Game plan for success

By Joe Soto

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My definition of success is having a predetermined plan, successfully carrying it out over a long period of time and having a good time doing it.

That’s what John Calipari does as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. Coach Cal is able to recruit the country’s top high-school talent with this simple message: “Commit to each other, be about each other without sacrificing your goals and by doing this you can achieve all your dreams and more.”

Because many of his players are one and done – meaning they leave for the pros after their freshman season – Coach Cal views each new team like a start-up business due to a constant flow of new players, meaning new relationships and new challenges. His job is to mold them into championship material when the season comes to an end in the spring.

I read Coach Cal’s new book, “Success Is the Only Option: The Art of Coaching Extreme Talent” and discovered that it contains lessons for CEOs, business owners, coaches, teachers and leaders of all kinds.

First you have to assemble the talent, as Coach Cal writes: “Talent matters. There’s no way around it. But the gold standard is to get your talented team to play with desperation.” He says that he looks for players that have a purpose.

“I always ask my players: What’s your why? Why do you want to have success? Is it just for fame and fortune, and if you attained that, who would it be for? … What’s driving them forward is a cause bigger than their own self-interest.”

When I was building my envelope manufacturing company, I looked for employees who embraced TGIM – Thank God It’s Monday. I wanted people who were excited to come to work.

Similarly, Coach Cal writes: “When I’m recruiting, I’m looking for a kid who’s alive. He’s got a bounce in his step. A smile on his face. Love for his teammates.” He mentions a former player who “came into the gym every day like it was Christmas morning.”

Passion and persistence are common themes, at the top of the list of the skills you need to excel whether you’re in sales, playing basketball or any other profession. There simply is no substitute. If you don’t have an intense, burning desire for what you …read more