It was back in 2008. Gold and green jerseys scattered across the floor. The sound of shoes squeaking and men shouting filled my living room. “Here he comes,” I thought. “Why do they keep letting him score?! Oh great, another foul! C’mon Celtics!” I yelled at the tv screen. He walked up to the line to take his two shots. This was a high stakes game. Another championship was on the line. But, he was poised. Known as a “cocky ball hog”, but later in life would be revealed to me as a confident man of true character. He was Kobe Bryant.
Nearly ten years later I had my first job interview. I had just graduated from college and had entered the overly competitive field of marketing and communications. This was my shot to start a career I could be proud of. See, after the Celtics parted ways and LeBron went to the Heat I found myself admiring Kobe from a distance.
What was once cockiness looked much more like confidence, and I wanted to emulate him in my own pursuits. I applied his level of confidence in everything I did. If I was going to be the GOAT in my own right, I needed to study one. No one was more worthy than Kobe.
As I sat in my father’s office staring into the webcam on my Mac, I was asked the tried and true question: Why should we hire you? “Because I’m a team player,” I replied with eagerness. “I bring out the best in everyone on the team. I want to get to know my coworkers and I want them to trust me. Trust on a team takes you very far. I want to learn from the best, work with the best and be the best.” Some on the panel smiled, others nodded and made notes, but it was my future boss that smiled from ear to ear. Needless to say, I got the job and went on to work for one of the very best communicators in the country. An opportunity I am most grateful for.
Using my Kobe formula for success, I became an entrepreneur and published writer in the first three years of my career. Here’s what Kobe taught me.
It starts in the mind.
There are so many overly confident people in the world. People love to hate them, but if overly confident people didn’t believe in themselves who would? Kobe’s confidence was a direct reflection of his preparation and determination to be the best at what he did. So, I set out to develop a mindset that I could achieve anything I could conceive.
Preparation is key.
Back to confidence. It means nothing to be confident if you are not prepared. There have been instances where I was the most confident, but not the most prepared. Did it count me out? Not at all. If Kobe had not been prepared, his team would have suffered. We all know that Kobe was the leader on his team for years. Preparation helps you lead, but before you lead you have to follow.
Everyone is your teammate.
It is impossible to be the best at what you do when you don’t play nice with others. Kobe’s character allowed his legacy to be marked by positive impact and not negative remarks. Years of watching Kobe play showed me the importance of sportsmanship even in real life. Your classmates are your team members. Your coworkers are your teammates. I was blessed to have two supervisors that admired my work, believed in my craft and saw a future for me in the industry. Those two were my coaches. Life will hand you bad players (co workers) and even worse coaches (bosses), but what did Kobe do? He stayed in the game and fought until the very end. Sometimes putting up record-breaking stats in the process.
Get a mentor. Become one.
Kobe was inspired by and played with some phenomenal players like Magic Johnson for example. Kobe’s game was shaped by the players who surrounded him and the inspiration he drew from their mentorship. Throughout my career, I’ve thrived on relationships from true GOATs in communications. From a veteran congresswoman who foreshadowed what was to become in my interpersonal relationships in the workplace to a powerhouse CEO who empathized with my struggles and encouraged me to stay in the fight, I learned I couldn’t be a mentor until I had several. Translation: I couldn’t be the greatest until I learned from a diverse group of greats.
When I decided to become a freelancer, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to work with other people, go against the grain or give up the fight. Rather it was the preparation and confidence I had that inspired me to create my own lane. Writing is my bread and butter. Nothing comes close to the feeling I have when I pen a great article, generate sales for a social media client or collaborate with another great mind. I became a consultant because the “game” needed me. It needed my passion… and it still does.
History needs small business owners like you. Not just because of your product or service. It’s deeper than that. It’s about showing the next generation how far hard work and good character can take you. No matter how many bad teammates or coaches we encounter, we keep going and we eventually rise to the top! Kobe played in the NBA for 20 years, making the all-star team 18 times, winning 5 championships and impacting the lives of millions. As I reflect on his life, I can acknowledge how far his inspiration has taken me in my own career. I’ve done so much, but there’s still so much to do and very little time to do it.
“You asked me for my hustle – I gave you my heart.” – Kobe Bryant, 1978 – 2020