Recently I learned two life lessons while playing my regular basketball game. At first I thought one of the lessons was just about being more competitive, but I have since thought about it and I think it translates into a life lesson. But before I get to the lessons, let me note that I learn a lot about life and myself while playing basketball; if you take the time to think about your actions and how you interact with others on the court, there are many lessons that present themselves.

First Lesson: making a “good shot” doesn’t necessarily mean you made the basket. There is a relationship between making a good shot and scoring two points, but it isn’t causal; plenty of bad shots are taken by basketball players that are made (these are often called “lucky” or “ill-advised” shots). What is a good shot? Taking a good shot means that I was in excellent position (square to the basket, balanced), had separation between myself and a defender, at a spot on the court where I am comfortable taking shots, and most importantly, for me, had good lift in my legs to produce a nice follow-through. If all those factors are positively accounted for I might score two points; I will definitely increase my shooting percentage the more good shots I attempt. The lesson to be learned? I’m not perfect. The best I can do is put myself in position to succeed (in this case success is defined as scoring two points), but the more often I can work to be in good position, the more likely I will succeed. If I can remember this when I’m not on the court, then my life will improve.

Second Lesson: if you want to be successful, make the other guy do what he doesn’t want to do. Now, that sounds hyper-competitive, and it probably is, but let me explain. I was matched-up with a player with superior skills to mine, and at first he was blocking my shots. However, when I discovered that he didn’t like to hustle on defense, chasing me around picks, I started to get open jumpers (which were dropping). If he didn’t do what was uncomfortable for him (play tight defense), then I was going to score.

But let me spin this another way: if I don’t do things that may be uncomfortable for me, then I won’t be a success either. What if I didn’t like taking outside jumpers, but instead wanted to drive to the basket (where this fellow would be waiting to block my shot)? For me to be successful I would have to do something that made me uncomfortable too.

And those are two lessons I learned playing basketball.