Succeeding at Far Off Goals – Part 2


Today, leadership from Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Yes, superstars. Yes, athletes. And yes, yes, they are relevant for you and me, everyday leaders.

Kobe and MJ exemplify the third and fourth keys in this mini-series of thoughts for those who have a big goal which at times, perhaps most of the time, seems unachievable. Last week I wrote about the importance of protecting the vision in your heart and intention, no matter the reality; and I wrote of the importance of savoring the small wins on the way.

The third key to achieving far off goals is to use setbacks to inform your mind and sharpen your drive. What do you do when you hit a dead end on the way to an important goal, when you’re flat-out defeated on a job interview or sales presentation or art show? Ouch! It’s easy to walk away – not think about why and not want to work so hard again for this – this pain of losing when you have elevated your hopes and worked hard and taken risks! Hoops fans know that Kobe Bryant won three NBA championships, but then the Lakers fell on tough times, losing in or not even making the playoffs for years. He was rich, had his rings, and could have competed comfortably at a super-high level without winning another championship. And, with Jordan, Detroit fans remember proudly that the Pistons thumped young Jordan’s Bulls three years in a row, draping players on him so he couldn’t move. Both Bryant and Jordan used defeat to motivate them. It sharpened their edge. Nobody but you can find this spark, this edge. So find it!!! Know that nothing great is accomplished without setback. Use setback as fuel.

And then the fourth key – also from the hoop greats: get help! Jordan’s response to his third defeat to the hated Bad Boys of Detroit was that he went out and hired Tim Grover, a young personal trainer, and he submitted to Grover’s intense workouts. Grover built the strength Jordan felt he needed to keep the Pistons from wearing him down again. When we watch Michael and Kobe, we see God-given grace and athleticism, the ferocious “eye of the tiger,” and we hear the announcers sanctify these solo heroes. Probably none of us has seen them in a weight room or an empty gym. MJ and Kobe were not alone in their work. Both used Grover and submitted to his regimens.

Here’s what Grover said about MJ and Kobe: “Here’s what they’re willing to do: They understand the sacrifice that it takes . . . They know it’s not just an in-season thing, an offseason thing, a preseason thing. It’s a year-round thing. They have to make sacrifices to go places where you don’t normally want to go.” And what Grover’s not saying is: they got help! Superstars lodged their dreams and goals with someone and gave him license to push them along. Who can you use to help keep you on track? I’m so grateful for my friends and coaches who push me, as I hope someone is pushing you to

Lead with your best self!

  • Dan,

    Although I agree with you in principle about the example set by a few of our sports superstars, and I understand their value because they are so visible to us — having been promoted and publicized by the press. These guys have a fan base. They have loyal supporters who will follow and uplift them, even in times of defeat. They can afford to hire help like Tim Grover, a personal trainer, someone who could analyze what they need, and provide the necessary guidance.

    What about the everyday hero who loses, not a game or a chance at a fourth championship, but his livelihood, her career, maybe even their home? What happens when there is no business manager, no entourage, and no bags of money to pave the pathway to those far off goals? I wonder if our sports superstars ever look into their refrigerators and notice they can see all the way to the back for the first time?

    My hero is the man who dresses up in his now frayed suit, freshly pressed and smiling, to once again seek employment, despite the downturn, despite months of rejection, despite the gloomy predictions, and despite the growing certainty that bills may go unpaid. My hero is the woman who tackles the tough challenge of starting or restarting a career, after having succeeded at the toughest job in the world: Mom. My hero is the gray ghost whose retirement plans varporized before his eyes, and once again ventures out to do battle with a work environment that rejects the value of his experience — to compete with others, half his age. They accomplish all of this quietly, almost silently, with only family and a few friends for support and guidance — and in many cases, not even that foundation on which to build.

    Some of us, the lucky ones, have the luxury of a “superstar” friend or two — the kind of friend who rises from one’s cloud of acquaintances and colleagues to provide encouragement and support — a broad shoulder for the tears, a willing ear for the fears, and a great heart that hears the unvoiced pain, responding with kind words and sound advice. All of this — with no press, no publicity, sometimes with no thank yous — constitutes a real hero.

    God’s gifts are many, and the “eye of the tiger” casts its glance far and wide, calling for sacrifices made in the silent anonymity of a thousand thousand living rooms, offices, and work sites.

    I applaude the hard work and sacrifice made by MJ, by Kobe, and by all those who excel at sports; and I find their stories encouraging and even uplifting. However, I would love to hear more about the quiet heroes, the unsung superstars, who have been honed and sharpened by the challenges they face, who have found help from the unlikeliest of places, and who step up to help a fellow traveler — all of this without the cheers, jeers, and frenzy of media attention.

    Perhaps, someone should write the biography of these everyday heroes, so the rest of us can take heart and maybe follow in their footsteps.

    Dan, thank you for this column.


    • Mick,

      There are plenty of MJ’s and Kobe’s who don’t seek help. And there are many everyday heroes, whom you paint so beautifully, who don’t seek help. It’s hard to turn to people when you’re down. My major point is: seek help!

      I love the idea of stories of everyday leaders. Maybe we should write that.


  • Michael and Kobe, like so many others when facing a challenge, sought the services of a personal coach. Once this commitment was made, the person began to experience a different, more hopeful, world as his or her perceptions evolved in meeting the personal challenge.
    Coaching is an important part of leadership in sports, business, government and life. Those who lead well, coach well. Those who fail to lead well bump up against the glass ceiling.
    What’s important in leading a winning basketball team is known by those coaches who are successful on the court. However, such exceptional coaches may or may not be able to teach their leadership skills through mentoring their assistant coaches. Rick Pitino, now coaching at Louisville, is one of the best mentor coaches. His proteges, like Billy Donovan (Florida), Tubby Smith (Kentucky) and Jeff Van Gundy (Houston Rockets), have moved on to be successful head coaches.

  • Thanks Dan,

    I think the point this morning was to NOT QUIT!! I don’t think this message was about celebrity. I think it was about True Grit, what it takes to reach your own personal goals.

    Sometimes we need help to attain our goals; and the dedication and hard work required to follow through and reach them requires hard work!

    Dan, I am on such a journey now personally. I have only made it to the starting line. I hope I have what it takes to finish the race. But believe me when I say I will ask for help if I need it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Please continue to provide inspiration to all of us.

    The TIP Lady

    • Thanks for this one Dan!
      Something that I always try to keep in mind when thinking of long term goals is this: if you head out on a road trip to CA and you get a flat tire in Iowa, you don’t just stop and take up residence in Iowa. You change the flat and you keep going. Some tires are harder to change than others, but they can all be changed in order to keep on your journey!

  • Tip Lady,
    Glad you’re at the starting line.
    I’m five yards down the field on a minor new years resolution (battling my diet coke addiction). Feeling pretty good, too.
    But the universe is funny sometimes.
    So, I was supporting someone else on kicking their habit today. Feeling kind a good about my efforts; like: I can do it, so can they (ahhh hubris, you devil of devils).
    Then I get another LSJ article jabbing at me – ahhhhhh. And my old temptation, seemingly so easily broken is back. I’m craving Diet Coke like it’s nobody’s business. Fascinating to watch how stress can work. So, we’re in it together.
    Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

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