Three letters might last a lifetime.

I was a freshman when I first heard my JV basketball coach say it: “H.I.A. It stands for Hustle! Intensity! and Attitude!” A solid mantra for a competitive group of 14 and 15 year olds.

I turned 30 a few months back, and H.I.A. still comes to mind at least once a week, maybe more.

Coach Eric Rosicky, who I actually messaged yesterday morning, MADE us write “H.I.A.” on our sneakers. It’s a popular thing now, but then? Most kids (or their parents) would flip if they were forced to take a black sharpie to their new kicks! Coach was speaking my language. Ever since I can remember, I had written down motivational quotes and covered the walls of my bedroom with them. Permission to do the same to my Nike’s? Done.

When I was at Mercer, years later, I continued to write H.I.A. on my shoes… and on my bedroom wall, and in my notebooks, and in my locker, etc. Those words meant a great deal to me. My career was plagued by injuries, and I wasn’t athletic or naturally skilled enough to be a star, but lucky for me, I’d already been taught to value three things that any player could do, at any point in time, to be an asset to their team. Hustle. Intensity. Attitude.

What’s strange to me? Many of the athletes I’ve encountered over the years, both as a coach and as a player, had to learn those things in college, if they ever did at all. Not me.

I’ll be honest with you, though. Being intentional about the attitude we carry will always be relevant, and hustle and intensity bring unrivaled success in high-stakes, do-or-die moments, but I’m starting a family now, and for the last two years of our marriage, I’m positive my wife has been dying for me to turn DOWN the intensity.

H.I.A. doesn’t do for me what it used to… It does far more. Let me tell you why.

Think about this: when I was 14 years old, a young coach uttered three words that would drastically alter the course of my life for the better.
Three. Words.
AT 23 YEARS OLD, THOSE THREE WORDS WERE STILL CARRYING ME.
Not even, it was three freaking letters! — H.I.A.
Three (1, 2, 3).
That’s all it took.

I will never be too exhausted to teach an eager student.
I will never pass on the opportunity to share some wisdom when someone lends their ear.
I am always intentional about what I say and who might be listening.
I know with certainty that it doesn’t take an extraordinary effort to make a positive impact on the people around us.

It only takes three letters, and three letters might last a lifetime.


** I am going to see if I can dig up some photos of my old bball shoes so you can see “H.I.A.” and all the other fun stuff I used to scribble on them. I’ll probably post a photo of it on Instagram later in the day if I find one. Check it out. If you have stories of what it was that used to inspire you or how a coach or mentor or parent made a big difference in your life, I’d love to hear about it. Shoot me a message on here, any of my social accounts, or via email at jakobgollon@gmail.com — Looking forward to hearing from you.

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