By Tim McCormick
The current financial crisis and economic uncertainty in our country have affected every member of society.  We have become consumed with talk of recession as job losses increase and consumer confidence dwindles.  The headlines focus on the plunging Dow and CNN provides a daily barrage of doom and gloom stories about 401K’s, the crumbling housing market and the banking bailout.  2008 has been a frustrating year of adversity and change with four dollar gas prices, plant closings and the mortgage crisis.  Unfortunately, there appears to be no end in sight.  As consumers, investors and employees, we can focus on the negatives and spend our lives angry, upset and sleep deprived or we can develop strategies to cope with the challenges that lie ahead.

I spent ten seasons as a player in the NBA and I am currently a college basketball analyst.  I also work as a consultant that encourages businesses and organizations to improve resilience and to reach peak performance during difficult times.  I don’t claim to be a financial expert with a game plan to move our economy towards prosperity.  However, I do have a positive message of growth to help manage the stress and pressure that comes with economic concerns.  I believe bounce-back ability is the single most important factor for success in managing expectations and turning adversity into success in the business world.  Bounce-back ability is a combination of resilience, focus and extreme confidence that nothing will deter you from reaching your objectives.

In June of 1984, I entered the NBA as a naïve rookie with high expectations and the passion to compete against boyhood idols such as Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Julius Erving and Magic Johnson.  Throughout my NBA basketball journey, I was a member of eight teams, was traded seven times, played for 14 coaches and had nearly 150 different teammates. There were trade rumors, negative articles and the internal pressure to perform caused a great deal of stress.  I faced constant fatigue during the grueling eight month long season from cross country travel and sleep deprivation.   My body sustained a physical beating from daily practices and games.  I suffered a broken nose, surgery for a detached and torn retina, three concussions, a broken nose, cracked ribs, broken thumb, torn rotator cuff, a dislocated shoulder, fractured foot, broken toe and eight knee surgeries.  As an NBA player, I became an expert in the area of adversity management and I would like to share the four secrets of bounce-back ability.

1.  Training Camp Effort
Training camp in the NBA is a month of long practices and a massive work load that is the foundation of a successful NBA season.  Practices are three hours long and they’re held twice a day.  Weight lifting sessions and film study fill the remainder of free time. Training Camp is a time to focus on the fundamentals that lead to tremendous individual and team accomplishment.   One of the most critical lessons that I learned early in my NBA career focuses on the realization that you must produce or you will be quickly replaced.  The NBA is a cold hearted business that is based on productivity.  You are encouraged to push yourself hard, improve your skills and add value, all within a team concept.  The same principle applies in this challenging economy.  If you are a key component of the company’s success, you will most likely continue in a productive capacity.  Winston Churchill said, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.  The key to success today is a strong work ethic and focused effort that relies heavily on the old school approach of grabbing the lunch bucket in the morning, rolling up the sleeves, putting on the hard hat and going to work.

Stamina and Endurance
The length of an NBA season creates a tremendous challenge to most NBA players.  Training camp begins in October and the NBA finals will continue until the end of June.  The marathon nature of the NBA season takes a great deal of patience and the ability to focus on the future.
The same forward thinking mindset is needed to manage the difficulties of our nation’s current financial situation.  We cannot control all of the outside influences and problems with the economy, but we can dictate the way that we respond to the negative news and distractions.  A recent survey by the American Psychological Society indicated that over 80% of those questioned were feeling stressed by concerns related to the economy.  It is important to be aware of the possible ramifications of the economic crisis, but it is non-productive and potentially harmful to our health to become consumed with issues that we cannot control.

When challenges arise, many people immediately focus on the problem and not the opportunities that exist.  I believe a key ingredient for high achievers is the ability to find new and innovative ways to elevate their game and improve during the toughest times.    If we focus on the insurmountable odds, we fail to see all of the positive directions that we can potentially explore.  Throughout our economic history, the most successful investment philosophies focus on patience and long term growth strategies as the safest way to build a portfolio.  Business plans target small incremental steps of growth and improvement.  Our ability to maintain tunnel vision on our future goals and to not be distracted by current road blocks is a key component of bounce-back ability.

The Optimistic Outlook
During my NBA career, I quickly learned that losses, disappointment and frustration are all part of the game.  The routine was to analyze a win or loss and move onto the next game with an optimistic outlook.  Even on my worst days, I could justify that I was incredibly blessed to be an NBA player and it was imperative to focus on the positives.  We are among the most fortunate civilizations that have ever walked on this planet.  The standard of living that we possess and the freedom to pursue individual goals is unprecedented throughout history.  Life is good, regardless of the economy, and we should wake up each morning and be excited about the possibilities that exist.  I believe strongly in the power of positive reinforcement and the value of affirmations.  Our mind is a powerful resource and if we must constantly focus on encouraging messages, good things will happen.  I have learned that a positive attitude is a choice that we make.

The significant challenge that we face on a daily basis is the internal battle of positive and negative input.  The pressure and intensity of life breaks us down and it is a constant struggle to ignore the negative messages that are being circulated.  We watch the news and read the paper and we begin to worry.  There is a home foreclosed in the neighborhood and the doubt begins to surface.  A friend loses their job and we wonder if we are next.  72% of self talk is negative and that means that we spend the entire day filling our brain with limiting thoughts.  The power of bounce-back ability lies in the attitude of knowing that you may be down, but it won’t be for very long.  It is an understanding that adversity creates the opportunity for growth, both personally and professionally.  Difficult times are a perfect chance for reassessing goals and evaluating future options.  You will bounce-back from defeat because you have done it so many times in the past.

Enjoy the Journey
The average length of an NBA career is approximately four seasons.  It is a very fragile existence that can end as quickly as it begins.  I was a starting center for the majority of my first five seasons in the league.  It wasn’t until a major knee injury started a quick descent to my playing days that I started to appreciate how fortunate I was to be living my dream.  These hard times can actually serve as a reminder of the things in life that are most important.  The health and well being of our family members needs to be emphasized over the falling value of our 401K plan.  The materialism and greed that becomes pervasive during prosperity is usually replaced by more quality time with family and friends.  Lavish trips and nights on the town are spent at home with the kids watching a movie.  The possibility exists that as we sit on the porch during our elderly years and look back on our life, we may in fact be experiencing our most rewarding days right now.

The foundation of my bounce-back ability philosophy is centered on a belief that we will be constantly challenged with obstacles and adversity throughout our lives.  The champions in sports and business are the high achievers that understand that our challenges are what make life interesting.  We will experience many financial highs and lows and we may have several jobs and professions along the way.  If we focus on the core principles of bounce-back ability, we will overcome any challenges that we may face. The lesson that I learned from my basketball career is that you cannot change the environment in which you live, but you can control the enjoyment of your journey.

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