Week 32: Helping a former NBA Player – Troy Murphy

My name is Davis. I’m spending a year reaching out to my role models. Here’s why

Trevor Booker, Troy Murphy

Troy Murphy as a Laker in 2012

I’m a geek who loves waking up to basketball news. Last week, I read an New York Times article about ex-NBA player Troy Murphy, who retired in 2014.

No…this story wasn’t about how Murphy spent away all his money and is now broke. It was about how, even with $66 million in career earnings, Troy Murphy, now 34, decided to return to college – he entered the NBA as the 14th overall draft in 2001, one-year short of completing his degree.

There is something about professional athletes who return to complete their college degrees that inspires me. Perhaps it is because they prove that, for most things, it is never too late to do what you could have done.

That is why this week I wanted to reach out to Troy Murphy.

What reason do I have to reach out to Troy Murphy?

I am a believer that the best way to connect with someone is to lead with generosity: solve a problem for the other person that is worth solving and do so without expecting anything in return. This has been the secret to all the internships I’ve had in college and all the mentors I’ve been lucky to have in my life. I ask, “what can I do for this person?”, follow through, and never expect that the other person owes me anything.

Reading the article, I know Troy Murphy is a returning student at Columbia University. Since being a college student has been my full-time job for almost four years now, I’ll be able to help Troy Murphy with an area he is struggling with.

When you want to connect with someone, think about how your life experiences can help the other person.

Finding a Problem Worth Solving For Someone

Reading deeper into the NYT article, I find that Troy is taking four classes: Organizing Innovation, Societal Adaptations to Terrorism, Introduction to Islamic Civilization, and Spanish. I haven’t taken any of these courses, so I can’t help him out, but as I read further into the article:


Spanish seems to be a rough point. As a student, I know how hard learning a language can be for a lot of people. I don’t speak Spanish nor am I currently learning Spanish, so I can’t directly help Troy Murphy improve his Spanish.

But, I’m going to make recommendations for tools that can help him.

Doing Research to Help Someone

I spent the rest of last week researching about the best methods for learning Spanish.

When I am researching the best way to do something (ex. playing poker) I tend to find online communities where enthusiast gather and discuss what resources work and which ones don’t. While the types of communities vary, I tend to find the following three resources helpful overall.

  • Sub Reddits – Reddit is a social media site where people can post content and people in the community curate the content by up-voting what they like and down-voting what they don’t. Sub Reddits are sub-communities within Reddit. So for example, r/LearnSpanish has community curated content that is based on being able to learn Spanish. I find these sub reddits by using Google: “reddit” + (skill I want to learn)
  • Blogs – Blogs (in particular blogs that have a lot of commenters and visitors) that focus on a niche (in this case learning languages) are a second place I turn to when I am researching the best way to learn a new skill. If the blog is popular enough, you can assume that the writer has a lot of experience and past success with the topic he is covering. For helping Troy improve his Spanish, I used Fluent in 3 Months (a blog many of my friends use) to look at Benny (the founder)’s recommendations for tools to learn Spanish. I find these blogs by Googling: “blog” + (skill I want to learn).
  • Asking Friends – I haven’t taken Spanish classes but many of my friends have. I asked them for recommendation on the tools they found helpful.

The Best of the Best

After 3 days of researching, I found these resources were constantly mentioned:


  • Duolingo – this is a free app for learning various languages (Spanish being their flagship). It came highly recommended from friends as well as from the online communities I visited. I checked it out. It is actually pretty fun and something you can use when you are commuting (assuming you are not driving).
  • StudySpanish – some people called this the Holy Grail for learning Spanish. Looking at the website, I can see how structured their lessons are.


  • Extr@ Spanish – this sitcom is made just for learning Spanish. I even watched the first episode and picked up a lot of basic Spanish words.


  • Pimsleur – I used Pimsleur to learn French and started it for Chinese. I can attest to the quality of Pimsleur for the purposes of this week’s challenge.
  • Practicing with someone – I have a few friends who speak Spanish who will be glad to speak with a former NBA player.

Finding Contact Information

Next, my goal is to find Troy Murphy’s email to message him these recommendations. Since Troy is a student at Columbia University, I was able to quickly locate his email (about 2 minutes). I learned how to find emails from a previous challenge reaching out to another role model who happened to be attending Columbia University. I won’t repeat myself here but you can check out how by reading that post about finding emails of students.

Crafting a Message


I explain who I am and why I’m emailing.


This is where the value of my email comes in.



Giving Troy Murphy the opportunity to reach out to me if he needs anything.



Troy was awesome and replied back within the day. I wasn’t doing all this for a response, but it made my day to get a response.


This Week

This week, I will be hosting Croix Sather, the man who ran 100 marathons in 100 days for an event.

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Week 30: Asking Congress for Advice – Congresswoman Terri Sewell


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Week 29: Internet Celebrity – Michael Buckley


My name is Davis. I am spending a year reaching out to role models. Here’s why.  Who knew an obsession with Celebrity Gossip could earn you six-figures a year? I doubt Michael Buckley knew either when he started “What the Buck”, a YouTube video blog where he offers his opinions on pop culture. Michael’s videos were so popular that he […]

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Week 28: Connecting with the CEO of a large company – Jamie Dimon


My name is Davis. I am spending a year reaching out to role models. Here’s why.  My boss last summer was also my housemate. Since we were working and living together, we had plenty of opportunities to learn about each other’s pasts. One of the stories he shared was from his time working for Jamie Dimon, the CEO of […]

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