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3 Critical Lessons for Success from Kobe Bryant

by Sund Kobayashi |

I have a confession to make. As a die-hard Golden State Warriors fan since the early 90’s (run TMC era), I hated Kobe Bryant from the moment he entered the league. I hated his swagger. I hated his game. I hated how good looking he was. And I especially hated how he would destroy the Warriors every time they played against each other for the greater span of two decades. I was a hater. I am not proud of this, but such is life with sports. 

Then something happened as I started learning more about Kobe the human being, Kobe the philosopher, Kobe the master of self-discipline. I started to admire and respect him. Not just for his accomplishments on the court but for everything he accomplished off the court and the work he put in behind the scenes that lead to his overall success. 

In the wake of his tragic death and in honor of his legacy, here are the top 3 critical lessons we should all take away from Kobe Bryant:

Lesson 1: Focus + Discipline + Obsessive work ethic = Success

Kobe was known for his relentless work ethic. He was notorious for practicing every day at 4am in the morning, but it’s what he would practice that might surprise you. 

As sports trainer Alan Stein Jr. shared, “for the first 45 minutes, I saw the best player in the world do the most basic footwork in offensive moves. Kobe was doing stuff I routinely taught to middle school-age players.” 

Stein would later work up the courage to ask why the best player in the world was practicing the most basic moves, and Bryant would reply with a smile, “why do you think I’m the best in the world? Because I never get bored with the basics”.

It is this kind of focus and discipline that builds the foundation for long term success and transcends all other facets of what you do on a daily basis. Similar to making your bed every morning or having a disciplined daily skin care regimen, making sure you get the basics right is critical because what you are really doing is building positive habits that will lead to other positive habits that will lead to other positive habits. When you string a bunch of positive habits together you are heading in the right direction and creating the building blocks for success. 

 All of this starts with focus, discipline, and an obsessive work ethic. 

Lesson 2: Mindset is everything

From the age of 13, Kobe set a goal to become one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game. He had a clear vision for what he wanted to accomplish, and he did everything he had to do in order to get there. The work, the hustle, the desire, the passion, the effort; in summary he had the “Mamba Mindset”. 

Kobe developed the nickname “Black Mamba” shortly after he was charged with sexual assault which would eventually be dropped with a civil settlement outside of court. However, Kobe’s reputation was severely damaged after this experience. 

Most people would not have recovered from this type of allegation, especially a public figure like Kobe Bryant. However, he channeled this negative experience into something positive giving birth to an alter ego, the “Black Mamba”, a reference for a deadly assassin in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 movie “Kill Bill”. He used this alter ego to become an assassin on the court. His mindset was that no matter what life might throw at him he was going to have a stone-cold killer mindset to accomplish his goals. 

What are your goals and what kind of mindset do you have? Are you trying to build a successful business? Become a professional athlete? Get that elusive promotion at work? No matter what it is you are trying to accomplish, make sure you stone-cold "nothing is going to stop me" mindset and bring it every single day. 

Lesson 3: Failure does not exist

Failure is a funny thing. In reality, it’s just a state or condition in which something you try does not meet the desirable goal or intended objective. The very thought of failing for some people can paralyze them with fear and derail their progress towards their goal. It is this fear of failure that grips people, and the perception of being a failure by others that stops some people from even trying. 

The truth is failure does not exist until you quit or give up the pursuit of what you set out to accomplish. Failure only exists when we allow it to exist. 

Kobe understood this deeply and shared his own philosophy on failure:

"When we are saying this cannot be accomplished, this cannot be done, then we are short-changing ourselves. My brain, it cannot process failure. It will not process failure. Because if I have to sit there and face myself and tell myself, 'You are a failure,' I think that is almost worse than dying."

This is the mamba mentality that Kobe famously indoctrinated. It is the idea that you will not quit no matter how many times you get it wrong and no matter what people think of you. That you would rather give it all that you've got and die trying versus giving up.  

In another interview, Kobe was asked about whether he’s ever been afraid to miss a game winning shot and he responded with this gem:

"No, because I've failed before, and I woke up the next morning, and I'm OK…People say bad things about you in the paper on Monday, and then on Wednesday, you're the greatest thing since sliced bread. I've seen that cycle, so why would I be nervous about it happening?" 

And that is the truth. It is very rare to accomplish your dreams, goals, or objectives in your first attempt, but it’s critical to keep going. Failure doesn't really exist unless we allow it to exist, and one must conquer the fear of failure in order to achieve great success. Kobe Bryant embodied this, and now his legacy will live on forever.

RIP Kobe. 

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