Lessons from the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant

John Cook
John Cook
May 7, 2018 · 3 min read
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The Black Mamba speaking about competition, winning, and empathy

The USC Performance Science Institute applies science and research to better understand “high performance” across domains. In plain english, is there a formula to being bad a** at everything you do? If so, USC wants to own it.

On the quest to understanding how to “crush it” at life, Kobe Bryant was recently invited to speak at the Institute, and I had the opportunity to listen. No doubt his raw talent and love for the game are huge factors in his success, but the Black Mamba did share a few words of wisdom that are relevant to all of us, and hopefully inspirational to a few.

  1. Stop telling yourself to “work hard”

When Kobe spoke about his insane work ethic: waking up at 430AM everyday, the pre-practice before the team practice, etc one guest asked: “How are you able to work so hard, so consistently”. His answer:

If you have to wake up every day to remind yourself to work hard, then you seriously need to reconsider what you’re doing. My drive to work hard and be the best is a byproduct of my passion for the game, my love for what I do. Find what you love.

2. Only accept the best from your team

It’s no secret that #24 held a high standard for himself, but how did he drive results from team members who didn’t share the same drive? Kobe found what makes his team ‘tick’ — the internal button within all of us, that when pushed, maximizes our results. For Pau Gasol? Well…Kobe never let him forgot how Team USA crushed Team Spain in the 2008 Olympics.

Kobe to Gasol:

I had my gold medal just hanging in his locker, Just rubbing it in, oh my god. You finished second in the Summer Olympics!!

Keep in mind, the primary audience are rising seniors/young professionals at USC. What if we took the Black Mamba philosophy and applied to work our workforce of young grads — could they hang with the idea of someone telling them they’re not a #winner ?

Unfortunately, before I had the opportunity to run into the business school to share the gospel of Kobe, he caught me with #3.

3. Don’t forget empathy

After Kobe left the game, he moved into the entertainment and VC space where concluded that winning in the business world requires a different outlook than winning in basketball. In basketball, Kobe said he was able to dominate the game with a “get on my level or get out of my way” attitude, which didn’t seem to resonate in the traditional business world.

So understanding the underlying factors of what motivates a person to do something or act a certain way while being sympathetic to personal challenges in their life might actually be important? Damn.

4. To be the best you have to….start small

Probably the most interesting #knowledgedrop Kobe shared with the audience was an example of his daughter Gianna, who will no doubt be the Black Mamba of the WNBA. Being Kobe’s daughter has one (of many) awesome benefits — the 5 time NBA champion is your middle school basketball coach.

When Gianna told her dad that she wanted to be “the best basketball player ever, better than you!” Kobe responded “That’s awesome! Now practice.”

The drill? Basic free-throws, everyday, for 30 days, same spot, don’t move. Next? One step back, every day, for 30 days. After that? One step of the left, 30 days, every day.

This grit is the machine that fuels success, and I think the number one variable in the formula of “high performance”(are you reading this USC!!?) :

High Performance= Passion + commitment + understanding + grit²

This story is published in Educated & Broke — a publication dedicated to helping you fight student loan and consumer debt by providing real-life, practical advice.

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