Lessons from LeBron James and other sports greats

LeBron James isn’t the only professional basketball player who has had to face media labels, chief being “he’s the next Michael Jordan” or questions of “can he be the next Michael Jordan?” Vince Carter was also looked at as if it simply wouldn’t be enough for him to be the best he could be, as if he had no choice except to try to play like Michael Jordan, a talented athlete who’d been hailed as the greatest in the press.

Now Andrew Wiggins, a Canadian basketball player who’s playing basektball at the University of Kansas, is hearing that he might be the “next LeBron James”. These predictions and heavy expectations put into question just how much we value originality and change (perhaps change most of all).

They also show us how, if we hope to be great in and out of business, we must be open to innovation, trying new things and encouraging ongoing progress. As entrepreneurs, we can’t rest on our laurels anymore than a great basketball player can, because the universe we live in is alive. It’s moving.

If we keep looking back, hoping for former greatness to return exactly as it did before, years from now, perhaps very little of what we’ve become familiar with will be as we remembered it. The scary part would be if this caught us totally by surprise, completely off guard.

This may be no more obvious than it is right now, as we struggle to keep pace with changes occurring in and to the digital workplace. Stop connecting with current and prospective customers via direct mail, digital newsletters, brochures, catalogs and social media, and we could find our sales dropping off.

Stop adding content to our blogs, content that looks at old topics through a brand new lens, and we may find that are blogs aren’t attracted as much reader (or search engine) traffic. We can learn a lot from how LeBron James and Andrew Wiggins handle others’ reluctance to let go of the past, even trying to force them to mirror the past in the way they play basketball today.

We can learn to respect the past, but not stay there. We can learn to continue to try new things, to bring our company’s vision alive so we, day in and day out, fulfill our company’s mission. We can become giants in our own right. We have to look forward to achieve that.

After all, what worked two years ago, could sink a business today. Nostalgia isn’t a safe thing to hang a business’ hopes on. We can appreciate past business successes, but we can’t regal in and cling to them. If we do, we could find ourselves going the way of the manual typewriter, the scrubbing board or the telegram.

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