Rick Barry Can Help Your Relationships (And Your Free Throws)

ricky barry

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.

Advertisements

The D Word

secretos

It may be the worst word in the English language.  Worse than any curse word.  Why?  Because it shreds our emotions and makes us horrible to be around.  The word?  Deserve.

Many of us feel guilty, unworthy.  When bad things happen, we feel like we are getting what we deserve.  Which only makes us feel terrible about ourselves and absolutely no fun to be around.

On the other hand, some of us think we deserve better.  When things go wrong, or the world doesn’t work the way we think it should; we feel let down, abused and mistreated.  Which of course makes us gripey, whiney, and self-righteous.  Even worse to be around than those guilty schmucks.

You see, when we use the word deserve, it typically leads to misery.  Both ours and others.

This is especially true in relationships.  Lots of us feel, deep down inside, that when things don’t work in our relationships that is just us getting what we deserve.  We are not worth being treated well.  So, we give off a vibe that says “spit on me, I won’t mind”.

Others of us feel that we deserve to be made happy by our relationships.  So when someone lets us down, whether they meant to or not, we mount our high horse and scream about how unfair life is and how we deserve better.  (By the way, neither of these positions makes anyone actually want to love you.)

On the other hand, people who find fulfillment in their relationships don’t think about what they deserve.  Instead, they focus on what they can give.  They look at what they can do to improve themselves.  How can I be a better listener?  What can I do to be more welcoming?  Where can I best use my talents to help others?  Those finding fulfillment in relationships drop the “de” from deserve.

It sounds simple, and it truly is.  It is just difficult to do.  Stop looking at what you should get, and focus on what you can give.  Don’t focus on what you deserve; focus on how you can serve.

If you want to be unhappy, if you desire to be miserable, just spend the next hour or so thinking about what you deserve.  You will either feel totally guilty or completely uncared for.  Now doesn’t that feel good?!

But if you want to be happy, if you desire some joy in your life, then drop deserve from your vocabulary.

After Eighteen

Wedding rings

18 years ago this weekend, I married the most wonderful, caring, hard-working, beautiful woman. But as lovely as my wife is, and as much as I looked forward to our wedding, I had no idea what I was getting into. This became quickly evident to me.

Two weeks after we wed, my father-in-law passed away. We knew this was coming as he had been sick for quite a while. He fought just to make it to the wedding. But suddenly, I am two weeks into marriage and there is this massive family crisis. I had no idea what to do. No clue how to be a good husband, much less a good husband in the midst of pain and suffering.

I was suddenly part of a family dealing with a devastating loss. I was grieving with relatives I barely knew, many of whom I had only met for the first time two weeks before. I was an insider but not really. I was family, sort of. And more than anything I wanted to help my wife, but I was woefully inept.

The night before the memorial service we gathered at the funeral home for a visitation. Many family, friends and church people came to show their respect. I did the only thing I knew to do; I stood by my wife and held her hand. Many people came to us and offered a strange mix of congratulations and condolences. It was surreal.

But then, it went to a whole other level. A young couple came up to speak with us. I didn’t know them, but assumed my wife must (as it turned out she didn’t, to this day we have no idea who they were). They offered their sympathy and then the woman said something I will never forget. She said, “My father passed away almost ten years ago. And I just want you to know that after all this time it still hurts the same. It never gets better.” Then they walked away.

I was horrified. I probably should have felt some tinge of sympathy for the woman but all I could think about was my wife. How could anyone say such a thing? My wife stared straight ahead as the couple eased away. She began to shake and I gripped her hand as tightly as possible. I prepared myself for the devastated mourning about to be unleashed. And then she turned and looked at me, and laughed. Not a polite little giggle, but full on laughter. And I immediately began laughing with her. What else could you do?

We pulled away from the crowd and tried to compose ourselves. There was sadness in my wife’s eyes, but also a strange joy. We talked about how we felt sorry for the young woman, but also discussed how we couldn’t believe anyone could say such a thing at that moment. We laughed some more. We kissed. We laughed. We returned to the crowd, stronger and more truly married.

As I have reflected many times about the events surrounding that time in our lives, I always end up in the same place: the two of us laughing in a funeral home. I think in many ways that moment distills the essence of marriage.

Life is certainly not perfect. You don’t get to pick when tragedy happens. And even now, although I believe I am much better equipped, I still don’t know exactly what to do in the face of real pain. But in that moment I learned something so valuable, so precious, so life-giving that it has propelled me ever since. Marriage is about knowing you have someone you can laugh with in the face of death. It is about being able to be truly you, completely you, no matter if that seems inappropriate or counter to the situation. I may not have known what to do in those difficult days, but I had found someone who I could look in the eye and love and laugh with. No matter the situation. I had found something priceless. Not a good wife or great marriage. No, more valuable than those. I had found a best friend, a soul mate, a partner in crime for all eternity.