I keep a list in my notes of fundamental tensions I often experience either professionally, personally, or both. At the top of my list (with a long list of links of examples and other thoughts, including these previous posts.) is the tension between appreciating what you have and aspiring for more.
Today, I added this article about Mac McClung’s ongoing quest to make it in the NBA. McClung has mostly played in the G League (the NBA’s minor league) for the past two years. He’s been a YouTube hit since high school because of his athleticism, and this weekend, he’ll participate in the All-Star Weekend Dunk Contest, which would have been a first for a G-Leaguer, except that he just signed a two-way contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He’s played in 30 cities and three countries over the past two years. He’s been called up to the big leagues twice before, both times with the Chicago Bulls, and he’s scored eight total points as an NBA player, including his very first shot attempt. I liked what he said about that experience:
“When it happens, it’s business-like, ‘This is something I expect blah blah blah,’ ” McClung said. “But then you call your mom and she starts crying and you’re like, ‘Oh man, like, this is something I dreamed of my whole life.’ You don’t take it for granted but you got to soak it in. You’re like, ‘Man, I just scored an NBA bucket,’ that’s something the younger me would have been so excited about.”
In my first 15 years in the collaboration field, I spent more time fixating on what I hadn’t achieved than appreciating what I had. I’ve gotten much better about appreciating what I’ve been able to and continue to get to do. I am surrounded by amazing people, whom I love and respect, and who love and respect me back. People continue to pay me to develop and apply my craft, even when I’m not sure I can be helpful. And the experiences! So many great, special experiences. I even appreciate the not-so-great experiences, which feel more like hard-earned wisdom than PTSD.
Getting to this point is partially a result of being intentional and a whole lot of practice. Most of it is probably because I’m middle aged now, and I feel grateful for many things, including just being alive and in relatively good health to boot. I don’t know if I’ve achieved the “perfect” balance between appreciating what I have (professionally) and wanting more, but it feels pretty good overall.