The Hawk Waits: So Did Jeremy Lin

Jeremy LinLike many Americans in recent days, I’ve been following the seemingly overnight rise to stardom of basketball player Jeremy Lin, point guard for the New York Knicks. Lin’s story is of one those feel-good, rags-to-riches tales we all love to hear or read about, especially when its protagonist is as humble, intelligent, and well-grounded as Lin appears to be. Lin’s rise to NBA prominence from Harvard, an excellent school though far from being a basketball powerhouse, appeals to me. Partly because of my own college basketball playing days at Williams College, one of the so-called “Little Ivys,” but also because Lin serves as a prime example of an important principal that applies to both falconry and life.

Have you ever encountered a red-tailed hawk perched high in a tree?

Find some binoculars next time you spot one, focus in, and take a good close look. The bird may appear to be resting but, depending upon the time of day and the circumstances, chances are it is doing exactly what it was made to do: engaging in the hunt.

You’ll notice the hawk isn’t flying. It might even be said to be sitting on the bench like Lin. In fact, it barely even seems to be moving, except for the occasional flutter and sweep of its head as it scans the terrain below. The same hunting tactic of patient, minimal movement is employed in a slightly different manner by peregrines and other falcon species, gliding in a high soar a couple of thousand feet or more in the air while scanning both the terrain and the sky below them for potential ground or aerial game.

Learning to wait for the right opportunity to strike is one of the hallmarks of a successful natural hunter. In falconry, peregrines and other falcons are taught to “wait on” in the sky high above the falconer, patiently waiting while the falconer works to flush the bird’s quarry.

“Timing is everything,” as the old saying goes. Ask Jeremy Lin. Ask the hawk.

I think of another lesson from my old playing days. My college coach used to always preach: “Let the game to come to you, Andy. Don’t force it.” It took a long time, until I was out of college, before I truly understood the wisdom of his words. When an athlete is “in the zone,” as sports commentators like to say, they mean he or she is playing to the top of their abilities. But it goes beyond just that. For anyone who has ever experienced being “in the zone” it means becoming one with the ebb and flow of the action, “seeing the court,” “seeing the field,” much in the same way the hunting hawk or falcon naturally sees.

Unfortunately, this idea has become counter-cultural, because we now live in a world that deifies instant gratification. We don’t like to have to wait anymore. Even in Lin’s case, look at how the media is suddenly fawning all over him. An instant hero. “Linsanity.” “Lin’s Legend.” I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines. As Lin himself humbly put it, referring to all the fuss: “It’s only been a week.”

Maybe it’s a lesson we all need to take to heart. When you really stop to think about it, for the person with a success-oriented mindset, is there ever really such a thing as being relegated to a backup role? Jeremy Lin’s example proves, as does the spirit of the waiting hawk, that the difference between success and failure is simply patience and the ability to seize the opportunity when the timing is right. And perhaps no one this past week can better appreciate than Lin, an ardent Christian who makes no secret about his faith, the famous passage from Isaiah 40:31.

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Wait upon the Lord. Life, work, school—they can all have their ups and downs. Don’t lose heart while sitting on the bench. Stay in the hunt. Sooner or later, opportunities will come your way.

The trick is understanding when and how to move.

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