Eminem and Athletics

In recent posts, I’ve discussed Seneca, Plato, Socrates; so it follows that I would continue with another celebrated influential philosophical figure: Eminem.


You tell them Em.

What does Eminem have to do with athletics? Well besides writing some pretty cool workout songs – or “collaborating” on some pretty cool workout songs – I’ve drawn some inspiration from him for years.

Eminem’s life story is a fascinating one: growing up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Detroit with a seldom stable home life; Marshall Mathers (Eminem) started writing lyrics and performing freelance rap battles when he was 14. Although initially an outcast who was bullied much of his youth, Eminem started gaining traction in the underground rap scene of Detroit – most notably along 7 Mile. His success and ascension out of the economically depressed regions of Detroit can be attributed to his Gladwellian process of writing and rapping for years perfecting his craft. We would fall prey to survivorship bias in assuming that every urban dwelling youth should drop out of school, write lyrics all day and night, and “make it.” There are a lot of opportunities that Em capitalized on that could be attributed to randomness (or luck). Nevertheless, his story of failure, perseverance, and success is a narrative that I very much appreciate.

Eminem spent his formative years developing the skills necessary to become “elite.” Years of trial and error, moments of failure, moments of success. But during all these years, all these rap battles, the young Marshall Mathers never actually knew what his future would look like. At 17, he could not have possibly foreseen getting “discovered” by Dr. Dre. Based on his socioeconomic status, it is hard to imagine that he could even fathom his future success. So what’s the point?

Short Anecdotes

1) In my college level class, I assigned my student’s an assignment. Generally speaking, the assignments handed in were garbage – and the kids themselves knew it. When the students handed in the papers, I didn’t understand why someone would put their name on something that was so clearly below their achievement level. Shouldn’t they be ashamed? Embarrassed? I asked. Quite the opposite. They were indifferent. A classroom of indifferent individuals to an assignment with which they had their name on. I didn’t get it.

2) I did a hitting lesson for a 10 year old when I first graduated college. I thought I should video his swing and analyze it for him. But I didn’t. He left, I never saw him again.

The more I think about these two diametrically different events – the more I realize they’re the same. The students in my class didn’t believe what they were doing was important. During my lesson, I figured I’d see the kid again so I didn’t think the video analysis was important enough. Both my students and myself did the bare minimum in the aforementioned instances. Why?


As previously noted, Eminem spent his youth mastering his discipline – honing the craft that would eventually make him a celebrity. But, Eminem never knew where his lyrics would take him. He wrote every lyric, performed every “battle,” made every mistake and correction – all without any knowledge that this activity will yield XYZ result. He wrote every lyric and performed every battle with the intent to capture each moment – as if it would have been his last. Somewhere along the line, he wrote this lyric:

“Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment…
Would you capture it or just let it slip?”

Eminem realized that his socioeconomic situation would make it impossible for him to get an unlimited amount of opportunities to “make it.” He wouldn’t have the luxury of “indifference” that my students had. He wouldn’t have the luxury of – I’ll video the kid the next time – like I had. Every lyric, every event, every moment of Eminem’s formative life was an opportunity to be captured… or an opportunity to be slipped.

The students in my class had ONE opportunity to do that assignment. There will be assignments in their future; but they will never be able to get THAT particular assignment back. The opportunity they had to create a masterpiece was wasted. I’ve given 1000s of lessons; but I will NEVER be able to get that missed opportunity to give that kid a video lesson. I live with that lesson – that missed opportunity – every single day.

Capture It

You will only ever live this day once. You may have a tomorrow but today – this moment, it’ll never be given to you again. And our lives – they are simply a collection, an aggregation of these daily moments. Sitting here writing this, this is my moment. I’m sure I’ll write another post sometime soon, but this will be the only time I will ever have to write this particular blog post at this exact time. Consequently, if I’m going to write the post, and put my name on it, then I am going to make the choice to make it my best.

It’s the same in sports. How many at bats do we simply give away because – there’s always the next at bat. How many pitches do we lose focus on because – there’s always next batter. How many practices do we half-heartedly attend because – there will always be tomorrow. Well that’s true… until it’s not. My last at bat in college was in the 6th inning. I remember giving up the AB after going down 0-2 because – I’ll get up again in the 9th. But I didn’t. Looking back on my athletic career, I see so many moments, so many opportunities presented – that I simply let slip.

You will have your own moments and they will produce both positive and negative results. But each of those moments present an opportunity. And as Eminem said – these are opportunities that you will capture or opportunities you will let slip. I hope that you capture more than I did. I hope you show up to every practice appreciating the opportunity to learn and play. I hope you approach every game, every at bat, every pitch with the enthusiasm of someone looking to seize the moment. Because if you can train, play and live seizing as many opportunities as possible – from the state championship game to the seemingly meaningless classroom project – the result of these memorable moments will be – as they were for Eminem – greater than you could possibly imagine.

Today is the first day of the rest of your athletic life… so are you going to capture it or let it slip?

Comments 4

  1. Another good blog! This applies after sports end as well! I have to share this with several clients I know will truly appreciate this insights!

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