Rick Barry is a jerk. Seriously. According to a lot of people. Most people. Even family members. If you don’t know Barry, he is a Hall of Fame basketball player. Won league MVP honors. Is considered one of the three or four best shooters EVER. But, he is just as well-known for two things besides basketball ability. One, he shot free throws underhanded (granny shot). And two, he is a jerk.
You see Barry is a perfectionist. That’s why he shot free throws underhanded. (listen to Gladwell’s podcast to learn more about Barry and free throws, it’s really good) Apparently, it is the most effective means of making them. And Barry made them. But Barry also expected others to have the same level of perfection when it came to basketball. He would gripe at teammates for not doing everything to maximize their basketball prowess and therefore the team’s chance to win. He complains about high-fiving players who missed a shot. He can never understand why everyone wouldn’t shoot free throws like him when it is obviously the best way to do it.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The kid who practices piano for twenty hours a week can’t understand why anyone would practice an instrument less. “Don’t you want to get good at it?” But he probably also doesn’t get the kid that would practice 40 hours a week. That is insane.
If I work 50 hours a week, I look at somebody who works seventy and say “good grief, get a life, be with your family.” If someone works 35 I view them as lazy or perhaps entitled. MY zone is THE zone. Everyone’s home should be as clean as mine. Maintain their cars at the same level I do.
But Barry confronts us with something because he is so far down the road. We all have different “zones”. Differing levels of expectation and perfectionism. I know almost no one at Barry’s level. But if I look honestly at my life and others, I see many different zones, most of which do not match mine.
This is critical as we deal with others in relationship. I would guess that much of our frustration with others comes from real differences in our zones. We butt heads because their zone just feels wrong to us. But it feels wrong for a very good reason. Because it is wrong for us. We are not them. They are not us. For relationships to work I must be willing to drop the expectation that others will view life, work, relationships and love just like I do.
Who is right, the wife who is mad at her husband for not doing more to clean up dinner, or the husband who goes outside and plays with the kids? Should we really expect everyone to have the same desire we do when it comes to work and family and friends?
Barry was right. Let’s don’t forget that. He had found some seriously better ways to play basketball. But he found them because of his zone. But what trapped him was that he could not manage to berate his teammates to move to his level. Huh. Something there will preach.
It’s funny. When I go to the public library I typically wander over to the new book section. Fiction is on the left, and I peruse it, scanning for anything interesting. Then my eyes shift to the right. Non-fiction. I typically flip through a couple of biographies. Skim the back cover of some political or sports book. But my gaze inevitably falls on a particular set of books. They are about business or entrepreneurship, leadership or maximizing potential. They urge me to now “Smash It” and “Lead” and “Build my Brand.” I stare at them for a moment. And the same thought always goes through my head: “Nah, I don’t want to smash it”. That’s right, I don’t really care if I maximize my potential. At least not in the way those books mean it.
Rick Barry believed in shooting free throws underhanded because it was the best way to do it. He was a perfectionist. Other’s wouldn’t do it because they thought it made them look like a “sissy.” What’s amusing is that if I made the NBA, I would shoot underhanded like Barry. But not because I am a perfectionist. I would shoot the granny shot because I would want to get along with Rick Barry. Be his friend. Relationships, that’s my zone.
One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and others is permission to be different. To have various levels of desire and expectation. We must recognize that someone who does life differently than we do isn’t crazy or lazy. Nah. They are just different.