If you’re not a sports fan, bear with me because the lessons from Valvano transcend sports.
And they transcend religion.
And they transcend nationality.
But before I can share with you his life plan, you have to understand his life.
He grew up with basketball. So much so that he became a college basketball coach.
Valvano took the 1983 NC State men’s team on a historic run to the college title.
It ended on a last-second shot and the boys from State claimed an improbable title.
The scene fans remember is of a young man in a suit-jacket running wildly around the court after the final buzzer – looking for someone to hug and celebrate his one and would-be only title.
That moment echoes his view of life that would show up throughout the rest of his life, and then again at the 1993 ESPY Awards.
Valvano left coaching in 1990 and went into broadcasting (and of course, golfing). After feeling down for a time, he went to the doctor. The tests were conclusive. He had cancer.
A month later he was told that it had already metastasized. For him, especially in 1992, it wasn't a matter of if cancer would kill him, but when.
His Time Was Short
The diagnosis got him thinking and he quickly formed, with the help of his employer ESPN, The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research.
At the time, there was very little funding going to cancer and he wanted to change that.
And so on a March 1993 evening, Valvano accepted the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS.
There he gave his famous speech:
To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.
Great lesson, but how do you incorporate that into your life, because, let’s face it, we’re busy people and the last thing we need are three more things to do with our days when we are already pulled in too many directions.
Really … how hard is it to laugh each day?
If it takes you watching cute puppies, or a baby laughing, to get you going, do it.
We, myself included, take ourselves much too seriously. Laughter has been reported to ease our two “Brains” of stimulus and response.
PhychCentral says, “… between a thought and a feeling, between an event and an emotion. And in that pause is the freedom to adjust our perspective and our interpretation of our situation. It seems small. But it’s rather substantial.”
My point is that by filling that space with laughter can help make both ends of your spectrum better.
Sometimes I feel like I am a robot just going through the motions and not really doing anything. That is why when I am on the train going to or from work or a meeting or even the bar, I’m reading something.
Be it a hard-cover book, or the news on my phone, I’m reading and digesting information. Some people find comfort in meditation, or prayer.
However you are able to shut off the outside noise, do it and think. Spend that time in thought. You’ll be surprised at the answers you find.
3. Be Emotional
I’m not afraid to show it and say it, but as a man, I can be emotional. And to prove it, I cry at the end of Toy Story 3. It is no crime to show your emotions in the form of tears. I have only seen my dad cry twice in my life. Neither positive or negative, but my children are going to know it is okay to cry whenever they need to.
Natural Family Today writes, “A child needs their caregiver to tell them it’s ok and listen to them vent their feelings.”
Adults need caregivers too; someone to hold your hand, and let you cry on their shoulder. And it doesn't have to be because your life is stressful. It can be because of a movie, a story in the news or just because you’re laughing so hard you can’t help but cry.
I echo Valvano, spend some of your day laughing, in thought and have your emotions move you to tears.