I love The Ringer. When Kevin O’Connor visits Chris Vernon on The Ringer NBA Show it makes my heart smile. And I was thrilled when they got into it during a recent episode about Kevin’s interview with Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas mostly because of the All-Star’s comment: “I feel like I’m the best player in the world.” (He’s not, but he’s really good). The interview also contains professional lessons that go well beyond basketball. Here are four pieces of life advice from Isaiah Thomas.
Confidence, baby, confidence!
“No matter if I miss 10 or 15 shots I feel like the next one is going in. My confidence never wavers.”
Isaiah Thomas is listed at 5’9” (1.17m) by the National Basketball Association. Many folks argue that he is barely that tall. So what gives the guy confidence as he drives into the lane against seven-footers? Isaiah Thomas has an unshakeable belief in his abilities. Inc Magazine’s Peter Economy argues that confidence is elusive for most people, but having it is a gamechanger for everything from romance to your career: “Self-confident people tend to see their lives in a positive light even when things aren’t going so well, and they are typically satisfied with and respect themselves.”
“I work tremendously hard on my craft. I’m consistent. I have a routine. And I think that translates to the games.”
Isaiah Thomas thinks that he can improve on everything. He wants to be a better leader, a more efficient scorer, and wants to keep moving forward with his game. Great performers strive for mastery, but will never achieve it. Whatever your craft, remember to practice it as perfectly as you can. Because practicing something with mediocrity – like flipping through slides on a screen instead of performing a dress rehearsal or writing a blog post with the TV on in the background – means that you will deliver with mediocrity. Bring focus and discipline to your practice with mindfulness, coaches who hold you accountable, and by building great daily habits.
Own the spotlight
“I’m more locked in. I love that moment. I want to embrace that moment of the fourth quarter … It means a little more. And the game is on the line in that fourth quarter. And the great players embrace those moments.”
Isaiah Thomas is a case study in planned happenstance. He was so focused on making the most of his opportunities that he consistently achieved greatness when given the chance to perform, even though he was drafted 60th overall. Building on your perfect practice, be ready to run with an opportunity for greatness when it comes your way. Ask a memorable question to the CEO while riding the elevator together. Seize the moment during a Thanksgiving argument and negotiate a compromise for the family reunion. Go to a weird concert with your future partner. Over-deliver on what could be the only presentation that you have for the board of directors. Be like an improviser and say “yes” to life when it presents you with an opportunity, no matter how scary it might be, because you’re prepared for it.
Be a clutch performer
“I’ve never been in a situation where I didn’t believe in myself … The work that I put in when I’m in the gym by myself makes it easier and I’m more confident when those situations come up in a tight game.”
Being confident and well-prepared is great, but it doesn’t count for much if you can’t deliver when folks need you. As a basketball player, no one delivers more in crunch time than Isaiah Thomas, who is averaging more fourth quarter points than anyone since 1996. Think about how you might empower others to take control during chaotic situations (Thomas is a really good passer, too). Develop your ability to make decisions without perfect information. Borrow a page from the IDEO playbook and put a time limit on your creativity. All of these tactics will help you help others when things start falling apart.