“Everybody’s given a certain skill set, a certain talent, a certain passion… Find what you’re passionate about in this life and work at it every single day.” – Stephen Curry
Long before he was a two-time MVP or a world champion, Stephen Curry was just a scrawny kid who found that life made a little more sense when he had a basketball in his hands. He was never The Chosen One. He wasn’t anything like Mike. And nobody – not even his own mother – thought he was destined for greatness in the NBA.
When he was a senior in high school, a grand total of one Division 1 school offered him a scholarship to play college basketball. Yes, you read that right: the greatest basketball player currently walking the Earth was ignored/passed over by 346 college basketball coaches, because they thought he wasn’t/wouldn’t be good enough. And this was a kid whose dad played in the NBA for 16 seasons!
But Curry refused to let rejection or disappointment slow him down. Instead, he took the sole scholarship offer extended to him (by tiny Davidson College) and continued to work his ass off. Three years later, he was the seventh player taken in the NBA Draft. His struggle, however, was far from over.
Not only was he selected by a moribund franchise (the Golden State Warriors), he spent the first chapter of his professional career hobbled by ankle injuries. Despite his talent, it was an open question whether he’d ever be able to stay healthy long enough to make an impact in the league.
But not even Curry’s own body could keep him from greatness. He just kept working. And working. And working…
…and now? Well, here we are:
It’s easy to get distracted by the shot-making and the ball-handling and the downright fucking wizardry, but the most amazing thing about Curry is his work ethic. His relentless drive to get better. And while you and I may never know the rarefied air that he’s reached in his profession, that doesn’t mean we can’t draw inspiration from his story. Because if you’re anything like me, you know what it’s like to have a dream; and you also know what it’s like to struggle (and struggle and struggle) to achieve it.
When I was a senior in high school, I wrote my first humor column for the school newspaper. Even now, I can still picture the faces of my classmates as they walked down the hall reading what I’d wrote, laughing their asses off. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to feeling what it’s like to dunk a basketball¹, because all I could think as it was happening was, “Holy shit! I did that!”
It was the moment that I found my passion.
Ever since, people have told me that I’m incredibly lucky, because some people — maybe even most people — never do. And while they’re probably right, there’s something they overlook in that calculus: just because you have a passion doesn’t mean the universe is going to wrap its arms around you and support it. Quite the opposite, actually.
The universe is like that friend we all had in college who smoked way too much pot: it doesn’t give a shit about anything. It’s not for you or against you. It just is, man.
So, when you have a dream – especially a big dream like playing in the NBA or writing a hit movie or best-selling novel – the odds are stacked against you, because there are a million other people out there dreaming the same dream. I mean, shit, most of the time, it can feel a lot like this:
And it’s not like passion and talent provide you with some magic potion that teleports you to the top; they’re merely the two hands that can help you climb in that direction.
But there are no guarantees. No matter how much you want it. No matter how much you believe in yourself. Ascension is — and always will be — an open question, because you never know if your next foothold will support you…
…or if you’re destined to reenact the opening scene from Cliffhanger.
You may rise or you may fall, but in the end, it doesn’t matter whether you string sentences together for a living like I do or toss an orange orb through the ole basketball ring like Steph. All you can control is the work.
And if you keep working, who knows? Maybe one day you’ll fire up a (figurative) 40-footer with six-tenths of a second remaining and…