I hated the August-October period of every year, starting in 2004 (the year I graduated from Penn State Altoona), with good reasons.
- This is the time of year when pro basketball players board planes and head to join their respective teams for the upcoming season. Things rarely went smoothly for me in this area of having a contract lined up before the season began, thus I rarely had a late-summer flight to catch.
- I wasn’t in college anymore, and college had been where all the fun — basketball, friends, girls, partying — was. None of these existed during my moments of regular-job searching.
- The approaching Fall season meant the nice weather was going away. (I later moved to Miami to resolve this challenge.)
- Everyone else I could see had something to do or somewhere to go, while I was waiting for a phone to ring or an inbox to light up. Many times at this time of year, I had a job, but not the kind of job I wanted.
A couple years after starting my playing career, I found myself unemployed — well, underemployed.
I had a job at LA Fitness, selling personal training packages. LAF did have a basketball court and full weight room, which was a good thing. I could get a great workout in every day during my lunch hour, then play pickup with the local regulars in the evenings.
I took a if-I-wasn’t-me look at my life at this point, and developed an urgent urgency to get back into playing ball. I’d been unsigned for over a year at this point, working at gyms to make ends meet and doing nothing more of substance.
This was not the life I had envisioned.
As far as basketball was concerned, however, I had many of the same problems as before.
My original agent, the one who had gotten me to Lithuania, had come to realize how dirty a world professional basketball was, closed down his sports agency and went back to being a full-time attorney.
[The first exposure camp I had attended, the one from which the footage started my career AND my YouTube channel, had exited the basketball world also for the same reasons — I know because their owner left a comment on a YouTube video of mine years later explaining exactly that.]
I didn’t know any players who had any power do anything to help me.
The internet, still years away from being an all-you-can-consume knowledge buffet, provided little help.
I did have game on the court — and a belief that I could have an impact in a game, if I had the chance — but shit, every unsigned / wanna-be pro basketball player has that (or at least thinks they do). Even though I had an actual resume by this point, and some video proof of what I could do, it was obviously not enough — if it had been enough, I wouldn’t be in the situation I found myself in at the time.
I had one other thing, and an unreasonable amount of it.
All my life, if I ever had a plan, and believed in said plan, I had the ability to stubbornly stick to it and work that plan until something good happened.
I had used this ability to make myself good at basketball.
I’d used it again to create the luck that got me recruited in college, and to meet the players who helped me raise my game.
Persistence is how I had gotten into pro basketball in the first place.
So I could surely utilize my trusty asset again to get myself back in the game.
All I needed was a plan.
It didn’t take me long to come up with one.
The plan came together quickly not because I’m a genius who knew exactly what would work; I was quick in coming up with a plan because I only had one. Which meant, that one way either had to work, or I’d be working at LA Fitness for the foreseeable future.
In other words, the plan had to work.
The plan was to utilize email. But not just any random email; any fool can copy-paste. I had two key assets to work my emailing plan that weren’t as commonplace then as they are now.
- A live YouTube link to a video of me playing and training.
- Copywriting skills.
This was 2007, a time before we all had smartphones equipped with cameras; Twitter and Facebook weren’t even on our devices yet. And I’d always been a writer, even back to my formal school days.
All I’d have to do was —
- Try messages of differing length and content
- Play around with subject lines to see what gets opened and read
- Send somewhere between 10-50 emails per day, every day
- Repeat steps 1-3 until I’m signed.
- Pray that this works.
It took 3 months, but it worked. My plan landed me in Herceg Novi, Montenegro.
Getting on in Montenegro was a turning for my playing career, business and life. I’d taken an email account, which everyone has, and links to a workout video (not a game video, but a workout highlight clip), combined that with a bit of ingenuity and a ton of persisting, and made myself into a somebody (in my mind) again.
It was this situation that made me realize the power of —
- My ability to sell myself.
- (Corny as it sounds) Not giving up.
I had heard of, and logically believed in, this concept called betting on yourself before Montenegro. But there’s a HUGE difference between logically understanding something because you heard/read it, and being emotionally bought-in because you lived it. I was emotionally bought-in now. I could make something happen, and get people to take me seriously — and even pay me — without anybody’s help or co-sign.
Mentally, the Montenegro deal turned me into a monster.
The day the deal was finished and my flights arranged, I called LA Fitness and quit on the spot, over the phone (I had a habit of doing this). I came back there the following offseason and joined the gym as a paying member, averaging 40 points per game in their summer league.
LA Fitness was the last time I had a boss, and the last “regular” job I ever worked.
I decided I would never have either ever again.
I share the exact, word-for-word content of some of those emails — including the “money” email that got my new team’s attention — in my new book Work On Your Game: Using The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate In Sports, Business and Life. Release date is February 20; you can preorder it right now and get all these free bonuses, like a video of me reading the opening chapter.