The Bucknellian

Disclaimer: there is no true winning or losing at life

By Blake Sherwyn, Contributing Writer

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No human being wins at everything. No human being is immune to loss. All you can hope for is that your wins make all your losses worthwhile. That is what a successful life looks like to me. Enjoy the article, and I hope you learn a thing or two.

 

Validation: achieved

 

My roommates and I love playing NBA 2K. It has become more than a game in our humble on-campus apartment. What started off as a mindless hobby to pass the time has turned into part of our culture, where intense competition has strengthened our friendships and has taught me very valuable life lessons.

 

Oh yeah, we also put money on games. I’m definitely down – don’t tell my mom.

 

I often jot down profound things that I hear in my day-to-day life in the notes application on my phone so I can remember them and have them ready to refer to in times when I feel lost, am in need of a pick-me-up, or simply want to remain focused. Over the last few years, I have crafted quotes and ideas based on the observations, interactions, and tribulations that I experience daily. This list is dynamic, as it is a direct reflection of my personal experience, which by nature, has also been dynamic. Human beings are constantly changing and growing through their experiences – so everything I express here and every opinion that I hold is subject to change, or at the very least, development. This is where I stand now, and I am perfectly okay with that.

 

I will admit, at one point I began to question myself and my own sense of perspective due to the aforementioned reasons. I thought to myself, “I am 22 years old. I really have not been around for that long and I have so much to learn still. What do I really know about this world?” A conversation with former NBA player and General Manager of the Washington Wizard’s G-League team Pops Mensah-Bonsu silenced my inner critic. I met Mensah-Bonsu at a sports networking conference in Washington, D.C. this past weekend, where I gave him some unsolicited advice – advice that he told me he will hold onto for the rest of his life. Inspiring a man who I grew up watching play professional basketball and who has achieved so many tremendous feats in his life showed me that I must be doing something right, and that gave me the validation I needed to write this article. So without further ado, this is the advice I gave Mensah-Bonsu, and this is what I learned from playing NBA 2K.

 

Winning 2K games requires focusing on the current possession at hand. If all you are concerned about is winning the game or blowing out your opponent, you will act impulsively, chuck up hasty 3s, and make bad passes in order to pump up the score as quickly as possible. To win the game, all you need to do is win each possession. After all, basketball games are nothing more than a collection of possessions. That sense of urgency to “win immediately” and the haste that it causes you to play with will dissipate as you will feel gratification much sooner when singular possessions start to go your way. You will play with more clarity and focus because your attention will be directed on the now, and not on the final outcome of the game, which you really have no control over, no matter how well you play. This clarity and focus will allow you to take your time to make the right pass, set the right screen, and take the right shot. If you don’t win the possession, that is okay because there will almost always be a next possession that you can win. If you play the game trying to win each possession and you still lose, you will have done absolutely everything in your power to win, and this knowledge will soften the blow of the loss, while also allowing you to learn from it and improve as a player.

 

In life, we are at the mercy of the universe’s will – all that is really in our control is how we think and act in the present moment. Fortunately for us, like possessions in a game of NBA 2K, life is nothing more than a collection of these moments, giving us full control of what kind of life we choose to live. The more moments we win, the more our life will be defined by success. What does “winning the moment” look like exactly? I believe my rationale for winning the moment is universally applicable; however, I am only one person with one perspective, so I will not speak for the rest of the world.

 

My personal rationale requires us to redefine what it means to win. We can’t buy the car of our dreams every day, so it is imperative to identify small instances of positivity and label them as wins. Something as simple as cleaning your room or taking out the trash should be seen as a win. By celebrating the small victories that compile over the course of the day, we are setting ourselves up for frequent feelings of fulfillment, confidence, and competence, all traits that are commonly associated with a positive, successful life.

 

For me, winning the moment means making decisions that best serve me and make me better, while also maintaining perspective. This happens through actions such as going to the gym, staying on top of homework, and choosing positive people to spend time with. It also operates at a thought-based level. We all fall victim to negative self-talk, a voice in your head saying, “You can’t do this” or “You’re not good enough for this.” Whenever I come across negative self-talk going on in my head, I choose to silence it by asking, “Are these thoughts helping me get to where I want to go?” If not, I replace them with thoughts that do support my desired trajectory and I shift my focus toward something more productive and positive. Winning the moment can happen as quickly as it takes to tweak a thought. Maintaining perspective means trusting the process and remembering that you will eventually get to where you want to be, despite your current standing. It means not getting bogged down by losses but welcoming them and identifying them as opportunities for growth. With the right perspective, no challenge is insurmountable.

 

The benefits of “winning the moment”

 

I will now highlight and map out the various benefits that come with adopting the mindset of a “win the now” mentality. It is important to note that the benefits are not limited to the ones listed below.

 

Most importantly, by winning the moment, you are setting yourself up for a trajectory that correlates directly with achieving your goals. Again, life is comprised of a series of moments – when you win the small battles, you will be more fit to win the big ones, and ultimately live the life that you want to live.

 

By winning each moment, you are eliminating the unattainable and distracting need for the immediate gratification that comes with having a long-term goal. You won’t get that job overnight, so it is important to fulfill the craving for achievement that gives us a sense of purpose with small wins in order to remain productive and positive. These wins, though inherently smaller, will come more frequently and provide you with a consistent sense of accomplishment that could not otherwise be sustained merely through achieving long-term goals.

 

In addition, winning the moment takes your thoughts and energy away from aspects of your life that you can’t control and encourages personal accountability. Wasting energy and thought on what is out of our control cultivates frustration, breeds negativity, and is quite often a frivolous effort. More importantly, it takes the place of more valuable, productive thoughts. It is okay that you can’t control some things. There are more things in life that we can’t control than things we can, and no one on this planet has the ability to control everything. As soon as you accept this and let go of the need for control over your externalities, you gain control over yourself and that is a far more empowering and practical feeling. You can’t decide whether you get hired or not. What you can control is doing all of the little things in your power to make sure that you do.

 

Maintaining perspective is a good way to win the moment and is instrumental in alleviating both self-induced and external stress and pressure. It is very easy to panic, get frustrated, or feel inadequate when you haven’t heard back from a job you’ve been trying to get. Maintaining perspective will help you come to accept the possibility that you didn’t get it, as you know that there will be more opportunities for you in the future and that failure is a platform for improvement. This knowledge helps dis-empower that which is causing you stress, as failure becomes your ally in the form of a teacher. Eliminating stress will boost your mood and allow you to operate at peak performance moving forward as you will be able to think with focus and clarity.

 

The beauty of aiming to win each moment is that, if you lose one – and trust me, you will – there will always be another chance. If you take each moment in time for what it’s worth, there are nearly infinite moments ahead, and thus, infinite opportunities to win. Understanding this will make the losses more bearable, generating positivity and hope in the process.

 

We do not determine the pace at which we experience success. All we can do is focus on doing our best at the present, trusting that our time will come and that our actions will ultimately guide us where we want to go.

_____________________________________________

 

I am ready to lose. Because I know that my next loss will not be my last, and I am fully prepared to endure as many losses as it takes for me to learn what I need to, in order to get where I want to be. Because in the end, I know that the wins will make it all worth it. As long as I do my best to win each present moment and play a good game, I will be content with my performance on life’s court. So I welcome you to hit me with your best shot, because life–I play NBA 2K.

 

Good luck everybody, and win this moment.

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Disclaimer: there is no true winning or losing at life