A short clip of 1 minute, 51 seconds was floating around Twitter the other day I didn’t catch wind of until I was at kid birthday party No. 37 of 44 scheduled for this summer (the end is near!). A quick listen in the chaos of Marvel blowups and piñatas stopped me in my tracks. I had to flag it for a more focused listen when I had a chance. Boy, am I glad I did.
It was of a press conference with Milwaukee Bucks forward and previous league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The question asked in the video clip was a great one.*
“You’re 26 years old and, I’ve covered a plenty of players who didn’t seem to figure the ego part out until their 30s. Who taught you about why that’s important and why to handle it (the way you do)?”
*(I apologize to journalists that asked the question, I could not easily find his name to give credit)
The answer was even better.
“Usually when I think about, ‘I did this’, you know, ‘I’m so great’…whatever the case may be, usually the next day you’re going to suck.
“When you focus on the past, that’s your ego. ‘I did this in the past’ (or) ‘I did that in the past’. And when I focus on the future that’s my pride. ‘Next game, game 5, I do this, and this and this’…that’s your pride talking. It doesn’t happen, like you’re right here. I kind of try and focus on the moment, in the present. And that’s humility, that’s being humble. That’s not setting no expectations [sic]. That’s going out there, enjoying the game, competing at a high level.”link to full video below
What a thoughtful, inciteful answer. What a prescient way of analyzing your future. What an incredibly self-aware way to view your past.
You’re right here.
It’s that sentence that struck me most. Many will confuse ego with arrogance, an out-sized confidence in oneself. That’s not ego. Ego isn’t confidence but rather your ascribed self-importance as it pertains to the world around you. Confidence and self-importance are too very different things.
What Antetokounmpo is displaying here isn’t maturity, either, don’t confuse it as such.
Maturity is simply behavioral, how you act around others. What Antetokounmpo is describing is enlightenment. Enlightenment in who he is, his motivational factors, and how he needs to compartmentalize his existence to fulfill his promise to himself. By lessening his grip on his self-importance, his ego, he’s able to let the past be the past, and the future be the future, and be … right here.
For some, this enlightenment comes when you find God, but that doesn’t have to be the only way. All we’re really seeking as individuals is a purpose — a reason to wake up, go to work, to love, to hate, a reason of being.
The only way to find that purpose is to let go of your ego, to let go of your past, your self-importance, and be in the present. You will find peace because of a purpose.
For many this enlightenment comes later in life. For me it didn’t come until I was in my 30s, spending much of my life as an angry, secluded mess. It wasn’t until I realized my anger was born out of a lack of fulfillment–I was living without a purpose, coasting through life with no direction.
My enlightenment came from my wife. To uphold my promise to her and our family my attitude needed to change. I could not fulfill my purpose – which at that point was to provide and care for them – if I did not forget the past, the future, and external factors, if I was not “right here”. Through this journey I found God in a way I couldn’t have when I was younger. I found a peace that allowed me to focus internally rather than the world around me, which then I realized could no longer affect me.
That Antetokounmpo has found this clarity at such a young age is really quite an amazing trait, but I do not think it is all that rare among highly successful people. It’s a trait they all share. I contend the biggest reason we admire athletes of great success is not formed out of jealousy of their athletic traits but regret that they found their purpose, their enlightenment, much earlier in life than we did. From that we are forced to wonder what could have been with our lives if we had just ignored external stimulus and focused on ourselves. This internalization is scary for most.
What Antetokounmpo shares is that it’s not scary once you’ve accepted it. Whether it’s via faith, a personal epiphany, or a need to support those you care about most, this enlightenment is the path to personal fulfillment.
You’re right here.