Who among you is a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child? I am. What that really means depends on who you ask.

What is your definition of ‘village’ in the context of the quote? It may be your close-knit family, your extended family, the worlds of the books, video games, or movies you choose to delve into, or your literal village itself. There are hundreds of ways my rambling mind can think of interpreting the word, but only one will suffice. My village is more than my home town. More than my home state and my home country. It is my world and all of the people who presently encompass it. If we ever come in to contact with intelligent alien life, they will be part of my village too. Why put limitations on your village? Why limit your potential growth?

A twenty-three year old ‘child’ is certainly not something I consider myself to be. However, there are many fields of study and existences of which I have a childlike knowledge. I know as much rocket science as a young lad. Put me in an Inuit community and my usefulness will be that of a child. Aforementioned, I am not a child. It is my own personal experiences that make me a man. It is the new fields, or mindsets, that I choose to venture into that will require a child’s mind; the spongy mind that is capable of absorbing everything while dissecting and ranking the new information, and, in the process, morphing a personal, creative style. A child has no choice, but to be open to learn from example, for what else is he or she supposed to base an initial thought processes on. It would be arrogant to tell the hypothetical Inuit community that I may have a better way of performing a certain procedure until I listen to why they exist in such a manner.  Yes, it is best to listen when venturing into a new mindset. No assumptions are necessary until more is learned. We can learn a lot from children. Now, it is time to pick some brains.

The best brains to pick are the ones you won’t have access to for very long. I have a long time to pick my family’s mind, my friends’ minds, and my co-workers’ minds. They are not going anywhere and most topics eventually come up naturally. Contrarily, there are many people who briefly pop into your life. These are the minds that I love to pick. As an accountant, I am traveling to new businesses weekly. I make it a point of emphasis to learn not only more about accounting, but to learn from the people who work at the place I am accounting for. There is at the very least one person who I can pick the brain of at each business I visit. Let me tell you, I pick the person’s or peoples’ brains until there is a scab. Not on their brains, but on my own. I like to leave the brain picking session having felt I learned something that will stick. Something that reinforces me, enlightens me. Something that permanently makes me a bit wiser then when I started the week. I know where all my physical scars came from. I do not know who scabbed my brain, but I know how it happened. Make it happen. Even if you vehemently disagree with the person whose brain you are picking, learn how they came into that particular mindset. Ask questions. Most importantly, listen. Have enough great talks and you’ll have yourself a vibrant stew going. That was a stew joke.

Pick the brains of your fellow villagers. Bring a childlike curiosity and a penchant for listening. Ask the right questions. There is a saying that the best way to learn is to teach. By picking someone’s brain, you are teaching them about themselves, their processes. The student and teacher both leave the lesson having learned.

Championship players on championship teams are all role players.  Each player has his own unique touch.  It is usually not as simple as: he rebounds, he plays defense well on quick guards, or he can drain 3s.  It is more dynamic, more human than simple generic traits.  Stephen Jackson, SF of the Spurs brings an contagious toughness, 3 pt range, and a cerebral mindset.  KG brings an awesome 20-foot jump shot, lengthy frame, unquestionable intensity, and the innate ability to instill accountability in his teammates.  Pau Gasol’s mid-range game is weaker than it used to be; however, his “basketball isn’t everything and I have other interests,” attitude creates a good cop/bad cop dynamic with Kobe (Not sure if this is good or bad).  Each NBA player’s attitude makes the puzzle pieces more complex than focusing on gameplay alone.

Towards the end of the fourth of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the big 4 and Pietrus (whom I soon rip apart, even though he was a necessary contribution to the W) were on the court when the Celtics called a timeout.   The Big 4 huddled tightly around a frantic Doc Rivers who was desperately trying to get out all the little things that tickle a coach’s mind.  During Doc’s rant, Pietrus was five feet away from the huddle.  To give you a better visual, Pietrus had his chest facing the court and his face was turned to the huddle.  It reminded me of a child trying to leave the room before his parents can dole out any additional chores.  Sad to see a thirty-year old demonstrating this sort of juvenile behavior.

Garnett did not care for Pietrus’s demeanor much either.  Like a parent, Garnett grabbed an immediately startled Pietrus by the wrist.  K.G dragged Pietrus’s ass right back to the huddle.  No eye contact.  No words exchanged.  Garnett took Pietrus by the wrist and pulled him right into the huddle just like that.  Laughter was my immediate response until it quickly subsided to an anger/sadness hybrid.  This Pietrus guy is depressing me, I thought.  Pietrus has enough talent to play with a group of HOFs, yet an attitude that is probably detrimental to his overall game.

The shenanigans were not over yet.  When Garnett released Pietrus, he again walked towards the court.  Garnett pulled him in again.  Same thing—by the wrist with no eye contact or words exchanged.  This time it was for a simple hands-in.  Those watching knew that it was Garnett’s game.  If he wanted a hands-in, he was going to take it.  Similar to the way he took that game and made it his own.

What planet was Pietrus on?  I believed that Pietrus would be aching to demonstrate an attitude of care and attentiveness in order to further prove to his teammates why he belonged out there with HOF talent.  Stupid me.  Then I realized, it is the aloofness of Pietrus that makes Garnett that much more intense.  All the dynamics, attitudes, and styles meshing together.  It is beautiful.  It is messy.  It is NBA basketball.

Coexisting with the abilities and personalities of each player is the key to a winning team.  In order to be a great player, an individual must respect his teammates abilities.  Great teams do not ask questions like: Should I pass because he more likely to make the shot?  Should I set the pick?  Does my team need me hanging around the perimeter or in the paint?  Winning players, and as a result great teams, do not ask themselves these questions.  Winning players have an identified role.  Winning players lead the team through individual contributions by developing a winning role.  A winning role is a role that propels the team to success while bringing out the best qualities of his or her individual self.  For example, Kevin Druant may believe that he can take over any game at will.  However, in order to increase the likelihood of a victory, Durant will defer to Westbrook who requires more shots in order to be effective.  Durant understands that it takes a team effort to win in the NBA.  Durant accepting and owning a lesser role is for the betterment of the team making it a winning role.

Garnett will not forget tonight’s game.  He reinvented his winning role tonight on the road at a moment’s notice.  The Truth and Ray started the game slow.  Garnett did not look at them with disappoint or a, “How can you be doing this to me now?” expression that graces the face of many NBA losers.  Garnett would never bash players for petty reasons.  Instead, K.G looked inward.  He recreated his role in order to propel his team to a victory.  He became the main offensive threat.  At the same time, Garnett did not forget his role as the defensive anchor.  As some would like to put it, he put the team on his back.  I like to think he saw the offensive void.  Garnett knew it was his void to fill.

In basketball and business, there will never be a perfect team.  Co-workers will have skills that overlap.  Other skills may be missing from the team.  A leader will fill those gaps.  It does not matter if the individual is best suited for a job, task, attitude, responsibility, etc.  Leaders identify a void.  Leaders take it upon themselves to fill a void.  Leaders understand that a more perfect success is not attainable without filling a void.

Good leaders take it a step further.  Good leaders do more than identify a void.  A good leader is successful at identifying a real void.  A great leader will find the most effective way to fill the void.  Sometimes it requires a personal contribution.  More often, great leadership requires an understanding of who would be best suited to fill the void.  I believe that the person who can identify a real void is usually not the person best suited to fix it.  That is fine as long as the person finds a way, or a more qualified teammate, to fill a void effectively.

I cannot finish this post without acknowledging the bad leaders.  Bad leaders have a habit of identifying a non-existent void. (Knicks fans be warned: Melo bashing imminent.)  Look no further than Carmelo Anthony for evidence of the effects of bad leadership.  Melo sapped the offensive willpower out of a group of offensively talented players with his selfish, isolation, me-first style of basketball.  The supporting Knicks cast went from a fast-motion, passing offense under Lin to a stagnant offense under Melo.  Yes, he dominated in April.  However, I believe his offensive dominance came at the price of  his teammate’s confidence.  Melo put the team on his back when it was not needed.  The void was not there.  The players around Melo were willing and ready to contribute offensively (and even contributed well defensively for that matter.)  It was Melo’s failure in choosing a winning role that led to the Knicks’ demise.

Garnett’s shot volume in Game 5 was that of a Carmelo Anthony.  Where Melo typically does not act in the best interests of the team, Garnett most certainly adapted a winning role.  How can this be?  Garnett identified that his team needed offense so Garnett provided offense.  Melo decides his team needs offense.  Melo does not wait for the desperate look of his teammates— that, “It is time.  Step it up look.”  Melo assumes his team needs him.  He assumes the Knicks are desperate for his offensive contribution.  That is not leadership.  That is ego.  Good leaders do not operate with ego.  Good leaders identify a real void and fill it in the most effective way possible.  A great leader knows when he is not the best person or the only person for the job.

In Game 5, Garnett identified a void.  He was not the best person to fill the void when the Celtics were struggling.  Rondo was having an awful shooting performance.  Pierce looked tired for three-quarters, before awaking in the fourth.  Ray still did not have his legs underneath his shot.  Garnett was the only person who could possibly fill the offensive void.  No other Celitc can provide the star-caliber, offensive contribution any of the Big 4 can.  Garnett identified himself as the only person who could fill the void.  True leadership.

Older generations will remember those classmates.  The ones that used to walk around with not one or two or three books, but an entire stack.  It would seem that if you were not one of the ones carrying a stack of books, than it was hard to understand why someone would want to read that much.  Boring life?  Hardly.  These bookworms were the dreamers with imaginations too large for the physical universe around them.  The Earth as we know it was not a big enough canvas for the mind of a bookworm.

Today, bookworms are few and far between.  For my generation, reading two or three books a year qualifies you as someone who enjoys reading.  Before the internet, bookworms would have more than two or three books on their person at a time.  Today, the lack of interest in reading makes relative sense.  The world is faster and brighter with the advent of the internet.  People need rapid stimulation- something not readily available in most novels.  It is not that the college students of today lack interest in immersing themselves in the unknown.  There is simply a new outlet for exploring different realities- videogames.

Hardcore gamers, like bookworms of the past, are misunderstood by the general population.  People may look at gamers and think, “Why waste your precious time playing stupid games that will get you nowhere?”  Well, I would like to believe that for gamers, their current state of existence is not mentally stimulating enough.  More thought-provoking complexities, realities, and outlets are needed to drive their mind into new and wild places, thoughts, and ideas.  A videogame can provide a new reality, universe, and identity in an interactive, mentally stimulating fashion.  Where books allow for the reader to develop an imagination, videogames develop a gamer’s sense of exploration.  Videogames allow gamers to explore the world game developers create.

Game developers have become the authors of my generation.  Developers create the worlds and realities for individuals to explore,  navigate, and hopefully master.  Sure, there are games that are not in any way intellectual.  However, games are always thought-provoking.  The gamer must be engaged and willing to conquer the challenges or premise devised by the game developer.

A gamer is someone looking to conquer challengers and explore wild universes, realities, and situations. The next time you picture a gamer or happen to find yourself speaking with an impassioned gamer, do not think of the stereotypical low-life living in his or her parent’s basement, but instead, envision a 21st century Christopher Columbus- constantly willing and ready to explore a multitude of realities.

“If you cannot see, then you are blind.”

This is my favorite quote.  Its simple on an elementary level, yet has its underlying complexities.  In this context, I like to think of sight as an outlook on the world, the people, the places, the wild situations we find ourselves in, etc.  It is the all-encompassing view of the world.  When I cannot see, or understand, what is going on, I feel blind to the situation.  I liken the feeling of ignorance to blindness.  If you cannot see the larger or true picture, you are blind to the occurrence entirely.

Any sports fan is guilty of indulging in some trashy sports show or article.  Most of which focus on the star players of the team.  The so-called journalists/analysts of today generally focus on the star players whilst ignoring how certain players create a winning or losing team environment.  In my young life as a student of the game, I have seen no one NBA player who was talented enough to individually catapult his team to a championship. MJ had Scottie.  Duncan had Parker, Ginobili, and do not forget the Admiral.  Shaq had Kobe. Kobe had Shaq, Pau, and Bynum.

The media loves to crown the star, but the crown belongs on the organization that fosters team environment.  Star players do not win championships, team chemistry wins championships.  If the Heat or Thunder win the title, Lebron or Durant will likely be crowned.  The media will give credit to Wade, Westbrook, and Harden (Bosh not included because of his injury), but the media will deem Lebron and Durant responsible for the title.  The blame will be placed on them if they lose.  I believe this is generally unfair.  The team loses not the player. Similarly, a team wins a championship.

I believe that sports news outlets will not have a chance to crown Durant or Lebron this year because a team will win a championship and not an individual player.  The prediction here is that the Spurs will win the championship again.  The same way the Spurs have always won, as a team.

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