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The last time I felt lucky was Friday when I overheard a woman crying nearby.

I smiled inside knowing the closest I could come to feeling her pain is in the space between understanding and wondering.

I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t want to be rude.

I heard her say, “But she’s still with us.”

Then she walked away.

I woke up as 1994 James that day.

Sometimes, I’m 2003 or 2007 James. And other bad years.

If I ever find myself ungrateful, worried or concerned with myself, I know I’ve time-traveled.

So I search for gratitude. I think about my kids or who I can help today. I write 10 ideas and improve just 1%.

That’s enough for me.

Then I trade places again.

The old James surrenders. And I choose myself.

The daily practice helps me get back to today. That’s what works for me. And I’ve written about it a lot. But here’s what I’ve never told you: there are other ways to choose yourself.

And I’ll tell you what those are in a minute. But first, let me tell you what you’ll learn from today’s podcast.

A) Follow the formula:

“My youngest son is 14. He was born with two fingers on his left hand. Despite that, he is a superstar ballplayer in our town. He’s the goalie of the travel soccer team,” said Greg Zuckerman, the WSJ special writer and author of “The Greatest Trade Ever,” “The Frackers” and his latest book,“Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars.”

He wrote this one with “the two best co-authors in world.”

His kids.

His son came up with the idea for the book. He thought, “Maybe there’s some lessons here for other people.”

When I was 14, I dreamt about lips.

But I found out you have to be a superstar before you fool around with girls.

“Video games will be there later. Girls will be there later. All that stuff that distracts you will be there later,” Serge Ibaka told Greg’s kids.

Serge Ibaka is 6’11”.

And a professional basketball player.

But before that, he had to escape.

“He grew up so poor that he didn’t really have sneakers,” Greg said.

He’s from the Congo. “His mother passed away of cancer at an early age. His father was a political prisoner. He realized early on that basketball was his ticket out.”

I don’t know anything about sports. But I know how to Google. Google is a company that tells you personal information about people you’ll never meet.

Google says Serge married Keri Hilson.

He was right about girls.

Focus worked.

And if Greg’s 14-year-old keeps following the formula (below), then when he time-travels, it will only be with gratitude.

Here’s the formula: ask questions, follow your curiosity, focus/be persistent, get a teacher, and:

B) Use your disadvantage to your advantage

Together, Greg, Elijah and Gabriel interviewed 11 athletes.

“These are people who were outsiders, it didn’t come easy to them early on or even later in life,” Greg said.

They interviewed Tim Howard, the goalkeeper with Tourette’s who couldn’t stop picking up dirt and rocks as a kid.

He fought it.

But it didn’t go away.

So he used his disability to his advantage.

“When he was diagnosed, the doctor said some people with Tourette’s have this hyper-focus,” Greg said. “But in a game, his mind wasn’t drifting. He was focused more than any other kid on the field.”

Maybe you’re wondering, how can I become super focused?

But that’s not the point. I can’t copy someone else’s competitive advantage. I don’t have their genes. Or their circumstances.

You have your own set of advantages and disadvantages.

And you’ll hear a lot about overcoming difficulties in today’s podcast. But these are the steps:

Step 1. Find out what’s different about you

I’m not saying find out your competitive advantage. I’m saying find out your competitive disadvantage.

This is the thing you suck at. This is what makes you most embarrassed to be who you are.

Say it out loud.

Name it. Know it.

Then get rid of it?

No. The opposite.

Use it. This is your competitive disadvantage.

What’s mine? I’ve lost everything. I wanted to kill myself. I wanted my kids to have the money from my life insurance policy instead of having a father.

You know how I felt about becoming a dad. I was miserable. Now it’s beautiful. My daughter just went to prom.

And she let me be there for pictures.

I felt really grateful for that. She wasn’t embarrassed of me. Or maybe she was, but we have a good relationship.

I don’t know what you’ve been through.

But you do.

And when you identify it, you’re at step one.

Step 2. Use your setback to create your skillset

I only keep good people around me.

Some tell me the truth. Others always smile.

I like both types. But it’s not consistent. Because I haven’t given any one person in my life permission to be bluntly honest everyday in a specific area I need improvement in.

My readers help me. But not always. Sometimes people give feedback disguised as love. “You didn’t use a comma here or there.” I don’t care.

If I worry about commas, I’ll worry about everything. And then I’ll have a website with nothing on it. Just blank.

But that’s how everything starts. 

Nothing + fear + a disadvantage = a challenge. And how you handle that challenge is called life.

I write everyday. I do the daily practice. I do what works for me.

Jim Abbott has one hand. And that was enough for him to become a professional pitcher.


Because it worked. And he built his skills around that.

Step 3. Stop trying to figure it out

Shane Battier had no friends growing up. He was excluded.

Now he’s a professional basketball player.

But if the kids were nice, if they included Shane, and made him feel normal, would he be average?

I don’t know.

“These are the outliers,” Greg said. “You can always make that argument.”

And it doesn’t matter.

Because the “what ifs” about Shane or anybody else are useless.

I sort of wrote about this in my premium book club (an extra added-value piece). I wrote about the effects of expectations versus reality.

I said it best there.

But for now, I’ll say this:

Draw the line. At some point, stop trying to figure it out.

And just start where you are.  

Will you overcome? I don’t know.

But if I were Google and you asked me that question… just know I’d say, “I’m feeling lucky.”

I said the last time I felt lucky was Friday. But that’s a lie. I feel lucky right now.

I broke my own rule. I drank too much coffee.

And my heart isn’t in my stomach.

It’s with me here. On May 17, 2016.

I’m grateful I chose myself. And get to press “publish” on another episode that I hope helps you feel your organs inside you, too.

Alive and bloody inside, full of fear and heaps of hope.

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