Benny Gealer


This quote Virgil Abloh once said in a seminar resonated with me. He said, “Life is so short that you can’t waste even a day subscribing to what someone thinks you can do, versus knowing what you can do. If you can get to a place where you can understand this, there is no limit to your potential” 

When the recess bell rang in my kindergarten classroom, I always dashed for my favorite spot on campus - the basketball courts. I’ve been playing basketball since before elementary school, and it was low-stress for much of my young career. The game was driven by fun and playing with my friends. Heading into eighth grade, the game started to get more serious. People in my life began to throw around words like “scholarships” and “recruiting,” ideas that were foreign to me. Not long after, college coaches and scouts began to show up at my games. The presence of these powerful figures placed pressure on me. I felt out of my element both mentally and physically at the time that I knew I needed to be at my best. This effect was only amplified by how much I wanted to impress these coaches and scouts. My motivators of having fun and playing with my friends were being replaced by the constant thought of how those around me perceived my game. 

At my first game in high school freshman year, with coaches and scouts present, my team suffered a tough loss to Notre Dame. That evening, a friend from school messaged me, asking, “Why did you play so poorly?” I was already dealing with my own negative thoughts about the game and my performance, and to hear criticism from someone else was devastating. The perceived disappointment of those around me felt like a grey cloud was hanging over me and affected my confidence in other areas of my life. Later that week, I played the tape of the game. I dreaded reliving this failure. As I watched, however, I realized I had a lot to be proud of in my performance. I was starting varsity as a freshman. My coach trusted me throughout the game and hardly substituted me out. I played strong defense against the opponent’s point guard. I asked myself, “Why am I letting this game cast a shadow over my life?” 

Peers, parents, coaches, and scouts can apply immense pressure, but this stress only becomes a problem if I allow it to. I looked back at the Notre Dame game and realized that almost all of my disappointment was the result of the social pressure, rather than my own assessment of the game. I decided that I was holding myself back by allowing the climate of opinion to affect me.

With this realization, I began to develop a new philosophy on life: ultimately, I can only control my work, preparation, and the resulting outcome. I cannot control people’s opinions. I’ve learned that the best success is earned by putting aside the views of others, true or perceived, and focusing on my own contribution. I’ve had difficult games since the Notre Dame game, but the outcomes of these games haven’t affected me in the same way. Now, all of my focus is on the competition, rather than others' evaluations of me.

This focus has rewarded me with better results on the court, but more importantly, more fun. I have rediscovered the pure enjoyment of the sport I felt in elementary school, even as the number of people watching me play continues to increase. Looking back at that game against Notre Dame, I am grateful for the outcome. I now consider this tough loss to be one of my greatest wins, as it provided the spark that helped me change my perspective.