Dustin Watten, a libero for the USA men’s national team who played in Poland this past season, wants to share what he’s learned as an athlete, how he’s inspired and what he’s overcome to get where he is.
Watten, 33, grew up in Long Beach, California, where he later played men’s volleyball at Long Beach State. His pro career has taken him to Finland, France, Brazil, Poland and Germany, and then this past season he returned to Poland and played for GKS Katowice.
He’s back in Long Beach and has plenty to say about life and volleyball and wants to share not only his successes, but also his failures and setbacks and how he overcame them.
This is the first of his weekly stories for VolleyballMag.com.

According to the Buddhist scholar Chögyam Trungpa, there are two kinds of positive thinking. 

One is thinking that the future is going to be all right, which is based on panic and concerned with security. The other is not living in the future but living in the present.

The present situation is open, real and with an appreciation of the richness in the present. It’s the basic trust that the space is there already. The whole point is that we don’t have to get it. We have it.

It’s the same thought when Horace coined the Latin phrase “carpe diem” over 2,000 years ago. “Seize” the day isn’t quite the best way to capture the essence of the Latin word carpe. Although it doesn’t sound quite as cool, a more precise translation of carpe diem would be to “pluck the day.” As in, pick today off the tree of life — it’s ripe and ready to enjoy.

Along with Trungpa and Horace I believe in that there is so much richness already in the present, but we have to be mindful to see this abundance rather than the scarcity or lack we mostly operate out of. This is how I developed the “Best Day Ever” mentality, a rich appreciation for the present and the abundance and joy that is right in front of us — finding which we already have, each and every day.

It’s not that every day is the best day ever, but it’s the ability to grasp gratitude from and every moment. If I am tired, I can be thankful for my health. If I am sick, I can be thankful knowing my health will return. Even if my life is a mess, I can give thanks for the opportunity to learn from these tribulations.

“Best Day Ever”
It wasn’t always the “best day ever” as I have had my fair share of sulking, complaining and carrying shame throughout days, weeks and even months during my career as a professional.

I was so naive, allowing the wide arrange of external situations that one will experience living overseas alone to dictate my happiness or vice-versa.

Whether it was my relationship going sour, a cold rainy day, a bad individual performance or just waking up on the wrong side of the bed, I was vulnerable and I let life push and pull me as I flourished through the good days and dragged myself through the self-imposed “bad” days.

My last season in France was particularly “bad,” and I use the quotation marks because it was the season that I owe the most to my growth as an athlete and as an adult as well. My team finished the season 3-23 and throughout most of it, I let every possible outside variable drag me down into a grumpy, aggressive and ill-tempered version of myself.

I was a sponge, soaking up only the bad, malice and irritable emotions of the year, eventually resulting in a phone call to my agent, where I informed him that I wanted to leave the team and return to California.

I wanted to quit.

Luckily, I slept on it for a couple of days until I woke up and realized I had never been a quitter, nor would I become one. I realized that my preconceived thoughts and beliefs on how the management, the team and my teammates should function weren’t serving me, my growth as an athlete nor the person I wanted to be.

Falling into this emotional pit was the best thing to happen to me. Once I regained consciousness and the realization that I wasn’t one to quit, I realized the only way to go was up and I was ready to climb as fast as I could.

The results nor the external circumstances and characters that lead me into this despair didn’t magically change. The team went 2-14 after my realization that it was within my control to take back and push all of my energy and time to those things that were within my control. And that meant meditating, journaling, stretching before bed, arriving early to get extra reps, reading, watching little to no TV and getting to bed early.

Each and every day, I committed myself to waking up early, meditating and destroying my list, (23 micro tasks that align with my growth on and off the court). I completed 100 percent of the micro tasks each day for the first two weeks.

Whether it was meditating, journaling, warming up in my house so I could get extra repetitions as soon as my team got on the court, juicing, scouting two to three full games for each upcoming match or getting to bed early each and every night, I took advantage and committed to each of every competitive edge I could think of (which was completely within my control).

With these simple decisions, I was able to wake up with purpose, intention and passion instead of disdain, resentment and frustration. I was able to choose a new perspective on my season, finding the beauty and more importantly the lesson in each moment, instead of just labeling everything as “bad” or “good.”

That summer, I took this attitude to a whole new level, responding to anyone who asked, how I was doing, by replying “Best Day Ever.”

It was awkward. I was insecure and it didn’t always come out so bold through my lips at first but it was another step of taking control and finding abundance in life — giving me the strength and confidence to embrace each moment and challenge throughout the day.

It’s not about faking it until it feels right, it’s a commitment to finding abundance, gratitude for what we already have and a deep appreciative of all the miracles life has already presented us. 

Just waking up each morning can be a cause for celebration. And after celebrating having been given another day to live, we can fill the day with appreciative living, living the “Best Day Ever.”

Contact Dustin Watten at dustinwatten@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram @dustinwatten. Learn more about him and his philosophy at www.noezybuckets.com.

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