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In my teens and twenties I played a lot of pickup basketball. Didn't matter where or with whom - as long as the rim had a net and the ball had air I was game.

I've written this in the past, but I continue to marvel at the life lessons you can identify in a pickup basketball game. Obvious ones such as teamwork and sportsmanship to less obvious ones such as mindfulness, confidence and restraint.

Certain days (or every summer day in NYC) the court would get crowded. It could be a two to three game wait before you get to play. So once you get on the court both teams have a lot of incentive to not lose. In basketball recognition comes to the scorers. Players that put the ball in the basket. So naturally the moment you get the ball you're making a play with the intention to score. The problem is all your teammates likely share this mindset.

Add in the influence of razzle-dazzle players like Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving whose effortless handles and pure scoring abilities are viewed with such awe that the moment a player touches the ball, they feel they must replicate Curry or Irving in order to mesmerize and garner the respect of teammates and opponents. It becomes less about the game and more about showmanship. It's a formula for losing your spot on the court and waiting another two to three games until you get back on.

So what do you do? Complain the person guarding you that your teammates are ball hogs. Or get confrontational and call out your superstar teammates to shoot less, pass the ball and make the right play. But this is pickup basketball, no one likes a player coach.

So shift your mindset, shift your responsibility: plug the hole.

If your team can't get a rebound, get in the paint and get rebounds. If an opposing player is dominating offensively offer to guard that player (always offer nicely). [1] If you need to set some picks to get teammates open, set the picks. The mindset is to do whatever is necessary to set your team up for success.

In most cases that means refraining from launching a three ten feet behind the line and turning around and celebrating prematurely as the ball drifts through the air. [2] It requires swallowing some pride and realizing that in this game your team doesn't need you to take ten shots. Identify the hole and make it a personal challenge to plug it. See how much you can influence the game even if you don't take a single shot. Teammates that know the game will appreciate you and will go out of there way to set you up offensively.

And if you win the game you get to stay on the court - and maybe in the next game you'll plug some offensive holes.

 

Notes

[1] Do it strategically and nicely. There is a lot of pride on the basketball court. If you just got scored on a couple times in a row it's embarrassing and frustrating to have a teammate tell you to switch on D. By telling you to switch with them are implying that you are not good enough to guard that player and they will now take over defensive responsibilities to show you how it's done. Don't be that teammate. Instead tell them they are doing a solid job, but you are trying to get better at defense and want to improve your skills. Ask them if they would be OK with you trying to guard their defensive assignment for a few plays. If they say no back off. But in most cases they will agree and appreciate you not showing them up on the court. It may also reciprocate back to you as they become more likely to pass you the ball in appreciation for your help defensively.

[2] Actually in all cases. Just don't do that. I'm a fan of confidence. But not at the cost of fundamentals. This new trend of shooting the ball and immediately celebrating by turning around and walking away because you "just know" that you made the shot is ridiculous. It's showboating and should be avoided.

Jeff Bezos concludes all of his shareholder letters with this sentence:

It remains Day 1.

This sentence encompasses the mindset that drives his strategy and leadership of Amazon. Although the company will be 24 years old this year, Bezos believes that Amazon must remain perpetually in Day 1.

In his 2016 Letter to Shareholders Bezos answered the natural follow up question: "What does Day 2 look like?":

Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.

Day 2 doesn't sound good for a company with over 500,000 employees and a fiduciary duty to shareholders who own a stock that is up 11% YTD (as of Feb 9, 2018).

So how does Amazon maintain a Day 1 mindset?

Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.

This defense forms the strategic value pillars for Amazon. These pillars are the foundation for how the company operates. Reference points for team members on how to make decisions and approach their jobs.

The Day 1 mindset has a powerful application beyond Amazon.

How would your life be different if you viewed it from a Day 1 versus Day 2 mindset?

Day 2 is the tropical beach scenario. You made it, cold beverage in hand you've cashed out and no longer have responsibilities or worries. You don't need to learn or do anything. Just be until your internal clock hits 0. As Bezos writes:

Day 2 is stasis. 

Day 2 is an illusion. A fictitious place to visit when Day 1 is hard or doesn't align with expectations. You imagine it will be better in Day 2 because then you wont need to work any more. You wont need to learn anything new or channel your discipline and put in the hard work to achieve your goals. Day 2 is when you've achieved all your goals and there is nothing left for you to do.

But I agree with Jeff, today remains Day 1. And Day 1 is much more interesting than Day 2. There is so much to discover, to explore, to learn. People to meet, experiences to be had. Hobbies to try. Skills to learn. New places to go. Goals to strive for.

The Day 1 mindset is one of curiosity. The will to try something. It's about having experiences. The experience of a new job, maintaining an existing relationship, having a beginners mind in a new class you've picked up.

Day 1 is embracing everything that comes with it. The hard work, the reward of perseverance, the process. It's not about chasing Day 2, or getting through Day 1 so that it's finally Day 2.

Kobe Bryant in his Muse documentary film talked about his immediate thoughts after winning his first elusive championship in 2000 against the Indiana Pacers:

...I remember winning the championship and kind of being like, well ok, now what, what happens now, what happens now...?

Kobe reached the pinnacle for any NBA player, the Day 2 of winning a championship. And yet his immediate question brought him back to Day 1. He may have spent 30 minutes in Day 2 basking in the champagne and celebrating with the team. But he was quick to return to Day 1. For Day 2 doesn't have the allure of Day 1. You don't get better in Day 2. You don't learn. You don't get to experience life.

And so for me also, it remains Day 1.

It's crazy to think that today, if I want to watch a live NBA  game, I basically have two options. NBA League Pass, or Cable TV. The former costs over $100 and has a number of restrictions (like blocking coverage when your local team plays home games). And Cable TV, put simply is a rip-off. Time Warner Cable "standard TV" package starts at $39.99 a month. Add in taxes, fees, and you could be paying $40+ a  month for basic Cable TV. And your cost is likely to increase 5-20% each year.

Even as a NBA fan I can't justify paying for cable or league pass so that I can watch a game or two a week. But I would happily pay a la carte style for individual games, or a more reasonable  monthly fee that I could cancel at anytime. And I recently discovered that such a solution exists.

It's called Sling Television. For only $20/month I get 20+ channels (including: ESPN 1 & 2, TNT) with no long-term contracts, set-up, or hardware fees. And I can  join and cancel at anytime. I have not tried the service, but if it works as well as described, it will be a game-changer for me. Cable television companies have hopefully realized that the younger generations are not buying cable packages. They are buying Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. They are watching videos on YouTube and documentaries on Vimeo. Sports have been one of the last forms of entertainment keeping the cable industry alive. And Sling is delivering cable content at a fair price, through a medium my generation understands: an app.

Vizio, the Irvine California based consumer electronics company is also taking a stab at the  future of TV. They are launching their new P-Series TVs this month. Vizio reimagined TV through the P-Series. I'll sum it up as a TV screen with built in Google Cast technology, and is controlled by a 6-inch Android tablet.

Google got it right with Google Cast. They made us realize that our TV is just a large screen. The remote is our devices. Our phone, tablet, laptop, these smart devices are our remotes. Vizio is taking this to another level with the P-Series integration with Google Cast. To quote Nilay Patel from his excellent Verge article:

Google actually controls the Cast software on the P-Series, which is kept separate from the rest of Vizio’s software. "It will stay completely up to date with all the Chromecast dongles in the field," says McRae. "Google has the ability to update the Cast library at will." "All of the innovation we’re putting into Google Cast will be fed into the Vizio TVs, just as it is with the Chromecast. Their product will get better and better over time," says Queiroz.

The idea of the product getting better and better over time is not a new concept for software. But it is a new concept for hardware.

Tesla is infamous for this, with their over the air software updates that introduce new features such as "Autosteer" to the Model S. Prior to Tesla this was unheard of in the auto-industry. You would have buy next years model in order to get the latest features. Today, your car "updates" while you sleep.

Vizio is taking the same approach with the P-Series. As Google updates Google Cast technology, your TV improves.

The other smart thing Vizio did was not build their own operating system in the TV. Had they gone this route, they would need custom apps (e.g ESPN, AMC, Hulu, etc.) to be built for their platform. This isn't practical, and would limit the content they could offer. So:

By dropping any desire to put apps on the TV itself, Vizio completely sidesteps the platform war entirely. Every app in the Android and the iOS app stores that supports Google Cast is a P-Series app.

The beauty of Google Cast is that it takes your existing Android  or iOS apps, and through some tweaks turns them into apps that are Google Cast enabled. And since so many apps have already been Cast enabled, the Vizio TV at launch  will have a slew of apps that are compatible with the television.

I'm curious to see how the television market will appear a year from now. My prediction is that we will be heading in the direction that Sling TV (a la carte style content at a low no-hassle cost) and Vizio (TV's controlled by our BYODs) are taking us in.

It will be exciting to watch, and things  are looking up for consumers in the realm of TV!

Mark Jackson had a great insight during the Warriors/Cavaliers Christmas game matchup:

Steph Curry's great. Steph Curry is the MVP. He's a champion. Understand what I'm saying when I say this: To a degree, he's hurt the game. And what I mean by that is that I go into these high school gyms, I watch these kids and the first thing they do is they run to the 3-point line. You are not Steph Curry. Work on the other aspects of your game. People think that he's just a knockdown shooter. That's not why he's the MVP. He's a complete basketball player.

His statement generated much controversy as every news headline blared: "Mark Jackson says Steph Curry has hurt the game of basketball". Jackson knew his statement would draw controversy. That's why he prefaced it by saying "understand what I'm saying when I say this".

I knew exactly what he meant when he made the statement. And I agree with it to an extent. I would disagree on placing the blame on Steph Curry. Every 5-10 years a transcendental player comes along that could be considered a bad influence to the game. I've been playing pickup basketball since the 90s, and I've seen it firsthand. In the late 90s you had the MJ showboats who would try to play like Mike (by putting up as many fade-away jumpers as they could muster). Then we had the Kobe era. These individuals would shoot as much as they could trying to channel their inner 81-point Kobe.

Offense is what draws the masses to basketball. The superstars tend to be offensively gifted. And great offense trumps great defense. But Marc Jackson was wrong in blaming only Steph Curry in this trend of kids focusing on three pointers instead of fundamentals. Curry has carried the torch. And likely a bit further than his predecessors.

In my earlier days of pickup basketball I was very offensive minded. If I didn't make a couple shots in a game, I'd be disappointed and wouldn't enjoy the game. As I got older, I had less time to practice, and naturally my shooting got worse. And then I had an idea. Instead of focusing on how many points I could score, I started thinking about the other ways I could impact the game and be challenged. For example I'd volunteer to guard the best offensive player on the opposing team. Just to see if I could slow them down a bit. I'd focus on rebounding or assists. What I found is by not focusing on offense, I was more selective with the shots I took, had more fun playing the game, and even had good offensive performances.

The risk that Jackson has recognized is that young players idolize Steph Curry for the wrong reasons. Sure his offense is incredible, but the game of basketball is not just about shooting long-range threes. These players are going to be in games where they try to emulate Curry, find little success, and struggle to develop their game.

24 Hour Fitness pickup basketball is a mecca of the kinds of players Marc Jackson is worried about. The ones that think they are next Curry/Kobe/MJ/etc. It's a terrible experience to play with a player like this. They don't pass the ball. They don't play defense. And they complain excessively. But occasionally, you'll get on a team where teammates set a pick for you, try extra-hard on defense or rebounding, or make the extra pass to a wide-open teammate. It makes the game more enjoyable for that person and the other players.

Curry is no more detrimental to the game than any other offensively gifted superstar. Stretching this idea beyond basketball, I believe many of us get caught up with "offense" and ignore the fundamentals. The fundamentals get less praise and less attention from the media because they lack the flash. But your teammates are going to notice, and appreciate your attention to the fundamentals. And that will make things a lot more rewarding and enjoyable for you.

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Anthony Davis is a 22 year-old NBA player on the verge of becoming a superstar in the league. Various NBA analysts have said that Davis's sealing is limitless. He has the potential to be one of the best NBA player ever. Last season (his third in the league), he averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks. Davis led the New Orleans Pelicans to the 8th seed in the uber-competitive Western conference last season. They ended up losing in the first-round to the eventual champs, Golden State Warriors, but it was a taste of things to come for the Pelicans with Davis at the helm.

Things couldn't look more promising for Davis and the Pelicans in the upcoming 2015-2016 season. That was until the team got hit hard by an injury plague. The Pelicans have essentially lost there starting line up and bench, and have had to make some last-minute signings in order to have a complete roster.

In the Western conference the difference between a couple of games can put a team in or out of the playoffs. There is not a lot of room for error. And unless Anthony Davis takes his game to a whole other level, the Pelicans are going to struggle to win games until they get their players healthy.

This bring me to the Anthony Davis Dilemma. This also could have been the Kevin Love Dilemma until he got traded to the Cavaliers. The dilemma is you have a superstar player on a so-so team. Davis can put up inhuman numbers each game, but if the team is on the fast-track to a non-playoff seed, doesn't it feel like a waste? I'd love to see Anthony Davis back in the playoffs this season, but based on the current state of his team there is a slim chance he makes it.

An aside, unlike tennis, the NBA is a team game. In tennis if you are the best player in the tournament, you have a good chance of reaching the finals. In the NBA, you may be the best player on the court, but if the other guys on your team don't hold their weight, you aren't getting very far.

Coming back to the dilemma. Doesn't it seem a waste of prime talent to have Davis battling for a team whose best shot is an 8th seed in the playoffs? I'd like to see Davis battling in a game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. I'm sure he'd like that also. Unfortunately there is little Davis can do. He signed a lucrative contract and unless he demands a trade he isn't going anywhere.

The broader appeal of this dilemma is to us regular folks. Although most of us are not as good at our craft as Davis is at basketball, a lot of us are quite talented in our respective fields. And yet we may be in an environment where the best we can do is a first-round playoff exit as an 8th seed. It could be because we are not on the right team, the right project, etc. We may be giving away our prime years in a situation that doesn't have a lot of potential.

I don't have advice as to how to get around the dilemma. This post was more about recognizing that such a dilemma exists. Unlike Davis we have more flexibility to change our surrounding environment. To strive to be put in a place where our prime years are utilized to the fullest so that we can reach our highest potential.