What I Actually Needed – 3/3

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives.. Some lessons are painful, some are painless.. but, all are priceless.” – Unknown

How much does a dream cost? I kept thinking about a quote my mom always told me growing up which was, “money comes and money goes but wisdom evolves and wisdom grows.” I didn’t think about it very hard until I was faced with this identity crisis.  These words further resonated with me when, on a whim, I met an old man in a downtown Denver bar. He was sharply dressed, like a Detroit bad boy, and spoke with an accent and vocabulary that made me think of the mafia. He was a war veteran. I could tell by the the way he moved that he had been through a lot.

I was still in a mindset where some strong drinks may quell my pain so I decided to sit with this man and throw a few back.  After a few glasses of red wine, we began to have deeper life talks, as drinking with strangers usually goes.  At one point, after learning more about his colorful past, I asked him how does it feel to kill people… Reluctantly he said “How does it feel to dunk on people?”   Wow… Though it wasn’t an answer, it was very blunt and he clearly made his point.

As cliche as it sounds, in this bar sitting with this seasoned man, I feel like this is where my wisdom woke up.  Sharing stories with this man about each other’s lives, I really started to put into perspective the advice my mom used to give me, the early morning work-outs with my dad, the time spent with my older brother and the time spent playing professionally in Denver.  Somehow, in speaking with this stranger it made me realize my life better.  It was what some would call an “a-ha moment” and in hearing his wisdom, I really understood what all of these key people in my life had been trying to tell me.  All my talks with my parents and older brother, living in Denver at the time, started to make sense.

He shared that ever since he was a kid he’d see commercials & dream of the opportunity to be a war hero. He’d fought his entire life to be in the army with dreams of becoming a Sergeant one day.  Right before he was about to get called up for promotion, he got shot 4 times… Shoulder and abdominal. Sadly, he never got another opportunity to pursue his dream. He didn’t have much money or much family but he seemed to be the happiest man I’ve ever met. He was even thankful to have been in the army because it helped him come to God and find himself. Through all of his hardships, he was able to have better relationship with his wife, kids, and most importantly himself. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, how’d I have that deep of a conversation with a complete stranger? It’s like I felt the humbleness in my spirit. I remember my sophomore year, playing college ball in Tennessee, Nicodemus my strength coach would always tell me to be thankful for storms in life because storms reveal commitment.

Sounds crazy, but what he said made so much sense and my life story didn’t seem so bad all of a sudden. I could somewhat relate from the losing the hold of the dream….  Priorities are everything in this universe. He reminded me of of a message Coach Martin, college coach lived by and that’s aligning your priorities with your daily diet.  I’m not talking food.  It’s what you do on the daily basis that shapes your future.  Simple right? If you want to be a pro baller, then workout. If you want to be a park ranger, spend time in nature.  If you believe that there’s a God that rules, then fight to live by his commandments and you’ll be happy. Right?  Let’s give it a try for once, but with words and not daily actions or diet.  So my mission in Denver went from training my body to training my spirit and opening my mind to seek knowledge and understanding of the universe.

My foot fracture and time away from the NBA was a real turning point for me.  Weird things started to happen soon after. I had suddenly lost toxic energies, shed old skins and gained life skills for the future. Instead of waking up to social media, I’d wake up to meditate, practice gratitude, read self help books, and thrive in the daily word. Eventually I found myself hanging with more supportive crowds and changing habits entirely.  Suddenly, bars weren’t as fun and vulgar music stopped sounding so good, my belief system was more aligned, preference in types of women matured and even the food I ate before didn’t feel right.  I only wanted positive, empowering things in my life and body.

Somehow I also grew closer good energies, such as, one of my creative partners and mentor, Howard Flamm, that I’d normally ignore for training. To make a long story short, we later started “Creation Nation Animation”, a publishing company that creates and inspires great children’s books (more on that later!).  I’d always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and filmmaker and never felt like the life of an athlete would solely help me achieve all of my creative aspirations.  Yes, professional basketball is my job and I enjoy every second of it, but I will not allow it to define me. I was, and still am for life, going through a huge transformation and I was proud of myself of it.  Now I am ready to change the new to evolve, create my own destiny, with a connection with God only experience could teach. To be honest, I’ve never been happier and I’m so honored to share my journey with you.  Stay current with my blog and life stories as I share what I’ve learned in life so far; I’ll be posting weekly and I truly hope you enjoy my perspective on life.

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13 thoughts on “What I Actually Needed – 3/3”

  1. You were always a great kid when you came to my camps and I worked for Rivals. Always wished for your sucsess.

    1. Incredible story and I will make sure my 14 year old reads it and his friends. I’m truly happy for you and wish you nothing but peace and happiness.

  2. Jarnell,
    I woke up this morning early, couldn’t sleep, so checked my emails and yours was the first I read. We all have a story, and I love to here stories of others lives, about their trials and triumphs, and how people face adversity and seek to overcome.
    I can empathize with you as an athlete(me as a former competitive martial artist many years ago) and how injuries can all the sudden be life changing, as I went through a few major injuries which ended my competitive career.
    I was so glad I read this article, I recollected when I first met you, I knew you were a dynamic and special young man, and enjoyed what time I spent training you for a short while, it was an honor.
    Some day when you have time I would like to here more about your new venture, and how you are doing.
    Take care my friend,
    Mark Aycock

  3. Proud of the man you have become. Don’t ever forget to use your platform God has given you to glorify Jesus in all you do.

  4. One of the most inspirational and humbling stories I’ve come across. Should be published on an intentional level because YOU are NOT alone. Whether being a pro athlete, a struggling yet determined yoga teacher (lol), an unsure medical student entering their 2nd year, an undergrad that fails out a semester etc. ;the list goes on; we all go through similar circumstances, experiences, and emotions within our path to fulfill our career goals to establish a future. And it isn’t pristine or an easy route at all. Salute to you for sharing your remarkable ups and downs AND UPs in life. It allows the world to see that perseverance, grit, and mindfulness is the route to finding true happiness within yourself. Looking forward to more!

  5. Great story Jarnell! Proud of your perserverance and transformation. Keep the inspiring words coming best of luck in all tou do sir. Go Vols!!

  6. Jarnell, As an alum, I was always proud to have you wearing the Power T. I loved watching you play at TBA and have since followed your pro career. You’ve always been a good guy, but I am so happy that you are now a good man. I wish you all the best in your journey and look forward to your continued success – personally and professionally.

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