It only takes a minute. Really!

Posted: 03/02/2015 in Life lessons
Tags: , , ,

I calculate that in December of 1978 I had lived 8,359,200 minutes and, at the conservative rate of 15,000 words per day, I estimate that I had heard approximately 87,075,000 words.  The purpose of this math is to prove a comparative point.

I was the starting point guard for my high school junior varsity basketball team.  In one memorable game, playing away from home on one of our arch rival’s home court, I blew four free throws in the closing seconds to lose a big game we could have easily won. Needless to say I was beside myself.  I was the floor general and was supposed to stay composed in those pressure situations.  However, I choked.  Plain and simple.  I felt the pressure and I buckled beneath its weight.

Free ThrowsI felt so bad and was so humiliated that I remained in the locker room while the rest of the team went out to watch the varsity play. A few minutes before half time my coach came to check on me.  He observed my swollen and red eyes as I brushed away tears and slowly bounced the back of my head against the locker I was sitting next to.  As Coach Tanke came and sat next to me, I couldn’t even look at him. I felt like I had let him down.  My humiliation had magnified my insecurities to the hundredth power.  Rather than a berating tirade with words of disappointment, though, his words were gentle; they were compassionate and they were genuine.  In about a ten minute conversation, he recalled all the highlights of a well played, competitive game by two evenly matched teams that truly could have gone either way; a game we lost by only two points.  After his recap of the game, he made a statement that resonates in my ears to this very day.  He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re a hell of a player kid and I think very highly of you.” Upon hearing those words, I came unglued. I lost whatever semblance of composure I could muster.  There was water works and snot everywhere.  I couldn’t understand how he could say such a thing about a player who had just lost a game.  I let him down.  I let my teammates down.  I was ready to hang up my Converse and give up basketball altogether.  But, I didn’t.  I wouldn’t have blamed him for laying in to me about my incompetence in language unique to coaches everywhere.  But, he didn’t.

Now, there are a lot of lessons to be learned in this story from my past.  The fact is, each time I review this point in my history, I come away with a slightly different perspective and a new lesson about myself and the impact one person can have on another.  This brings me to my point and the lesson I would like to share, now.

Back to the math at the beginning of this article…

At fifteen years and eleven months old I had amassed 8,359,200 minutes of life and had heard a conservative estimate of 87,075,00 words. Out of all the minutes and all the words I had lived and heard to that point, fourteen words that took all of ten seconds of a ten minute conversation resonate and reverberate as though I heard them yesterday. When you consider the impact they still have on my life thirty seven years and millions of minutes and words later, their significance is even more astounding. I dare say, “Miraculous!”

The point is this:  I wanted to quit…but I didn’t.  I showed up for practice the next day and took what I had coming.  That equated to four sets of 25 sprint-and-floats followed by 25 free throws after each set.  That’s right!  100 sprint-and-floats and 100 free throws.  All while the rest of the team watched…and guffawed.  Coach Tanke was a compassionate and understanding man but he was still a coach.  If I didn’t want to quit the night before, I certainly felt like quitting then.  But while I was running and shooting free throws and as my supportive teammates clowned on me and talked trash, all I could hear were those words.  “You’re a hell of a player kid and I think very highly of you.”

Those words helped me to begin realizing that my value is not calculated by my performance or any particular expertise in any particular ability.  I am important because, well, I’m important. I am valuable because I am a person. I am valuable because I am a human BEING and not a human DOING.  So are you! Perhaps this is simplistic but it is the simple things in life that are often the most profound.  Coach Tanke’s words expressed the difference between failing at an event and being a failure in life.  The one does not necessarily guarantee the other.  His words shot a beam of hope into the darkness of youthful insecurity and became the seed for many priceless lessons since that fateful day. Lessons that I have had the pleasure and privilege of passing on to students for the past thirty years. And it only took a minute to plant the seed.


Courtesy of Google Images

In an ocean of time and a cavernous conglomerate of words, fourteen words in ten seconds are a fraction of a fraction.  A fraction…one single breath…that helped birth direction in a young life.  Those words are an essential part of my “WHY”…my purpose.  They, along with other words and moments like them, have been a crucial part of shaping and molding me.  They are proof that one does not have to see the future in order to shape it.  My presence and influence in the lives of young people, now, can have a tremendous impact on their future. So can yours.  The reality of this premise is that our influence can be positive or negative.  Words can heal or words can hurt…They can give direction or cause destruction…They can offer guidance or cause grief.  I choose to continue in the steps of a junior varsity coach and many others like him (my parents included) to make time to plant seeds.  Seeds that will one day blossom and bear the fruit of self-confidence and positive self-image.

It grieves me that I have never had the opportunity to thank Coach Tanke face-to-face, although I have made attempts to contact him.  I don’t even know if he is still alive.  So, it gives me great honor to be but a single wrinkle in the footprint he has left on humanity.  If this seems like hyperbole, let me attest to the fact that his footprint is still embossed on my reality.  And, with pride, I choose daily to continue the journey and  be a moment in the life of young people all around me.  Every generation has a responsibility to train up the one that follows it. Coach Tanke reinforced that responsibility in me when I was an adult-in-training.  It is a responsibility that I gladly and whole heartedly embrace.  Perhaps some of you may think that I have a high opinion of myself to think that I could be so positively persuasive in the life of another human being.  Perhaps you are correct.  The thing is, I can’t think of one person I personally know who became successful accidentally.  And, if it’s all the same to you, I would much rather intentionally try to make a difference than to play the odds of doing so by accident. And the truth is…

… it only takes a minute.  Really!

Peace and Blessings…



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