interview by Nick Ramsay
illustration by Jordan Domont
After a lifetime of physical injuries and emotional turmoil, the NBA hall of famer, famous Deadhead and transcendental meditation advocate knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles. Here, he offers five pieces of wisdom on achieving your goals in the face of adversity.
1. Prepare With Discipline
"One of the greatest challenges in life is figuring how to deliver peak performance on command. How do you get ready for your moment? That level of preparation is all-encompassing — physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. It just keeps going. And then the event, the moment of truth, is over. In basketball, it starts and it stops. And then you have to rest, regroup and calm your mind down, because there’s no way that you can just stay up [at peak performance] the whole time. Discipline yourself so you can come down, but then start building slowly up again."
2. In A Dark Place Seek Out Your Medicine
"Being down on that ground and feeling like life is no longer worth living, is a very real space. People who have been there, they know about finding their medicine. My medicine is participation in sports, being part of a team, meditation and listening to music. Whenever I start to get into trouble, that’s where I go and immerse myself. Then bam, I’m back in the game. Everybody has to find their own medicine."
3. Help Others Help You
"One of the most important things in getting better is to acknowledge your problems, accept them and then reach out for help. Nobody makes it to the top alone. I would not be alive today if it hadn’t been for my wife, Lori. I would not be alive today if not for the support, encouragement, and compassion of my family and friends who would call everyday and say ‘Don’t give up, Bill. Don’t give up. You’ll make it.’ I would not be alive today if it hadn’t been for for my spine doctors, Dr. Steven Garfin and his incredible team. This is not easy stuff. It all comes back to the mantra of the student, of the patient, of the player –– you’ll never learn what you don’t want to know. You have to open your mind, you have to open your spirit, you have to open your soul, and let people come in and help you. There are so many good people in the world who want to, and can and will, help."
4. Work Hard, Rest Harder
"Rest is every bit as important as work, maybe even more so. It ties into the ability to control the mind, to calm it down. When you're out there performing, when you’re out there in the fight, you are just in such a state of electric explosiveness. And then all of a sudden you realize, ‘Okay I have to do this same thing tomorrow, so that means I’ve got to come down.’ So all the different tools that we use: the meditation to calm yourself down, the breathing exercises, the yoga, the stretching, the type of food we eat, the clean air and the clean water that we breathe and drink. They’re all vital."
5. Look For Your Master Teacher
"Sometimes you find them, sometimes they find you. The relationship is mutual because good teachers love to teach. The great ones, they love what they do, and they love to be involved in the fight, [they love] that ability to shine the light, to be the beacon of hope, to give people a reason to believe in a better tomorrow. We have to search these people out to find them, and that’s on a constant basis. I try to look everyday for new sources of light, new sources of inspiration and new directions forward. It’s the never-ending challenge in life."