Will and Passion

March 31, 2009

Two days ago, 60 Minutes aired an interview between Steve Croft and LeBron James.  Much of the attention before, on promos run during the NCAA March Madness games just prior, and after focused on James sinking a 1-handed shot from half court in one take.  While that was quite remarkable given the apparent ease with which he flipped the shot in, I was struck more by an exchange between Croft and James a few minutes earlier.  Croft asked him what the most important part of his game was.  LeBron’s response: “the way I approach the game mentally.”  This apparently surprised Croft who called it “an unusual answer”.  I would argue that no one should be surprised by that answer: those at the top (in sports but probably most professions) have a talent set way above average, but they also want it more.
Around the same time the 60 Minutes interview was airing, Tiger Woods was coming from behind at Bay Hill to win his first PGA match post-surgery layoff.  Not only winning, but dropping in a long putt on the final hole to do so.  He’s an unbelievably talented golfer, but I think his passion and will to win put him over the top time and again.

In his 60 Minutes interview with the late Ed Bradley in March of 2006, Tiger said “I love to compete.  That’s the essence of who I am.”  Asked to clarify, Tiger explains that if he and Bradley were playing cards “right now”  that he’d “want to kick your butt.”  Bradley asks: “You’d want to win?”  Tiger: “No, I want to kick your butt.  There’s a difference.”

Before there was LeBron, the NBA was dominated by Michael Jordan.  His philosophy: “I play to win, whether during practice or a real game.  And I will not let anything get in the way of me and my competitive enthusiasm to win.”   Sound familiar?  Note the use of the word “will”.  Living in Chicago in the late 80’s and 90’s, I saw many key games come down to a remarkable finish with Michael willing his team to victory.

Final sports quote of this post: “You can’t put a limit on anything.  The more you dream, the farther you get.”  This one from another Michael, Phelps – the Golden Boy of the 2008 Summer Games.

While most of us do not have the physical or other gifts that could make us literally #1 in the world in our chosen professions, channeling the will and desire of the very best is what we need to keep in mind.  Find/pursue your passions, keep Michael P’s Big Dreams quote in mind, and don’t limit yourself.