Basketball and surgery
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Back in the 1970s, there was a kid in the Philippines who had big dreams of becoming a basketball star. But he faced a few obstacles along the way – he wasn’t the tallest, he lacked coordination, and shooting hoops was a struggle. This determined boy grew up to be a skilled cancer surgeon and guess what? He also became a master of the basketball court, even in his 60s. He could beat a bunch of 30-year-olds one-on-one! Especially since those 30-year-olds were me, myself, and I.

That kid was none other than my dad.

My dad is a man of principles. When I was younger, I used to roll my eyes whenever he shared his life lessons with me. I thought I knew better and would stash away those teachings in the depths of my brain. But as I’ve grown older and started a family of my own, I’ve come to realize the wisdom in his words.

Let’s talk basketball again. My dad, standing at a towering 5’7″ and faced the challenge of competing against taller kids in school. He tried his best to play, but he often ended up being picked last or relegated to the bench after failing to make a single basket.

I’ve seen other kids give up on sports after such setbacks. Some would switch peer groups or avoid sports altogether due to the sting of failure. But not my dad. Nope, he had a different approach.

He went home and asked for his father’s help to set up a basketball hoop. Money was tight back then, so all they could manage was a rim just wide enough for the ball to squeeze through, nailed against a wooden board by the sidewalk.

Armed with this makeshift hoop, my dad set to work. Every day after school, he would drop his things and head straight to shoot hoops. 

Practicing with a smaller rim was no cakewalk, but when my dad returned to his school’s court and played with the regular-sized hoop, it felt like aiming at the mouth of a cave – hard to miss.

His skills improved, and he was named captain ball of their intramural team. 

The lesson I learned from my dad is powerful: sometimes, self-imposed handicaps can sharpen our abilities, and with discipline and dedication, we can overcome obstacles, even in sports.

But here’s the kicker – my dad never asked for a bigger rim. He kept shooting through that small opening, honing his accuracy to perfection. 

Tennis legend Serena Williams did something similar to my dad – she trained with a self-imposed handicap too. Serena would play with a smaller-sized tennis racket than what was used in pro matches. This challenged her to strike the ball more effectively by improving her precision, timing, and coordination. 

My dad’s lesson has stuck with me, and I’ve applied it to my professional career.

You see, I work in marketing and have a bit of a deadline addiction. So, when a client or management gives me a due date, I commit to delivering a day or two earlier. It may sound insane, but it pushes me to work fast and prioritize tasks effectively. Surprisingly, I’ve rarely failed to deliver ahead of schedule, and that’s something I take pride in up to this day.

So, whether it’s on the basketball court or in our professional lives, embracing challenges and adopting self-imposed handicaps can lead to incredible growth and achievement. That’s the invaluable lesson I learned from my dad, and I’ll always be grateful for it.

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