Sharing my learnings from the book, Letters to a Young Athlete by Chris Bosh
Letters to a Young Athlete by Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh, NBA Hall of Famer, eleven-time All-Star, two-time NBA champion, Olympic gold medalist, and the league’s Global Ambassador, had his playing days cut short at their prime by a freak medical condition. His extraordinary career ended not at a time of his choosing but “in a doctor’s office in the middle of the afternoon.” Forced to reckon with how to find meaning to carry forward, he found himself looking back over his path, from a teenager in Dallas who balanced basketball with the high school robotics club to the pinnacle of the NBA and beyond.
Reflecting on all he learned from a long list of basketball legends, from LeBron and Kobe to Pat Riley and Coach K, he saw that his important lessons weren’t about basketball so much as the inner game of success—right attitude, right commitment, right flow within a team. Now he shares that journey, giving us a fascinating view from the inside of what greatness feels like and what it takes, formulated as a series of letters to younger people coming up and to all wisdom seekers. A timeless gift for anyone in pursuit of excellence, Letters to a Young Athlete offers a proven path for taming your inner voice and making it your ally, through the challenges of failure and the challenges of success alike.
- Basketball was Chris Bosh’s life. As a kid, he’d play in his driveway long after the sun went down. By the end of his career, he’d won two NBA championships and a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Sadly, Bosh’s career ended in 2015. A doctor had identified a blood clot forming in his leg. If he were to continue playing, there was a chance the clot could break loose and get caught in his heart, lungs, or brain. He could even die on the court. Forced into early retirement, Bosh reflected on his journey.
- LeBron James tossed up a three-point shot in the final seconds of game six of the 2013 NBA Finals, Heat versus Spurs. The ball bounced from the rim. Bosh, the Heat’s center, was surrounded by Spurs players. He leaped up, snatched the ball, and within an instant, passed it to Ray Allen. Allen, just as quickly, stepped behind the three-point line. With five Spurs players rushing to block, Allen took the shot. He made it. Bosh executed the pass automatically, instantly, because for decades he had trained himself to go beyond his perceived limits of physical and mental exhaustion.
- The life lesson here is that you need to always push yourself further than you think you can go. That doesn’t mean you should suppress the little voice in your head saying that you can’t continue. In fact, It is precisely this awareness of being exhausted which you need to embrace. By doing so, you’ll slowly build the mental and physical strength you’ll need to progress beyond your limits and grow to embrace exhaustion.
- Years before his professional career, Bosh played for his high school basketball team in southeastern Dallas, Texas. Bosh was always in the gym, running drills with his coach, Thomas Hill. One day, Coach Hill stopped Bosh in the middle of his drills and looked him in the eyes. He asked Bosh what he wanted to do with this. At first, Bosh didn’t know what to say to his coach. Hill pushed him to think deeper, to find the reason why he was pursuing basketball in the first place. At Coach Hill’s prompting, Bosh came to understand that while he loved basketball, the sport itself wasn’t his motivation. It was actually that he wanted to be his best self – his true motivation was to honor the gift that life had given him.
- You don’t need to come up with something right away, and your motivation can change over time, but you can rule out money. Money is, at best, a temporary boost. Even then, it often fails.
- Chris Bosh was only 19 years old when, in 2003, he got drafted by the Toronto Raptors. Bosh – smart, fast, and nearly seven feet tall – had always been a star. But now, in the NBA, Bosh was going against teams full of stars whose fame greatly eclipsed his own. At first, he struggled to get the ball, and when he did get it, his shots kept failing. One night before a game in San Antonio, his coach Sam Harris decided to bench him. Bosh was not to play that night. After being benched, Coach Harris helped Bosh discover the real reason he was failing. It wasn’t inexperience – it was ego.
- Bosh’s ego was telling him that he had to be the one with his hands on the ball. Ego was telling him that he had to be the one to score. To stop his free fall, Bosh had to forget what his ego told him he should be. Instead, he had to do whatever he could to become what his team needed. By playing selflessly, he made himself essential. And by stowing his ego and committing to his team, Bosh began playing at a whole new level.
- When Chris Bosh landed in Miami in 2010, he came to play alongside Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, two of the best to ever grace the game. Then, in 2012, Ray Allen joined the team, an event that propelled the team into the annals of NBA history. But in the locker room, or in the huddle, there was another player the team would often look to for guidance. His name was Juwan Howard. Howard played just a few minutes per game. He was often on the sidelines, fully dressed in a suit. But every morning, Howard was the first in the weight room or on the treadmill. Before and after each practice, Howard was putting in hours with extra shots and drills. Howard wasn’t a star. He was a leader.
- Players like Howard make an immeasurable impact on their teams. They tap into its collective soul, read the moment, and do whatever is necessary. In practical terms, this sort of contribution requires effective communication, which, like any other skill, takes knowledge and practice.
- a few things you need to do in order to become a true leader
- you have to learn the lingo of your sport.
- you have to know your audience.
- you have to remember that communication is not monologuing or lecturing. You have to listen, mediate conflict when necessary, and absorb honest criticism.
- In the first season of the Big Three, the Heat dominated the league. Bosh remembers how high he felt at the time. Seneca, a Roman stoic philosopher, would have advised Bosh to cool down – and to avoid what he called “transports of delight.” As the famous intellectual said, “joy leads to exultation, and exultation leads to swaggering and excessive self-esteem.” In other words, when you get too high from a win, you become complacent and blind to your faults. Meanwhile, your opponents see those faults and redouble their efforts to bring you down.
- When the Mavericks beat the Heat in the NBA Finals, Bosh wept on national television. He wanted to disappear. For a good model, we can look to Karl Malone. In 1997, Malone led the Utah Jazz against the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. Malone was a legendarily powerful player, but had never won a championship. But like any other elite player, he fiercely wanted to win. In game six, the last of the series, he ground his way through Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippin, and Dennis Rodman to score 31 points. But it wasn’t enough. The Jazz lost. Malone would never again get so close to a championship.That night after the game, Malone jogged out to the Bull’s team bus. He climbed the steps and shook the hand of every player of the team who had just beaten him. He hugged Jordan, congratulated him, and left the bus with a smile. By facing his defeat with bravery and honesty, Malone not only demonstrated maturity and humility – he helped preserve his own self-respect and peace of mind. Bosh learned an important lesson from Malone. Losing may hurt, but when you’ve played for a purpose that goes beyond fame or money, a loss is not an injury to your soul. Instead, it’s an opportunity to become physically and mentally stronger, help forge a tighter team, and become a better person.
- Lebron James invests about $1.5 million per year on self-care. The imperative of taking care of yourself also applies to your mental state. Bosh, for example, adopted meditation practices to strengthen his focus, recall, and peace of mind. Your coaches and teammates care about you, but at the end of the day, no one can be as invested in your long-term health as you. After all, as an athlete, your body is your ultimate investment. So, as you progress in your training, make sure to learn the difference between being exhausted, the sort of state that you can and should push through, and being injured. You also have to discern between constructive criticism from trusted sources, such as your coach and teammates, and negativity that you should ignore.
- Plenty of people show up to watch Stephen Curry play with the Golden State Warriors. Those in the know arrive early and check out Curry’s pregame routine, a 20-minute series of drills cycling through a wild variety of positions. Curry executes a similar, but longer, series of drills after each practice, taking over 300 shots before he quits. Curry is arguably the best shooter in NBA history, and has been for years. Yet Curry persists with hundreds and hundreds of shots because that’s what it takes to play at his fullest potential.
- Curry’s routine serves another purpose – he’s getting into the zone. The zone occurs when you are completely present and at the top of your game. For many of us, the zone is fleeting, or even accidental. But elite athletes like Curry know that reaching it on a regular basis means developing intense focus – and training your body through thousands of hours of practice.
- if you do the work, whatever that work may be, not only will you become faster, stronger, and smarter – you’ll also get the sense that you’re onto something special. By pushing yourself, stowing your ego, committing to the team, building your mental strength, and taking care of yourself, you’ll realize as Bosh realized that you are stepping ever closer to fulfilling your potential as a human being.