Jeremy Lin’s story represents everything we believe about earning success. Select the space to win. Show unwavering commitment. Always be ready. Pursue opportunities. How do we apply this to our professional lives?
Who doesn’t love a story like Jeremy Lin? The perpetually overlooked back bencher who finally gets their big moment and astounds us with their talent. It’s what we tell our kids, our teams and ourselves: Be ready when your name is called. But how do we do that? How do we keep our interest, skills and talent sharp while waiting for our day to shine? I have four ideas.
Select the Right Space
Jeremy Lin’s right space is basketball. He’s good at it. He likes it. There is a place for his contributions to add value. That’s it. Those three criteria can help each of us to select the right space to showcase our talents. Follow them to start with an advantage instead of a penalty. One resource I really like is Do What You Are by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron- Tieger.
Show Unwavering Commitment
Jeremy Lin is another overnight success built upon years of preparation. He played basketball because he was good at it. He liked it. He made a team better. For all that, he was not offered a college scholarship. He was not drafted to the NBA out of college. He bounced (no pun intended) to three teams in less than two years. Through it all he remained committed to his goal.
It’s hard to discuss commitment without a mention of its relationship to purpose and motivation. Without a clear, personal purpose, we look externally for measures that are often out of sync with our destiny. If Jeremy Lin’s focus was on minutes played per game, or some other factor he could not control, he may have surrendered to discouragement long ago. A clear, personal purpose keeps our motivation strong enough to maintain our commitment before the world sees our brilliance.
Always Be Ready
Jeremy Lin went a season and a half before he got a starting role in the NBA. Still, by all reports, he prepared for every game. He worked on his jump shot. He paid attention in practice. He read scouting reports. He listened to the coaches’ call plays. But when his name was called, Jeremy Lin was ready.
In Great By Choice (2011), Jim Collins and Morten Hansen write: You prepare with intensity all the time, so when conditions turn against you, you can draw from a reservoir of strength. And, equally, you prepare so that when conditions turn in your favor, you strike hard.
What can you do to prepare for when your name is called? Do you follow changes in your industry? Learn more about how your organization plans to win? Find out how your team contributes and add more? Upgrade your skills? Whether you are on the front lines or the backbench, you can prepare to do more. Start today.
There are many reasons why Jeremy Lin shouldn’t be in the NBA. He wasn’t drafted. His first team put him on the inactive list before being sent down to the NBA Developmental League. He only became available to his new team because his last team released him. Still, he’s playing today because he pursued opportunities to play.
How many people do you know who live on “Someday Isle?” They sound like this: Someday I’ll write that book. Someday I’ll look for a better job. Someday I’ll take that chance. Someday I’ll get that certification. Someday never comes, because the opportunities are not where they are, but where they need to go.
If you are not where you can use your strengths, do what you like or add value, it’s up to you to change that. Create opportunities that open possibilities. Make a call. Ask for a favor. Join a social network of professionals in your dream field. Go to a conference. No one taps on our shoulder like a concierge to announce that our dream has arrived. We have to go get it.
I’m not surprised that Jeremy Lin is a phenomenon. I am surprised that so many of us who could be the next unexpected marvel in our fields don’t take the necessary steps to be ready when our name is called. Don’t let that be you.
Tieger, P.D. and Barron-Tieger, B. (2001). Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career Through The Secrets of Personality Type. Boston: Little, Brown & Company.
Collins, J. and Hansen, M.T. (2011) Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. New York: Harper Collins.