I’m from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born and raised.
I don’t know where you’re from, but where I’m from, being friendly to strangers is not a thing.
In that, this idea doesn’t exist.
We don’t say hello to people we don’t know as we pass them in the streets. Doing so, or even looking at the wrong person for too long, could get you in a situation. Making too much eye contact can be taken as a sign of aggression. Not enough eye contact can get you pegged as weak, and attacked and picked on by aggressors who are looking for a victim.
When people ask me what I majored in in college, I tell them that while my degree says Business, with a focus in Management and Marketing, where I spent the majority of my university time and energy was in Basketball and Social Interaction.
Basketball? I was doing that all four years. The social part, I didn’t pick up on until about halfway through.
I spent my freshman year at an Abington campus that didn’t have student housing; everyone commuted from home. On top of, or maybe because of, the fact that I never wanted to go to Abington in the first place, I had no desire or need to connect or make friends with anyone at Penn State Abington.
I came to campus, took my classes, did my basketball stuff, and went home.
Though I’d transferred to Altoona as a sophomore, the transfer didn’t come with any new social skills.
I came to Altoona focused only on basketball — and now, being away from home, I didn’t have the normal non-school people and places to lean on. I was alone and isolated in Altoona.
My isolation was more by choice than by design. The first thing I noticed when checking into and walking around my dorm were the girls — there were lots of them, and they were now my neighbors. There was a good-sized Black student population who took notice of me, being the new guy and a basketball player. And I had a new set of basketball teammates.
And, finally on a college campus, I had access to the part of college that most people on the outside looking in — parents, alumni, future students — talk about.
I had a teammate named TJ who was well known by fellow students. TJ was 6’7”, the tallest human walking campus. He was a basketball player. And a tall Black guy on a campus like Altoona’s can’t hide.
I had another teammate, a junior, whose dorm room was in the same suite as mine (we shared a bathroom). TJ and a couple other teammates came by that player’s room one night as they were planning on heading to the first party of the Fall semester. They came by my room to see if I was interested in joining them.
I didn’t have any good reasons why I wasn’t interested in going. I had some good reasons: I had an 8 AM class the next day. I didn’t want to drink. And I didn’t know my teammates very well at that point; I don’t like being in places that I don’t know with no control of when I can leave.
All good reasons; none of them real reasons.
I just didn’t know anyone, and didn’t have any friend-making plans when I came to campus.
I turned my teammates down, despite their pleas for me to come out.
As a last gasp attempt, TJ uttered the most profound thing I heard him say all year.
“Come on man, it’s college — you can’t just stay in the room all the time.”
I still didn’t go.
Besides basketball team activities and talking to the girls I met around campus in the daytime, the rest of my time went to the other thing that college was for — classes.
I was damn good at school that sophomore year. Seriously.
While I have often made light of the fact that I gave a bare-minimum effort as a college student, that wasn’t true of my sophomore year. If I wasn’t on the basketball court or in class, I was in my dorm room, studying. I did so well with my studying, in fact, that I made the Penn State’s Dean’s List both semesters that year.
I didn’t even know there was a such thing as a Dean’s List.
My GPA those two semesters was something like 3.8 and 3.3, respectively (I graduated with a 2.6, so do the math on the rest of my college years).
The last game of our basketball season was an opening round playoff loss at Frostburg State, a school in Maryland. Sitting in the lobby of their gym after the game, one of Frostburg’s cheerleaders came and spoke to me.
I had committed a foul during the game and tossed a pass to myself off the wall behind the baseline in frustration. That ball had passed over the head of the cheerleading squad in the process. As the cheerleader playfully chastised me about that pass almost hitting her, I knew that was just the pretext she needed to open a conversation with me, hoping that I took the bait and kept the conversation going.
On the two-hour ride home from Frostburg, I thought about the cheerleader’s advances while considering how I would spend my free time now that hoops season was done. I realized that there was a whole other aspect of college life that I’d been ignoring, an aspect that brought people together and made school fun.
I decided that I would get out of the house.
More on this tomorrow.
How this socializing help me do what I would later do in basketball and business? I’ll show you in my book Work On Your Game: Using The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate In Sports, Business and Life. Order it today and get all these bonuses from me for free.