The Secret to Getting Ahead? Do the Work That Others Won’t Do
Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, the highlights of my youth summers consisted of going to the beach and attending basketball camp at Syracuse University. I’m a beach bum at heart so sun and surf were always on my mind. When I wasn’t at Long Beach, I was playing basketball, following in my brothers’ footsteps and hoping to someday play in college.
Each year, my parents’ big gift to us was one week at the Big Orange Basketball Camp in the Carrier Dome. It was there we learned the game and developed our fundamental skills. Now, in the heart of March Madness, it’s easy to think back to so many great life lessons in my formative years that shaped my thinking about hard work and sacrifice. I pass them on now to you.
Each day, we’d have a speaker come talk to the campers after lunch. Often times, we’d have Syracuse legends and sometimes, Coach Jim Boeheim came by to say, “Hello.” The most memorable words I heard during those speeches came from current University of Washington head basketball coach, Mike Hopkins.
Coach Hopkins played for Coach Boeheim at Syracuse and was known more for his gritty, team-first approach and hustle. He valued sacrifice, hard work, positive attitude and all the intangibles that drive us toward high achievement. You could hear in his voice how passionate he was about what he did, and that for him, outworking people meant both physically and in the mind.
You see, he recognized that there’s often other “jobs” out there that most people don’t want to do. They’re not as glamorous or as easy. He helped us to recognize that we needed to think of all the key ingredients that define success. In began in the mind. But then, we have to go and do it.
Earning Your Keep
Coach Hopkins was lightly recruited out of high school in southern California and that he always needed to prove himself at the powerhouse program in central New York. The SoCal kid fell in love with Syracuse and earned the admiration of others for his scrappy play and great attitude.
Hopkins said, “When I got to Syracuse, I realized I wasn’t good enough to play based on my talent alone. So I asked myself, ‘What does our team need?’ I knew that in order to play, I had to do the things that other guys weren’t willing to do: Dive on loose balls, get offensive rebounds, steals, take charges and sacrifice myself for the team.”
Those words have always stuck with me.
I’ve incorporated them into my approach to life, an industrious mindset of doing what is necessary — focusing on the little things — in order to do the job well. You can do the same. In the basketball coaching profession, clichés abound, but a phrase that rings true is:
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
The moral of the story is — Mike Hopkins wasn’t close to being the most talented player at Syracuse, but he ended up being a huge contributor to the team’s success during his four years because he worked hard and did what others weren’t willing to do. Every, single basketball team in America needs a player like Mike Hopkins. Every profession needs one, too.
“Positioning, anticipation and technique create quickness. Therefore, you can always get quicker.” — Coach Don Meyer
Think about your current situation: Whether you’re a student, entrepreneur, working professional or athlete, I’m willing to bet that you can identify several areas in your life where you can improve. Furthermore, if you’re willing, I bet you not only have the desire — but that you can do the job that others will not. You have to want it. You must recognize that doing this “dirty work” often makes an enormous difference in how others view you, and how you view yourself.
It all begins with an idea, which is given life when you have a desire to succeed and self-belief that you will. Do you want it badly enough?
Attitude and Effort
You might be sitting here reading this, thinking to yourself, I don’t have the best education, I’m not the fastest or most experienced. The best part I’ve learned about life is that you do not need to be. Rest assured, I’m not. And I’d like to think I’m doing just fine. Why? Because I’m living my dreams by emphasizing this fundamental core:
I approach each situation positively and I work hard to get what I set my mind to accomplish.
I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of talented people but not all of them are among the most successful people I have known. Achievement — both your sense of self-worth and your desire to accomplish your goals — is well within your grasp if you have a positive, determined attitude and you’re willing to work harder than anyone else.
When you commit to these things in your mind and put them into action, you will always see positive results. It may not happen right away but it will if you are patient. You’ll be able to identify opportunities to get quicker, build confidence and gain the respect of others — all while getting ahead and getting the spot you want.
Many of us start out at the bottom and rise to the top, not because of our rich uncle or luck, but because of hard work and an opportunistic mindset. No one’s going to give it to you- you have to create your opportunities by seeking them out, doing what others won’t and excelling, all while having a smile on your face.
I will be telling Coach Hopkins’ story for years to come. It’s one of the best tales I know. It’s the story of the underdog; the man who was able to maximize his God-given ability because of his positive attitude and hard work ethic. I know I have profited from it in my life and you will too, if you put it into practice in your life.
Help Yourself and Do the Work
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