In the 1950s, basketball had a problem: It was boring.  So much so that NBC passed on airing the finals because they didn’t think anyone would watch.  Why was it so boring?  At the time, there was no requirement for players to shoot the ball.  When a team got ahead, they would do everything possible to slow the game down and burn time off the clock.  They would dribble, pass and basically play a grown up version of keep away.

By 1953, fans, coaches and owners had had enough.  Enter Danny Biasone.  He was the owner of the Syracuse Nationals.  He felt that games were most exciting when each team scored at least 80 points.  He looked at the statistics and found that it took teams an average of 60 shots to get to 80 points.  With two teams per game, that’s 120 shots.  The games were 48 minutes long or 2,880 seconds.  Divide that by 120 shots and you get 24 seconds per shot.

He took his math to the league and “Voila!”, the 24 second shot clock was born.  No longer could teams hold the ball and run time off the clock.  Once a team got the ball they had 24 seconds to take a shot.  How did this change the game?

  • It was much faster paced and exciting
  • Scoring went up dramatically
  • Attendance jumped 40%
  • Players had to get faster and stronger
  • NBC began airing the finals
  • A win was usually always in reach because games went to the last second

What does this have to do with retirement?

Too often we treat time like it goes on forever.  If we aren’t under any pressure to do the things that are important to us, we dribble and pass, but we don’t shoot.  We get bogged down in daily life and tell ourselves that there will be time for that “Someday.”  Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking down, down, down.  If life were a game, the fans would be booing and asking for a refund.

What’s the solution?  Institute your own version of the shot clock.  Decide what you really want out of life and then force yourself to take action on those things on a consistent basis.  Maybe your clock is based on time, money or some other metric.  Whatever it is, set it up so that it is consistently forcing you to “take the shot.”

Maybe that’s taking a trip every 6 months or learning a new skill every 30 days.  Maybe it’s setting up a weekly date night with your spouse or calling your kids every Thursday.  Whatever it is, set it up and stick to it.  If you do, your life will be richer and more interesting.  You won’t procrastinate as much.  You’ll take more shots, have more wins and be more fulfilled.

Remember that retirement is not based on age or assets, it’s based on control.  We’re all at least partially retired because we all control a certain percentage of our time right now.  What are you doing to make sure that you are a good steward of that time?  What is your shot clock?

Have a great week!

~ Joe

This post was inspired by the “Game Changer” episode of the podcast 99% Invisible.  Photo by Jeffrey L. Cohen and used under Creative Commons License.
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