• Jack Fleming

5 Rules for a Meaningful Basketball Life: An Antidote to Chaos


Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, and author of the book 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos. One of the most insightful books you will ever read, keep the dictionary by your side because his vocabulary is on another level. A passage of 12 profound and challenging principles on how to live a meaningful life, combining ancient wisdom and modern research. Peterson will make you consider everything you do, know and have thought. I stole 5 of these rules, and considered how they relate to the chaos of being a basketball coach. This might be BS, but I hope it stimulates your thinking.


1. Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back

  • “Dominance hierarchies are older than trees.”

  • “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order… It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality.”

  • As a coach, command the court. Players are looking for leadership, they’re looking for certainty, they’re looking for someone to follow.

  • “You can’t fool kids, dogs or NBA players.” — Chuck Daly

  • You better be prepared and you better know your stuff. That breeds confidence and helps with buy in.

  • It doesn’t mean you’re a know it all, it just means there’s a ‘why’, a rhyme and reason to your thinking.

  • Live in reality. It’s a players game. Pass the credit and take the blame. That’s leadership.

  • To stand up straight with your shoulders back means to be the coach who takes a stand in the worst scenario’s, not the one who hides.


2. Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping

“To treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping is, instead, to consider what would be truly good for you.”
  • You have to believe that you have a vital mission in this world, and you are obliged to take care of yourself.

  • If you don’t sleep, eat like shit and don’t exercise — what example are you setting for your players? You’re sending the message that your own value is not important.

  • If you coach 24/7 and you have a family you never spend valuable time with, you’re a pretty bad team player.

  • Take care of yourself first, and every single part of your life will naturally play up a level.

  • When you treat yourself to your highest value, that is when you can coach at your best.


3. Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You

“If you surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness. They will instead encourage you when you do good for yourself and others and punish you carefully when you do not.”
  • Hang around with coaches who truly want the best for you, those who share with an abundance mindset.

You can’t fly like an eagle when you surround yourself with turkeys.
  • Remove the negativity, the gossipers, the lazy and those who are it in only themselves from your coaching circle. You know who they are, they’re sucking your energy.

  • It takes courage and guts to say no, don’t be a yes man — have some principles and beliefs.


4. Compare Yourself To Who You Were Yesterday, Not Who Someone Else Is Today

You have a career and friends and family members and personal projects and artistic endeavours and athletic pursuits. You might consider judging your success across all the games you play… You might object: I should be winning at everything! But winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult.
  • You might be winning but you’re not growing, and growing might be the most important form of winning. Should victory in the present always take precedence over trajectory across time?

  • “Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Jeff Van Gundy

  • “If winning a championship is the only goal for your organisation, you won’t last very long.” — Mike Budenholzer

  • Basketball is a comparison sport — there are winners and losers. People make the team, others get cut.

  • When you focus on not proving your team to everybody else but IMPROVING your team, that is when you have a chance for longevity. That is a growth mindset.


5. Pursue What Is Meaningful, Not What Is Expedient

“The better ambitions have to do with development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity.”
  • “It’s not where you coach, it’s why you coach.” — Don Meyer

  • Are you coaching to win a title so people will pat you on the back and tell you how good you are? That feeling doesn’t last very long.

  • Are you pursuing a job or a position to fulfil your ego, or to make a greater impact?

  • People find out their true why when they’re punched in the mouth with adversity.


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