striving to make his sales team hit the forecasted numbers, the entrepreneur trying to win customers for her start-up, and it’s true for millions of people hoping to improve their physical fitness. Most everyone tries only one or two ways — sometimes for months and years — and then gives up.

So how do the extraordinary few actually succeed?

Getting started as soon as possible is truly step one. Waiting for all the lights to turn green before driving across town is futile — yet many wait for the perfect moment and fail to get out of the starting gate. As I have observed in another article, getting started comes before getting motivated. Many believe it is the other way around.

But, what truly matters most — in the long-run — is whole-hearted, stake your life on it, commitment. Jumping into the deep end — with both feet — makes up for any shortcomings that you have in raw talent. Your commitment level is the single most important factor that changes how many distinct ways you will try to overcome a challenge. If you decide that “I must succeed at ________ ” instead of “I want to succeed at _______ “, you will find that your success percentages will dramatically improve.

vince-lombardi

Winning means you are willing to go longer, work harder, and give more than anyone else.

— Vince Lombardi

Imagine two people, Nick and Mike, who both hope to invent the next big thing. Nick, in his own mind’s eye, simply says “I want to” and so, he will work on his project whenever time allows, after he does his day job, hangs with his family, works out at the gym, sees his friends, checks his social media, watches the ball game, and catches up on the news. Mike, on the other hand, commits whole-heartedly and says “I must” — this one little difference makes all the difference. He etches out hours, each and every week without fail, he pivots, adapts, and overcomes, he gets to the finish line of the project, succeeding with persistence and tenacity. It is rarely about talent alone. Success is invariably about your commitment. Commitment is the seed of will power. Only the committed are relentless in the pursuit.

What’s happening in your life today? What are you trying to achieve? Where you should upgrade your commitment from “I want to succeed” to “I must succeed?

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Apr 282015
 

Are you up for a challenge in longevity?  Why not author a few great quotes? One of the puzzles that I find truly interesting is what makes a quotation survive the test of time, thriving long after the person who authored it has passed away. Not many people out of the billions of people before you and I have had a quote survive at all.

It is a challenge in striking a cord with the reader or listener, capturing an essential truth, keeping it short and sweet, and having it go viral. Books and books try to solve “how a business idea goes viral” but no strategy or formula seems to be reliable as yet.

It stands to reason, then, that long-standing quotes must have something special, the right stuff that transcends generations, cultures, and languages. All this tends to fit in less than ten words that resonate. Its quite like the fact that all music stems from only a few available notes.

Who is on the all time all-star list of quotation authors? Top of the list must be Kong Fuzi, or as we know him, Confucius, the “latinized” version of his name that given to his legacy by Jesuit missionaries around 2,000 years after he lived.

Here are twenty-one quotes from Confucius. Twenty-one quotes that thrive today, more than 2,500 years later. Are there lessons to learn in twenty-one quotes that have survived 2,500 years and 125 generations of people? You betcha!

confucius

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of a year, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

confu-2

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Respect yourself and others will respect you.

When anger rises, think of the consequences.

He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.

The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.

What the superior man seeks is in himself. What the mean man seeks is in others.

What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.

confucius-quotes-hd-wallpaper-10

They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.

Have no friends not equal to yourself.

To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.

When you complain about something unpleasant you double it, when you laugh at it, you destroy it.

Forget injuries, never forget kindness.

Learn! Change yourself. Be wiser and live wiser today than yesterday.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

Apr 022015
 

I posted a large bundle of Warren Buffett quotes last year, but I find this one worth repeating:

Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.

buffett-optimist

Where are you patching a boat right now?  Is it chronic?  Are you willing to do something about it?  Why not?

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 282014
 

Too often, one faulty thought enters the mainstream, is picked up as a soundbyte and disseminated by the media, and multitudes are affected by it. In this case, the thought was issued in 1966 by 32 year old Carl Sagan, when half the appliances in the USA were avocado and linoleum was in. The rest of the scientific community latched onto his quote and started doing math, coming to conclusions like the universe must be populated by thousands of planets that support intelligent life. Even today, “the math from the 60’s and 70’s” persists in many of our high school teachers.

CarlSagan-1966

As knowledge evolved, that math started to change. Here is an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal this month. I don’t know if its 100% right (that’s hard to find) but it seems well worth considering.

I.M. Optimism Man

Preserved from the Wall Street Journal…

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God
The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?

Eric Metaxas

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.

Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).

Oct 082014
 

Teenage and young adult years are tough on kids, and particularly tough on girls. Peer pressure is as high as it will ever be, fitting in and being popular are deep rooted, if not often talked about ambitions, and confusing messages, painful lessons, and suave one-track-mind guys lurk around every corner.

There is one simple principle that will serve every girl well, but it is hard to remember in the heat of the moment, as those challenging “moments” happen when they are not expected: Stay classy no matter what. When facing any crossroads decision, small or large, remember Coco Chanel’s famous quote:

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
— Coco Chanel

coco-chanel1

Classy doesn’t let you down, doesn’t lead to moments, events, or pictures that you will soon regret. A good life is a life where you are always proud of yourself through success and setback, a life where you take the high road time and again. Sure, there may be a few times where you miss out on ‘being there’ when ‘whatever’ happened, but 9 times out of 10, you will have avoided a ‘whatever’ that could have become a scarred regret. When a girl decides, in advance, to stay classy and chooses to never cross that line, she will absolutely be better off, for the rest of her life.

Here are a few more quotes worth considering:

A guy wants a classy girl who is smart and has goals – someone that he wouldn’t be afraid to bring home to his parents.
— Victoria Justice

I have always believed that if you need to take your clothes off to get your man, you’ve begun to lose the battle. If you pull it off right, you can do it in a very classy way… Being sexy is about suggestion; it’s about the tease. It’s not about being obvious and forcing yourself out in the open. That takes all the fun out of being a woman.
— Bipasha Basu

I grew up loving actresses or actors who were very classy but who seemed a little bit mysterious because you couldn’t grasp what they’re really thinking. I mean, Grace Kelly always looked impossibly glamorous, yet you could always see there was something behind her eyes.
— Diane Kruger

cocochanelquote

Being different doesn’t mean taking the low road. I’ve argued in past posts that personal integrity is a great differentiator. As a parent, teaching this one lesson — always make the choice to stay classy — is a crucial step in making sure your daughter becomes all that she can be.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. If you enjoyed this article, please read Remarkable is Not a Birthright

PSS. If you have not always taken the high road, you can make the choice to start now, this very instant, and never look back. Today and tomorrow matters much more, than yesterday and yesteryear.

PSSS. Here are the other two parts of my Have a Daughter? Series… Part 1 and Part 2.

PSSSS. While the lessons are crucial, don’t take my belief in “staying classy no matter what” as a wholesale endorsement of Coco or any of the authors quoted. The concept is what matters.