Hello, Adversity Weekly Roundup #14 - May 6, 2023
Giannis on failure, "Very happy" Americans, and my recent podcast appearance
Welcome to the 14th edition of the Hello, Adversity Weekly Roundup. I hope you had a great week.
As I mentioned in the previous roundup newsletter, I am going to be on vacation next week. Here’s how that impacts the upcoming schedule:
The bi-weekly newsletter, originally scheduled for this Wednesday, will be pushed back one week, and will be sent out on Wednesday, May 17th.
The Hello, Adversity Weekly Roundup scheduled for Saturday, May 13th is unaffected and will go out on time.
I am looking forward to having some time off to recharge my batteries. It has been a challenging last few months physically, and if I’m being honest, emotionally.
But it’s also been an exciting time too. I am so happy that I finally got around to starting this newsletter. I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people - including other writers - as the result of this site. And I also enjoy writing for people that I’ve known for many years.
I am also thankful to everyone who recently signed up. Although I haven’t had the chance to meet you yet, I am grateful for the opportunity to show up in your inbox every week. Feel free to send me an email or introduce yourself in the comments!
Without further ado, here are this week’s links. I went a little longer on the commentary this week, so there are only three items.
Was the Milwaukee Bucks season a failure?
That was the question posed by a reporter to Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo after his team was bounced from the NBA playoffs last week. To set the stage, the Bucks had the best record in the NBA and were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Everyone expected them to make a deep run. Unfortunately, they were knocked out by the 8-seed, the Miami Heat, in six games. (8-seeds almost never beat a 1-seed.)
Giannis was visibly annoyed by the premise of the question. He went so far as to challenge the reporter - respectfully - about how he could come to the conclusion that Milwaukee’s season was a failure.
“Do you get a promotion every year, in your job? No, right?...... Every year you work, you work towards something, towards a goal, which is to get a promotion, to be able to take care of your family, provide a house for them, or take care of your parents. You work towards a goal – it’s not a failure. It’s steps to success….That’s what sports is about. You don’t always win — so other people are going to win, simple as that.
He then brought up NBA legend Michael Jordan, who won 6 titles in 15 seasons for the Chicago Bulls.
“The other nine years [were] a failure?”
Giannis’ answer drew a mixed reaction on social media. (Then again what doesn’t?) Some thought he gave a perceptive answer; others believed that since the Bucks were so dominant in the regular season, to lose in the first round was a major failure.
What is my take?
First off, before I answer this question, I want to give Giannis credit. He was frustrated and tired and still processing the loss. The reporter’s question was clearly meant to elicit a reaction. You could tell Giannis wanted to go on a rant but restrained himself, not wanting to make it personal.
(Would I have been able to do that? No, let’s be serious, I would have lost my mind.)
When it comes to the merits of his answer, I see both sides. At first blush, I think that losing so early in the playoffs, especially if your team is heavily favored, is at least a little bit of a failure. If not a failure, then a major disappointment. The Bucks should have been able to make it a little further than they did. Had they lost in the conference finals or the NBA finals, chances are they would have faced another elite team and a loss would have been understandable. The NBA has many great teams; they can’t all win.
HOWEVER, the Bucks should not feel humiliated or ashamed. And here’s the key point - context is everything.
First off, the Bucks faced an assortment of unique challenges in the series. The team they lost to - Miami - was a #1 seed last year and made the Eastern Conference finals. They have one of the ten best players in the NBA in Jimmy Butler and were an uncommonly-strong 8-seed. In addition, Giannis missed multiple games during the series with an injury. He was not 100% even when he returned. His injury threw the entire series into flux.
Second - and this was Giannis’s point - it’s all about what comes after the loss. Giannis implored the reporter to take the long view and not focus on just one series in one season. If the loss fuels the team to learn from their mistakes, make adjustments, and change personnel in order to build a foundation for future success, then this loss is no failure at all. (Speaking of, Miluwakee just fired their coach.) If it instead destroys the team’s confidence, ruins team chemistry and breeds distrust, then maybe it will be a failure. Maybe they squandered their last, best shot. We just don’t know yet.
In sports, as in life, we can’t “win” all the time. That is unreasonable and impossible. We will lose. We will experience setbacks. But a loss is not an automatic failure, if it can lead to something better in the long-term. To paraphrase Giannis, it may be a step to success.
Disappointing? Sure. Heartbreaking? Absolutely. But Giannis is a uniquely-gifted superstar. He is in his prime. He is by all accounts a person of the highest character. I am confident he will win another championship.
And I’m not just saying that because his answer made it sound like he read my recent article!
In March, the Wall Street Journal came out with a poll that raised alarm bells about the pessimistic outlook of Americans and their distrust of institutions. Many have offered their opinions about the poll results and what they mean for the future. A simple Google search can lead you to some rather...um…enthusistic takes. In aggregate, though, it speaks to a declining level of life satisfaction, which is unfortunate.
The reason I bring up this poll is because one of the questions had to do with happiness:
Taken all together, how would you say things are these days--would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?
30% answered “Not too happy”.
56% answered “Pretty happy”.
But 12% of respondents - a subset that piqued the interest of the Wall Street Journal - answered “Very happy.”
If that raised an eyebrow - either out of skepticism or curiosity - you are not alone. The Journal decided to follow up with these “very happy” respondents to understand their source of optimism. With all that is going on in the world, what makes these people so satisfied with life?
In short, the “very happy” share the following characteristics:
they have strong relationships
they have a deep sense of faith and/or purpose
they are community/civic-minded
money is not the center of their lives (even for those who are not wealthy)
they are generally older (but not always)
physical fitness is important
Much has been written over the years about the pursuit of happiness. I always take these articles with a grain of salt, because happiness isn’t easy to achieve. Life often gets in the way. Happiness is not a switch you can turn on and off. It is not a secret level you unlock in a video game. Oftentimes, the more you try to be happy, the more elusive it is.
But the pursuit, nonetheless, is worth it. Even if there is no easy formula to follow, just having a few ideas of what might lead to a more satisfying life is useful.
Is there a characteristic in the list above that stands out to you? Is there something you have put off or let fall by the wayside that brought you joy in the past? If you can sneak in a few moments of bliss here and there throughout the day, these moments can make a difference in the long run.
I recently had the opportunity to appear on the Once Upon a Gene podcast with host and rare disease mom Effie Parks.
In the episode, Effie and I talk about my journey living with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and how I’ve used writing to process all that has happened in my life since my diagnosis.
Writing is an outlet for me the way exercise is for others. I would even go so far as to say it is more than an outlet - it is a lifeline.
When I first began writing about my disease, I wanted to make sense of what I was going through and craft a narrative arc that would allow me to regain a sense of control over my life. I didn’t know if anyone was interested in what I had to say. How wrong I was! Not only has writing helped me accept my circumstances, it also introduced me to people all over the world who are dealing with adversity in some form. That is something I cherish.
Have a great week everyone!
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