Basketball legend, Kobe Bryant (also affectionately known as Mamba) tragically passed on in the morning on the 26th of January. He was aged 41. He was one of the 5 people killed in a helicopter crash. The incident happened in Calabasas, California. Kobe Bryant’s 13 year old daughter, Gianna, was with him at the time and also died in the crash. They were going to the Mamba Academy for basketball practice. I took some last week to go through the numerous speaking engagements that Kobe Bryant took up during the course of his life. I drew some lessons that are so universal that they do not only apply to business but to any area of life.
Doing business just like sports (basketball in this case) is highly competitive. Kobe Bryant believed strongly in the need to cultivate a competitive nature in oneself. “It does not matter how hard you work, I am willing to work harder than you”, that was his attitude towards his competitors. He always emphasised on how that for you to be the best you got to practise, you got to train – train as much as you can, as often as you can. He said that in separating yourself from your competition – the key is in starting early to get more work in.
He gave an example of two different people. One wakes up at 10 am and does his first workout from 11 am to 1 pm and rests for 2 hours till 3 pm. He does another session from 3 pm to 5 pm then rests for 2 hours till 7 pm. Basically that person can comfortably manage only 2 sessions per day. Consider the second person who wakes up at 3 am and does his first 2-hour session at 4 am. That second person can end up doing 4 sessions per day following the pattern. If the second person is consistent over time, it widens the gap between them and the competitor.
Kobe Bryant’s intense work ethic was an everyday process for 20 years of his basketball career – consistency. He would watch and study basketball games to better understand the game. In the same vein, you must endeavour to study other businesses in your domain. He says that it was a perpetual quest to understand his strengths and weaknesses – the same goes for your business. Physically he said he had so many limitations and had to rely more on skill – which is why he had to put in more work. He said that he did not feel good about himself if he was not doing everything he could to be the best version of himself – if he felt like he left anything on the table it would eat away at him, he would not be able to look himself in the mirror. He even said that the reason why he was able to comfortably retire was that he knew he had done everything he could to become the best basketball player.
I have discussed his competitive nature, work ethic and now I am getting into his inquisitive nature. Those 3 elements are what Kobe Bryant considered a summation of his whole process. He said that he would ask a lot of questions from his teammates and even from past greats. These past greats were people like Michael Jordan and a few more. He would refer to them as GOAT Mountain – GOAT standing for greatest of all time. He said he would talk to them – he would ask questions like, what did you do? What were your experiences? What was your process like? How did you approach things? He would ask about their level of detail and their obsessiveness. As an entrepreneur ask questions a lot (especially from gurus in their fields) to get deep insights.
Kobe Bryant made a lot of business investments. At one point he was asked about his process regarding how he made decisions on which investments to take up or not. There are questions he said he would first ask himself. Do I understand the business? Is it a business I can help in some form or fashion? What are the barriers of entry to that business? The entrepreneurs themselves, the company itself, do they have a culture that I believe is sustainable? The leaders, are they people I believe in, are they people that are obsessive? Have they, in turn, created a culture of obsessiveness? These are the questions that even you can ask yourself before making any business investment.
I was struck by his mentality towards how he would choose projects which his business team should work on. He said if they had a project and you said, “OK I can do that”, that is not the project he would want. The project where you say I do not know if I can animate that, I do not know how to write that story, I do not know how to do that. Those are the projects he would want. His logic was simple – through curiosity, his team would reach a level that they did not think was possible. You can also adopt the same in your entrepreneurship journey. I also found it interesting when he said something about how he conditioned his business team. He said he would place them in a place where they challenge themselves to do the best job they can do. He pointed out that that was his role; for them to constantly look in the mirror and self-assess and challenge themselves.
He was once asked, “What does losing feel like to you?” His answer was, “It’s exciting!” His rationale was that it means you have different ways to get better. You get to figure out certain things like weaknesses that you can work on. It is quite sad that Kobe Bryant had to pass on in such a tragic way, the man had so much substance; may his dear beloved soul rest in peace!