Being Brave: Lessons from Basketball
I have been at the European National Championship Basketball tournament this week, rooting for the Great Britain Under 20s Women’s team which last year, for the first time in history, was promoted from the B League to the A League.
By beating last year’s bronze medal team in the first round, they have already “won” as a team, exceeding all expectations by eliminating any risk of relegation back to the B League. Better yet, they then went on to make it into the quarter final. What a great result.
But beyond the headline, there are many useful lessons. The first is about being brave.
As it turns out, the coach has been urging the girls to be brave in shooting. In basketball, this means wanting the responsibility for taking the shot, refusing to hesitate in the face of opportunity, and adopting a constructive mindset even when you miss.
Despite this message, we watched our team struggle to be brave in shooting at many points during the tournament. After a string of missed shots, self-doubt tended to creep in, we took fewer shots, which then put more pressure on the ones we did take.
Was it selfless thinking? (“I shouldn’t shoot even though I am a shooter because my shot is off today, give someone else a try.”) Was it selfish thinking? (“I don’t want to be the one missing another shot.”) In either case, it would be thinking too much and about the wrong things.
Mindset is particularly important because shooting, like so much of life, is a funny thing – it is by definition proactive, done with intent, and everyone sees whether you have succeeded or failed. You are exposed. If you approach it tentatively, you cannot succeed. It means putting yourself out there by making a decision to act, the outcome of which affects the whole team.
Clearly, it is one thing to encourage people to be brave. It is entirely another thing to be consistently brave oneself, especially under pressure.
So what we can do to be brave in life?
One idea is to develop a rule of thumb for your particular issue. If you tend to hesitate before shooting, then make a deal with yourself that for the next five situations, you will just do it and think later.
For me, it was about going right up to senior people – both internally and at client organizations – and introducing myself when I saw them rather than follow my first instinct of running the other way. It almost always turned out well, and was an act of commission that I otherwise would not have made. After a while, I developed a new habit and learned to trust myself.
For most of us, bravery is about opting for more acts of commission rather than omission – win or lose. And to keep doing it by refusing to allow a negative outcome to adversely affect your mindset going forward.
What will you do to be more brave?