Moving without the ball is a tactic practiced by great basketball players like Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Players like them excel at moving without the ball by creating space and making themselves available for the opportune moment to receive the ball and shoot it uncontested.
Even in soccer, moving without the ball is an important dimension of that game. Take Cristiano Ronaldo. He scores a lot of tap ins and it is often the result of his great movement, not just the creativity of his teammates.
In basketball or soccer as well as in life, you don’t always have to carry the ball. Many times, it’s better to move without the ball to open lanes and create opportunities to score.
If you’re a corporate executive or an entrepreneur, you need to leave your desk frequently and move around away from your office. As John Le Carre, the novelist, wrote: “The desk is a dangerous place from which to look at the world.”
To free yourself up, devise a system in which your office teammates can cover for you. Setting screens is the basketball term for it. Learn to delegate. Pass the ball. Let others carry the ball as you move around unencumbered.
It’s really all about making yourself available to new opportunities and ideas. An opportunity can be everywhere and somewhere and at some point in time, you will stumble on it. When that happens, just like a good basketball player, you better have the receptivity and agility of mind to catch it and run with it. Availability is the active goal. Another way of saying it is being at the right place at the right time.
Do you believe in a phenomenon called synchronicity? It is defined as “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”
I have come to believe that somehow there’s an unseen force that arranges delightful encounters to happen.
Let me tell you what happened just a month ago. Before an appointment, when there’s enough idle time, I usually walk around the place rather than sit and wait at the designated venue.
On that morning, I dropped by my favorite book bargain store, which happened to be nearby. The moment I got to the first shelf, I immediately spotted a treasure of a book: the second volume of William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, entitled “Caged Lion.” I had been hunting for this volume ever since I finished reading the first volume: “The Last Lion.” But I gave up. Then suddenly there it was, conspicuously right on top of a pile of old books, waiting for me to snatch it away.
Then next day, while waiting for someone to pick me up, I casually entered another branch of the said bargain book store that was also nearby, and as I was rummaging through a disorderly stack of books, I unexpectedly dug out another nugget, “The Vein of Gold” by Julia Cameron. It’s the sequel to her first book, which is about cultivating individual creativity. I had also been waiting for Fate to drop it on my lap for years.
Both books cost me only P70, less than the cost of a hamburger.
Two lucky days in a row. Happy coincidence? Maybe. But they are just two of the many little serendipitous incidents and accidents that have been happening all my life. And it’s all because I love to move around.
When walking or moving around, it’s better to let synchronicity take over. An intuitive trip can many times yield positive results. You might discover an obscure restaurant serving great food along the way or chance upon an acquaintance that is well connected and can open doors for you.
One real life synchronicity story tells of a couple that decided to buy and fix up the house they were currently renting. They drove to the bank and started the process of taking out a loan. On their way back to the house, the husband decided to go a different, longer way back. He just felt like taking an alternate route. Along the way he spotted a woman putting up a “For Sale” sign for her house right as they passed by. They stopped. It was just what they wanted and they bought it!
You can move without the ball even when you are immobilized, under constraints and restrictions. How? Let your mind do the walking or moving by reading, surfing the Internet, and writing. John F. Kennedy wrote his bestselling book “Profiles In Courage” while recuperating from a spinal cord operation in a hospital bed for months with the help of his assistant Theodore Sorensen. He did not waste his time and talent even when confined. He continued to move without the ball through his mind.
New technology is rapidly changing the world and you can’t stay long in one place. Moving without the ball is one good way to grow a business and get a step ahead of the competition.
You might even hit on an uncontested space and create new demand, which is called in business as “blue ocean strategy.” The idea of Netflix probably came about because the founder was walking around and saw the way people were putting up with the inconvenience of renting a DVD in a rental outlet. So he created a new product: streaming service that puts the store right in your home. Similarly, the founder of Angkas motorbike taxi service saw an unmet need in daily commuting and carved a new category in urban transport service and rode it to success.
Adapting and tweaking a product is another way of moving without the ball. Business gurus call it “bricolage.” It’s a business concept defined as taking materials that others had created and using them in a unique and productive way. The cloth rags sold to jeepney drivers by street hawkers are made from cloth scraps thrown away by garment factories. The kwek-kwek egg that is copiously consumed by commuters in street food stalls is the product of a restless mind who had the bright idea of giving it distinctive “mass appeal” by breading it and coating it in orange. Balot-balot restaurant has repurposed the lowly banana leaf to serve its meal items instead of the usual plastic plates. Abundantly available, the banana leaf is not only eco-friendly, it makes the food more appetizing to look at.
The thing is, you must not allow yourself to remain stagnant, whether in sports, business or in life. There’s a world of happy accidents out there waiting to be discovered and encountered.
One of the greatest basketball players of all time, John Havlicek of the Boston Celtics was Perpetual Motion personified. He never stopped running and no defender could wear him down. His inspiration to the rest of us was that if you always keep moving, sooner or later you’ll find an opening, ahead of the others.
The more you move, the more points you score.