I don’t know how many of you play handball or whether or not you’re familiar with what it is – but it’s a game generally played in urban areas like NYC and LA where there isn’t much space really. All you need is a wall and a blue soft ball that bounces well. Anyway you can definitely Wikipedia American Handball to get a gist of what it is. The title of this post is misleading – it isn’t really to stop anyone from playing this fun and addicting game (sport? Not really) but to get you to get out of your comfort zone.
As a medical student most of my day is spent studying and hitting the books, especially when it gets close to test time, like now. Yet we still procrastinate – we eat long meals and watch Entourage, we write blog posts hoping it reaches someone out there and helps them, we talk on GChat for hours about how we wish life were better and how things will be better when we’re rich. Each day I try to get to the gym and work out because it helps my effectiveness when I do. I don’t really get to go that often though because at times the work can overwhelm you. Anyway, so today I went to the gym to lift some heavy weights, get my hormones pumping through my veins, and get me ready to study for the night. I was planning to work out hardcore at the gym from about 6 to 6 30 and then eat and shower and hit the books by about 7. This did not happen.
While benching, my friend out of nowhere asks me if I play handball. Having spent countless hours on the courts from grades 5 to 12 hitting these little blue balls at the wall and then hitting them when they bounced back, my eyes lit up and I said coyly “a little bit.” The next two hours were spent playing ball reminiscing about the old days, and even teaching my other two friends at the gym about the game. It was fun, I’ll admit but it made me realize a couple of things that led to this post. First – I’m screwed for my test now. Second, and more importantly, I realized why I kick ass at handball even today –after four years of not playing at all, and why I suck at basketball.
In life you generally get better at things the more time you devote to them. This is a fact of life. Even average joes or whatever like myself can become good at things over time. Growing up there were two options for what to play in the park in your free time – the more athletic kids crowded the basketball courts. Is it any surprise these kids would get better at basketball over time? The less athletic, but still agile and wanting of fresh air kids, played by the handball courts from sun up to sun down. It was relaxing compared to basketball, you got fresh air, smoked cigs if that was your thing, and enjoyed yourself looking at the pretty little Asian chicks that usually hung out by the courts. It was definitely a good time. I was in the latter group and stayed in that group, and am now still part of the handball group – even when handball doesn’t matter now. It doesn't really impress anyone and judging from the fact that I haven’t played it in four years, I don’t even have that many people to play it with. My medical school has an intramural basketball team but not any other intramural team (especially not handball).
This derives the conclusion that had I been a baller from a young age, I would have stayed at it, improved my game, become more athletic over the years, and definitely be better at something that takes more out of you, is more of a sport, gives you more of a cardio workout, and impresses girls a bit more. I’m not saying you should base your decisions on this criteria but I think it’s pretty solid criteria anyway.
Now you may think that maybe the kids that went to play handball just started off as being slightly better at that and so kept building at it. But the fact remains that if they spent the same amount of time at basketball maybe they wouldn’t have become superstars but their game would have improved.
In the end it really comes down to a) what you want from yourself and how you want to be in the future and b) what you have more fun with.
This basketball handball example is kind of stupid but it works for me, because it relates to other aspects of my life as well. Think about if you’re shy and if your friends want to go to a bar on Friday night and you would rather stay home. Would you really rather stay home instead of going out and having a good time, perhaps meeting some pretty girls? What are you going to do at home instead – complain to your friends on GChat about how miserable your situation is and then go wack off before you sleep. Sadly many of you will do the latter, fully aware that the first situation is better. You see it’s a matter of getting out of your comfort zone.
Staying home you will never get better at talking to girls and hanging out at bars. You will only get better typing really fast to your friends and jacking off really quickly. There’s a whole world out there and you need to spend time learning about it, by being immersed in it.
I was a scrub in handball at first, but the hours I put in to it really, really helped me. I used to be really scared of pretty girls and had crushes throughout high school on the prettiest girls but would never say a word. It wasn’t until I committed my self to going out with my friends on Friday nights and forcing myself to come up to girls, that I got out of my comfort zone, and started to finally start dating.
Let me summarize what I mean since it might be a bit confusing.
#1 What do you want to be? What do you want to get better at?
If I really wanted to be good at basketball when I was young – my hours would better have been spent playing basketball.
If I really wanted to get better with girls, I would have started talking to pretty girls and building my confidence from when I was young. But at that time I avoided what I wanted, and stayed safely in my comfort zone – not getting any girls.
#2 When you know what you want. Actively pursue it. Try even though you may fail, because this is the only way to get better.
You have to put the hours in to get better- bottom line – just first decide what you want to get better at.
Here's one last example to leave you with.
I want to be a doctor and the amount of studying I have to do is ridiculous. It’s hours and hours and hours and it just gets tiring and boring after a certain point. But if I want this – which is what I’ve decided by incurring 120k in debt and giving up the next 10 years of my life for diminishing returns – then I HAVE TO PUT THE TIME IN AND YOU KNOW WHAT? If I do, I’ll be a damn good doctor.