I’m awed by people who put a dent in the universe at a relatively young age. People like Kobe Bryant.
On the basketball court, Bryant leveraged his extraordinary talent with grit and intelligence to become a transformative player whose game and attitude are emulated from asphalt playgrounds to NBA arenas. His scoring total (4th all-time), world championships (5) and All-Star Game appearances (18) made him a sports legend and pop culture fixture.
In his tragically short post-NBA career, Bryant excelled in a new profession, winning an Academy Award for the animated short “Dear Basketball.”
All that by the time he was 40.
Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs are among the others whom I admire for their ability to influence millions and change the world before they hit middle age.
Most of us will never achieve such global influence. We are unlikely to re-make our professions, let alone the wider world, in the course of our entire careers.
And that’s OK. Because we all have the potential to influence our immediate world for the better; to become a legendary game-changer in our workplace, community, and home.
At the office, we, like Kobe, can make the most of our talents by working with passion and intentionality to get the best from ourselves and organizations. As leaders, we have the power to influence the daily satisfaction and career trajectory of our teammates through our management interactions and willingness to guide and mentor. As Scrooge observed of his beloved former boss, Mr. Fezziwig: “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. [H]is power lies in… things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up… [But] the happiness he gives is quite as great as if it costs a fortune.”
Is there a transformational boss in your past or present? Someone who made work a joy, or set you and your peers on the path to success? Be that person. Become that legend.
Similarly, with the consistent and passionate application of our time and skills, we can put a dent, not in the universe, but in our communities. Helping one disadvantaged child or formulating a solution to one persistent challenge can reverberate for generations. Isn’t that the definition of legendary – having your deeds remembered down through the years?
Home offers our most important opportunity to change the world. Like potters working clay on the wheel, today’s parents are shaping our collective future. There is no greater responsibility than our duty to create a nurturing, supportive homelife where kids can learn and grow into healthy adults who are prepared to follow their dreams.
Kobe Bryant recognized the importance of parenting. The NBA icon described his mom and dad as “my backbone,” and was himself a loving, engaged father. The man who dominated his profession and captured the world’s attention knew those achievements would pale compared to successfully raising three daughters.
We may never become “the Kobe Bryant” of our profession. But we can become legends where it matters most – in the hearts and minds of the people we touch on a regular basis. If we can do that, who knows? We might just change the whole world.