Throughout my career, one of the most helpful pieces of feedback I have received is to “let it come to you.” My first boss, Joe Haynes, gave me this advice. I don’t know the origin of the phrase officially, but most often I have heard it used in sports…”let the game come to you.” About a year ago, after an incident at my current job where I wish I would have applied this feedback, I decided to research a little bit more about this phrase.
One of the articles that I read was a review of Phil Jackson’s book Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success. In the review it explained Jackson’s characterization of Michael Jordan’s play. He described Jordan’s ability to lay back when he wasn’t on his game, and to not force it. Jordan had a deep confidence in his ability, and he never felt as if he had to prove his greatness. This was contrasted to Kobe Bryant, who although a tremendous player, pushed hard even when he wasn’t on his game or when the defense had him.
“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.” – Phil Jackson
In my career, I have always been the young one, feeling like the underdog. I remember celebrating turning thirty professionally. I felt like I no longer had to explain away my lack of years in life. For some reason being the young one at the table made me feel like I had to go above and beyond to prove myself and build respect. I would put the pressure on myself to be good all the time. When things went wrong, I would overextend myself, giving more than was reasonable and trying too hard. Let’s call it the Kobe Bryant model. In hindsight, these moments were times that I should have just backed down…”letting the game come to me.” This personal reaction, driven often times by a lack of confidence, often hurt more than it helped.
Today, looking back, I am grateful for these experiences as they have helped me to be a better professional, leader and coach to my team. I have a renewed commitment to “let the game come to me” and to help develop this skill in my team. Thanks Phil.