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What Jeremy Lin can Teach us

February 12, 2012

Jeremy Lin plays Broadway

Taking a little detour from our talk on mindsets to highlight the Jeremy Lin phenomenon.  Lin is an Asian-American, Harvard grad who plays basketball.  He was undrafted by the NBA, but has hung around for a couple years and this week took New York by storm.  Powerful lessons for us in the workplace and at home.  Do we have a Jeremy Line sitting in our office or home?  Enjoy this post from Forbes:

9 Lessons we can Learn form Jeremy Lin

Eric Jackson, Contributor

Lin-sanity has swept up the NBA over the last week.

Last night’s 38 point performance by Harvard grad Jeremy Lin for the New York Knicks against the LA Lakers was Lin’s greatest performance yet as a starter, since he burst on to the scene and propelled the team to 4 straight wins.

But what can all of us learn from this story of this incredible young man — and how can we apply the same lessons to our own lives when we go back to work on Monday morning?

1. Believe in yourself when no one else does. Lin’s only the 3rd graduate from Harvard to make it to the NBA.  He’s also only a handful of Asian-Americans to make it. He was sent by the Knicks to play for their D-League team 3 weeks ago in Erie, PA.  He’d already been cut by two other NBA teams before joining the Knicks this year.  You’ve got to believe in yourself, even when no one else does.

2. Seize the opportunity when it comes up. Lin got to start for the Knicks because they had to start him.  They had too many injuries.  Baron Davis was gone.  The other point guards were out.  Carmello Anthony was injured.  Amare Stoudemaire had to leave the team because of a family death.  Lin could have squandered the opportunity and we would have never have noticed.  But he made the most of it.  You never know when opportunities are going to arise in life.  Often, they’re when you least expect them.  Make the most of them. Don’t fritter them away.

3. Your family will always be there for you, so be there for them. It wasn’t until a few days ago that Lin got his contract guaranteed by the Knicks for the rest of the season.  Before that, he could have been cut at any time.  He had to sleep on his brother’s coach on the Lower East Side to get by.  His family always believed in him and picked him up when he could have gotten down on himself.  That made him continue to believe.  If you want your family to believe in you like that, you’ve got to be there for them too when they need it.

4. Find the system that works for your style. Lin isn’t Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.  He’s not a scorer.  He’s a passer and distributor – who can also score.  It didn’t work for him in Golden State or Houston – where he was before landing at the Knicks.  But Mike D’Antoni’s system at the Knicks was perfect for him to show off his strengths.  You’ve got to do your best to understand what your strengths are and then ensure that you’re in a system (a job or organization or industry) that is a good fit for those strengths.  Otherwise, people overlook the talents you bring to the table.

5. Don’t overlook talent that might exist around you today on your team. You probably manage people at your own company today.  Are you sure you don’t have a Jeremy Lin living among you now?  How do you know that “Mike” couldn’t do amazing things if you gave him a new project to run with?  How do you know “Sarah” isn’t the right person to take the open job in London that you’ve been talking over?  We put people around us in boxes.  He’s from Harvard.  He’s Asian-American.  Not sure he can play.  How many assumptions have you made about talent around you?  Don’t be like the General Managers in Golden State and Houston, and let talent slip through your fingers.

6. People will love you for being an original, not trying to be someone else. You’ve got to be you.  You can’t be some 2nd rate copy of Michael Jordan.  There will never be another Michael Jordan.  Just be Jeremy Lin — yourself.  Whatever that is.  That doesn’t mean you don’t work hard — it just means you find what you’re good at and do it.  Fans will love you for being you, just like they love Jeremy Lin.

7. Stay humble. If you one day are lucky enough to have newspapers want to put you on the cover in order to sell more, don’t let it get to your head.  It’s been remarkable watching how humble Lin remains through all this media frenzy.  It makes his teammates and fans love him that much more.

8. When you make others around you look good, they will love you forever. I didn’t know how good Tyson Chandler was, until I saw him playing with Jeremy Lin.  Lin has set Chandler up many times over the last week for easy dunks because he drew the defense and then passed the ball.  That’s partly why the Knicks are playing so well.  They are all working harder to share the ball with others.  And it’s beautiful to watch.  And when the media swarms Lin, he tells them how good his teammates are.  Do the same with your peers and reports.

9. Never forget about the importance of luck or fate in life. Some people believe in God, some in destiny, some in luck.  Whatever you believe in it, be grateful for it.

I hope the Lin-sanity continues.  And I hope we all can apply these lessons to our own work and family life.

Go team.

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