Huggins: Playground lessons lacking

bob-hugginsMORGANTOWN — No one will argue that today’s basketball players throughout America are not better athletes than they once were, least of all West Virginia’s coach Bob Huggins, who himself once was a pretty good player.

They are bigger, stronger, faster than previous generations.

But are they better players?

That was the subject Huggins was musing over the other day as he thought about his team and the things he has seen of it so far, the good such as the upset victory over No. 6 Virginia, and the bad such as the upset defeat to Temple.

Now with a 3-5 Western Carolina team coming into the Charleston Civic Center for a 7 p.m. game Wednesday, to be followed by VMI and the University of Missouri-Kansas City at the Coliseum, one would expect Huggins to get the three victories that will get him to 800 for his career.

You may wonder why Huggins has had his success. Certainly, at Akron, Cincinnati, Kansas State and West Virginia, you wouldn’t figure that he was skimming his players off of the top of the recruiting lists, so there had to be something more than just putting the best players on the floor.

You ask Huggins about it and the point he emphasizes is that while the players are talented, they are also lacking in a most important area.

“I don’t think they know how to play,” Huggins said.

It isn’t their fault, he says, but it is the reality of the times.

“I think they play all of the time but they don’t,” Huggins said. “It’s kind of long and complicated and I’m not trying to kill AAU because I think it has some good. But I think when you used to have to go to the playground to play, you had to win, or you sat for four or five games.”

That was long the playground rule. Winner keeps the court. So, if you had three or four or five teams, two would play and the winner would take on the next, whether it was five-man teams, two-on-two, or one-on-one.

So, what you did, Huggins reasons, is you played to win because it was more important to stay on the court than it was to score six of your teams’ nine baskets if the other team scored 10 and you sat out.

“The older guys expected the younger guys to pass them the ball and screen, and guard their man, and do all of those things and they were going to shoot the ball,” Huggins said, inferring that the older guys were usually the better scorers.

“You learn how to win.”

Times have changed, though. Go by a playground these days when the weather allows and it’s probably empty.

Instead, kids are playing on organized teams, the best ones on organized AAU teams, most of the time with recruiting in mind. You play for yourself, which makes it an entirely different world.

“I think when you go out there and play three games a day and you know you get two Whoppers with cheese, and fries, and a shake twice, and a pizza afterwards whether you win or lose (it takes away from the ultimate goal of the game, which is to win.)

“I mean,” Huggins continued, “I didn’t have anybody buying me pizza if we didn’t win. I just think it’s a product of the older guys used to help the younger guys. Now they’re never around.

“You drive by courts now, you don’t see anyone out there playing. It’s just a different culture, I think. And in fairness, the athletes now are bigger, stronger, faster. They’re better. It’s just their idea of how to play sometimes baffles me.”

What Huggins does is teach them how to play, starting with the one part of the game that is mostly ignored — defense.

And as they learn that and how to be unselfish, he teaches them the importance and value of winning.

In the end, that was what made the last victory over Virginia so impressive.

The Cavaliers are known for their team play, their defense, unselfishness and dedication to winning. Yes, the slow style they play is 180 degrees away from the hectic pace Huggins tries to dictate in the game, but the goals and values are the same.

Find a way to win the game … and if there isn’t a Whopper waiting at the end of day, it doesn’t really matter.

Bob Huggins: Playground lessons lacking

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Gregg Popovich: Character

Vince+Carter+Gregg+Popovich+4FQr_ONJvcNmTo me, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich represents the quintessential model of continued excellence. He’s been at the helm of the Spurs for almost twenty years, and in that time he’s won five NBA championships and three Coach of the Year awards.

What’s even more impressive, and what is most pertinent to this book, is that San Antonio has built a reputation as an organization known for its high character. In fact, if you do a Google search for the words “Spurs” and “character” you get more than three million hits.

In the current era of sports, where athletes are often jumping from team to team for the highest paycheck, Coach Popovich and his organization have created a climate in which their best player, Tim Duncan, and the other stars of the team, consistently take below-market value to stay there and continue the winning tradition.

On a personal level, I know Coach through the Air Force Academy, where we both attended. I’m excited to take this opportunity to get to the core of how he has led a high-character organization for nearly two decades, and what he looks for when it comes to adding talent.

Chad Hennings: When people talk about the San Antonio Spurs, they mention the five championships, they talk about you and Tim Duncan and David Robinson, and inevitably they talk about the high character of your team. How have you gone about building that reputation and infusing character into your organization?

Gregg Popovich: Sometimes when I hear people talk about character I think it’s a little too general of a term. We’ve all seen a million books on it and everybody’s got a different definition of what makes up character. People always say our teams have character and they know how to win, know how to lose, all sorts of those things. I try to be a little more specific in my definition, especially when it comes to the character of players we bring in.

Can you explain that process a little bit and get into the nitty gritty of your definition of character?

GP: When I’m interviewing a kid to draft I’m looking for specific things. Over the course of sitting in the gym and talking, having lunch, watching him at free agent camp, this is what I’m after and not necessarily in this order.

Having a sense of humor is huge to me and to our staff because I think if people can’t be self-deprecating or laugh at themselves or enjoy a funny situation, they have a hard time giving themselves to the group.

You look at a guy like Tim Duncan. He never changes his expression but he can hit you with some of the best wise-ass comments in the world. I can be in a huddle, laying into him about his rebounding, saying to him, “Are you gonna get a rebound tonight or what? You haven’t done anything.” Then on the way out of the huddle, he’ll say, “Hey, Pop.” I’ll say, “Yeah.” He’ll say, “Thanks for the encouragement,” and walk back on the court. He’s being facetious, but nobody sees things like that. I think when a player has that ability and has respect it’s a good thing.

It’s funny you bring this up because nobody has mentioned the idea of having a sense of humor in terms of character, but you’re right, it really is important. For levity, for relationships, for leadership, humor can be a very effective tool. And it’s great that you use Tim Duncan as an example of that, because most people might not be aware that he’s a funny guy. What are some other character traits you look for?

GP: Being able to enjoy someone else’s success is a huge thing. If I’m interviewing a young guy and he’s saying things like, “I should have been picked All-American but they picked Johnny instead of me,” or they say stuff like, “My coach should have played me more; he didn’t really help me,” I’m not taking that kid because he will be a problem one way or another. I know he will be a problem. At some point he’ll start to think he’s not playing enough minutes, or his parents are going to wonder why he’s not playing, or his agent’s going to call too much. I don’t need that stuff. I’ve got more important things to do. I’ll find somebody else, even if they have less ability, as long as they don’t have that character trait.

That really is a good indicator. If someone is always blaming other people for their shortcomings, chances are they’ll eventually blame you too. So much about having character is taking responsibility for your actions and putting yourself on the proper vector for success. What else do you look for?

GP: Work ethic is obvious to all of us. We do that through our scouting. For potential draft picks, we go to high school practices and to college practices to see how a player reacts to coaches and teammates. The phrase that we use is seeing whether people have “gotten over themselves.”

When there’s a guy who talks about himself all day long, you start to get the sense that he doesn’t listen real well. If you’re interviewing him and before you ever get anything out of your mouth he’s speaking, you know he hasn’t really evaluated what you’ve said. For those people, we think, Has this person gotten over himself? If he has then he’s going to accept parameters. He’s going to accept the role; he’s going to accept one night when he doesn’t play much. I think it tells me a lot.

I like that. “Has this person gotten over themselves?” Such a simple question, but the answer speaks volumes. If they haven’t, they can’t give themselves to the team and won’t put the work in.

GP: Right. We also look at how someone reacts to their childhood. Some of these kids, as you know, had it pretty tough coming up. Once in a while somebody has had it easy, but for the most part a lot of guys have had some pretty hard knocks already. I like to hear situations where they had to raise a brother or sister, or where they had a one-parent family or a grandma or grandpa raised them and they still ended up doing pretty well academically in high school.

I like to see if they participated in some function in the community, or if they’ve overcome something or had a tough injury and came back. That sort of thing tells me what kind of character they have. I think all those things together tell me about their inner fiber. When I think about character I want to know about the fiber of an individual. I want to know what, exactly, they’re made of; what’s attached to their bones and their hearts and their brains. It’s all those things that form their character to me.

It sounds like you’re really searching for selfless individuals. Are there any things that you do in practice to reinforce those traits? Anything you’ve done during training camp? I heard you took your team on the ropes course at the Academy a while back. That must have been part of that philosophy.

GP: A couple of years ago in the Finals we basically gave away a championship, long story short. Heading into the following season I wanted to do something different. I wasn’t trying to be Mr. Tough, but I wanted to do something to build camaraderie and respect for each other. I wanted the guys to go through something difficult with their teammates.

One day at camp that year the busses picked up the team from Antler’s Plaza downtown. They thought we were going to the gym for another practice, but we went down to Jacks Valley,* and when we pulled in the players were wondering, What the hell?

The bus parked and we started to get up, but I said to the coaches up front, “We’re getting off.” Then I told the players, “You guys stay seated for a bit.” We got off the bus and sergeants came on and started raising holy hell. Just like when we were Doolies.**

The players’ eyes sprung open and they started to ask questions, but the sergeants yelled back, “Are you talking to me?!” The guys were in shock. They didn’t know whether to start laughing or to say, “Hey, Pop, what the hell are you doing?” There was silence on the bus except for the sergeants. They marched the team off of the bus, got them in line and put them in squadron formations. It was unbelievable. The coaches and I were behind a tree just dying. We couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really know they were going to go that far, and it’s a testament to the kind of guys we have. They were willing to listen and they’ll do what you ask them to do.

All of a sudden the sergeant who was in charge said, “At ease, everybody relax.” He started laughing and then the players looked at us. We started laughing and now they’re having a ball. The sergeants issued them all a rifle and gave them a little talk, and they went in twos onto the obstacle course. We had guys on the ropes. We had Tony Parker falling in the water. Tim Duncan’s going over every obstacle, and I was scared to death because I envisioned a reporter asking me, “When Timmy broke his back falling off the log, what were you thinking? How smart were you to do this?”

But that’s him. He wanted to do it, and one of his legs doesn’t even work. He still did it, every single deal. That was the greatest thing. When it was over, they said it was the most fun and the most interesting thing they had done in their careers. For me, the camaraderie of it, seeing each other in those circumstances, rooting and cheering for each other, it was worth a million dollars.

When your biggest stars like Tim Duncan buy into your system, it has such a trickle-down effect to the team. How can a guy on the bench not participate if the future Hall of Famer is giving his best?

GP: Speaking to that, the other thing I’ll do in practice on a regular basis when we run drills, is I’ll purposely get on the big boys the most. Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili will catch more hell from me than anybody else out there. You know the obvious effect of that. If you do that and they respond in the right way, everyone else follows suit. The worst thing you can do is let it go when someone has been egregious in some sort of way. The young kids see that and you lose respect and the fiber of your team gets frayed a bit. I think it has to be that way. They have to be willing to set that example and take that hit so everybody else will fall in line. It’s a big thing for us and that’s how we do it.

Too often you see organizations treating a few people differently for whatever reason and it’s a problem. I was on a few teams where some guys got away with murder and everyone knew it and it killed the team.

GP: You always see that.

It’s not rocket science, is it?

GP: I go to bed every night and I don’t worry about anybody on my team. I don’t come to work in the morning and say, “Ah, jeez, I’m going to have to clean this mess up.” It doesn’t happen. Everybody else spends half their time cleaning up everything or trying to convince themselves that this guy and that guy get along and blah blah blah. When people ask me how I do it, I just think it’s total logic. You don’t have to be smart. I realize it’s not easy but a lot of guys don’t get it. When they have problems I say, “You did it to yourself.” There are no problems if a team does the work ahead of time and uses character as a “true” component of selection.

When it comes to dealing with the kinds of players who may become a problem, those kids as you mentioned who may have come from tough backgrounds, do you ever try to impart life lessons or lessons on character through basketball?

GP: Sure. I think it’s really important because it’s the right thing to do. We spend a good deal of time discussing politics, race, food and wine, international events, and other things just to impart the notion that a life of satisfaction cannot be based on sports alone.

We work with our players on things as small as how they talk to the media. Things as easy as saying, “I’m doing well” instead of “I’m doing good” when someone greets them. It seems like a little thing but it’s important. My daughter still gets on me about that all the time when I say, “Oh, I’m good,” and she says, “No, dad, you’re well.” It sounds better, like you really went to school and paid attention.

I think working on some guys’ speech and how they react to the media really helps them have a more productive life. We do things on our team board like vocabulary and state capitals to see who gets them quickest before we start practice, just to get the guys thinking. Through those kinds of exercises you may find out that somebody’s not included over and over.

When you finally figure out why – maybe a kid can’t read very well – you get him in the room and you get him lessons. You have a little bit of a tough day because he’s embarrassed as hell, but then the kid starts to learn how to read and feels pretty great about himself.

That kind of off-the-court stuff is so important.

GP: I’ll go to dinner with a guy and it’ll be the first time he’s ever eaten an oyster or the first time he’s ever had a glass of wine. Whatever it might be, you’re spending time away from the court.

Building those relationships is crucial, especially if you want to have an impact on someone’s life. Several people I’ve interviewed for Forces of Character have brought up the importance of coaching the individual, meaning, you have to know a person before you can truly influence them and get them to buy into your team’s goals.

GP: I’ve been doing this a long time, and one of my biggest joys is when somebody comes back to town with their kids, or one of my players becomes one of my coaches, and you have that relationship that you’ve had for the last ten years, fifteen years. It might be only three years in some guys’ cases, but the lessons they learned from you paid off – even if you traded them or you cut them. Years later they come back and say that you were right, that now they know what you were telling them.

I think all of that relationship building helps them want to play for you, for the program, for their teammates. Beyond that, from a totally selfish point of view, I think I get most of my satisfaction from that. Sure, winning the championship is great, but it fades quickly. It’s always there and nobody can take it away. The satisfaction I get from Tony Parker bringing his child into the office, or some other player who came through the program and now I hired him as a coach and he’s back. That’s satisfying.

You can’t just get your satisfaction out of teaching somebody how to shoot or how to box out on a rebound. That’s not very important in the big picture of things. If you can have both I think you’ve got some satisfaction. It’s one of the motivations. That’s the selfish one I guess, but it’s real.

Gregg Popovich on Character

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Mental Toughness: 4 Secrets Of Navy SEALs And Olympians

SealsKnow what’s really interesting? Learning how Navy SEALs build mental toughness to handle deadly situations.

Know what else is really interesting? Learning how Olympic athletes deal with the pressure of competition when the entire world is watching.

Know what’s the most interesting of all? When you find out they do a lot of the same things.

“Mental Links To Excellence” is a research study of what Olympians do to prepare for their big day. And so much of it lines up with what I learned researching SEAL training and talking to former Navy SEAL Platoon Commander James Waters.

The best part is you and I can use these methods to perform better at work and in our personal lives.

Let’s find out how…

1) Talk Positively To Yourself

Your brain is always going. It’s estimated you say 300 to 1000 words to yourself per minute. Olympic athletes and SEALs agree: those words need to be positive.

One of the Olympians said:

Immediately before the race I was thinking about trying to stay on that edge, just letting myself relax, and doing a lot of positive self-talk about what I was going to do. I just felt like we couldn’t do anything wrong. It was just up to us. I said, “There’s nothing that’s affecting us in a negative way, the only thing now is to do it, and we can do it . . . I just have to do my best.”

SEALs use the same method — and they do it in a far more terrifying scenario. How terrifying?

You’re underwater with SCUBA gear. An instructor suddenly swims up behind you. He yanks the regulator out of your mouth. You can’t breathe. Then he ties your oxygen lines in a knot.

Your brain starts screaming, “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.” But you have to keep cool, stay underwater and follow procedure to get your gear back in working order so you can breathe again.

And this happens over and over — for 20 minutes. Welcome to the dreaded “pool comp” section of SEAL qualification.

You get 4 attempts. Why? Because you need them. Only one in five guys can do it the first time out.

Want to see just how scary it is? Watch this video from 8 mins to 10 mins, 5 seconds:

The danger here is panic. And SEALs are not allowed to panic… even when they cannot breathe. They must think positive to keep calm and pass “pool comp.”

So how can you use this?

Got a big presentation at work coming up? Encountering obstacles? You need to remember the 3 P’s.

Permanence, pervasiveness and whether it’s personal.

Pessimists tell themselves that bad events:

Will last a long time, or forever. (“I’ll never get this done.”)
Are universal. (“You can’t trust any of those people.”)
Are their own fault. (“I’m terrible at this.”)

Optimists look at setbacks in the exact opposite way:

Bad things are temporary. (“That happens occasionally but it’s no big deal.”)
Bad things have a specific cause and aren’t universal. (“When the weather is better that won’t be a problem.”)
It’s not their fault. (“I’m good at this but today wasn’t my lucky day.”)

When talking to yourself, be an optimist, not a pessimist.

Okay, so you’re talking to yourself positively. What else do Olympians and SEALs agree on when you need to be at your best?

2) Setting Goals

You hear this a lot. But you probably don’t do it. Specifically, ask yourself what you need to achieve right now.

From the Olympian Study:

The best athletes had clear daily goals. They knew what they wanted to accomplish each day, each workout, each sequence or interval. They were determined to accomplish these goals and focused fully on doing so.

SEALs are taught to set goals too. Sometimes really small ones, but it’s enough to keep them going when every muscle in their body is screaming for them to quit:

With goal setting the recruits were taught to set goals in extremely short chunks. For instance, one former Navy Seal discussed how he set goals such as making it to lunch, then dinner.

And what happened when they achieved those goals? SEALs set new ones. The focus is on always improving. Here’s former SEAL Platoon Commander, James Waters:

Eric, this gets at my point of the SEAL experience, this constant learning, constantly not being satisfied. That’s one of the interesting things about the community: you never feel like you’ve got it all figured out. If you do feel like you figured it out, you probably aren’t doing it right. If you’re not willing to learn from other people then frankly you’re not doing all you need to do to be the best operator you can possibly be. It’s a culture of constant self-improvement and constant measurement of how you’re doing. That’s a theme I think that all SEALs would agree is critical.

So how can you use this?

Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to make this presentation better?”

Write your goals down and track your progress. As Dan Pink notes in his bestselling book on motivation, Drive, nothing motivates you better than seeing progress.

You’re thinking positive and setting goals. But how do you get ready for the unexpected problems that always pop up at the last minute?

3) Practice Visualization

Close your eyes. See the big challenge. Walk through every step of it. Sound silly? Maybe, but the best of the best do this a lot.

From the study of Olympians:

These athletes had very well developed imagery skills and used them daily. They used imagery to prepare themselves to get what they wanted out of training, to perfect skills within the training sessions, to make technical corrections, to imagine themselves being successful in competition, and to see themselves achieving their ultimate goal.

Again, SEALs are taught to do the same thing:

With mental rehearsal they were taught to visualize themselves succeeding in their activities and going through the motions.

So how can you use this?

Visualize that presentation. But don’t merely fantasize about being perfect and just make yourself feel good. That kills motivation:

Results indicate that one reason positive fantasies predict poor achievement is because they do not generate energy to pursue the desired future.

You want to see the problems you might encounter and visualize how you will overcome them.

Dan Coyle, the expert on expertise, says it’s an essential part of how US Special Forces prepare for every dangerous mission:

…they spend the entire morning going over every possible mistake or disaster that could happen during the mission. Every possible screwup is mercilessly examined, and linked to an appropriate response: if the helicopter crash-lands, we’ll do X. If we are dropped off at the wrong spot, we’ll do Y. If we are outnumbered, we’ll do Z.

You’re visualizing the big day and walking through how you’ll deal with adversity. Cool. But how do you take that to the next level like the pros do?

4) Use Simulations

Visualization is great because you can do it anywhere as often as you like. But in the end you must make practice as close to the real thing as possible.

From the study of Olympians:

The best athletes made extensive use of simulation training. They approached training runs, routines, plays, or scrimmages in practice as if they were at the competition, often wearing what they would wear and preparing like they would prepare.

And SEALs didn’t just visualize either. Before the raid on Bin Laden’s compound they built full-size replicas of the location so their training would be tailored to what they would face.

Via Daniel Coyle’s excellent book The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills:

When U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 mounted its May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, it prepared by constructing full-scale replicas of the compound in North Carolina and Nevada, and rehearsing for three weeks. Dozens of times the SEALs simulated the operation. Dozens of times, they created various conditions they might encounter.

Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Mike Kenny agreed:

In Army parlance they say, “train like you fight.” Don’t screw around and say, “Okay, when it’s for real then we’ll really ramp up.” No, you need to do that now. You need to train as hard and as realistic as possible, because this notion that when it’s for real and the stakes are high, that’s when we’ll really turn it on and rise to the occasion… that’s not what happens. You will not rise to the occasion. You will sink to the lowest level of your training. It’s the truth.

So how can you use this?

How will you deal with the fear of standing in front of a big crowd when you give that presentation?

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and an introvert herself, is now a professional public speaker. How did she overcome public speaking fear?

She practiced in front of small, supportive groups to desensitize herself — she used a simulation.

From my interview with Susan:

I really had to desensitize myself to my fears of public speaking. I did that by practicing in very small, very supportive and very low-speed environments where it didn’t matter if I screwed up. And eventually you get used to the strange feeling of being looked at, which used to make me feel horrified. You become accustomed to it over time and your fear dissipates.

So Olympic athletes and Navy SEALs agree on a lot. Let’s round up what we’ve learned and see how it can work for you.

Sum Up

Here’s what Olympic athletes and Navy SEALs both do to be the best and achieve mental toughness:

Talk Positively To Yourself: Remember the 3 P’s: tell yourself bad things aren’t permanent, pervasive or personal — but good things are.

Setting Goals: Know what you want to achieve. Write it down. Focus on progress.

Practice Visualization: Don’t fantasize about getting what you want but see yourself overcoming specific obstacles.

Use Simulations: Always make your practice as close to the real thing as possible.

Olympians and Navy SEALs, by definition, are the best at what they do. But the methods they use to get there are things we can all use.

And those techniques aren’t based on muscles or natural talent. They’re all about good preparation and hard work. Apply those and you can get there too.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

How To Increase Mental Toughness: 4 Secrets Of Navy SEALs And Olympians

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New York Yankees Motto


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Thoughts from Buddy Hield

Buddy Hield

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Syracuse Basketball: Dwayne “Pearl” Washington

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Forbes: Kobe Bryant

KobeKobe Bryant has left the building. Well, almost.

Since October of last year, Kobe admirers started making pilgrimages across the country to catch a final glimpse of Bryant — one of the most polarizing figures in sports. His legacy will be debated in barbershops for years to come, but one point of consensus is that Kobe’s work ethic places him in a small pantheon of entertainers and athletes. That same tireless work ethic will guide the overtime phase of his career.

Here are three takeaways from Bryant’s exit strategy that can help guide your next move.

Establish Relationships Beyond Your Sector — Embrace The “Cold Call”

At the age of 18, Kobe received a phone call from MJ. No, not Michael Jordan — it was Michael Jackson. Jackson invited Kobe to visit the the Neverland Ranch to discuss the criticisms that were plaguing Bryant’s nascent career. Both teammates and members of the media were deriding Bryant for being introverted and too consumed with the game of basketball. Bryant accepted Jackson’s invitation and spent an evening learning from the King of Pop.

That cold call from Jackson prompted Kobe to incorporate the practice of “cold calling” into his life. He began to reach out to trendsetters across the globe with an unusual combination of tenacity and humility.

Bryant’s first target? Giorgio Armani. Bryant wanted to learn how the fashion designer was able to build a global brand at the age of 40. That conversation kickstarted a steady diet of cold calls that Bryant would make to people that he admired and wanted to learn from — a list that includes Arianna Huffington, Hilary Swank and Oprah Winfrey.

Let’s face it, neither you nor I could get Oprah to pick up the phone. But, the important takeaway is to identify the change agents in your next venture space and pursue them with reckless abandon. When I was looking to transition from Harvard Law School to the sidelines of the NFL, I wrote letters to every team in the NFL. (Note: There are 32 teams.) I received 31 rejections before the Kansas City Chiefs extended an training camp internship to me. The lesson: You only need to win once.

Create A New Routine And Follow It — Now

The tendency to take a prolonged period of time off can be tantalizing. When asked whether he would visit the gym the day following his last NBA game, Kobe’s answer was unequivocal. “I have to. That’s a very slippery slope. I’ve done my research… I think the important thing is to get into a routine, to maintain discipline and find a new routine. I have been in a certain routine for my entire career, and the worst thing I could possibly do is not have one.”

Bryant’s lesson is invaluable. Failing to have a routine is the first step to planning to fail. The key to making a successful transition is to translate the discipline from one endeavor to the next.

Focus On Storytelling

Paul Zak, a professor at Claremont Graduate University, has conducted extensive research into the power of storytelling. In his article, “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling,” Zak illustrates how a compelling narrative triggers the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is produced when a speaker engenders trust. Production of this neurochemical spurs feelings of empathy. The ability to incite trust and empathy are the building blocks of convincing others to believe in your mission.

Kobe Inc. is Bryant’s next challenge. The company will help to grow, “brands and ideas that challenge the sports world.” While this language makes great material for company brochures and PowerPoint presentations, it is meaningless unless there is an underlying story that compels people to act.

“What my passion is now is creating the story,” Bryant said. “Creating the story and finding the best possible way, the medium which that story can live. Some stories will be created… others reality-based,” he said. “But we will look for content that inspires a generation of people.”

Bryant’s playbook has shifted from taking jump shots to telling stories. Perhaps, the most important lesson from his career is simply this: The best way to build momentum and create a movement is to tell a good story.

Forbes: Kobe Never Retired — He Just Rebranded Himself

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Gregg Popovich: The San Antonio Spurs Players

2014 NBA Finals - Game FiveThe San Antonio Spurs are enjoying an unprecedented run of success, currently cruising for a 69-win season and a 19th straight playoff appearance.

There’s no single factor behind the Spurs’ success, but a big part of it has been the culture they’ve created, which could be the best in sports. The Spurs are notorious for finding quality, worldly players who have fun on and off the court and are willing to sacrifice personal numbers for the success of the team.

On Friday, reporters asked Gregg Popovich what kinds of qualities the Spurs look for in players (and staff), and his response was long, enlightening, and, oddly, inspiring (via ESPN’s Baxter Holmes):

“For us, it’s easy. We’re looking for character, but what the hell does that mean? We’re looking for people — and I’ve said it many times — [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly. You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that. A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig — that sort of thing. And [you have to] feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers. [We want] people who are participatory. The guys in the film room can tell me what they think of how we played last night if they want to. [Former Assistant GM] Sean Marks would sit in on our coaches’ meetings when we’re arguing about how to play the pick-and-roll or who we’re going to play or who we’re going to sit.

“We need people who can handle information and not take it personally because in most of these organizations, there’s a big divide. All of the sudden, the wall goes up between management and coaching and everybody is ready to blame back and forth and that’s the rule rather than the exception. It just happens. But that’s about people. It’s about finding people who have all of those qualities. So, we do our best to look for that and when somebody comes, they figure it out pretty quick.”

This is not the first time Popovich, who can be curt with the media, has opened up about building an organization the right way. He once explained the importance of open communication, and the quote was so striking that Warriors GM Bob Myers keeps the quote in his cell phone today.

Of course, building such an exemplary organization doesn’t happen without some luck — the Spurs drafted a Hall of Famer in Tim Duncan, future Hall of Famers late in the draft in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, and had some success in signing role players as well as acquiring future cornerstone Kawhi Leonard.

However, it’s clear that more than talent, Popovich and the Spurs have made a system where if players act selflessly, they will benefit. They’ve created an enviable culture and workplace, and the qualities they demand in players are qualities that are desirable outside of sports, too.

Business Insider: The San Antonio Spurs

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