Champions Always See Possibilities

The year was 1987.  Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers were locked in a classic NBA Championship showdown against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.  Seven seconds remained in a pivotal Game 4.  The Lakers were down 106-105, and the home Celtic fans were rabid.  What happened next would become one of the top moments in NBA history.

Magic and Riley

Magic received the inbounds pass, faked a shot, and drove to the lane against 6’11” Kevin McHale and his long arms and 7′ Robert Parish.  Magic seized the moment and made a hook shot over the fingernails of both Parish and McHale’s outstretched hands and arms.  Normally, it was Johnson’s teammate, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who took and made his patented hook shots for the team; not Magic Johnson.  But this was no ordinary moment, and Magic saw an opportunity in the midst of obstacles.

Champions always see possibilities…in every moment, no matter what the circumstances are.  I think there are at least 3 lessons we can learn and apply in any aspect of leadership from this idea demonstrated by Magic Johnson’s moment:

  • Champions see the goal – In the midst of chaos and 2 very tall defenders chasing him, Magic Johnson focused on the target and making the shot.  It was as if he was the only one in the gym.  In life, we must continually focus on the goal we are striving to achieve.  Obstacles, setbacks, and circumcstances will work to daily distract us from accomplishing our goals and reaching our target.  In those moments, we must look past the problems and truly see the end result.
  • Champions focus on the process – Magic did not worry about being behind in the score or that the fans were yelling at the top of their lungs against him or that he had to compete against not one, but two of the tallest players on Boston’s team.  In other words, Magic did not worry about the circumstances; he focused on the process to achieve the outcome he desired.  He focused on driving strong and putting up the best shot he could in that moment.  In my work with athletes, we call this being “outcome-driven and process-focused.”  As a leader, you can choose to worry about the circumstances of your situation or obsess about the outcome you want.  My challenge and encouragement to you is to consider focusing on the process to reach the outcome you want which involves releasing the prison of past circumstances, doing your best in the current moment, and being able to live with the results.
  • Champions embrace the challenge – Magic said after the game, “I wanted the ball in my hands.  Guys like me and Larry Bird want the ball in our hands for the last shot. That’s what we thrive on.”  Some people don’t want the ball in their hands.  They don’t want to have to make the tough decisions.  Your sphere of influence is counting on you to embrace the moment and the challenges that come with being a leader at work, at home, and in your community.  They need you to be engaged, to speak with a confident voice, and to lead courageously no matter what the circumstances are.

Your moment may not be hitting a game-winning shot in an NBA championship on a big stage.  It may be a very private moment where you are faced with the decision to lead your family courageously and victoriously through the perils of this life.  How will you lead?

See the goal, focus on the process to achieve it, and embrace the challenge.

Always see possbilities in the midst of your problems!


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