What it take to be No. 1 – by Bill Russell

Bill Russell

“The first part’s easy. You arrange to be born with a lot of the tools. In my game that means a good pair of hands and a good set of reflexes. Coming on at 6’9” doesn’t hurt you too much, either.

“But that’s only the beginning. Because to get to where you want to go, you’ve got to drive and push yourself relentlessly. You’ve got to want to win so badly that the thought of coming in second is simply intolerable. And you’ve got to pay the price of winning.

“Paying the price, in anything you do, is spelled “work.” Days and nights and years of work. And it’s too bad that many men – men who are born with the basic talent –think of “work” as a dirty word.

“But there’s another angle to being No. 1. Getting there is tough enough. Staying there is something else. It is, in fact, a lot like being a gunfighter. Day after day…80 grueling games a year, another hot young hand comes on to try you. He’s watched and studied you ever since he was a kid. And he thinks he’s ready to take you. And the fact is that if you let up for a moment, he’ll do it. You lose that fine, competitive edge, mentally or physically, and you’re dead.

“Forget about luck, You make your own luck. A year or so ago a prominent football coach put it pretty well. He said “There’s only one thing I believe about luck….it’s unlucky to be behind at the end of the game.” And that’s what it’s all about.

A New Way to Look At Trying

This was a great piece that  good friend of mine Kurtsin Richardson wrote about trying and the perspective he has around the various types of advice people give on the subject.

Bad advice is pretty easy to ignore. You hear it and every fiber of your being lets you know that you should immediately dismiss it.

A more unfortunate trouble in life is that even though bad advice is easy to ignore, really bad advice sometimes gets traction.

Cliche ideas about never looking back, and making your career your passion come to mind for me (I’m sure I’ll discuss those this year) but perhaps no advice is worse than Yoda’s “Do or Do not. There is no try”.

I have never watched StarWars but I know the saying. Furthermore I know that there are actual paid professionals who have borrowed this axiom and delivered it to people looking for inspiration.

Here’s the problem- it is unequivocally, undoubtedly and without question wrong.

Trying is the most important thing you could ever do. It’s directly connected to your successes and failures.
You won’t lose because your parents weren’t rich.

You won’t lose because you weren’t a good student.

You won’t lose because you don’t have a mentor.

You’ll lose because you stop trying.

It doesn’t matter that you come from a dysfunctional family.

It doesn’t matter that you made mistakes as a teenager.

It doesn’t matter that you you’ve only made it this far.

But it matters a lot that you keep trying.

You don’t need better teachers to be successful.

You don’t need a more caring support system to be successful.

You don’t need more money to be successful.

What you need is to keep trying. Obsessively.

The irony of the Yoda philosophy is that it could be tweaked to be absolutely correct. “There is no quit. There is only try or not try”

That’s not just semantics. It’s the unabated truth.

Look back on your life. How many times have you ever had a definitive “I QUIT” moment?

For most of us the answer is probably only once or twice. We’re not programmed to operate like that. We’ve been trained not to be a “quitter”.

What happens most often is that we stop trying.

Ask a person in July when they quit their NYE resolution. They won’t know. Over time they just stopped trying to keep the resolution.

As adults we seem to lose our ability to try. Even worse, we lose our enthusiasm to try.

I remember watching my daughter try to hit a softball at the batting cages for the first time. She wasn’t a natural, but like every child she wanted to try again, and again, and again. It didn’t matter to her that she was failing during her early attempts. She innately believed that with enough “trys”she would succeed.

Over time we lose that quality. Or it is stolen. But the fact remains: Trying is what matters.

One of the main problems though is that as we age, we are given two equally bad pieces of advice in regards to trying. Reversing those erroneous concepts is the key to unlocking what you were programmed to do since birth…TRY

1.) The first concept is” It doesn’t hurt to try.

Complete BS. Trying hurts, that’s why people stop doing it. In fact the very idea of trying implies pain, discomfort, or dissatisfaction. That is why it called TRYING and not called DOING.

It means that the outcome didn’t go the way you had hoped. If you want to reignite your “try”, you have to accept that it might hurt.

Endeavors should not be started with a whimsical “it doesn’t hurt to try”. They should be started with a definitive “I’m willing to hurt to try”.

2.) The second is “Try to do your best”.

In my opinion this rationale is why most people won’t keep trying to accomplish something for which they are not naturally inclined. TRYING and YOUR BEST are apples and oranges concepts. If you’re in the “trying” stage, it’s likely that “your best” stinks. You have to have the fortitude to accept that your best stinks and not be deterred. You have remind yourself: This is simply a try. Nothing more nothing less.

Then you try again, and it too is just a try, and so on and so forth. That is where progress comes from. Try after try after try. When you boil it down to “trys” it is much easier to not become frustrated. There is a clarity in its simplicity. The metric becomes “did I try”? And that is a yes or no concept. There are too many variables in “Did I try my best”?

If you are in the trying stage, you don’t know what your best even looks like. And you’re certainly not in a position to make a sound self assessment.

There is an old saying about divorce: “No one ever gets tired of loving, they get tired of trying”… The same is true of all of our relationships as well as our ambitions.

What I Would Tell My 18 Year Old Self

“What advice would you give your 18 year old self?”

That’s the question that was asked of me during a recent podcast interview I was doing. The funny thing is that I’ve heard that question asked of several other people but not once had I taken the time to actually sit back and ponder what my answer might be. I had to think back to what I actually thought I knew when I was 18 and like a lot of people I thought I knew most things. I thought I had a great perspective on what was important to me, the path I needed to follow and the stuff I needed to obtain in order to be deemed successful. It was during that moment of introspection that the answer hit me….

Everything you thought was important is not important and everything you took for granted is important.

In my younger years I had a skewed view of the importance of stuff and the admiration of other people. I tended to view that admiration as a way to validate my own self-worth and I used that stuff as a measuring stick to track my success. I spent zero time thinking about things that when you boil it down truly matter.

Family/Friends – spending time with them and appreciating them for the sacrifices they’ve made for you.

Appreciation of the small things – a good cup of coffee or wine, a great conversation, an awesome song. These are the small things that happen every day and are often looked over but can make a big difference.

“A great life isn’t about great big things; it’s about small things that make a big difference.”

Be mindful – we often spend time thinking about what has happened previously or what could happen in the future but the practice of being mindful and present will solve a lot of your issues.

Let go of the comparative mind – Life isn’t a competition; it’s your own separate journey. Have the understanding that you are exactly who, what and where you’re supposed to be in your life and you’re awesome.

Our years and experiences provide us with a number of learning opportunities. The areas of growth are often disguised in the shadows and through introspection you can shed light on them.

 “Sometimes you just need to disconnect and enjoy your own company”

Be First and Be a Better Leader

Leadership is a fluid thing. Everyone takes that path and develops an individual approach to how they are going to lead. The more opportunities you have to be placed in a situation of leadership the more chances you have to test and retest the core principles that make up the foundation of your own personal leadership style. One thing that is fundamental for all leaders is the concept of being first. Your team is going to look to follow you so you have to be taking a proactive approach the setting an example and not a reactive approach to being a leader.

Be first to communicate and last to withhold – The best way if heard this described is the quote below. But also understand that when communicate with your team so there is a clear understanding of vision, strategy and issues, you step into a leadership role.

“Lying puts problems in the future; the truth puts them in the past”

Be first to praise other – You need to be leading the celebration for the good work that your teammates are doing. It’s also important that people understand that they are appreciated for the things they are doing. Too often we miss opportunities to acknowledge people and express gratitude.

Be first to confront issues – You cannot allow issues to fester, small issue might not seem like a big deal but it they begin to compound you will have a large problem before you know it.

Be first to protect and defend the team – You might not always agree with everything that is happening but when it comes to public interaction you have to defend your team in public and confront problems in private. It’s important that everyone has the chance to voice an opinion but they should feel comfortable about doing it around the team.

Be first to serve and last to be served – A servant leadership approach will make it evident that you’re doing things with other people’s best interest at heart.

The Importance of Empathy – Are You Losing It?

Have we created the elimination of empathy?

Our current day to day engagement with people is happening at an alarmingly rapid rate and that speed is beginning to impair our ability to truly relate with and understand peoples pain.

We have a ridiculous ability to consume mass quantities of content from multiple channels and “friends” right now.  But there is a lack of understanding for how the context of what’s being said is interpreted.

For example, when you get an email and you are trying to understand the tone with which it is being written. You end up assuming that tone, right or wrong. Then consider how easy it is to deliver opinions in such a wide open market. What we are left with is a vast, near infinite platform for hurtful, uneducated comments.

Empathy is a key leadership trait that is essential for helping you share and understand other peoples experiences. The better your understanding is of how people feel, the easier it becomes to have an impact on them.

Your ability to connect with people will change dramatically when you focus on being more empathetic. You will be a better listener and you will engage more with how they are feeling. It heightens your emotional intelligence which gives you the ability to ensure that feelings can’t control the outcome of a situation.

Leadership is about empathy.  It is about having the ability to relate and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives – Oprah

When Did You Stop Asking Why?

“The Important Thing is Not to Stop Questioning” – Albert Einstein

When did you stop asking questions?

I’m not sure how many of you have a small child at home, but I do and I can attest to the fact that he asks no less than 100 questions per day, every day.  While it can be a tad irritating when you start going down the rabbit hole of him saying “why” to everything I say, I’ve come to the realization that it’s my duty to foster that curiosity.

I’ve become fascinated by the notion that at some point we all had that curious nature that made us ask questions and dive deeper into learning.  But there had to be a tipping point where we started to just blindly accept that the things being told to us or the things we read were fact and shouldn’t be questioned.

If you want to easily unlock opportunities to make change, than you all you need to do is ask “Why?”

This one question forces an immediate reflection into what you’re doing and if the purpose is beneficial.

The inability or lack of desire to ask questions ensures that things remain status quo and puts an immediate road block in front of development.  You owe it to yourself to revert back to the four year old child inside you and start asking “why?”.

If not, you commit to forming assumptions based on what other people are telling you. One of my favorite quotes from Gary Vaynerchuk is:

“If you want to be an anomaly, you have to act like one.”

Ask your question and you might feel like a fool in the short term, or don’t ask your question and you may remain ignorant forever.

Muhammad Ali Showed Me a Magic Trick and I Learned Three Life Lessons

I came running into the locker room after a normal pre-game warm up and standing in the middle of the room was Muhammad Ali.

Now to say I was a little shocked would be an understatement.

After the initial shock wore off, I was standing there having a conversation with one of the most influential people in history. From what I remember it was a surface level conversation and it even included some magic tricks but it was the experience of sharing time with such a great person that had the most impact.

I often think back on that encounter when people ask me who the most famous person I’ve ever been lucky enough to meet is. It doesn’t get any better than someone who not only excelled in their chosen sport but stood up with conviction for their beliefs.

Muhammad Ali taught us many things through his words and his actions; I’ve continually gone back to his lessons so I could continue to grow. Below you’ll find a few of my favorite lessons and quotes from the champ.

Suffer Now

“I run on the road, long before I dance under the lights. I hated every minute of training but I said ‘don’t quit’. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Desire, Dream, Visualize

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Embrace Change

“A man who views the world at fifty the same way he did at twenty wasted thirty years.”


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