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  • Tom Birchard

Giannis on Past, Present, and Future

This past Tuesday Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA championship in 50 years. Giannis (I’ll stick with his first name to save my fingers typing that last name) is a two-time league MVP but this was his first time truly delivering in the playoffs. The past couple years the Bucks were the top seed in the Eastern Conference but had disappointing playoff exits and Giannis caught heat for his lack of clutch performances. The Bucks seemed to fly under the radar a bit this year entering the playoffs as a 3 seed but then won it all.

A few days when ended up being the close-out game of the series, this video clip from a Giannis interview started making it’s rounds on the internet (Link). It’s only a couple minutes long so I’d encourage watching it. Giannis talks about ego when you think about the past, pride when you look into the future, and humility really only existing in the present moment. The more I thought about this, the more I realized this short clip had a lot of philosophical insight packed into it. I previously read a book called The Time Paradox that also spoke to this dynamic. It was a few years ago but I recall taking a test in the book that scored me high on being “future oriented”…probably no surprise to those who know me well. I don’t think a focus on past, present, or future is necessary good or bad in and of itself, but it is helpful to consider some of the implications. If you’re heavy slanted towards one, some balance could be helpful. Let’s dig a bit deeper into each:

· The Past: Ego – Ryan Holiday wrote a great book called The Ego is the Enemy that’s been a teaching tool for many successful sport franchises including the New England Patriots. Rajneesh said, “The ego is your enemy, not your friend. It is the ego that gives you wounds and hurts you. It is the ego that makes you violent, angry, jealous, competitive. It is the ego that is continuously comparing and feeling miserable.” When you think about your past it’s often to reflect on your accomplishments, or think about someone who’s slighted you, or a situation where you were right and someone else was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, reflecting on the past for remembering good times or learning from mistakes or tapping into what you did in a similar situation can be really useful, which is why we as humans have the ability to remember. I think Giannis is right though, with too much dwelling on the past your ego inflates and you start to subconsciously believe the world revolves around you and this can really get in the way of leading your best life.

· The Future: Pride – C.S. Lewis wrote, “For pride is spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love, or commitment, or even common sense.” Pride is also one of the 7 deadly sins. I already acknowledged, this is a difficult one for me. I’m ambitious and motivated, and spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about the future and my goals/aspirations. Even when I’m doing a mundane task like brushing my teeth or emptying the dishwasher, I often catch myself thinking through future plans and possibilities or trying to picture how a critical conversation will go. There can be value in this, one of my favorite books is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich where he talks about our ability as humans to envision a future, inject that vision with passion, and to then manifest it by the actions we start taking today. Look at all the technology and inventions that make our lives easier today, from smart phones to Amazon deliveries to the air conditioner keeping your home cool…these all started with someone’s ambitious view of the future and willingness to work hard towards that end. However there’s a downside to this as well which I think Giannis accurately characterizes as pride. Much like dwelling on past accomplishments inflates ego, too much of a focus on a bright future can build an unhealthy level of pride as you see yourself solely responsible, neglecting the impacts other people or circumstances will have.

· The Present: Humility – Focusing on the present moment has come into fashion with practices like meditation becoming more mainstream (seeing Lebron James in a commercial for the app Calm is pretty telling). There are also less healthy ways to bring focus to the present such as alcohol and drugs. If you strip away ego and pride you’re left with humility, something we could all use more of. Former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie tagged the line “trust the process” which I think implies focusing on the here and now. I do think humility can pull from the past and future as well. If you’re grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given (the past) and acknowledge that tomorrow isn’t a given (the future), this can help to build humility. That said bringing more and more focus into the present should contribute to humility, especially as you look in awe at the world around you.

It’s worthwhile to periodically take status of what time horizon is getting the majority of your focus. If you’re spending too much or too little time in any given area there are steps you can take to improve that. A couple of things that have unexpectedly brought me into the present more are having dogs as well as becoming a father. Part of that is because when you’re laughing or having pure joy, it’s hard to dwell on the past or look to the future. Also a baby or dog is totally consumed with the present moment and that can be contagious. I’d love to hear from any of you on the practices you’ve found helpful in striking a healthier balance between past, present, and future.

In my post we'll break down this clip of PJ Tucker after winning the championship (Link)...joking ;-)

Thanks for reading and here are some of the favorite things I’ve come across the last couple weeks!

· Article - Searching for Resilience by Michael Weeks – I’d previously written a blog post on resilience but Weeks explains it much better than I ever could. Important concept in many aspects of life but this article focuses on economics and business

· Short Video - The Rules for Rulers – It’s amazing to me some of the complex concepts that can be explained by an excellent communicator with a short video. This is a great example of that, if you’re interested in politics and/or leadership I’d suggest checking it out

· Podcast Episode - Lebron James on Smartless – Smartless is my go-to podcast for pure entertainment value and laughs (beware some foul language). Lebron was the surprise guest for their one year anniversary of the show and it was both funny and insightful

· Article - On the Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking by Jeremy DeSilva – Solid article that gets into a bit of the science behind walking and thinking. I try to go for a walk outside every day and find it helpful for creative thinking and problem solving…that is when I’m not the crazy guy pacing the neighborhood with his headphones on talking loudly on a call haha

· QuoteThe first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant. Max De Pree

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