I dedicated my life to “making it” in basketball.
Starting with the game at age 14.
Fighting to earn some respect in the neighborhood pickup games.
Finally making my high school varsity as a senior.
Walking on at a Division 3 college.
Hustling my way into professional basketball.
Hustling even harder to stay in the pros.
Along the way, I built a brand and started a business based off of my basketball-playing abilities. That business expanded into what my business is now: teaching the Mental Game tools that I had to develop to succeed in sports and how those tools apply to business and everyday life.
Why not just stay in basketball, though?
I mean, with my background and the fan base I created, why not become a trainer, a coach, a commentator, video-highlight maker, empty-gym drill master, etc? Why talk to these other audiences when I could have stayed comfortably in the basketball space?
These are legitimate questions. In this article, I’ll answer exactly why.
I have more skills than just what’s necessary for the basketball world.
Listen: basketball wasn’t a predetermined path to success for me.
As I touched on above, most of my time in basketball consisted of things NOT working in my favor. Up through my college years (where I didn’t even play on the team my senior season), NO ONE around me saw professional basketball in my future.
And even though I continued to hold onto the vision of playing basketball as a full time job, I still had to deal with the realities in front of me: the year-and-a-half between college graduation and signing my first contract. The gaps in my playing career where I wasn’t able to secure a contract.
These circumstances forced me to develop and leverage other skills, such as —
- Product creation
- Audience engagement
- Content creation & publishing
- Personal Branding
Those skills “kept the lights on” in my life while I continued hustling to keep my basketball career alive. And, as I approached the end of my basketball career, I knew my potential reach was much wider than just the basketball world since I had so many abilities that could serve anyone, even someone who’d never picked up a ball.
That led to me giving 4 TEDxTalks, doing professional speaking gigs, authoring books, and having a whole audience of people who aren’t even into basketball.
More than one skill = more than one check.
“If you got more than one skill, you should be getting more than one check!”
My first-ever favorite athlete, Deion Sanders, is the person who I heard say this. And he’s right (though I prefer deposits that result from my direct-to-consumer relationships, but the idea is the same).
I made money playing basketball professionally, but I also made money by…
- Publishing videos to YouTube
- Selling basketball products to up-and-coming hoopers
- Selling books and courses to business people
- Booking speaking engagements with businesses and at conferences
- Publishing my books and audios to Amazon, Apple, Audible and others
- Offering coaching and consulting to business owners and entrepreneurs
… and myriad other ways, but we’ll keep the list short. The point is, I have more skills than just putting a ball into a hoop — and as such, I wanted to diversify the ways I could generate and bring in value.
I’ve done that, and continue to do so.
More things to say = more people to reach
My expansion from “basketball guy” to “thought leader” started with Weekly Motivation.
Weekly Motivation was a video series that I published every Monday on YouTube starting in 2010, sharing a Mental Game tool I’d learned either form sports, a book I’d read or just from living life that I felt was share-worthy for my audience.
I had viewers of my Weekly Motivation videos who told me that they didn’t even play or watch basketball, but they subscribed to me just to get the mindset material I was putting out every Monday.
“This stuff isn’t just for basketball, Dre — it’s for LIFE!”
That planted the seed in my mind that I could impact people who didn’t even participate in sports. There was a whole world of non-athletes, or at least non-basketball players out there, who I could deliver value to.
That’s what I do now, the Weekly Motivation concept expanded to DAILY via the Work On Your Game Podcast and in other formats such as my books and courses.
The world is always moving. So am I.
Growing up playing ball at the playgrounds, I’d sometimes hear one of the older guys talking about their high school careers and what they’d achieved “back in the day.”
Some of my young peers would make snide remarks about the older guys for talking about their pasts, seeing it as a replacement for the nothingness of their present lives (never to the older guys’ faces, mind you). This planted a seed in my mind.
I promised myself that I would never be someone whose past was better than his present and future. No matter what I‘d achieved “back then” or even now, I would always have something better in my sights for the future.
The world itself is always moving — literally and figuratively. If you’re standing still or even worse, looking backwards, while everything and everyone else moves forward, you’re losing by default.
I heard Kobe Bryant, a basketball legend in his own right, say that if ten years from now, his greatest accomplishment is still what he did in basketball, he’d be a failure. The idea Kobe was communicating was that through the fact of being alive, he could do better than what he’d already done.
That’s the way I felt long before hearing Kobe say it.
Since I don’t play basketball anymore, and was never interested in being a coach or trainer, I needed to step away from the basketball world in some ways in order to keep the forward progress I’d promised myself back in my teen years.
And that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Basketball was, and still is, great for me.
It provided a high amount of credibility to my name, and makes me a “success” in the eyes of the 99% of the population who will never play a sport professionally.
A lot of what I talk about now, I learned as an athlete.
I still leverage my pro basketball background in many ways today. I’m proud of what I did on the court.
But, sports careers are short. Life moves on. People progress and grow, and time dispassionately forgets about “old” stuff. We all need to recreate ourselves at times and keep our operating systems up-to-date.
Doing that may require you moving away from who you used to be and creating a new version of you. It doesn’t mean ignoring your past — I certainly haven’t — it just means adding onto it. Renovating the building, if you will.
And hey, who knows — soon it may be time for another renovation.
Never let time pass you by, or for history to keep you rooted in yesterday. I promise you I won’t.
PS – Read my book Work On Your Game: Use The Pro Athlete Mindset To Dominate Your Game In Business, Sports, and Life to learn about how I’ve become who I am — and the tools you can use to become who YOU want to be.