How To Shape Yourself and Your Kids

Tim Duncan is likely the greatest power forward in the history of the NBA. Five titles. Three NBA Finals MVPs. Fifteen All-star appearances. Fifteen All-NBA Team selections. Fifteen NBA All-Defensive Team selections. The most devastating turnaround jumper off the glass that basketball has ever seen. And he did it with a selflessness and poise that is almost unmatched.

Almost is the operative word, of course, because Duncan was helped along on this journey to greatness by his predecessor and teammate, David Robinson. How did these two superstars connect? How did one mentor the other? In his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech, Duncan explained,

People always ask, ‘What did he tell you? What did he show you?’ I don’t remember one thing we sat down and talked about specifically. But what he did was he was a consummate pro, he was an incredible father, he was an incredible person, and he showed me how to be a good teammate, a great person to the community, all those things. Not by sitting there and telling me how to do it, but by being that.

The famous screenwriter’s maxim is “show don’t tell.” Marcus Aurelius said it’s a waste of time to speculate or argue about what makes a good man, a good athlete, a good teammate, a good parent. Our job, he said, was to be one. Similarly, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves.”

And it’s this that explains the incredible culture of the San Antonio Spurs. It was shaped, to borrow from Roosevelt, beginning with David Robinson, who tutored Tim Duncan by example, who in turn instructed Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who in turn, modeled it for a team of newer, younger players.

This is how it goes, in sports, in life, and for us parents. Sure, we can talk all we want. We can have great conversations. We can give them a great lecture. But what matters is what we model. What matters is the choices we make. What matters is how we express our philosophy. What matters is what we are, for ourselves and of course, for those looking up to us.

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