shoot your shot

We’ve all heard the phrase “shoot your shot” by this point. As a former professional basketball player, I may have heard it more than anyone. We practiced specific moves incessantly, why not shoot when we got into that position when it mattered?

It’s become a common phrase over the years because basketball players started referencing the phrase outside of the court. You see that girl? Shoot your shot. You want that sale? Shoot your shot. You want to strike up a conversation with Jay-Z at random? SHOOT YOUR SHOT. 

I’m not going to drag this out. I used to love that logic and now I hate it. It implies that when you shoot your shot, there’s a win/loss scenario. If you do see that girl and you “shoot your shot” and she rejects you, the next time you’re less likely to do so. In fact, many people never shoot their shot again after the second time they dont get the sale or the first time Jay-Z’s security kicks them out. Eventually the reply will be “I HAVE!”

The difference between basketball and the real world is that we were never just shooting “a” shot. We were shooting OUR shots. I shot my shot because it was MINE. I didnt pull up from half court. Shooting my shot meant dunking, shooting a hook, etc. It was literally different for each person. If I went out every game and shot other people’s shots, I would have been upset and my teammates would have told me to stop. 

So we blindly take this logic to the real world and quickly begin to think “that’s just not my shot.” That’s because the people with more practice look more natural doing things we envy and we think certain people are naturally talented and others aren’t. There are winners and losers and God made that choice for us, so we should do what we are good at. We should shoot our own shots.

But I’m going deeper into what I’ve learned over the past years. Almost everything we do is governed by fear. We do more when we feel safe. I see it in myself, friends, and family. Heck, go to any elementary school. The kids higher on the socio economic scale are safer, and therefore engage more, participate more, and are more curious. The kids with less resources let fear govern most of their choices. 

For myself, I realized I was living a life that other people assumed was one of free thinkins, but I was actually gripped by fear. I’ve been trained for years in most of the things people think I’m naturally good at, so people assume I’m fearless. Still, when it came to pushing my own boundaries, I couldn’t. I realize it was because I was scared of doing something that I couldn’t see the end goal of. I couldn’t take a blind step, I needed to figure out the full path. That’s what sports always taught me; we overprepare so we are never shocked, and with enough prep, we will always reap the exact reward we set out to attain. 

But what happened when I got into the real world was that I had to do many things without knowing what would come next. And I don’t mean the day I decided to start painting, or when I took up Improv. I mean the first day I didn’t have a dollar and didn’t have a guaranteed one coming in. I mean the first day I went outside to do street art not knowing a damn thing about what to expect. I mean taking the drug I was always scared to take because I could never answer the question “what happens next?”

Before I put up the first “SHOOT YOUR SHOT” hoop, a few of them sat in my living room for a month. I kept mulling over the best way to go about putting them up. The night before I actually moved forward, I sat with myself and asked “why haven’t you done this yet?” The answer was clearly that I was scared. So I asked myself “what are you scared of?” This was the list:

Get caught by police

Do it wrong

Have others see me do it and not like it

That’s the list. I talked myself through it. 

Get caught by police – 

In the arts district, police don’t police stuff like street art because it’s encouraged. Dummy. 

Do it wrong – 

There is no way to do it right because it hasn’t been done. 

Have others see me do it and not like it

if they saw me installing the hoop or not, what would it matter? No one was going to just boo me on the street. 

After making those considerations I had a new fear: eventually someone else is going to do this and they’ll have to answer the same questions, but they won’t be deterred. The idea exists, therefore it’s going to happen, so it may as well be me. Every single thing that exists, first existed in someone’s mind in that way.

It’s these steps in full blind faith that define us. I’ve found, looking back, that almost nothing in my life went exactly how I was attempting to script it, yet I spent a ton of time scripting. Why, then, do I continue to try to plan each and every detail? What if I just shot our shot? No, not with the expectation of an outcome, but as an act of walking through my own fear? I’ve been doing so for a while now and not only do I have much less stress, many of the things I was trying to achieve have started to come my way naturally. I’m not talking about trying to find someone to sell a painting to, I’m talking about building a community of people who connect over art. I’m not talking about bombarding Jay-Z, I’m talking about making the art that’s bad, over and over until I think it’s good, and I eventually end up meeting Jay-Z because I was invited. I’m not talking about “getting the girl,” I’m talking about striking up a conversation with no expectation and potentially finding your wife.

When we live truly talking through our fear, we can ask ourselves the truest question: what would I do if there were no limits? In a realistic way, I’ve asked myself that question, and found that the limits were almost all self placed. Now I look around and see how many of us place those same limits upon ourselves, because everyone tells us what they think is reasonable. But I’ve lived everywhere from North Dakota to South Korea and every single person defines “reasonable” differently, and we all think we are the one who decides what reasonable is. I say be unreasonable.