By Christopher Lochhead
Things can go tragically, horribly wrong in life.
Accidents happen, loved ones get sick and houses burn down.
Bill Walton, NBA Hall-of-Famer and Emmy award-winning ESPN announcer, knows this all too well.
He has spent half of his adult life in a hospital or bed due to a horrible bone condition in his feet and an almost fatal spine collapse.
Despite these obstacles, Bill won two national championships at UCLA and two finals victories during his tenure in the NBA. And he’s been named one of the 50 greatest players of all time.
He came on my podcast to talk about how he’s overcome the challenges he’s faced. His answer?
Positivity. This guy is all about peace and love, and he shares that positivity is the most powerful force out there.
This is not just about business—this is about life. This is about everything you do every day. Here’s what we can learn about loving life from the greatest basketball ambassador in the world:
1. Teachers can help us learn how to be bigger than ourselves
If you have a goal, the next thing you need is a teacher. Someone who has been where you want to go and can show you the way forward.
Bill is extremely aware and appreciative of all the help that he’s had throughout his life. One of the most impactful teachers he had was his elementary school basketball coach, Rocky.
Bill isn’t even sure if Rocky knew much about sports, but his love for life and positive attitude made a lasting impression. The retired fireman was a volunteer coach every season for 59 years, and he never took a penny.
He simply devoted his time and energy to the kids out of love.
Take a page from Bill Walton’s playbook and appreciate the value that teachers, in all their shapes and form, bring.
2. Money is not wealth
If you cultivate positivity and find a purpose for your life, it doesn’t matter what’s in your bank account — you’ll still be the richest person in the world.
Bill says that one of the great things about legendary coach John Wooden is he had zero interest in money. His highest salary at UCLA ever was 32,500 bucks, and he spent most of his career as a high school and college coach.
John went from being a teacher to 12 young men (Bill included) to going out and teaching the entire world. And his impact was much greater than any material possessions or an inflated salary.
Experience—seeing, hearing and feeling life—trumps money every time.
And we need to build an economy of doing positive things: hoping, dreaming, teaching and helping others.
3. Technology will move humanity forward
The times are a-changin’. The knowledge and information at our fingertips grow every day.
And as technology evolves, you have to change with it.
Because medical advancements saved Bill’s life, he’s particularly excited and hopeful for how we can use technology to make our lives better.
One thing he’s really passionate about is how technology will allow us to reduce consumption. We have over seven billion people on Earth (and counting), but there’s a limited amount of water and arable land. If we continue polluting and destroying everything, we’re going to kill ourselves.
To survive as a species, we need to embrace technologies that help us reduce our waste. This requires us to lead by example and to change how the world thinks about our current practices.
Technology gives us the tools to hope for a better, brighter future.
4. Who you are tomorrow should always be better than who you are today
The opportunity to improve and develop ourselves is a gift.
Although Bill Walton is a professional sports announcer, he claims he’s not a good public speaker and can’t think quickly on his feet.
During a live basketball event, there’s all this madness going on around him: people yelling in his year, producers telling him to not mess up and reminders to get in a promo or sound bite. Bill admits that he has trouble getting all his thoughts out on air.
It’s only after the game that a flood of thoughts enter his head like a tsunami —things he forgot to say and do when the cameras were on. So as he’s lying in bed wide awake after games, Bill reaches for the notepad he keeps on his nightstand and writes notes for how he can improve next time.
Be grateful for tomorrow, it’s another chance to get things right.
5. Gratitude is your attitude
Here’s a good rule: sometimes it’s good to count your blessings.
Bill is happy for the simple things in life: to live in beautiful California, where it’s always sunny and warm, and the chance to have met all his musical heroes like Neil Young and The Grateful Dead.
By focusing on anything and everything you’re grateful for, you’ll feel like the luckiest person on the planet.
And you shouldn’t rank or compare concerts, coaches, children, championships or congratulations. Bill just enjoys them all and you should, too.
That’s what loving life is all about.
Note: This post on Bill Walton first appeared on The Ascent.