Well it's that time of year again!
Brackets filled. Work blown off. Upsets. Buzzer beaters. Diaper Dandies. And a whole lot of gambling!
Though I don't follow the tournament near as much as I used to, there are still a few lessons to be learned. Whether you love basketball...hate it...or somewhere in between...I think this blog will offer a little guidance on navigating the madness on the court of life.
Intrigued? Read on.
1. Upsets Happen
Just because you're a highly seeded team (hello, Ohio State), it doesn't mean that you can't or won't be upset. In fact, upsets happen every...single...year. Though at times heartbreaking (depending on which team you favor), they are a part of the tournament. And you know what, it brings a lot more excitement. Think about how boring it would be if the higher seeded team won every game. You wouldn't even need to have the tournament. Just seed and be done with it.
The same is the case in life. Sometimes winners lose. And sometimes losers win. It's the fact of life. So if you've lost at something you thought you should have won...don't get so hard on yourself...just keep playing. And if you've won something that you probably should have lost...don't get too cocky...just keep playing.
2. Why Not Me?
Tagging onto the above point, just like it can be disappointing when your higher seeded team loses, it can also be thrilling when your underdog team pulls off an upset. And as I mentioned....these happen every year. A lesser skilled, lesser talented, over matched team is able to beat a Goliath of a team. And if it happens in sport, it can happen in life.
Maybe you feel like an underdog at times. Whether it's occupationally, socially, physically, whatever...you can still pull off an upset. Don't sell yourself short, instead remember that upsets are possible and remember "why not me?"
3. Luck Required
The NCAA March Madness basketball tournament is a huge contest. There are many incredibly talented teams...64 in fact. And so to make it to the end and hoist the championship trophy, it not only requires talent, it is also going to require that the ball bounces your way a few times. And though, yes, I know that luck is when preparation meets opportunity...blah blah blah. But sometimes, it is about luck. The ball that's suppose to go out of bounds doesn't. The sharp shooter somehow misses. A defender slips. The road to a championship is riddled with both skill and luck....and so too is life.
Open yourself up to luck. Realize that some of your failures will be a matter of in-opportunistic missteps and that some of your success will be a matter of right place, right time, right circumstances. Let the magical luck of life in. Don't rely on it...nor get too disrupted by it...but let it in and appreciate it when it shows it's face.
4. Teams Win
Historically when an underdog team beats a Goliath it's because the underdog played great team basketball and the Goliath relied too heavily on one person, hence getting away from their typical game plan. As such, under skilled and overmatched teams need to combine, connect, and collaborate in order to supersede their individual abilities.
In life, we too need teams. Even if you consider yourself a bit of a lone wolf or introverted, teams are still necessary for success. Don't take your teammates for granted. Choose them wisely. And celebrate growth and success together.
5. Offense Wins Games
In order to have any chance of winning a game of basketball you gotta be able to score points. As such, it is critical to be on the offensive. Making moves. Keeping the defense on their toes. And scoring. Same is true in life.
In order to succeed in whatever goals you're pursuing, you have to make movement towards them. You have to dribble up court, choose your lane, and score. Actions matter. Progress matters. You can't just sit back and expect wins to happen if you don't drive to the hoop. Shoot your shot baby!
6. Defense Wins Championships
But defense wins championships. In basketball a team can score as many points as they want, but if the other team scores more, then they'll lose. As such, a solid offensive team, also needs to be supplemented by a solid defense. A defense that is able to shut down what the opposing team's offense is trying to do. And a good defense knows the opposing team's tendencies and as a result puts them in the right positions to match up successfully.
Just like in life. We need to have a solid defensive plan too. We need to be aware of and appraise potential obstacles, tendencies, and trends that could make our likelihood of winning difficult. Then we need to figure out how to overcome those barriers by utilizing our talent, skill, abilities, and intellect...aka our offense.
7. No Such Thing As A Perfect Bracket
Never has there ever been a perfect bracket. Many have tried, none have succeeded. The tournament is termed March MADNESS for a reason. There is always something that throws off the bracket from the seeded expectation. But just because you can't fill out the perfect bracket, doesn't mean you won't win your pool. You just have to pick enough of the right games...not all of them...just enough.
And so too in life. There is no such thing as a perfect life, perfect goal, perfect win. Instead, it's about doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time, the majority of the time. It might not be perfect, but it can be enough to help you win.
8. Balancing Head And Heart
Another hang up that happens when picking brackets is many folks will go hard with their loyalty to their college alum or home state university. Sometimes this loyalty makes sense because the team actually has a substantial amount of talent which makes picking them a great choice on paper. However sometimes we pick that team despite being completely overmatched, just hoping that they can win it all. Obviously this can backfire. Choosing an 8-seed to win it all because you graduated from there or you like their mascot, likely won't lead to success. As such we need to balance our loyalty with the logistical likelihood of winning.
Same in life. Sometimes we have loyalties and feel strongly about a person or perspective or strategy. And though we feel really great about it, sometimes it isn't making the most sense logistically. Riding our hearts despite a ton of contradicting head data can be dangerous. Not to say that success can't happen despite all odds, it won't always lead to the most consistent success. As such, you have to be mindful of both your head and your heart and then progress deliberately.
9. Get Absorbed
One of the cool aspects of the March Madness tournament is the level of absorption that results. People blow off their work. Uber to the local sports bar. And will sit for hours watching and discussing the games being played out in front of them. There's something cool about going all in on the tournament for the first weekend or two.
I think the same is true in life. There are those times when we need to go all in. Blow off work. Absorb friend time. Family time. Travel time. There's also time to go all in on productivity. To lock in and get shit done. Embrace absorption when you have the opportunity to do so.
10. Come Together
Finally, one of the coolest aspects of March Madness, in my opinion, is that it brings together people. Co-workers enter a pool. Friends come together for their annual bracket. People from all walks of life join at bars across the country to watch their brackets unfold. Whether a sports fan or not. March Madness is a time of year where all people, are watching the same thing, for the same reasons.
What's not to love about that? This has been a tough year. And many of the country's problems and solutions involve whether or not people are coming together. Might we take a lesson from March Madness and regardless of whether you like basketball or not, look like this person or not, have the same political beliefs or not, we are still able to come together and enjoy watching the game. Not only in March...but well beyond. Remember that in sport every hard fought battle ends with a handshake. Not a bad lesson there.
In conclusion, I thank you for taking the time to read this post. It was a little long winded. A little ranty. But hopefully there was something in there that resonated and that you needed/wanted to hear. Sport is often a metaphor for life and the March Madness tournament is ripe with little life lessons. Life lessons that don't require you to be 6'6, shoot a flawless jumper, or shut down defense. Instead, they just require you to have an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to try. Enjoy the Madness.
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