Unlearn What You Have Learned

I learned to shoot a basketball yesterday. I know, it sounds crazy. But I really did. One of my friends has some pretty stinking awesome credentials. Number 2 point guard in the nation in high school. Played under Coach Summitt’s leadership at the University of Tennessee. And because I have a self assurance strength, I actually thought I could take her in a game of H.O.R.S.E. last spring.

“Your shots are ugly. And when you jump…well, I don’t really know what’s going on.”


Here’s the back story.

When I was 6, all I wanted was a basketball goal. I spent what seemed like hours throwing a soccer ball onto the roof of our house, just imagining that a rim was there. My dad gave me my wish for my birthday. It was before the days of those super cool adjustable goals, but he built one for me. He gave me a 7.5-foot goal that could adjust up to 10-ft with age. And a shiny, brand new full-size men’s basketball.

I never played on a team. Never played competitively. And while my dad played the game with me in the backyard, I never really learned the form or fundamentals. It took every ounce of strength to get the ball to the rim. I jumped, not to clear the blocking hand of an opponent, but to give me enough momentum to get the ball in. My little 6-year-old self needed all the power I could muster.

In middle school and high school, much of my prayer time happened in my backyard while shooting. And I was solid. Hit most of what I shot from various places on my concrete court. Didn’t  matter to me how I made it…just that I made it. In college, I would come home and shoot in my old school gym, and the middle school team would be amazed at my shooting percentage.

But it was based on really bad form.

Yesterday, everything changed. I finally learned how to shoot correctly. As a certain green Jedi master might say, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

There are moments in our leadership when we have to unlearn what we have learned. As Pastor Mark Batterson says, “it’s the difference between doing ministry out of memory and doing ministry out of imagination.” My jump shot served me well when I was seven. But not when I’m thirty-seven. What worked ten years ago may not work today. We’ve also got to make sure that our character is rooted in the unchanging fundamentals of our faith and leadership.

I learned how to shoot a basketball yesterday. Correctly. It feels weird. I hurt. And I felt stupid in the process. But it will serve me well in the long run. I was also reminded that my leadership needs this process as well. I need to unlearn bad habits and root myself in good habits. No matter how well I might be getting by on the bad ones.

And when I win at that game of H.O.R.S.E., I will be sure to let you know.