A Present from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Bill Belichick

A wonderful lesson on scarcity and focus.

Bob McKinnon
Thrive Global
3 min readJun 13, 2017


Credit: Academy of Achievment. Future United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her daughter, Jane, seen here in the 1960s.

One wears a hoodie and the other a robe. One rules from the bench, the other from the sideline. But their success, in part, comes from a similar gift.

Recounting the challenges of attending law school as a wife and new mom, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a bold declaration that it was only possible because of her ability to compartmentalize. In the morning before school she was strictly a wife and mom. At school, she was solely a law student (while a baby sitter watched her daughter). When she returned home at 4:00 each day, she was once again a mom and wife. When her baby went to sleep at 8:00, she was a law student once again. Her boundaries were strict by her own choosing. As she said, the only way she could be good at all of them was to be fully present during each of them.

To be present, as the play on words go, is a gift. But it is one we don’t easily give to others or ourselves.

Life is messy, demands constant, distractions relentless. The result is a perpetual sense that our resources are scarce — time, money, sleep and attention chief among them.

The psychological impact of scarcity has been well chronicled in the book: Scarcity: Why Having So Little Means So Much. It is a slippery slope and self-fulfilling prophesy: the less we have of something the more poorly we manage what’s left. Leaving us with even less and so on and so on.

Credit: AP photo. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches during practice

Bill Belichick, who has seven Super Bowl rings and is widely regarded as one of the best coaches of any sport, was recently asked this question:

“With all you have accomplished in your coaching career, what is left that you still want to accomplish?”

His answer? “I’d like to go out and have a good practice today. That would be at the top of the list right now.”

This is the kind of laser focus that is possible when someone doesn’t “feel scarcity.”

When I think about my good moments recently: teaching my daughter how to ride a bike, going to a party with my wife, or even writing this piece — my attention was focused, my phone safely stashed out of site. My time felt abundant and immensely satisfying.

It is ironic that we think to get the most out of life or move up we constantly have to be moving from one thing to another. In reality, we may just need more moments to be still. It is a gift that will keep giving.

Please click the green heart below to help others find this story, leave a comment, or share this with a friend.

And if you’re interested in receiving our weekly email, delivering inspiration and perspective every Monday morning, please sign up here.



Bob McKinnon
Thrive Global

Writer. Husband. Dad of Three Girls. Creator of Moving Up & Actions Speak Loudest. Adjunct Professor, Parsons School of Design. Redesigning the American Dream.