From "Slimbo" to "Reflex"
Day 1 of my 21 day writing challenge.
The new kid said, “Put me in coach!”
In my head, I responded, “Brah, you don’t have the repertoire to be a force on this team and you definitely don’t have the look!”
What came out of my mouth was, “Just keep working and growing and we’ll see”
I’m not sure if I was able to conceal the doubt I had about any role he would ever play on our team but it didn’t matter, his love for basketball and his enthusiasm for what we did remained high and he kept showing up and plugging away.
This exchange took place in 1995 and I was speaking to Sadiki Fuller who was on a mission to be a part of our team where we jump off of trampolines and dunk basketballs in an effort to inspire people to be amazing in their own right.
Sadiki stands about 6’-1” and was around 175lbs. He wasn’t necessarily skinny but he was sort of lanky and he was NOT muscular. I was putting together a team of Sports Super Heroes with cool hero names and “needed” athletic looking guys who had the physical ability to learn acrobatic dunking and the mental capacity to deliver motivational presentations. Ideally, I wanted gymnasts who had a bit of swag and style. The only hope Sadiki mustered up in me resulted in his temporary nickname: “SLIMBO”
We were going to be wearing spandex super hero costumes, so this ideal look I had in mind was not just some random criteria, we had to be able to pull it off. He definitely did not look the part but he could flip and I appreciated his gung-ho spirit so I saw him as a back-up if we ever needed him.
We didn’t have many shows booked at this time so opportunities to perform were rare. Sadiki showed up at all of them and as he got better, he occasionally performed with us. He came up with his character’s name “REFLEX” and we used another name he came up with “IMPACT” as part of the name for the team: The High “Impact” Squad.
He got a job with the Houston Astros as part of their in-game entertainment troupe and added more tools to his arsenal of entertainment skills.
During the summer of ’95 a crowd began to form in the parking lot of the high school gym we had just finished performing in. They watched and asked questions as we loaded our equipment into the bed of my 1980 Dodge Dakota pick up truck that couldn’t quite hold all our equipment but we forced it to (think Beverlyhillbillies). Once we strapped everything in so it wouldn’t topple over onto the freeway as we drove home, I ran inside to thank and say goodbye to the client.
When I returned, Sadiki had this small crowd of high school students and some parents eating out of the palm of his hand. He was funny, clever, and quick-witted. He made balloon animals for the girls and did a black flip or two to impress the guys. He squeezed out a high pitched voice as he delivered a one-liner pretending to be someone’s mom and it was like I could see the gears turning in his head as he read his audience and delivered like a pro.
As I laughed and enjoyed his “show”, It was clear what took place.
Sadiki didn't just earn his spot, he claimed it!
Not by forcing himself to fit my vision but by owning and honing HIS giftedness. It did not take long for him as REFLEX to get noticed by others and he became the 2nd of 7 teammates of ours who leveraged their opportunity with us to land their own job as an NBA mascot.
Sadiki went on to train and mentor others and is still entertaining and making people laugh as he lives his dream as a stand-up comedian.
Even now, I cringe when I think about how limiting my belief was.
Sadiki helped me grow as a leader and over the years my teammates have taught me so much. Things like:
-When people show up with commitment and a willingness to learn, give them a chance. Opportunities will arrive where they get to prove themselves and ultimately to shine.
-Be on the lookout for people’s hidden gifts and encourage them to own how they deliver their giftedness.
-My teammates are not mine, they belong to a bigger world of opportunity and my job is to challenge them in their roles with us regardless of whether their next expression of themselves is with us or beyond us.
I am grateful.