T.J. McConnell, My Favorite NBA Player

T.J. McConnell, My Favorite NBA Player

Every NBA fan has their favorite player to root for. Usually it’s a top 10 player, or whoever happens to be the best player on their favorite team. While I do enjoy watching some of the best scorers like James Harden or Steph Curry, lately I’ve grown fond of one lesser known player: T.J. McConnell, the undrafted guard from the 76ers.

Averaging about 7 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists from the bench, T.J. is far from an elite player (at least for the time being). But what makes him valuable — and the reason why I like him so much — is that he is a hard working player with a contagious spirit.

He first came into my radar during the 2017-2018 season, when the Sixers became my go-to team to watch. I noticed how competitive he was. And let’s face it, when you are as athletically disadvantaged like him, you have no choice but to give your all in every game.

Even when he’s on the bench, he’s always visibly enthusiastic over his teammates’ successes, which makes him a source of energy for the team.

TJ getting dowsed after achieving his first triple double

“He has value. He’s very important in my eyes to us. His history with the program, the cultural responsibility that he has, the bonding with many of our current players makes him extremely valuable.”

Sixers coach, Brett Brown. Source

But he’s not just a great teammate; he is also a favorite among Philadelphians. During home games, you can hear fans get especially excited whenever he scores or makes great plays.

The reason why I like him is that he has such a great underdog story. After college, he could have easily believed that he wasn’t cut out for the NBA and that would have been the end of it. But instead he believed in himself. And even though he wasn’t drafted he still found a coach to take a chance on him. Not only did he make it in a team, but he was able to have good minutes. Against all odds, he found his niche.

It’s amazing to see his fearlessness in the face of bigger, more athletic players. For me, he is a constant reminder that confidence goes a long way.

I hope he has long NBA career. Either way, I’ll be rooting for him along the way.

To learn more about his story and how much he had to overcome to get to where he is, I recommend this great interview from The JJ Redick Podcast.

Mastering one thing is better than learning a bunch of little things

One of the many things wrong with the education system is that it doesn’t give kids the time to master anything. What we do instead is teach them a little about a lot of different subjects. And I’m using the word “teach” loosely here, since kids don’t retain most of the information.

Schools have this “jack of all trades” method where kids are given 1 hour periods to focus and they are made to juggle 5-7 completely different subjects, most of which are not interesting to them.

If you ask me, that sounds like a recipe for creating mediocre people.

This education system doesn’t even allow them to specialize until they’re deep into college!

That method flies in the face of how we actually learn.

It is mastering one thing that sets us up to succeed in other areas. It teaches us how to think and how to stick through difficult things. It gives us confidence in ourselves to master anything we set our minds to.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, focusing on one thing for a long period of time gets us further than focusing on a lot of things for a short period of time.

Oh, and as a bonus, it also makes for more interesting people!

Th​​​​​is post was inspired by this amazing interview of Adam Robinson on The Knowledge Project

Here is the relevant portion:

The secret to having something interesting to say is to get used to saying things.

Recently I was having a conversation about the benefits I’ve experienced by blogging. When I encouraged this person to try it, I was met with this point:

“You may have interesting things to say, but I don’t.”

I have to say that this statement has it backwards. You see, when I started blogging it was to discover what I had to say, not to release some ideas that I already had. And let me tell you, since I started blogging I’ve discovered a lot about what I had to say. For example, because of this blog I discovered my passion for alternative education for children.

What I’ve learned through blogging is that creativity is a muscle which you can cultivate. All you need is one little spark and you’ll be able to create endlessly. And this spark can be found in anything you consume: books, movies, shows etc. You can write down the most basic idea that pops into your head and over time you’ll become better at finding more unique ideas.

Have you ever heard the quote “necessity is the mother of invention?” Well, that’s also true when it comes to blogging. Necessity forces you to be creative and think of things to write about. When you tell yourself that you are going to start blogging and actually set up that blog, your mind will find something.

This is how this post got created by the way. A few hours ago I told myself “I’m going to write and ship something for today” and it caused me to a) come up with this topic and b) figure out how to convey such an idea.

Because I’ve gotten into the habit of writing and publishing my thoughts, I’ve become more receptive to the random thoughts in my head, causing a never ending feedback loop.

Another thing is that blogging caused me to write things down as they come to me. This taught me that if you get in the habit of taking notes, your brain will naturally find noteworthy things.

I wish more people did this. Playing with ideas is fun and I think people underestimate their ability to do that.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t started a blog, just try it. You’ll realize that there’s more going on in your head than you think.

Outside of School There Are No Rules

Schools have taught us that neatly defined paths are the only ones worth taking. That there’s only one way to learn. That you have to wait for orders before you can even think about creating something. That you have to study before you take action. That you can’t delve into a subject seriously unless you are getting a credential for it.

That may be true while you’re in school. Outside of school however, there’s only two things that really matter: that you find value in whatever you do or that others find value in whatever you do.

However you can fulfill that is all fair game.

Pocket Casts: My Favorite Podcast App

When the podcast industry was at its infancy, you had to go through the iTunes music app in order to subscribe to podcasts.

Now that the podcast industry has blown up, there are many ways you could listen to podcasts. If you go to your app store and search for "podcast," what you'll see is a seemingly never ending list of options. On top of that there are things like Spotify or Soundcloud. Even video recordings on YouTube are becoming popular. 

Over the years I have tried more than a handful of podcast apps. I wouldn't say that one app is objectively better than all the rest since they are designed to meet different needs for different people. But the one that I like the best is Pocket Casts.

It's funny, this is an app that I tried a few years ago but immediately abandoned because it was too simple for me. Recently it won me back when I discovered that they now have a desktop version that seamlessly syncs up with the mobile app. That was the deal-maker for me. 

This tool is very convenient for me because, while on my computer, I often find a certain podcast episode that I want to listen to. Now I don't have to locate and open up my phone, look up the name of the podcast and put that episode on my playlist. Instead I can go straight to the desktop app and start listening to it. And if I decide to stop, it'll be waiting for me on my phone with the progress synced up. 

There are many other features that make this app great. Some of my favorites are that it gives you stats about your listening history and it has a feature called trim silence, which automatically reduces the length of the podcast. 

It also has a smooth and elegant UI. 

Pocket Casts is available both on android and iOS. 

The mobile app costs $3.99 and the desktop service is $9, but with a 14 day free trial. Both are just a one time payment. 

One interesting thing about Pocket Casts is that it recently got acquired by a couple of big podcast networks. This is usually a scary thing because it could mean other interests might mess with the quality of the product, but after I listened to an interview with the creator, who is still leading the company, I am actually excited for the future of Pocket Casts. 

Aim Higher

If my goal for the day is to run two miles, I feel exhausted by the time I finish. If my goal is to run four miles, I don’t feel exhausted at two.

This reveals to me that it’s all about the mindset. Obviously I’m physically doing the same amount of exercise by the time I finish two, so I believe that the difference is in my expectation.

My brain is constantly looking for an excuse to stop pain. If it is convinced that the pain will not stop at 2 then it’ll do whatever necessary to cope. And it copes by telling itself that this pain is normal. But if it knows I will stop soon, it will stop trying to cope.

Lesson: whatever your goal is, always aim a few notches above it because it’ll give you the mindset of a person who sees the original goal as normal.

Be Mindful of the Invisible Reward

Sometimes we don’t experience the result of being diligent as a reward. This is unfortunate because it means we have poor incentives to do what’s best for us.

What do I mean?

Well, take driving for example.

Let’s say you drive completely safe — no unnecessary lane changes, no speeding etc.

So what is the reward for doing that? The reward is that nothing bad happens. Your life goes on as it always has, which is something you already take for granted.

From an intellectual perspective you can see the value of driving safe, but still the result of driving safe doesn’t feel like a reward. It takes a good amount of imagination to be able to see the alternate scenario where you weren’t as careful.

So What is the Solution?

I have two solutions: set up your own incentive and/or make being diligent as convenient as possible.

If you want to be diligent with driving safe, maybe throw your phone in the back seat so it doesn’t distract you. If you want to be diligent with working out, maybe get a work-out buddy. With eating healthy, get rid of all the junk food in your house.

You get the idea.

Sometimes it is very hard to find a solution like that. In that case you just have to keep thinking about it and eventually something will come up.

Instead of thinking this as a problem, think of it as an opportunity.

If you’re competing with other people, say in a sport or in the job market, this is an easy way to set yourself apart. All you have to do is be mindful of the invisible rewards of being diligent. By doing this you will run into less mistakes and inconveniences in the long run.

The fact that we live in a reality where these poor incentives exist means that there are opportunities for clever entrepreneurs to fill in the gap of making it more convenient to do the right thing.

Hey, maybe you could be one of those cool entrepreneurs, so get to solving some problems.

A Year of Blogging

Today, I just realized that I’ve been writing on my blog for over a year.

Writing publicly was something I had wanted to do for years, but it took me some time to get over the fear of being judged over it.

It’s remarkable how much I’ve grown as a result of this endeavor. A year ago I would have been deadly afraid of putting my thoughts and work out for anyone to see.

I used to be paralyzed by perfectionism. Now, I feel good every time I ship something out to the world, even when I know it’s far from perfect.

Well, at least this is the case when it comes to writing. I still can’t imagine shipping something in audio or video form.

At some point I’ll have to tackle that.

Finding Advice That’s Effective

You’re not going to make much progress by listening to big-picture advice from Tim Ferris or Seth Godin. There’s certainly a time for that advice, but not until you’ve had some success. That’s because you need to start doing things before you try to improve them. So just do work first.

If you are going to look for advice, look for people who are not too far removed from your position. Maybe even search for people who are in your level and who are learning out loud.

Reach out to them.

Advice is so much more valuable and effective if it comes from someone that’s right above your level of success, not someone who is miles above you and who gives out general advice that can be applied to everyone. What you want is advice that can only apply to you.

Book Review: Reach Out by Molly Beck

I got this book after seeing Zak Slayback show it on an Instagram post. I decided to read it because I wanted to know a bit more about how to create and cultivate relationships.

This book gave me solid advice on effective email etiquette, but perhaps more importantly it made me realize how many opportunities I’ve been leaving on the table by not reaching out regularly. I always felt it should be a rare thing to reach out, especially when it came to people you had no connection with.

I was shocked when I read that Molly advocated reaching out to 5 new people a week! Then I thought about it and realized, “why wouldn’t you?” Why not make it a routine to reach out? I could see nothing but upside if you do that.

Here are some of the benefits if you do it regularly:

  • You will increase your network
  • You will become a killer email composer, and a more effective communicator overall.
  • You will get less hung up if someone doesn’t respond or if you get rejected after making an ask.
  • You will make other people feel good, since every email should include a compliment and a gift. (a gift could be a book recommendation, an invitation to an event, some sort of e-favor etc.)

There are four types of reach outs (or ROs):

  • The Re-RO: Reaching Out to someone you already know from the past or is on the edge of your network. This one has the highest response rate.
  • The Follow-up RO: Reaching Out to someone you have met in passing in real life and want to build a deeper connection to
  • The Borrowed Connection RO: Reaching Out to a friend of a friend who has suggested you two should know each other
  • The Cool RO: Reaching Out to someone who you have no direct connection to at this time, formally known as the cold email. This one has the lowest response rate.

The thought of reaching out is very scary, especially when it comes to meeting someone person-to-person. Looks like it’s about time to face my fear though. Wish me luck.


Favorite Quote:

“You have to reach out to get noticed. You have to volunteer to stand in the spotlight. You have to raise your hand. You have to send the first email. You still might fail to be noticed if you do these things, but you definitely won’t be noticed if you wait for somebody else to reach out to you. So what are you waiting for? Reach out!”