After some odd years of worrying about everything from exam grades to my social life, I’ve noticed and accepted my unfortunate predisposition to a somewhat negative way of thinking. I’m not saying that I’m an unhappy person or that the glass is always half empty, but I tend to overanalyze things, leading to some negative thoughts (but hey, I guess that’s what prompts me to write, too).
Knowing this, I’m proactive about creating positivity in my life. Even if I am a negative thinker at times, I realize how important it is to make this conscious effort. It’s okay if it doesn’t come so naturally.
1. Make a list of things that make you feel productive and happy.
Do them every day. Sure, watching Netflix for three straight hours after work makes me happy, but it doesn’t necessarily make me feel accomplished when I fall into bed at night. To curb these feeling of inadequacy, I wrote a short list of things to do on a daily basis to make me feel happier, and consequently, more positive. If you want to pursue drawing, draw every day—even if it’s just absentmindedly doodling in your notebook. Do things that feed your soul. Trust me, I still have my Mad Men Netflix binges, but it helps to weave in some things of substance—even small things.
2. Listen to happy music.
Dance like a freak. I love Radiohead. I’m obsessed with Nirvana and The Smiths. I get it—sometimes all you want to do is just marinate in that certain kind of mood. But you’d be surprised how much of a difference a little Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes can make in your temperament. Make a playlist of some feel good tunes—they have a way of making your mind go blank and your lips curve into a smile.
3. I know you’ve heard it before, but put a small effort into looking nice every day.
I’ve never been one to dress up for everyday life—I’m a huge advocate for leggings anywhere/anytime. But, there’s an obvious effect of your appearance on your day-to-day life. Before, I would get up for work at 7:50am and leave by 8:10am (yes, I am a girl). Now, I get up 10 minutes earlier and spend extra time on my hair and makeup. A minor change like this can make you more likely to engage in conversation or have a good day overall.
4. Set short term goals.
Like any 20-something, I’ve got big goals. Huge, daunting goals that make me feel so unbelievably overwhelmed that sometimes it’s hard to even start. To ease myself off the cliff, I’ve started listing 3-5 short term goals for the week and setting it as my phone background so I’m forced to look at it like, 100 times a day. They can even be as simple as “write 100 words a day” or “pick up dry cleaning”. Taking things one day at a time really makes your giant shoes to fill feel a little bit more snug.
5. Make a list of things you’ve accomplished.
As a recently graduated college student working an entry-level job/awkward 23-year-old living in my bedroom that hasn’t been redecorated since seventh grade, I get it. It’s easy to think of the bad things sometimes. Turn that way of thinking around—make a small list of what you have done. Hang it up where you can see it. Remind yourself of the good things.
6. Every time you look in the mirror, think of something you like about yourself.
It’s easy to instantly point out all of your flaws, no matter how minor they are. We all do it to a certain extent. Getting in the small habit of giving yourself one or two mental compliments a day can teach you to acknowledge your positive attributes.
7. Exercise or pick up a new hobby.
I’m not going to give you the whole “endorphins make you happy!” speech. Working out, even if your definition of it is walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes (basically all I did in college), makes people feel better about themselves. Committing yourself to something, even if it’s minimal, makes you feel busier and more proactive.
8. Highlight your inner Extrovert or Introvert.
To me, this is a shortcut to happiness and positivity. If you know you need social interaction or an hour of solitude to feel your absolute best, make time for it. As an extrovert, I feel noticeably down in the dumps if I have a particularly unsocial day. This is a simple fix! Complement your personality.
9. Stay busy.
Some of the most analytical times of my life have been when I simply didn’t have enough to do—it breeds boredom and negativity. Staying busy will make you realize that you simply don’t have time to worry about your supposed “cankles” or that stupid joke you made to your co-worker three weeks ago.
10. Realize that this is your life.
It’s all you have. This one may take a long time to internalize, but it’s something that helped me overcome some negative thinking in my life. This is the hand you’ve been dealt—why waste your time analyzing it? Is that going to change anything? Negative thinking and worrying don’t change the future. Work what you have.
Phil Jackson had a set of leadership principles he calls the “Eleven Rings.”
Starting with the fact that his style undercounts the amount of championship rings he actually has (2 as a player, 11 as a coach), Jackson’s rules embody a different kind of leadership. It is far more Eastern than Western, more mindful than master.
Unorthodox? Yes. But you cannot argue that they haven’t been immensely successful. And anyone who argues that Jackson was unfairly granted the sport’s most talented players has never actually dealt with talented people. With that blessing comes a curse–a curse of ego, habit, suspicion and self-interest.
Jackson developed a leadership approach designed to transform chaos and ego into a powerful, fluid machine with a mission. One that works not only with different types of players and teams (from the summer leagues of Puerto Rico to Chicago and Los Angeles) but situations that far transcend the basketball court.
We would all be better relying on persuasion rather than force, to build sacredness and spirituality into our cause, to learn to operate as one, to focus on the process rather than the outcome. As aspiring leaders, we’re often caught up with the notion that we have to do everything, all the time. But this is really a weakness that can be counterproductive.
What Jackson shows us is how to be in control without obsessing about control. He shows us how to lead without one-upmanship and how to win without tying our identity to it. They are simple, but infinitely applicable.
They will change your life and your business.
I’m excerpting his principles below because I think they are some of the greatest ever written (edited only for length). They can be read in full, along with a ton of other amazing wisdom in his book Eleven Rings.
1. Lead from the inside out
Some coaches love to run with the lemmings. They spend an inordinate amount of time studying what other coaches are doing and trying out every flashy new technique to get an edge over their opponents. That kind of outside-in strategy might work in the short term if you have a forceful, charismatic personality, but it inevitably backfires when the players grow weary of being browbeaten and tune out or, even more likely, your opponents wise up and figure out a clever way to counter your latest move.
As an adult, I’ve tried to break free from that early conditioning and develop more open-minded, personally meaningful way of being in the world. In my quest to come to terms with my own spiritual yearning, I experimented with a wide range of ideas and practices, from Christian mysticism to Zen meditation and Native American rituals. Eventually, I arrived at a synthesis that felt authentic to me. And though at first I worried that my players might find my unorthodox views a little wacky, as time went by I discovered that the more I spoke from the heart, the more the players could hear me and benefit from what I’d gleaned.
2. Bench the ego
After years of experimenting, I discovered that the more I tried to exert power directly, the less powerful I became. I learned to dial back my ego and distribute power as widely as possible without surrendering final authority. Paradoxically, this approach strengthened my effectiveness because it freed me to focus on my job as keeper of the team’s vision. If your primary objective is to bring the team into a state of harmony and oneness, it doesn’t make sense for you to rigidly impose your authority.
3. Let each player discover his own destiny
“I’ve always been interested in getting players to think for themselves so that they can make difficult decisions in the heat of battle. The standard rule of thumb in the NBA is that you should call a time-out as soon as an opposing team goes on a 6-0 run. Much to my coaching staff’s dismay, I often let the clock keeping running at that point, so that the players would be forced to come up with a solution on their own. This not only built solidarity but also increased what Michael Jordan used to call the team’s collective ‘think power.’
My approach was always to relate to each player as a whole person, not just as a cog in the basketball machine. That meant pushing him to discover what distinct qualities he could bring to the game beyond taking shots and making passes. How much courage did he have? Or resilience? What about character under fire?
4. The road to freedom is a beautiful system
When I joined the Bulls in 1987 as an assistant coach, my colleague Tex Winter taught me a system, known as the triangle offense, that aligned perfectly with the values of selflessness and mindful awareness I’d been studying in Zen Buddhism.
What attracted me to the triangle was the way it empowers the players, offering each one a vital role to play as well as a high level of creativity within a clear, well-defined structure. They key is to train each player to read the defense and react appropriately. This allows the team to move together in a coordinated manner—depending on the action at any given moment. With the triangle you can’t stand around and wait for the Michael Jordans and Kobe Bryants of the world to work their magic. All five players must be fully engaged every second—or the whole system will fail. When the triangle is working right, it’s virtually impossible to stop it because nobody knows what’s going to happen next, not even the players themselves.
5. Turn the mundane into the sacred
As I see it, my job as a coach was to make something meaningful out of one of the most mundane activities on the planet: playing pro basketball. Despite all the glamour surrounding the sport, the process of playing day after day in one city after another can be a soul-numbing exercise. That’s why I started incorporating meditation into practices. What’s more, we often invented rituals of our own to infuse practices with a sense of the sacred.
At the start of training camp, for instance, we used to perform a ritual that I borrowed from football great Vince Lombardi. As the players formed a row on the baseline, I’d ask them to commit to being coached that season, saying, “God has ordained me to coach young men, and I embrace the role I’ve been given. If you wish to accept the game I embrace and follow my coaching, as a sign of your commitment, step across the line.” The essence of coaching is to get the players to wholeheartedly agree to being coached, then offer them a sense of their destiny as a team.
6. One breath = one mind
Though mindfulness meditation has its roots in Buddhism, it’s an easily accessible technique for quieting the restless mind and focusing attention on whatever is happening in the present moment. This is extremely useful for basketball players, who often have to make split-second decisions under enormous pressure. I also discovered that when I had the players sit in silence, breathing together in sync, it helped align them on a nonverbal level far more effectively than words. One breath equals one mind.
7. The key to success is compassion
Now, ‘compassion’ is a word not often bandied about in locker rooms. But I’ve found that a few kind, thoughtful words can have a strong transformative effect on relationships, even with the toughest men on the team.
I think it’s essential for athletes to learn to open their hearts so that they can collaborate with one another in a meaningful way. When Michael returned to the Bulls in 1995 after a year and a half of playing minor-league baseball, he didn’t know most of the players and he felt completely out of sync with the team. It wasn’t until he got into a fight with Steve Kerr at practice that he realized he needed to get to know his teammates more intimately. He had to understand what made them tick, so that he could work with them more productively. That moment of awakening helped Michael become a compassionate leader and ultimately helped transform the team into one of the greatest of all time.
8. Keep your eye on the spirit, not on the scoreboard
When a player isn’t forcing a shot or trying to impose his personality on the team, his gifts as an athletic most fully manifest. Paradoxically, by playing within his natural abilities, he activates a higher potential for the team that transcends his own limitations and helps his teammates transcend theirs. When this happens, the whole begins to add up to more than the sum of its parts.
Example: We had a player on the Lakers who loved to chase down balls on defense. If his mind was focused on scoring points at the other end of the floor instead of on making steals, he wouldn’t be able to perform either task very well. But when he committed himself to playing defense, his teammates covered for him on the other end, because they knew intuitively what he was going to do. Then, all of a sudden, everybody was able to hit their rhythm, and good things began to happen.
9. Sometimes you have to pull out the big stick
I haven’t weilded a keisaku stick (a Zen tool for slapping students) in practice, though there were times when I wished I’d had one handy. Still, I’ve pulled out some other tricks to wake up players and raise their level of consciousness. Once I had the Bulls practice in silence; on another occasion I made them scrimmage with the lights out. Not because I want to make their lives miserable but because I want to prepare them for the inevitable chaos that occurs the minute they step onto a basketball court.
One of the players I came down especially hard on as Lakers forward Luke Walton. I sometimes played mind games with him so that he would know what it felt like to be stressed out under pressure. Once I put him through a particularly frustrating series of exercises, and I could tell by his reactions that I’d pushed him too far. Afterward I sat down with him and said, “ I know you’re thinking about becoming a coach someday. I think that’s a good idea, but coaching isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes no matter how nice a guy you are, you’re going to have to be an asshole. You can’t be a coach if you need to be liked.
10. When in doubt, do nothing
Basketball is an action sport, and most people involved in it are high-energy individuals who love to do something—anything—to solve problems. However there are occasions when the best solution is to do absolutely nothing.
This is especially true when the media is involved. The Los Angeles Times’s T.J. Simers wrote a funny column once about my propensity for inactivity and concluded wryly that “no one does nothing better than Phil.” I get the joke. But I’ve always been wary of asserting my ego frivolously just to give reporters something to write about.
That’s why I subscribe to the philosophy of the late Satchel Paige, who said, “Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.
11. Forget the ring
I hate losing. When I was a kid, I was so competitive I frequently burst into tears and broke the board into pieces if one of my older brothers, Charles or Joe, trounced me in a game. They loved teasing me when I threw a sore loser’s tantrum, which made me even more determined to win the next time. I’d practice and practice until I figured out a way to beat them and wipe the smug smiles off their faces.
And yet as a coach, I know that being fixated on winning (or more likely, not losing) is counterproductive, especially when it causes you to lose control of your emotions. What’s more, obsessing about winning is a loser’s game: The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome. The ride is a lot more fun that way.
That’s why at the start of every season I always encouraged players to focus on the journey rather than the goal. What matters most is playing the game the right way and having the courage to grow, as human beings as well as basketball players. When you do that, the ring takes care of itself.
There you go. Eleven Rings responsible for thirteen rings. It’s funny when you see scandals like the Rutgers basketball coach caught on camera abusing his players or the former Saints’ defensive coach rants about “killing the head so the body will die.” Why? Because guess what? Those coaches were terrible–their teams were notorious underperformers in the exact areas their brutal coaching was supposed to be improving.
Yet we have Jackson, whose principles are bendable, compassionate, passive and clean–and they built some of the strongest, toughest and winningest teams in the history of sports.
Think of that next time you get upset at an employee, the next time you think about yelling and the next time you think that you have to force people to do things.
And read Jackson’s book. It’s a classic.
1. A pair of jeans that fit you correctly in all the right places, lift the cheeks, and don’t stretch out into sad puffiness within two hours of wearing them.
2. A pair of boots that keep your feet warm and comfortable in the winter without giving you that upside-down corn dog look of Uggs.
3. Your signature scent. (But let’s be clear, perfume is expensive as hell, and no one should be expected to pay for that shit. Get your perfume sample game to the level where you are going six months deep on samples from ONE Sephora. I smell like Flowerbomb for zero dollars, AND I can carry it in my makeup bag with ease.
4. A favorite book that you can always grab and re-read an excerpt from while curled up in bed. (Mine is Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson, for all zero of you who asked.)
5. At least one Lelo. (AKA Mister Steal Your Girl, AKA The Punisher.)
6. At least one or two tampons/pads, because a) you never know when you will be reminded of the circle of life on a dinner date and b) when a random woman asks you for one in the public bathroom, with that real look of “Please, stranger, I need your help,” you should be prepared.
7. A trench coat that both looks British-detective swaggy and keeps your shoulders bone-dry.
8. The friend who is going to tell you when you’re being completely unreasonable and terrible, and even take the phone out of your hands if necessary. (Real friends recognize when you’re in a sad text-spiral and shame you right the hell out of it.)
9. Ballet flats that support both your feet and your sense of style.
10. At least one completely insane accessory that you absolutely love and treasure, no matter how ridiculous it is in reality. My giant, bedazzled elephant brooch is something that the haters can pry from my cold, dead hands.
11. A playlist for when you are really sad, but want to get even sadder. (Note: if this doesn’t contain Tom Buckley’s “Hallelujah,” to which you sob openly, it is not complete.)
12. The friend who encourages you to have those “fuck it” nights where you accept the fact that you will be the girls shaking in bandage dresses in front of the club. Becca always knows the right words to get you swigging out of a Deer Park bottle filled with vodka cran again.
13. A signature drink, for which you always have the ingredients on-hand. (Stoli Bluberri and soda with a twist of lime, AKA The Fire That Prometheus Gave To Mortals.)
14. Access to a bath every once in a while, even if you need to make the pilgrimage back to your parents’ house every trimester to make use of those Lush bath bombs.
15. Some Lush bath bombs.
16. A blazer for all occasions, the kind that both fits in a casually tailored way and looks neither overly-dressy nor inappropriately casual. Preferably in navy blue, but camel is also a very real blazer color.
17. Intimate knowledge of when your favorite stores have their good sales (like JCrew’s 40 percent off the sale price, which I would more or less Black Friday-trample people for).
18. Workout clothes that don’t make you feel like Kenny Powers.
19. A BRA THAT ACTUALLY FITS YOU, AND IT’S PROBABLY NOT THE SIZE YOU THOUGHT IT WAS. THIS IS IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT. *FLAILS WILDLY*
20. A pillowcase that doesn’t irritate your face, because the one place we should be investing in terms of linens is where it is constantly grinding up against our facial skin.
21. Decent moisturizer for your hands, because if the hands are chapped, the booty’s not getting slapped. (I apologize for this, I have no way to make this fun or sexy, please moisturize your hands. Dry winter hands is a real thing and the great equalizer.)
22. At least one place where you can park your car in peace and just cry for a while.
23. A place where you have always dreamed of going, that gives whatever you’re working towards a tangible, real goal — of course, feel free to pin as many pictures/postcards of this place all around your workspace.
24. The perfect pair of black pumps.
25. A go-to hairstyle that requires minimal effort and yet doesn’t look like you’re 10 minutes out of bed from a hangover.
26. The playlist of songs that you always must listen to on “private session,” because some pleasures are too sweet/humiliating to be shared.
27. A group of girlfriends, because any girl who is “not like other girls” or “only has guy friends” because “girls are catty” is seriously missing out on some of the most beautiful friendships life has to offer.
1. Tell your roommates, friends, significant others, that you, believe it or not, consumed alcohol last night. Stress the part where you tell them that you consumed alcohol.
2. Lie in your bed groaning for 5-7 minutes. Groan as much as possible. Some long, some short. Aspire to be the Floyd Mayweather of groanage.
3. Sit on the toilet for 31-37 minutes. Scroll through your twitter feed. Relive that daydream where you run into Michael Cera while snowboarding, and then eventually become pretty good friends.
4. Sit on the couch for 8-12 minutes. Around the 9 minute mark, completely forget that you’ve been sitting on the couch for the past 9 minutes.
5. Open up your laptop. Briefly contemplate suicide upon realizing that it’s now running on reserve battery power. Give up, even though the charger is only on the other side of the room.
6. Turn on the TV, flip through the channels, and wonder aloud why MTV is so into exclusively airing reruns of Ridiculousness on the weekends.
7. Settle for some channel highlighting the skills of a sorta celebrity, like Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race.
8. Spend a good 27 minutes trapped in the inescapable quicksand that innocently begins on Phil Keoghan’s Wikipedia page, but ends on an important court case involving sign language.
9. Hate click some sort of article that you know you’re not even gonna read despite clicking on it. Hopefully, it’s this article.
10. Suddenly get incredibly hungry. Wonder if it’s worth getting that laptop charger, or if this is your time to be Taken by the Powers That Be.
11. Spend 8-9 more minutes mulling over this decision, with the hope that one of your roommates will enter the room and be the answer that the Lord giveth. After all, it is Sunday.
12. Muster up the courage to make the Lewis & Clark-esque trek to the other side of the room. Retrieve the charger. Return a bit haggard, but ultimately still in one piece.
13. SEAMLESS it up. Tweet about how much you like seamless. Pat yourself on the back for being so groundbreakingly original.
14. Between the time of order and delivery, get incredibly full. Gotta love a hangover stomach.
15. Receive a flirty text. It’s like a really good flirty text. Hits all the proper beats and everything. It’s too intimidating, and you’ll have to respond later.
16. Get judged hard by the seamless delivery guy. Wonder whether or not this is a new high or new low. After being hit with the pungent smell of the General Tso’s lunch combination, vomit in your mouth.
17. Upon stowing the Tso’s in the fridge tell yourself that this time around, there’s no bullshitting; you’re never drinking again. Or at the very least, no more vodka.
18. Decide that the only way to get over this is to sweat it out, gym style. Chug some water to prepare. Be too lazy to get ice. Be pissed that it’s not really that cold.
19. Arrive at the gym. Avoid anyone that might try and strike up a conversation–you know it’s gonna get slightly awkward after the initial “hey, how are you,” and at the moment, there’s no need for existential crises regarding the tragedies of human interaction.
20. Realize that you don’t really know what you want to do here. Out of sheer fear of being caught standing around like a bumbling fool, opt for the bike.
21. Kinda dog it, but progressively get into your biking with each solid pick by Pandora. Get angry when they play bad songs. Wonder for the 130th time if you should just sack up and go for Spotify premium.
22. Literally feel the poison exiting your body. You’re not sure if this feels good or bad.
23. Walk home exhausted. Throat incredibly dry and headache still intact, but relatively upbeat. You’re living a moral victory; like the worst team in the league playing surprisingly well against the division leader, and actually giving them a run for their money.
24. General Tso’s time. That egg roll proves to make all the difference–the grease is exactly what you need.
25. As the sun decides to turn off the lights and stream HBO for the remainder of the night, the doubt begins to creep. Tomorrow is Monday, tomorrow is routine.
26. You wonder if you’re gonna be spending all your Sunday evenings like this. Probably.
27. Take a shower. Helplessly watch the water tumble into the drain, as if you’re some breakout actor in a movie that gets snubbed at the Oscars.
28. Oh shit. The flirty text. Is it too late?
29. Scramble, and call in your roommate who somehow hooks up with girls. His texting advice sounds kinda creepy. You don’t heed it, but you tell him that you did. Not that his ego needs more stroking, but he’s clearly the most likely to get divorced after five years.
30. Sit around, and mentally prepare to finally embark on that passion project. Map out a schedule for the week, to ensure that
you actually there’s a 32% chance make due on your promise.
31. Announce to your roommates that you’re going to sleep for the night. You’re happy that your apartment is an “announcing” apartment–as you’ve all discussed before, it builds some nice camaraderie.
32. She texts back, and hits all the beats again. She even makes a reference to how good the food is at the local sandwich place, something that you both mutually discussed in attempt to fill up conversational space last night. You wonder why everything is so obnoxiously predictable.
33. Lights out, and decide that you’ll probably never stop being hungover. Metaphorically.