Looooong time ago I played basketball all day., every day The kid had big hoop dreams. Besides having an Iverson like cross over, I had a sweet jumpshot, In fact I was supposed to be Steph Curry before Steph Curry.
A lot of people don’t know that. The thing was I didn’t even want to play ball, I wanted to go work in corporate America instead. Anyone can hit an open 3 but can you maintain a people’s attention through a 50 slide Power Point deck? It’s not easy kid. Real cubicle champs know.
Also I didn’t have the height and ummm…general basketball skills
But that didn’t stop me from trying to be the best on the playground. And when I said I had a nice shot, I wasn’t lying. I worked on it all day. And once I learned the power of a three and how motivating and equally devastating it could be, it became my weapon of choice.
So one game, I was on fire. The kid could not miss. Swish. Splash. Buckets. I mean it was like this:
Everyone was like “Daaaaamn Cole is on fire”
Everyone except the scrub guarding me.
He kept yelling: “he can’t shoot, he's just getting lucky!”
My response: “Maaaaan, give me the ball!”
and I would hit another 3, stare at the dude with my hand still in the air.
His response: He’s lucky
Ok here we go again: “Pass the pill I’m feeling sick!”
And this scrub kept talking. I didn’t get it.
I didn’t understand why dude was saying I couldn’t shoot when clearly I was hitting threes and this scrub was bricking. He couldn’t guard me and he couldn’t make any shots yet he was saying I couldn’t ball. This was weird yo.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
I heard something one day that made a lot of sense. When you point a finger at someone there’s three fingers pointing back at you. It means when you’re judging someone else, it’s more a reflection of you than it is of that person.
When you judge it’s a judgement of your own self and projection of how you see yourself, you’re mores o highlighting parts of yourself that you do no accept.
At first it seems counterintuitive. If you’re judging someone, clearly it’s about them, right? Turns out, it’s not. It really is a reflection of yourself.
And then it made sense. Dude’s insecurities on his lack of jumper was coming out. He was mad at me, but really he was mad at himself for not being a good shooter and he was projecting on me.
And it didn’t end well for him - I was hitting three’s and scoring buckets all game long. If only he focused on playing defense instead of me he might have stopped me.
Off The Court Scrubs
In my lifetime I worked as a User Experience (UX) Designer and was a damn good one. Almost as good at designing as I was hitting three’s that one game.
As part of the job, just like playing ball, you always want to improve. So you focus on things that improve your game:
How do I create better designs? How can I get a promotion? Is this design good enough, how can I improve it? Is there something more I can be doing to improve collaboration at work? How can I help out my team more?
These were my “how do I become a better shooter” problems I tried to solve. They’re more like healthy problems to solve. Solving them makes for an improved situation, whether it was for me, my coworkers, the company or all three.
Solving these will make me a better designer, help my coworkers become better employees and overall improve the performance of the company I worked for.
Turns out , just like there were scrubs on the court that one time, there was a scrub at work. A person who, for no reason, judged, criticized, and blamed me for all sort of stuff
He would talk bad about my work when I wasn’t around even though he never really seen all my work - how could they possibly even judge it? And why is he talking bad about it without even talking to me first?
Now I try to be the first to admit if my work is bad. Being real with yourself and seeing where things could be better is how you improve. But the work was good. The client LOVED my work. The results for the business were phenomenal. User’s commented how much they loved the design. My immediate team had high praise for how I worked together and efficiently with everyone.
All the data said it was great - but this dude goes out of his way to say it’s not good and doesn’t even say what’s not good about it. Just vaguely judges it as not good and tries to convince others I’m not a good designer.
Long story short turns out he was insecure about his ability to design and deliver solid design work. He was jealous of my work, how productive and effective I was, and the jealous of the results I obtained. He really wanted to produce work at the level I did but he couldn’t.
I can't explain it, but people love to tap into their pain, frustrations, and insecurities to bring you down.
Thing is, he actually was pretty skilled himself. He could have been just as effective if he worried more about how to become a better designer instead of trying to knock me.
Whatever You Focus On You Get More Of
Turns out the scrub ball player and the scrub designer had something in common. They both were talented and had skills. They just chose to focus on the wrong thing - worrying about me instead of themselves.
And I focused more on doing my job. When I was on the court that was getting open and hitting shots because I knew I had the hot hand. At work, that was creating the best designs possible for users and for my clients.
If they not hating, you not doing something right.
In life there’s always going to be people throwing shade, talking down, judging, criticizing, and overall trying to knock you down. Hater’s gonna hate.
And it can suck to hear it. It’s easy to worry about this stuff when you hear it - when people are not happy with you, that can be bothersome.
The thing is when people talk down like and are pointing their finger at you and blaming, criticizing, and judging, there’s three pointing right back at them.
It’s a reflection of their insecurities and them projecting on you.
When I was on the court it was easy for me to not worry about the scrub baller, First of all I practice self-awareness. I always knew I was good at ball. More importantly that day - I was hitting shots and got immediate feedback I was doing something right. I can see it. Ball goes up. Ball goes in. Add three to the scoreboard.
When I was at work, admittedly it was harder not worry about the scrub designer. What if he was right? I’m sure I was doing good work but what if I wasn’t. The feedback wasn’t always immediate so it gave me time to question myself.
Overtime though, from client feedback, user feedback, and data it was clear my designs rocked. It wasn’t even a question.
So remember when I said you point a finger out and three are point back at you? Think about this as hitting a jumper and the position of your hand at the end of your shot. All your fingers are pointing at the rim, not at someone else, not at you, but at the ball going in and the scoreboard going up.
Ball Don’t Lie
One of my favorite moments in basketball history goes like this: Rasheed Wallace gets called for a foul he didn’t commit and was understandably upset. The guy who was fouled missed the free throw. Rasheed yells: Ball Don’t Lie!
What he meant was the Ball was the ultimate truth teller. It corrected the wrongs and balanced out the score accordingly.
When you are putting in work and have good results, hitting threes and lighting up the scoreboard, or maybe at work you have clients expressing how impressed they are with your work - the ball don’t lie.
As I said before, on the court it was easy to tell I was doing well, at work not so much. So if you’r facing the same problem, how can you get over this? Here’s a couple ways:
1. Create A Win List
Create a list of every time you “score” - every time something good happens, big, small, important or not, keep track of the wins.
- Positive comment from a coworker
- Compliment from a friend
- You got an A on a project
- You made a banging meal
- You helped someone out
- You completed your work ahead of schedule
Big, small, and everything in between - make that list.
2. Create a Important/ Not Important List
This is exactly what it sounds like. Make a list with two columns. Title one column “Important” and the other column “Not Important.” Then write down everything that is important to you in that column. Doesn’t have to be big stuff like ‘Family” it could be “getting a six pack for summer” or “finally getting my jacket tailored so it fits right”
In the other column - all the stuff on your mind that you don’t need on your mind. That obnoxious coworkers, an annoying acquaintance, the smell of the subway, whatever you worry about and don’t want to think about - write it down there.
This may seem silly, but what it acts as a reminder to you and your brain on what’s important and what should be rattling through your brain and what shouldn’t be taking up brain space. Make sure to refer to this once a week.
One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t Major On The Minors” - not only because of the clever wordplay, but I love what it simply sums up.
All the little stuff in life is not worth your time. Focus on what you got going on and keep doing you and make sure you're not the scrub.