The absolute importance of making incremental improvements

I just got home from coaching my Steve Nash Youth Basketball team’s weekly game. It was a blast! To top it off we were able to get the win! However, what made today so enjoyable was not that we won, but the dramatic improvement the players made.

After a big win athletes and coaches are undoubtedly happy. However, I posit that the joy from winning stems from the athletes and coaches having the battle of competition forcing them to grow and make progress.

After a big win both athletes and coaches are undoubtedly happy. However, I posit that the joy from winning stems from having the battle of competition force them to grow and make progress.

They were moving without the ball, instead of ball watching, which resulted in many easy lay-ups. They were boxing out and going up to get rebounds to successfully end defensive possessions. Despite our opponent being one of the supposedly strongest teams in the league, we beat them quite easily. Do not get me wrong, I am no way taking credit for this improvement. The kids came to practice listened intently and worked hard. But it reminded me about a key lesson I learned during a recent basketball coaching clinic.

This clinic was lead by highly accomplished coaches Mike and Allison McNeill, who took the Canadian Women’s National program to great heights before focusing on coaching youth basketball. They mentioned that the biggest problem right now in youth sports is that too many children are quitting much too early. They had mentioned that the two main reasons that children drop out of youth sport are: They do not play and They do not get better.

Children want to have fun. They are not having fun siting on the bench! They want to get out and play! 90% of kids would rather play and be on a losing team than be on a winning team and never play.

Children want to have fun. They are not having fun siting on the bench! They want to get out and play! 90% of children would rather play and be on a losing team than be on a winning team and never play.

It may seem obvious that we should let our kids play and foster an environment in which they can improve in. But how many youth coaches truly emphasize equal playing time and improvement over wins? Obviously, it is hard to do, especially if you are coaching your own kid. But when one takes the responsibility to coach youth sports, it is their duty to do their best to have their actions fueled by what is best for all the kids.

Though it is important to have fun and not become overly focused on the end results (winning and scoring), that does not mean as coaches we should stop holding the kids accountable and pushing them. If they do not get better, they will cease to have fun. It is a basic human drive to want to be better. The children are not solely motivated by winning every game. They want to constantly get better, and hopefully see that improvement lead to well deserved victories.

While I was driving home after the game, I was reflecting on this lesson that crystallized right before my eyes in today’s game. I started looking back over my basketball journey and life in general. I was most happiest not when I had achieved what I aimed for, but during the process of working towards my goals and seeing those incremental improvements. Interestingly enough as well, when I was happiest I tended to perform my best. Unfortunately, throughout the majority of my basketball career I was so fixated on achieving my goal of playing at the NCAA division 1 level that I never truly enjoyed the journey. As a result I did not come close to performing at my best when it really mattered.

That is why my motto is be happy and chase your dreams. It is not “achieve your dreams and then be happy”. If you are not happy now, no achievement, no matter how remarkable, will bring you lasting happiness. Being happy not only makes the journey more enjoyable but it is also vital to allow you to maximize the success (in whatever way you define that) you achieve.

I challenge you to reflect on your life right now and gauge your general level of happiness. If you are not feeling happy, and generally optimistic about right now, and the future, I am going to challenge you to change your focus to what you could be happy about right now if you let yourself be and on what you can do starting today to make incremental improvement towards what is most important to you.

If you are an aspiring basketball player the two main areas I see that almost every young athlete is deficient in are: strength and ball handling.  A simple and free way to dramatically improve your strength is to do anywhere from 20-50 (or as many as you can) push-ups every day. To improve you ball handling, aim to spend at least 5 minutes every day working on your dribbling. They are so many drills online that it would take a lifetime to master them all. It does not matter what drill you do, but that you focus on keeping your head up and being aware of the feel of the ball.

Be Happy and Chase your Dreams,

Pavan Mehat

PS Here are a couple of ways to connect with me if you have any questions or have any specific topics you would like me to address.

Pavan Mehat’s LinkedIn

Pavan Mehat’s Instagram

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What you can learn from Thanksgiving to make yourself smarter and happier?

To all of the american readers this blog post may seem a bit pre-mature but it is Thanksgiving in the great white North (Canada). For the last four years I have not been able to spend Canadian Thanksgiving with my parents as I was studying at Boston University. This year I was especially excited as it was the first Thanksgiving I was going to get to spend with my family since I was in my last year of high school.

Unfortunately, the stars did not align this year, and everyone in my family was swamped with work, including myself. Initially I was disappointed about not getting a big Turkey dinner and just getting to spend some quality time with my family.  However, it hit me that my disappointment was purely due to my expectations and NOT my reality. Do I really know that all families that have a big Turkey dinner are really happy? Anyways working on Thanksgiving is just the “Mehat” (my last name) way, I guess.

Upon reflecting on my feelings and re-watching a moving talk by Shawn Achor (Harvard Professor), I knew I had to do a blog post on this topic.

This TED talk completely changed my life when I first saw it and it continues to help support me. This talk is not only so powerful because of the actionable items you can complete immediately but also for introducing a paradigm shift. Happiness is a skill.

Shawn Achor is one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is the study the principles behind the happiest and most successful men and women. He found that the commonly held belief of conditional happiness; you will be happy when: you get that promotion, meet the girls of your dreams, earn a million dollars, retire, etc., is completely FALSE. 

No matter how much success you achieve, you will never be able to “catch” happiness and it will always find away to elude you. They key principle is to become happy with what you have, and enjoy everything you have been blessed with. This is what Thanksgiving is all about. Imagine if every day you approached the world with the same mindset you had during Thanksgiving? The world would be a much better place.

This theory is good and all, but how can YOU apply it to your life to become happier and more intelligent? The prescription is simple, every morning write down five new things you are grateful for, and journal a recent positive experience for three minutes. I do this exercise every morning without fail, and I love it because it re-orients my mind towards all the blessings I have been bestowed with.

However, this exercise not only make you happier but also improves your cognitive performance. How does it do this? While completing these gratitude exercises you will get a transient spike in your serotonin and dopamine levels. These are the jet full of cognitive performance. Also, if this exercise is performed consistently, not only will you receive a transient spike daily, but your baseline serotonin and dopamine levels will increase as well.

Regardless of what you would like to achieve in your particular sport or in life, being happier and improving cognition can do nothing but help improve your performance and enjoyment while competing and training. Leading to not only better results but a more fulfilling life.

I hope all my Canadian readers have had an amazing thanksgiving beak, and that this post has given you some food for thought while taking a break from spending some time with family and friends (they can be a tad annoying sometimes!).For all of my american readers it is never to early to make every day thanksgiving day!

Summary 

Happiness is a skill

-Happiness does not require anything! There is nothing stopping your right now from being happy

-Journal five new things you are grateful for every morning and spend three minutes writing about a recent positive experience to become happier and more intelligent

How to add years to your life? What Kevin Garnett knows but you do not!

For all my articles I like to have a SparkNotes at the end so if you really pressed for time go check it out but I implore you to read through the entire article at least once! 

What is the most valuable resource in life? It is time. Any material object you can acquire and lose, you can always reacquire. For example if I gave you all the money I have sitting in my bank account right now I know I could make that money back. However, if I waste the next 5 minutes frivolously on facebook there is no way I can EVER get that time back.

So the question is how do you save your time? If you can more efficiently use your time then you in essence “add” more years to your life. There is a whole field devoted to this question: Time Management. Although there is a myriad of great resources in that field there are two things you can do NOW that would effortlessly save you years of wasted time. 

What is one of the most harmful and time wasting things that we all do every day of our lives?

COMPLAIN!!!!

It is not only an absolute life sucker just because it wastes time and reinforces the bad habit of maintaing a negative mindset, but also because of the opportunity costs. If you spend 5 minutes ruminating how unfair the world is you have lost that time to complete something much more productive. This time spent complaining compounds and adds up quite quickly to years and years wasted complaining and fixated in a negative unresourceful state.

How do we solve such an epidemic problem? You immediately think that the solution must be insanely complicated and require an inhumane effort. Absolutely not! The solution is quite simple in fact! 

elastic band

All you do is get an elastic band and wear it around you wrist. Whenever you catch yourself complaining or about to complain just snap the band against your wrist (like in the picture above). This may seem like an insignificant change, but I implore you to try it! I have been doing this for the last week and the positive impact it has had on my life is phenomenal. For the first couple of snaps I pretend to be a tough guy and think to myself it doesn’t hurt. However, after that my wrist was quite sore, and I was really wary of getting my wrist snapped again. So without much effort I was able to drastically curtail my complaining. As a result I am much more optimistic and just enjoy life more. This is a very versatile tool (wrist snapping) that isn’t just limited to prevent your from complaining.

So I mentioned Kevin Garnett in my title and I have made no mention of him in this post yet, I am just blowing smoke out of my ass? No, this technique was first introduced to me by my high school basketball coach who got to see Kevin Garnett practice in person. He always used to wear an elastic band around his wrist, and whenever he would make a defensive error he would snap his wrist with an elastic band. It is no wonder why he is one of the best defensive bigs in basketball. The moral of this story is that success leaves clues, and whenever you get to interact or observe successful athletes and people, pay attention to the little things! This brings up the second thing you can do to save years of your life. Do NOT try to re-invent the wheel. There have been countless of uber successful people before you. Use what they have learned to short circuit your success. These two minor changes will “add” years to your life.

Sparknotes

Complaining consumes years of your life

-Use an elastic band and snap it every time you catch yourself complaining to curtail this behavior

-Success leaves clues -> Pay attention to the small things when around successful people.

– Model successful people to save time!