A Friend's Role in Fond Basketball Memories

Occasionally, I don’t realize how good an experience was until years later. That was the case with my weekly basketball games in New York City (1995 to 2004) – some of my best sports moments.

Those wonderful memories came back in abundance after a friend asked me to write a testimonial for his basketball training endeavors.

Sundiata played an invaluable part in those fierce games as the instructor in charge.  He never got in the way, settled all disagreements fairly and kept the intensity of the men (many in finance) focused on the competition. In addition, his conversation was lively and basketball knowledge top notch. He exemplified leadership.

After the daily challenge of working in Manhattan, I couldn’t have wished for a better few hours; especially for the stress relief it provided.

Below is what I wrote for him.

Happy Gswede Sunday!


Words about Sundiata

The first thing I remember upon meeting him was his positivity.  Soon thereafter, Sundiata and I became friends as he was in charge of basketball games at the Reebok Sports Club in New York City (NYC).

It was easy to bond with someone who loved the game of basketball as much as I do.

I played at the Division 1 level in college so there were never a lack of topics to talk about whether it was sports or life related. Playing weekly basketball games at the club was one of the thrills of my work week. The intensity of competing combined with the stress and tension that was released was priceless. And to have Sundiata’s support and basketball advice (yes, one is never too experienced to learn) was invaluable.

Two moments remain etched in my memory:

1)      I was playing with a celebrity and noticed that despite being a fine athlete, he wasn’t very good.  His future performances were similar although it was clear that he enjoyed the game.  

It would be several months before we played together again. This time, he was a different player. He rebounded better, passed well, ran the court more efficiently and moved without the ball.

This next scenario in our game caught me by surprise:

He rebounded the ball quickly and I sprinted out to the right lane. He then threw a long pass that was ahead of me, yet perfect.  I didn’t expect that type of pass from a player I knew to have limited basketball knowledge. Usually, only skilled players know how to throw the ball ahead of someone that effectively. Fortunately, I caught up to the ball despite being almost caught off guard and made an easy layup. I congratulated him after.

Later, I was telling Sundiata about this person’s basketball transformation and the pass that impressed me. It shouldn’t have surprised me when he said, “I’ve been training him one on one”.  Now, it made perfect sense. In only a few months, he had improved dramatically. That is the power of a good teacher.
2)      On more than one occasion, I had the pleasure and pain of a Sundiata 2 hour group workout.

The pleasure was the joy of strong drills, skill work and the competition against other players. The pain (the good kind) was from the intensity, passion and pressure one gets under his training.

Each time, I was out of my comfort zone and had to use all my talent and grit to perform well.  In addition, we worked on some of the fundamentals of the game which are key elements to success. I was a little rusty with the basics so the extra training helped.

There has never been a time after college when I was trained so thoroughly as well as given a tremendous workout! One of the best feelings was AFTER his training was over; rarely, has my body felt that good.  Again, the power of a strong basketball mind along with passionate teaching.

For anyone who is serious about improving their basketball game and learning about what it takes to succeed in basketball, time spent with Sundiata will be well worth it. In addition, his personality and love of life makes him even more effective as a teacher.

He is all business on the court and that is what people need (especially young players) if they want to reach new heights and rise to the talent level they aspire to. Off the court, his discussions about life were always interesting and his sense of humor was refreshing.  

If my young son or daughter shows an interest in basketball, we will certainly make that trip to NYC and visit with Sundiata, so they can get a taste of what it takes to be successful in basketball and life.

            George Payne


Spreading Her Wings

From our first meeting in Stockholm, I could tell she was special. She was funny, naturally charming and had a gentle ease; along with something I rarely see – a genuine zest for life. It was easy to like her.

We met through a close friend several years ago and although we never spent much time together, she recently reminded me of words I used to inspire her. I don’t remember what I said, but do recall the tone and basic message.

I encouraged her to be bold and see the world outside of Stockholm as her personality needed to shine elsewhere, not just in Sweden. I never said to leave the country (and she hasn’t), although made it crystal clear to not let Sweden control her; like it has with several expats I know.

When I sent her a link to one of my favorite articles "Are you making POWER MOVES?", she replied with this message.

“Thanks for sharing.

Reminds me of your honesty when you told me Stockholm was too little for me and I needed to spread my wings. So glad I did! These days, I have at least a few moments a week where I laugh out loud because I literally can't believe that I finally made it to exactly where I wanted to be. I am thankful every second, but damn if I didn't work my ass off to get here lol!! Thanks again for the inspiration and insight.”

Needless to say, I was touched.

I frequently attempt to encourage young people as sometimes, simple yet honest words are just what they need to hear.

Not yet 30, she is flying high and making incredible “Power Moves” these days, and most importantly, doing it her way. Starting her own company is a recent triumph and she will only soar higher in the years to come.

I’ll be watching her growth and direction closely, as we need young people like her to make a positive difference, influence and change to our complex world. She has all the tools for success. In addition, her positivity and passion are infectious!

I sent a Xmas card to her recently with a personal message starting with” I expect GREAT things from you…….”.

It’s not easy to meet high expectations and I’m inspired by the way she embraces those who strongly believe in her. She doesn’t shy away from it or feel uneasy about it. There is a fierceness behind her quite confidence, which will be invaluable in helping to navigate the inevitable life obstacles and will take her as far as she is willing to go.

Can’t wait to see how her story unravels.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Our lovely summer butterflies!

Moving at the Speed of George

"Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow."

We have a dear friend we affectionately call “Molasses” as nobody in our inner circle has his snail pace, although I’ve been told that I’m a close 2nd.  Yes, I do take my time, rarely rush and move at my own speed; something that has contributed to low stress and inner peace.

I was this way from a young age and I know it was helped by my only child status. Time was my friend and I enjoyed being in the moment. In addition, I don’t remember any days being rushed in childhood. My parents were exemplary in this regard as I learned from their actions. My mood or childish behaviour never dictated a rushed experience for them. It was clear from the start, who was the parent and who was the child.

It’s sometimes disheartening to witness people rushing through life and I’ve often wondered why they feel the need to do so. I’ve found that very few things are worth a frantic pace. Yes, if my kid is on fire, I will rush yet rarely do in everyday situations with them. I maintain my calm and stay composed, which has been a positive.

I understand that some are raised by impatient parents, which can mean the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’m no authority on parenthood, although logic leads me to believe that impatience and/or rushing with your children won’t be a good thing for them in the formative years and beyond.

In my opinion, self control and patience are critical to success, balance and low levels of stress and that doesn’t bode well for those whose parents are constantly moving at the speed of sound.

Does my wife put a spring in my step now and then? Indeed she does. That’s okay though as it’s often needed and she is highly efficient in most of her ways, despite getting the rushing bug from time to time. We have helped each other immensely as her efficiency has rubbed off on me and I hope my patience has been a positive for her.

If you’re a rushaholic, I implore you to take the time to learn how to change, particularly if you have young children. A whole new world will open up if you are willing to take the bold step. Maybe you only need a slight improvement in patience? If so, slow down and work on being more consistent.

The key is to find the comfort and speed that works for how you want to live your life. Dictate your own pace.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Relaxing after my favorite run - A 5k in 30 minutes

Resolve to be Happy

If someone were to ask me to select a quote that could impact a substantial part of our global population, if adhered to, I would choose this one:

“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”
(Helen Keller)

You may say…”Being happy is not that simple or easy to do."

I would say, “Why not?" In my opinion, happiness is a state of mind, not a state of circumstances.

I’m close to several people who many would trade lives with in less than a second, yet happiness eludes them. Even with a multitude of life advantages, they are continuously looking for more or are never satisfied. It’s very hard to be happy that way.

I wrote about one such friend below; a guy who nearly threw his good life away. He’s in a much better place now.

Many of the happiest people I know don’t have lots of money and aren’t the most successful, yet they display happiness in abundance and never fail to inspire me. They are grateful for what they have and find joy in whatever comes their way. Some have very tough lives but keep happiness in their heart.

I write from experience as I wasn’t happy for a period of time in my mid 20’s.  Adjusting to the real world after college wasn’t easy after a childhood of double privilege – good parents and glorious formative years as a high school basketball star. In addition, I had the rare and comfortable college experience as a “basketball scholarship student-athlete” at the University of Vermont.

Unbeknownst to me, Boston would provide the struggle that was missing in my earlier years.

Overall, my 4 years in Boston were good and I met numerous new friends; many of whom are still close to me. In addition, my career was flowing smoothly, yet my lack of optimism and happiness was apparent from time to time. I knew I couldn’t live this way. Even though life was progressing well and I was being responsible, there were moments when I couldn’t see it or feel it or be it - the essence of unhappiness

I don’t remember how or why I was inspired to “choose happiness”, although I clearly remember the moment. It coincided with a move from Boston to Pennsylvania (maybe the catalyst) and it was as if a big 12k (26lb) weight was lifted from my shoulders. It felt great!  I silently made a commitment to be happy for as long as I lived.

My life since then has been fantastic, yet like most, not without its share of challenges, disappointments and difficulties. During the trying times, happiness kept me going in a positive direction. That happiness resolve was like a lighting bolt at times – brightening up some of my most unsettling situations. Also, I made sure to stay surrounded by joyful friends as it was easy to feed off their positivity.

Everyone struggles at some point and Boston was my time.

"Because of the Boston trials and tribulations, I was a better, kinder, stronger & more prepared man for what was to come - most notably 10 fabulous years in New York City, happy travels to Europe & living as an ex-pat in Sweden. Without Beantown, I would not have been ready to tackle my diverse life."

If you are not happy, be bold and make the changes necessary. The path towards happiness is waiting.  It may require a simple remedy like mine (attitude adjustment) or a more complex approach.  Do what it takes and make the commitment.

SEE the good in your life, FEEL the love of friends and family around you and BE in the moment.

Resolve to Be Happy.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

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