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LeBron James’ Top 2 Success Strategies (And How You Can Use Them)

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[Note: This is a guest post from Robert James Collier and it’s just in time for the playoffs!]

LeBron James is the biggest basketball star on the planet.

He’s arguably the biggest star in sports, period.

Regardless of how the NBA Finals turn out, here’s what diehard Sportscenter viewers (and indifferent observers) know to be true: LeBron James is not only the best basketball player in the world today, he’s in the running for the best basketball player ever.

The greats of every industry know that temporary loss doesn’t mean permanent defeat.

Top performers know that in order to win at the highest level, you need to overcome serious failures and adopt world-class mental frameworks to succeed after difficult losses.

What if I told you LeBron James followed a repeatable process for world-class performance to go from good to all-time great, and he uncovered a deeply-hidden psychological ‘flip’ that turned him into a world champion?

Hmm… sounds kinda interesting” you might respond.

Now, what if I told you that I’ve broken down these hidden secrets of success by dissecting real-world examples from LeBron James’ life to give you a no bullshit, mind-blowingly practical manual for achieving the highest levels of success in any industry AND, like a leading a horse to water, I’ve showed exactly how YOU can use them too…

Oh, so nowww you’re thoroughly interested! 🙂

Look, in the stories below, I offer 2 remarkable lessons that you can take from LeBron’s story to apply to your own life to use as strategies to unlock the well of greatness stored inside of you.

WARNING: These are very powerful, specific, actionable techniques which can be adopted and used to your advantage IMMEDIATELY. These techniques have been used and polished by the likes of Steve Jobs, Napoleon Bonaparte, Pablo Picasso and other greats. These tactics are very real and I’m going to show you HOW you can use them to get what you want. Pay close attention.

Bonus Download: Want to know the 10 talents that drive entrepreneurial success and how you can use them to tilt the odds significantly in your favor?

Click here to download your FREE “10 Talents of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs” 12-page Report!

 

1. “THE DECISION” — WORST MARKETING MOVE EVER OR BEST DECISION OF HIS LIFE?

As an unrestricted free agent after playing 7 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James and his business manager, Maverick Carter (founder of LRMR management firm and LeBron’s childhood friend), accepted an invitation to host his announcement on national television.

Broadcasted live on ESPN, over 13 million viewers from all over the world tuned into to hear where James would sign with in free agency.

It was appropriately titled “The Decision.”

On July 8, 2010 at 9:28 EST, he made his announcement:

“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…”

(listen to the in-studio crowd reaction of shock as he makes his announcement)

And with that one sentence, LeBron James become the most hated athlete in America.

Cleveland Cavaliers fans were the most outraged, even burning his jersey on national television.

It was the immediate reaction of fans who felt betrayed by their hometown star.

Cleveland fans would later rank the departure of James second only to former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell’s decision to move entire franchise to Baltimore (after lying to the public stating that he wouldn’t).

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley all weighed-in on The Decision, deriding the choice by LeBron James to team up with his “rivals” instead of chasing a championship without them.

LeBron James became the villain of the NBA for the entire season that followed.

He was jeered in every NBA arena he entered, except his own.

According to ESPN Sports Poll data, in the season after The Decision, LeBron’s favorability plummeted from 15.6 percent of respondents calling him their favorite player to only 10.4 percent.

To make matters worse, the Heat lost in the NBA finals that year to the Dallas Mavericks. And it seemed everyone was all too pleased.

LeBron’s favorability dropped even further to 9.4 percent in the following season.

Mind you, this is for an athlete that wasn’t caught cheating at his sport, taking performance-enhancing drugs, caught in infidelity in his marriage, or in any trouble with law enforcement (like many of the athletes making headlines over the past year… *cough* Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson *cough*).

What does LeBron Think Now?

So, looking back, how does LeBron feel about The Decision now?

According to his interview in GQ magazine, LeBron said this about The Decision:

“The best thing that ever happened to me,” he says. “I needed it. It helped me grow as a man. As a professional, as a father. At the time, as a boyfriend. It helped me grow. Being confined, I spent my whole life in Akron, Ohio. For twenty-five years. Even though I played professionally in Cleveland, I still lived in Akron. Everything was comfortable. I knew everything, everybody knew me—everything was comfortable. I needed to become uncomfortable. Now I’ve seen everything on and off the floor this league has to offer.”

Did you miss that?

If you didn’t catch it, let me make it clear for you.

His environment. His friends. His home. His acquaintances. His daily routine. The same drive to work every day. The same local support system that praised him every year. The same people he grew up with his entire life.

Everything promoted a sense of ease for him. Everything made him comfortable.

What LeBron needed was to become uncomfortable.

(Sound familiar..?)

That’s exactly what The Decision offered to LeBron: an opportunity to become uncomfortable so that he could transform and evolve.

As a result of the overwhelmingly negative attention LeBron received, he was forced to assume a different perspective because he was no longer able to be the LeBron James that everyone perceived him to be all his life—well-liked, jovial, and outgoing.

He was now cast as the villain.

At first he accepted the role of a villain. Playing to fans on-and-off the court; inciting further negative exchanges from the booing crowds; and avoiding members of the media and others after his games.

But after he lost in the finals that season, James spent the next two weeks in a room mostly by himself, talking to almost no one.

It was one of the lowest moments in his entire life.

“PEOPLE WHO CANNOT SUFFER CAN NEVER GROW UP, CAN NEVER DISCOVER WHO THEY ARE…”
– JAMES BALDWIN

After time spent in reflection, he discovered that he was allowing others to dictate the way he approached the game. And it was affecting his entire life.

LeBron realized he had only two options:

  1. He could allow his approach to constrict him and allow his critics’ reactions to contradict his true character
  2. Or, he could alter his attitude to allow for more freedom of action by framing this experience as a positive and forever disregarding his critics

He decided to go back to the playing the game the way he knew how—with fun and full of joy.

But one important thing changed: he no longer remained sensitive to what others said about him.

THE POWERFUL PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND WHAT ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE

LeBron employed a “reversal.”

A reversal is overcoming the negative of a particular fear and flipping it on its head so that it can lead to a much stronger positive quality, such as self-reliance, patience, supreme self-confidence, and so forth.

This is a powerful psychological concept used by leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Steve Jobs, which has very practical application and real world effects.

Here’s how he did it…

LeBron reversed a seemingly bleak situation into an opportunity for complete freedom by mentally reframing his circumstances and manipulating his responses to them. This simple reversal gave him more power to control his own fate and more freedom of action—completely unencumbered by the opinions of detractors.

Here is the paradox of a reversal: you mentally transform a negative event into an opportunity or challenge, providing you with more internal power and motivation. As a result, you care less of what people think about you, paradoxically causing them to admire you more.

The negative publicity is then turned around.

ROBERT’S NOTE: All circumstances can be converted and turned into opportunities. As you read, think about negative circumstances in your business and life, then how you can apply the power of a reversal to transform it into an opportunity.

Psychologists sometimes refer the difficult experience that LeBron went through after The Decision as “adversarial growth” and “post-traumatic growth.”

The struggle against some obstacle propels the individual to a new level of functioning. The extent of their struggle determines the extent of their growth.

The obstacle becomes an advantage.

In LeBron’s situation, he learned that people were going to dislike him anyway, despite how he acted or didn’t act in accordance with their expectations. So he figured he would act as himself and live with the consequences since it wouldn’t alter public opinion anyway. Only winning, he felt, would do that.

What LeBron had to do was overcome his fear of being uncomfortable.

Do you think this nightmarish experience prepared him for major decisions like leaving the Miami Heat organization to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, despite outside opinion?

ABSOLUTELY!

He has since carried this critical lesson with him to create even more freedom of action and take further control of his fate in matters on-and-off the court, including his mega endorsement deals, his global icon plan, and his decision to opt-out of his contract with the Miami Heat.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT TO YOU

Understanding and applying this simple psychological concept to your unique problems can make all the difference in turning a seemingly overwhelming failure into a complete success.

To do so, you need to identify possibilities to employ reversals in similar areas of your own life.

We can accomplish this by noticing the opportunities to convert negative circumstances, such as not earning the raise we expected or being passed over for a promotion, and turning those into a powerful opportunities to create greater possibilities for ourselves.

These new circumstances become valuable occasions for us to make progress on our own goals despite objections from the outside.

The opportunities are all around us.

We just need to adopt the proper mental frameworks to take advantage.

LESSON LEARNED: YOU CAN TURN YOUR WORST TRIALS INTO YOUR GREATEST TRIUMPHS THROUGH THE POWER OF REVERSAL OVERCOMING THE NEGATIVE OF A PARTICULAR FEAR LEADS TO A POSITIVE QUALITY SUCH AS SELF-RELIANCE, PATIENCE, OR SUPREME SELF-CONFIDENCE. USE THIS EXPERIENCE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE BY GROWING IN PROPORTION TO YOUR STRUGGLE TO A NEW, HIGHER LEVEL OF FUNCTIONING DESPITE OUTSIDE OPINION.

2. HOW THE BEST GET EVEN BETTER — THE SECRET TO WORLD-CLASS PERFORMANCE

LeBron James is arguably the most athletic player to ever play in the NBA.

His speed, power, and agility is unlike anything ever witnessed in any player his size. In any sport, really.

At 6 feet 8 inches, he simply shouldn’t be able to perform, with skill and finesse, the acts that he does…

In recent years, his past coach, Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra, donned LeBron with the moniker “NBA’s Swiss Army Knife” for his ability to guard every position on defense and play multiple roles offensively.

But he didn’t always have this ability.

LeBron identified the gaps in his ability and what his team required of him in order to win a championship.

And then he worked at it. Tirelessly.

According to an article on Grantland, Coach Spoelstra says:

“It took the ultimate failure in the Finals to view LeBron and our offense with a different lens. He was the most versatile player in the league. We had to figure out a way to use him in the most versatile of ways — in unconventional ways.

“Shortly after our loss to Dallas in the Finals, LeBron and I met. He mentioned that he was going to work on his game relentlessly during the offseason, and specifically on his post-up game. This absolutely made sense for us. We had to improve offensively, and one of the best ways would be to be able to play inside-out with a post-up attack.”

“I AM ALWAYS DOING THAT WHICH I CANNOT DO, IN ORDER THAT I MAY LEARN HOW TO DO IT.”
– PABLO PICASSO

LeBron meticulously analyzed his team’s performance in the Finals to identify the gap between where their team was currently performing and the level they needed perform at in order to win a championship.

He found that their post play contributed the most inconsistency. In particular, their lack of a post presence on offense was causing them to shoot way too many low-efficiency jump shots, and it forced their guards to initiate offensive sets by dribbling the ball to create spacing and most of their scoring opportunities for the team.

LeBron immediately began working to make dramatic improvements in the area of post play by working out with one of the all-time greats to enhance his low-post game: Hakeem Olajuwon.

(Tape of LeBron’s training sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon)

“The biggest thing isn’t how much you work on things, it’s ‘Can you work on something, then implement it into a game situation?’” James says. “Can you bring what you’ve worked on so much and put it out on the floor with the finished product? I was happy that I was able to do that and make that transformation.”

Many people in the Heat organization state that LeBron’s development of his low-post game is what turned the Miami Heat from a runners-up into champions the following year.

“When he returned after the lockout, he was a totally different player,” says Spoelstra. “I don’t know if I’ve seen a player improve that much in a specific area in one offseason. His improvement in that area alone transformed our offense to a championship level in 2012.”

His improvement in the post contributed to increased shot efficiency all over the floor. Take a look at the shot chart below comparing LeBron’s final year in Cleveland to his first year in Miami.

How Just 90 Days of Focus Changed EVERYTHING

cleveland vs miami shot selection 1st year

In his last year in Cleveland before leaving to join the Miami Heat in 2010, LeBron took a lot of 3 point shots. For a player of his size and strength, he’s not utilizing his physical gifts most effectively when he’s shooting outside of the arc. Also, he took a lot of mid-range shots (low-efficiency) and some shots near the basket (high-efficiency).

His first year in Miami, LeBron better leveraged his physical gifts by taking more shots inside of the arc. He increased the volume of shots taken near the basket for a higher percentage of shots made and reduced the volume of three point shots taken.

However, his Miami Heat team still lost in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

Now, let’s take a look at his shot chart the following season after LeBron worked with Hakeem Olajuwon to improve his post play…

miami shot selection 2nd year

His second year in Miami LeBron significantly reduced the volume of 3 point shots taken. There’s only one dot outside of the arc for this year.

Additionally, he increased the volume of shots taken at the low block on the left side. This new concentration of shots taken on the floor represent an addition to LeBron’s game.

This is where his work on the low post with Hakeem paid off!

To make sense of these shot charts, let’s put these numbers in perspective…

In LeBron’s rookie year, he shot 42 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. In his second year in Miami those numbers rose to 53 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

This is an impressive feat for anyone!

All the more incredible that these improvements were made by the best player in the world!

And it turns out it was just what they needed to win his first championship.

LeBron continued his improving efficiency rising to 56 percent from the field and 41 from beyond the arc the following year when he won his second championship.

The best part of LeBron’s increased efficiency on offense is that the effect wasn’t limited to just LeBron — it affected everyone on the team.

LeBron’s migration to the left block not only helped his scoring efficiency, it opened up space elsewhere for spot-up shooters like Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and Mike Miller who made big contributions in the Finals so that LeBron could win his second championship with Miami.

“GREAT THINGS ARE NOT DONE BY IMPULSE, BUT BY A SERIES OF SMALL THINGS BROUGHT TOGETHER”
– VINCENT VAN GOGH

HOW TOP PERFORMERS BECOME WORLD-CLASS

Here’s the thing: LeBron was already head-and-shoulders the best player in the world.

Many analysts even questioned just exactly how LeBron could actually become any better.

Where the vast majority of people get better for a while and level off, reaching the limit of their abilities where even years of additional work have not made them any better, LeBron made dramatic improvements in one offseason that resulted in a world championship.

How did he improve so dramatically in just one year, especially when many “experts” didn’t even think it would be possible for him to become any better?

Well, the answer isn’t “by practicing.”

Sorry.

LeBron wasn’t just practicing. That’s not how world class performers become better at their craft.

He was practicing with a purpose. LeBron was practicing with the specific intention to improve his low post offensive ability.

This practice with the specific intention is referred to as “deliberate practice.”

What is Deliberate Practice, Really?

Deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work intently on them.

You may have heard this popular term before, but what you may not know is, exactly what is deliberate practice?

According to Anders Ericsson, the psychologist who advanced the concept of deliberate practice, “the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

The concept of deliberate practice is characterized by several elements.

These elements can be divided into 5 criterion:

  1. activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help
  2. it can be repeated a lot
  3. feedback on results is continuously available
  4. it’s highly demanding mentally, whether it’s purely intellectual or heavily physical
  5. it isn’t much fun

Let’s see take a look at how the example I detailed above with LeBron stacks up to this criteria:

  1. improve performance (low post offensive ability), often with a teacher’s help (Hall of Famer, Hakeem Olajuwon) ✓
  2. it can be repeated a lot (practiced shooting and low post positioning, twice a day for 5 days with Hakeem, then every day for the rest of the summer)✓
  3. feedback is available (made shot vs. missed shot; gaining low post position vs. being pushed out of the paint) ✓
  4. highly demanding mentally, whether it’s purely intellectual or heavily physical
  5. it isn’t much fun

Think his exercises weren’t highly demanding mentally? Or worse… do you actually think it was fun?

Read LeBron’s self-enforced punishment for not attaining his own shooting goals and you’ll soon think otherwise:

“It’s a lot of work. It’s being in workouts, and not accomplishing your goal, and paying for it. So, if I get to a spot in a workout and want to make eight out of 10, if I don’t make eight of 10, then I run. I push myself to the point of exhaustion until I make that goal. So you build up that mentality that you got to make that shot and then use that in a game situation — it’s the ultimate feeling, when you’re able to work on something and implement it.”

You can see how much feedback, detail, and intensity is interwoven throughout LeBron’s workout to make progress on his goal.

Every element of the deliberate practice criteria is met in LeBron’s workout, ensuring that he’s getting better with every repetition.

Now, let’s talk about how this applies to you…

HOW THIS IS USEFUL TO YOU

LeBron may not have known he was following the requirements for deliberate practice in his workouts. However, chances are, he knows EXACTLY what deliberate practice is, and he’s implemented it for years to become better at his craft.

So have others like Kobe Bryant, Mozart, and Picasso.

Have you?

Well, chances are you didn’t know that researchers confirm that the top performers in every industry engage in and are committed to deliberate practice.

It’s not merely that top performers are “putting in the hours.”

No, it’s that top performers break down the skills that are required to become an expert and focus on improving those skill chunks during practice.

You can start today to analyze the gaps in your performance relative to where you desire to perform.

Then you can use the same criteria outlined above to ensure you’re following the necessary framework.

Although it may not be fun, it will undoubtedly move you closer to your goal and, in the process, bring you closer to mastery over your chosen craft.

LESSON LEARNED: YOU CAN ADOPT THE SAME APPROACH THAT TOP PERFORMERS USE TO BECOME WORLD-CLASS IN THEIR CRAFT. ANALYZE THE GAPS BETWEEN YOUR CURRENT PERFORMANCE AND WHAT’S REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE MASTERY; BREAK DOWN THE SKILLS INTO SPECIFIC SKILL CHUNKS; AND COMMIT YOURSELF TO THE PROCESS OF DELIBERATE PRACTICE TO IMPROVE WITH EACH REPETITION DURING PRACTICE. OVER TIME, YOUR COMMITMENT WILL BRING YOU TO MASTERY OVER YOUR CHOSEN CRAFT.

CONCLUSION

There’s no question that LeBron wants to be the best basketball player ever.

Fans of Michael Jordan are quick to rule out this possibility, but there’s no doubt that LeBron is positioning himself to be near the top in the conversation when all is said and done.

It’s no coincidence that LeBron James became the first player in over 50 years to take his team to 5 straight NBA Finals appearances (now that’s a world-class performance!).

And, if history is any indicator, LeBron knows EXACTLY what he needs to do in order to win another NBA championship.

Being the best in any profession isn’t about being the most talented; it’s about adopting the mental frameworks and practice habits that the best use to become great.

By leveraging the power of reversals and committing to deliberate practice using the process outlined above, you give yourself an excellent chance to become great.

Just like LeBron James.

FURTHER READING:

The 10 Talents of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs. This 12-page report describes the 10 talents of highly successful entrepreneurs as found by researchers who studied over 2,500 of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Research concluded that there are 10 specific talents responsible for business success. These talents can be used by aspiring entrepreneurs to enjoy a much greater chance of success in business — if applied properly. Click here to download the free 12-page report.

The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene discusses the powerful role of reversals, along with other strategies and tactics for success in life and work based upon a single principle: fear nothing. He utilizes several examples of leaders who have overcome adversity through understanding and practicing the 50th Law, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Malcolm X, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and more.

Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoffrey Colvin details the concept of deliberate practice. Backed by scientific research, it shares the secrets of extraordinary performance and shows how to apply these principles. The book features the stories of professionals who have achieved world-class greatness through deliberate practice, including Benjamin Franklin, Chris Rock, Jerry Rice, and others.

We read and reply to every one!
  • Anthony

    Mr. Collier,

    What a wonderful article. It was something I needed to read at this moment in my life, as I’m on the precipice of a major life decision.

    All the best,
    Anthony

    • Anthony,

      So glad this helped you with making a major decision in your life! I wish you the best moving forward.

  • Hi Robert,

    “He’s arguably the biggest star in sports, period.” — I think Leo Messi or Ronaldo might have something to say about that ;). But basketball is my sport too. 🙂

    But anyways, superb article! Great dissection of Lebron’s move to Miami and how it applies to business and life in general. Awesome work, will share!

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

    • Hey Jonathan!

      Thanks again for your kind words and for sharing the article. I’m really glad you liked the article showing how his “Decision” (and practice habits) apply to top performance and success in any field, including business.

      PS. Serena Williams, Rhonda Rousey, Ronaldo, Messi, Mayweather, and Clayton Kershaw just to name a few might have a problem with that statement. But I think he belongs in the conversation 🙂

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