(Yes, this is a classic song that came out back in 1997, posthumously released by The Notorious B.I.G., featuring Ma$e and Diddy)
Before you roll your eyes and tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about, I'd probably agree with you. Weird, you think, then why bother reading this? Well, in my previous blog, I wrote about how different styles and approaches can get you to the same end goal. So if you are in a good place, I hope you can write something for me to read. But throwing money at me isn't necessarily a solution, it just changes the problem.
I believe it was Gary Vaynerchuk who says that money simply exposes people and shows who they truly are. Mark Manson also suggested that money problems will always exist: you simply have a different money problem. He compared a homeless person's money problems with Warren Buffet's money problems, and asked which problem you would rather have. I agree with that idea. I think the problem with money is that we don't sufficiently adapt our behaviors very well when we get a sudden change in income.
And of course, I'm going to tie this into badminton in North America.
Growing up, my family wasn't too bad financially, but there were challenges especially when my parents separated. However, they thought it was beneficial that my brother and I continued going to a Catholic school, so additional money was put into tuition for the both of us. We also continued playing badminton, so there were costs to doing that as well. Things were limited, but once I hit college, the financial situation became the biggest problem. However, I believe we were a family that spent within or below our means. The only time we had a vacation that included flying somewhere was a trip to Florida on some kind of timeshare. Yes, my parents came from Asia, and no, I've never traveled back with them.
Once it came to more national (and especially international) tournaments, I was on my own. My parents couldn't afford to support my badminton, so I essentially had to win more and got whatever support that I could. Please understand that I am not complaining, but rather, I'm extremely grateful for everyone who helped me along the way. That is why I continue to do my best to help athletes wherever I can today. I could never pay it back, so I try to pay it forward. More on that later.
The problem with my badminton was that money was my primary fuel source, and I had to keep trying to find it. Consider a performance vehicle. It doesn't matter what quality of parts you have if you don't have the gas (or electricity, I suppose) to drive it. Money was my problem and I had to continually try to find ways to stretch a dollar. This meant booking cheaper hotels, cheaper flights, and conserving money by not doing things that would have been nice to do, but my ultimate goal was to continue competing and get as high of a world ranking as possible. However, how do you really compete with the world's best when you are also trying to make sure you have enough fuel to keep going?
Now, imagine if I found a sponsor and money wasn't a problem. Imagine that I had full funding and support, like other countries in the world. Then, I'd have a different problem. I'd actually have no excuse for not performing as well and I'd really need to find a way to win more. See, now we've changed the problem. If my money problem was eliminated, then I would have not be able to give the same excuse. If I didn't win still, then the problem was elsewhere. Perhaps a different training program? Perhaps more tournament experience? All I know is that it must be something else.
Money itself can be a problem, but once you have enough, you'll realize that you'll face other problems. The more solutions you have, the further you can go until you decide that maybe it's not what you really want. Or, if you know you want it, then you just need to find a solution to the problem, whichever level you're at. Money often is an initial barrier and it's too easy to blame everything on that. Perhaps as a thought experiment, we should consider what we'd be doing if money wasn't an issue. If there are no performance changes or there is still discomfort, then maybe that's not something you really want to do.
Conversely, there is another problem. Removing money as a problem sometimes can diminish the value of something. If it doesn't cost someone something, then if they lose, they don't feel the same way as if they had spent their own money and lost. There is no "skin in the game". It's often easier to lose other people's money than your own. Perhaps this is one reason why we don't see many players getting sponsored until they show evidence of success. Why invest in someone else if they might just blow the opportunity away?
It depends (my favorite response).
Sometimes we believe in a cause and we want to help. We have hope. We have faith. And dare I say, we have love. Sometimes we help others to give them the chance to experience something that they probably wouldn't have without your help. That's one of the ways we build experience. This isn't necessarily something we can guarantee to happen, so there's a large portion of luck involved. Sometimes it's just being in the right place at the right time. When opportunity comes, will you be ready?
Becoming a high performance athlete isn't easy because there are many different ways to get there, but only few have the grit to stay the course. The first thing to answer is whether it's something you truly want. This is the hardest question to answer. Is it something you truly want, your parents want, your coaches want, or do you just want to be with your friends, want it for college apps, or whatever the case may be? Most of us opt for something like, "I just want to be the best I can be" or "I just want to see how far I can take it".
I've reflected on that kind of response... and I don't like it (anymore).
Although I like to say, "Make the most of a situation with what you have", doesn't that ultimately depend on the end goal? For example, if you just needed something for college apps, then you would technically only need a good reference from your coach. You can just show up to training on time, train hard, and be a model student. Winning or losing don't really apply too much here. If you wanted to do it for your parents, then you would try your best... only when they're watching. Imagine if you pushed past that and won more, but then they tell you that you need to stop because badminton has no future. Or perhaps, more commonly, their standards shift and they say something like, "How come you can't win anymore?" after transitioning to the next level. Hypothetical of course, but possible.
Now if you just want to train so you can be with your friends, then you only need to put in minimal effort. Depending on the players in your group, if you all have the same goal in mind, then nobody has to do any additional work. But my question would be why you're spending time to train in the first place? Why not just play games on your own and do your own thing? Why live in a lie because training will only push people apart. Once someone decides to train more and focus on improving themselves, then there's more focus on personal improvement. As the difference in skill levels increase, different cliques form as the level of badminton makes it harder to play together. The difference in ability make it too easy or too difficult, and it becomes less fun. Those focused on performance will tend not to want to waste time on these types of games. When you're focused on performance, time counts because how are you going to be better than someone else across the country who is training to be serious, when you are playing with people who want to have fun?
Then you'll be at that crossroad. Do you want to stay back, or do you want to carve your own path? The choice is yours.
And so the divide begins as people's goals change. That's just life. Speaking of life, we often have other problems that get in the way of performance. Those things matter because how can you perform when you have other problems from other places breathing down your neck? For young people, school is often the main priority. Not dealing with school will cause problems in badminton. Very often, I see athletes skip training because they didn't study for their exams. It happens to the best of us. We all have different circumstances and at the end of the day, we do what is the most important.
But what if you were disciplined enough to study ahead of time. It's definitely possible because there are athletes who are able to train regularly and manage their school. It's finding that balance where you can prioritize both. They find solutions instead of making excuses. It's always a matter of choice, and they have the discipline to choose their goals first. However, I understand that circumstances are different for each person. Some people also have the financial resources to reduce their set of problems.
Money can be used to solve problems, and some people will be more equipped to handle their lives. Imagine having a car versus not having a car. Imagine being able to buy food versus having to prepare your own food, including buying groceries and cooking. Imagine having the money to train and compete, versus having to work to make money to train and compete. Imagine having access to the top coaches, private lessons, and more training time, versus limited group lessons.
Life's not fair, isn't it? I know, because I've been there.
And I still am. I choose to live, and as such, it will be unfair.
That's okay, because I prefer to believe that life is unfair. This will help me cope with misfortune, while letting me be grateful when things actually go the right way. The opposite would be more difficult to manage, because anything unfair would be seen as unjust, and since many things are outside of our control, it would probably spiral downwards and lead to self-destruction.
Doesn't that remind you of badminton, where something bad happens to you like a bad line call, and it frustrates you to the point that you can't think straight and you end up losing the game? I've been there before. What if you just accepted that things sometimes go wrong, pulled yourself together and focused on winning the match? Easier said than done, and I know this personally too.
And that's why we practice. Life lessons extend across many things; it would be foolish to try and separate them when you can learn lessons across different contexts and apply them wherever they work for you. That is creativity in a sense and also "making the most of what you have". We are all capable of great things in our own way, but we must first decide on something that we want, and be willing to decide the best way of getting there, given what we have and don't have. But it's okay to change too. At some point, we may need to go in a different direction and that's okay. Money often helps, but it is only a means of getting there. It's not as much of a problem if you have time, because sometimes you can trade time for money. That's a whole other conversation.
I love badminton, but it's just one part of my life. It's just a tool that I can use really well. Perhaps I just want to share it with others, so they may better navigate their own lives.
I'm just making the most of what I have too, and I don't need much. I have all that I need.
Money comes and goes. Problems and solutions too.