My Story: Overcoming Failures And Taking The Leap.
My name is Mark Della Vedova, and this is my blog.
As a former college basketball player with years of experience on the court, I’ve seen how hard work and dedication can pay off. But there’s more to succeeding than just putting in the hours. You need to have a proper strategy too—one that considers the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents, and how you can use them to your advantage.
I aim to provide high-quality advice for basketball players at any level—from beginner to professional. I also love movies, books, writing, and other sports-related activities. These topics will be peppered into my site as well. My goal is to provide an honest and helpful perspective on the things I’m passionate about so that others can benefit from my experience.
I give advice on all things basketball and fitness and am currently featured in Total Shape. So if you’re looking for some tips on training, strategy, and other aspects of basketball, or want to know what I think of a movie I just watched—I’m here! With my insights and knowledge obtained from years of playing college basketball, you’ll become a more intelligent and more aware player on the court. Plus, you can also join in on conversations about my favorite hobbies too!
2011 – Where My Personal Development Journey Began.
In the winter of 2011, a significant event in my life happened. I got cut from my sophomore basketball team. The reason this is significant is it ended up being one of the first big failures in my lifetime. It was one of the first ones that made me look at myself as a person and find out who I was.
I started to question myself.
Did I work as hard as I could?
How did this happen?
What part of me wasn’t good enough?
Basketball had been my life up to that point. I would train most days, participate in basketball camps in the summers, and work out with private coaches. At the time of being cut, I was 6’6”. My height magnified the failure because of the implications of a tall guy playing basketball.
This defeat stifled me. The tension it caused was like lava rising in a volcano. The very next day I started a fight with a random classmate through frustration. (He kicked my ass, by the way. I can’t believe I picked a kid out who knew karate!)
The next few days were tough. Then we got a call to the house. One of the coaches I worked with said there was an opportunity at another school. So I took it. It was a big decision to leave my current school to go play somewhere else. I could’ve stayed where I was, worked hard, and tried to make the team the next year. But I felt like this was the best opportunity for me. I wouldn’t fall a year behind. I could get on the court right away and improve my skills immediately.
With this new opportunity, I decided to work on the areas where I struggled. I was able to get a sense of these things to improve based on the failure of being cut and the questions I asked myself about why I was cut.
I was a bit pudgy and weak(not a good combo unless you’re Nikola Jokic). I was slow and my conditioning was horrendous. I lacked aggression on the court.
As soon as I started practicing with my new team, I made sure to address these issues. It didn’t come right away because, unfortunately, when a person grows 8 inches in a year, some basic motor functions can take some getting used to. But I was determined to reach my goal, which was to play basketball at the collegiate level.
2012-2014 – Steps Towards Improvement
Over the remainder of my high school career, I grew four more inches, lost some excess weight, and found a bit of success game after game. I improved my conditioning by running on days we did not have practice and over the long holiday breaks as well. This allowed me to get up and down the court and ultimately help the team win games.
Of course, not everyone was behind me during this time. With such a big height difference, people thought things should’ve been much easier for me on the court. There were even people at my school who gave me negative feedback.
“You’re 6’10” you should be dunking on them every play!”
“Rebound! You’re huge!”
This did not play well into my self-consciousness and anxiety. I had a difficult time filtering out these harsh comments when I stepped on the court. I thought that maybe they were right. Maybe I’m not a good player at all. If I didn’t have this height I would be nothing.
Again, I started to review the things I could be doing better. I was learning to take negative feedback and turn it into a positive. I was learning to evaluate it and have it make me a better player.
In my junior year, I was tall but I was skinny as a stick. I played around with a few weights in the morning with the wrestling team, dropped some baby weight, and could at least hold my own in the post by the time my senior year came around.
I began talking to schools about playing basketball for them. This was a fun process. It was nice to be noticed for the hard work I put into my game. The goal had always been to play Division 1 on a full scholarship and go to school for free, but that didn’t happen. I eventually committed to a Division 2 school in Sioux Falls, SD. But this time I was determined to work hard and earn a scholarship.
2014-2016 – College/Division 2 Basketball
As soon as I played with those guys, I realized I was a step behind. One thing that was a crux was my conditioning, and those guys would run circles around me. I was able to get myself better conditioned in high school, but this was a whole different beast. During one of our conditioning drills in the preseason, I fainted because of how much running we had to do.
I redshirted my first year, which meant I didn’t play in any of the games. It allowed me to have another year of eligibility. I was subjected to getting my ass kicked daily in practice by a guy only a couple of inches shorter, which was something I did not see often. It was such a rare occurrence, I felt like I was shorter than him! He was packed with muscle as well. And while I had done a bit of weight training in high school, this guy was on a completely different level.
I’d wake up sore and beaten. I slept in a lofted twin bed in my dorm(which was not even close to long enough. My feet hung off around 6 inches when I laid down.) and when I dropped to the floor, my knees would buckle. My entire body was stiff. It was difficult for something as simple as lowering myself down to the toilet.
The school portion was also not going well. I was never the best student. I would skip a lot of classes, drink, and smoke weed. Then on Sundays, I’d find someone to give me Adderall and cram all of my homework in after having partied the three nights in a row prior.
Of course with all of that partying, lack of sleep, and drug and alcohol use, I wasn’t able to present my best self to the world. I realized I needed a drink to smile anymore. I was a shell of myself.
I hardly played at all the year after that redshirt year. Instead of working on my game and doing better in school, I focused my attention on drugs and alcohol to cope. It was tough for me to be sober. I had lost the good habits that helped me achieve my goals in high school.
2016-2019 – Augsburg University/Division 3 Basketball
I ended up transferring to a school back in Minnesota called Augsburg. It’s in Minneapolis right next to the University of Minnesota. A private school. It was also a Division 3 school, so a bit lower level of competition. I thought that by moving down a division, instead of riding the bench and watching all of the games, I would dominate. I thought the problem was the school that I attended, but I was dead wrong. The problem was me.
I still didn’t play as much as I thought I should have. I put in minimal effort in basketball and school and got minimal results. I’m not sure how much homework I did myself. It was all taken from other students. I was taking out tuition loans to fuck around, and I deserved the results I was getting.
I knew I had been not doing well when my roommate I had for 2 years basically kicked me out of the apartment and forced me out onto my own with no other options. It was a gut check.
I decided in my last year of college that I would go to class every day and work hard to be a leader on the basketball team. I started every game as a senior, I stayed relatively sober, did well enough to graduate, and our team made it to the conference championship where we lost by 3. All in all, it was a damn good year. I felt good about myself.
One thing I did not feel good about was my major. I was a secondary education major with an emphasis in English. It was not a good fit – at least as far as the education part went. I more or less chose it because my mom was a teacher and she enjoyed her life so why couldn’t it work for me? By the time my third year ended, I realized I didn’t want to be a teacher but that I also couldn’t change majors without starting all over again. I was already on a 5-year pace to finish school with private school tuition, so changing was not an option.
December 2019 – Living At Home
So after graduation, I was at home with my parents, living in my basement room. A wave of depression hit me. I would lay in bed throughout the day, scrolling my phone, watching movies, drinking beer, and even smoking cigarettes, trying to forget the fact that I had six figures of student loans and a degree that would maybe get me a 40k a year job teaching. It didn’t seem real. It felt like an impossible hill to climb. This “poor me” state continued for a couple of months.
February 2020 – Driving For Amazon
I decided to get a job at Amazon delivering packages until I could find out what sort of thing I could do to get myself out of the pickle I was in.
That was when I began to read. I was influenced by Jordan Peterson to “read every damn book I could get my hands on.” For some reason, I started with the most difficult ones – A Farewell to Arms(Hemingway), War and Peace and Anna Karenina(Tolstoy). Whenever I find something new, I go all in.
This was a hobby that didn’t fade. I had hardly read my entire life before picking up these books after college. My favorite books before my post-graduate self-reading courses were Bud, Not Buddy and the Captain Underpants books. And now here I was reading 1000-page books. I had discovered a new love. One that gave me a bit of meaning.
April 2020 – An Indescribable Loss
But still, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. While I was in the middle of this, my dad passed. And while it happened in April 2020, it was not due to COVID, which had reared its ugly head. He had died in a fatal ATV accident driving around our suburban neighborhood.
Not knowing the outcome when we got to the hospital, my family and I waited and waited. Never for one second did the thought of him dying go through my brain. I thought maybe he broke something. To be honest I didn’t know what to think. When the doctors entered the hospital room and told us he was gone, I was in disbelief. I remember sitting there with my family when they left the room. None of us said a word. Nobody cried. We sat there for what could’ve been seconds, minutes, maybe even hours. I lost all sense of time. My family and I were in absolute shock. It finally hit me when I got home, went down to my room alone, and cried.
I went back to work a few days later and would stop on my route when thoughts of him came to me. I felt paralyzed at different moments. When I felt like I was over it one day, the feelings rushed back up the next like a punch in the nose. This went on for months.
My dad was good financially. He was well-prepared for that day, which my family and I are grateful for. Nobody had to sell the house he worked so hard to buy. We did not need to start a GoFundMe. The student loans I had acquired through stupidly attending private schools for five years dwindled to something more manageable – an amount one would expect from attending a state school for four years. I’m forever grateful to my dad for that.
For the next year and a half, I drove my Amazon van. Another hobby I picked up along with reading was writing. By October I was out of the house. I had a Tuesday-Saturday shift. After work, I would eat and then write at my computer for hours.
I wanted to write something meaningful – articles, a book, a movie. Those first attempts at writing were cathartic yet outlandish. I would write and write and write and it would end up being about me and my life and uncovering things about myself – nothing publishable. I was working through what a 24-year-old who had just lost his dad would work through.
So I wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally, the words came in the form of books. I wrote a few that I abandoned. Nothing over 80-100 pages. On one attempt I had gone through eight or nine drafts only to realize it didn’t make any sense. It was simply trying to force a round peg into a square hole.
I never felt better than I did while in this pursuit. I would write for hours. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke weed. I didn’t eat junk food and jerk off all day. I would wake up, work, go home, write, read, and sleep. I felt in control. Disciplined.
One problem then replaces another. The Amazon job wasn’t horrible, but I was delivering packages in the frigid Minnesota winters and getting paid a measly sum to do so. Besides, this wasn’t a career path and I didn’t believe in myself enough as a writer to stick it out until I got a book published.
2021 – Selling Insurance
I then found a job in insurance as a salesman. Good opportunity with decent pay. To be honest I was willing to do anything to get out of that Amazon van if it meant more money.
This is a job I got a lot out of. It opened me up conversationally to the world. Up to this point, I was a bit anti-social and self-conscious – at least when I was sober.
I learned to speak with clients, hold meetings, and act with professionalism. It was okay for a while. A couple years in I felt like the progress had stopped. I would get home from a day at the office and be too tired to pursue anything else. I would try putting in the extra work, only for the weekends to turn into a time when I’d do nothing to recover. The hundred outbound calls a day were getting heavier and heavier every time I plopped down at that desk.
I had begun to listen a lot to Gary Vee and Alex Hormozi, on how they took chances with life. I had lived frugally for the couple of years I worked there and had enough saved to take a chance.
2023 – New Beginnings
Which brings us up to now. I am starting this blog while writing a book I am hoping to publish. I figure there will never be a better time in my life to try. If I fail, so be it. At least I can tell myself when I’m old and gray that I gave myself a shot.
Thank You For Reading
If you’ve made it this far, I appreciate the time and value every relationship I make from this blog.
If you would like to reach out, I will do my best to respond to every email and am more than happy to hear your story, because stories are what connect us as humans. I’m hoping mine connected to you in some way.
I hope this message finds you in good spirits and a good position in life. If not, I hope to help you get to the place you want to be. To help you follow your dream. If you don’t know what that is, I want to help you find it. If you know it, I want to help you pursue it.
There’s only one life, and I want you and I to make the most of it.