Kobe's Self Awareness Set Him Free. Ours Can Too.

Yesterday, January 26, a day I'm normally so happy about due to birthdays of friends and family, will also probably always remind me of Kobe Bryant. I'll always remember where I was when I saw the news from Tom Brady's Instagram that Kobe passed and I will always reflect that on that morning I was watching several interviews he gave before I was jolted into reality. Kobe was one of the ultimate motivators.

Sometimes we remember more about athletes and figures than we do about our own families because we don't always get to spend as much time with our families or have our best and worst moments captured on camera to relive. Kobe and the Lakers were one of my reasons in high school and through college, to work hard on the job or for class, so that I could finish on time to catch whatever game was happening that night.

I wasn't a Kobe fan in the sense of I needed all the memorabilia (though I did have a select few things in my room and books about him) but as usual I was obsessed with how he thought and how he used his thoughts to get what he wanted.

So for 2021 Kobe remembrance day, I"m reflected on how self-aware he was and how I've learned over the years that knowing thyself better than anyone else knows you is one of the greatest weapons against your challenges that you can have. Here's a few of my favorite thoughts by Kobe and why I believe that it is helpful that we each clarify our desires and personalities in order to bend the universe in the direction of our dreams:

Mark J. Terrill | AP

"Once I made the that commitment [to be an all-time great] and said, 'I want to be one of the greatest ever', then the game became everything to me." -- Kobe Bryant

Question: Do we commit?

It is okay to have multiple interests or division of attention but do we drop things and never pick them back up again or do we follow through to their completion? When we finally make it to the position that we want, do we still continue to work on elevation and getting better? Are we satisfied with one championship, one successful year, simply making it down the aisle or becoming a parent?

Or do we push to champion multiple competitors, capitalize on the first successful year, keep the marriage fresh over and over, and ensure stability and inspiration in our children? Do we confuse commitment for simply signing up for the job? Do we want to truly test the limits of our productivity and imagination or do we just want to be okay with the bare minimum and be pissed off when it isn't enough?

One thing doesn't need to be our master but we should certainly work to master the one or two things that make us want to greet the day every day.

Robert Hanashiro | USA Today

"I'm reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward. I reflect with a purpose." -- Kobe Bryant.

Question: Are we able to convict ourselves?

Do we wait for other people to point out our shortcomings or can we face them head on, knowing they are a problem, and take action to soften the blow? Can we stand up for ourselves and determine whether what we do or who we are with is in alignment with what we say is our "purpose" or our "goal" or "who we are"?

In his short life, Kobe had much to reflect on and redefine, as most of us do. He has publicly had to take hard looks at himself when it came to his mistakes within his marriage, mistakes made on the court, aging in a physical career field, life with injury, and do forth. During all those times, though, we never saw Kobe disappear and never come back.

There are people who over-reflect. They focus their energy on things or people in the past that do nothing to benefit their present or future. What I love about the above quote is that reflection is only being done to the point that it is selective and useful. Sometimes we rob ourselves of time better spent by basing our actions or plans around people who hurt us or things that were unfair, when we should be replaying those things to figure out how to make them never happen again or to get better at seeing them coming.

We need to reflect on the things that rub us wrong and the things that we know are flaws... but also know when nothing needs to change. Part of having self-confidence and self-awareness is about knowing when not to pivot... more on that later.


"I created my own path. It was straight and narrow. I looked at it this way: you were either in my way or out of it." -- Kobe Bryant

Question: How often do we rely on other people's input to make a choice?

Speaking of pivots... distractions are everywhere! Sometimes it's a person, a job, a financial hardship, a living situation, and so forth. Challenges will always be both behind us and in front of us. We each have something different within that is a surefire way to navigate through those challenges in order to be a little bit smarter about the next one.

People often get lost because they are constantly trying to do things someone else's way instead of designing their own when it comes to their definition of success. An example: "Everybody is on social media" doesn't mean that everyone has social skills. Plus everybody isn't on social media. Most people with means are on social media.. but everybody isn't on social media.

There is still more value in personal connections, developed talents, and measurable skills. There is still more power in walking in a room and commanding it. People will always attempt to make others fit into their own sphere of "what's hot" or "what's desired" and so forth. If we are on our own path and staying focused on our own long-term plans, then we have no time or need for other people's superficial quirks.

All Kobe fans know that he faced much criticism in various ways, just like other athletes like Tom Brady or Michael Jordan, about what they felt he could do differently as a team player and role model. However, if he were doing what everyone else wanted or what everyone else preferred, he always wouldn't have been the Kobe we know. Be consistent in being the "You" and "me" that we recognize every time we are introduced to mirror glass.

Noah Graham | Getty Images

"I'd rather be perceived as a winner than a good teammate. I wish they both went hand in hand all the time but that's just not reality... I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success." -- Kobe Bryant

Question: How comfortable are we to focus more on achievement over friendship?

Here's one that I relate to in the utmost way. There are fewer things more frustrating than when you are in a team environment and members of the team are not as dedicated or interested in pulling their own weight. Even worse is when they or others attempt to pacify those people rather than offer assistance to the ones who are actually getting the job done.

Kobe has made quite a few statements about the concept of leadership while he was alive. One point he made is that many leaders are afraid to rock the boat and that's why things often don't get accomplished. There are great ways to rock the boat and poor ways to do it, but we can never be afraid to speak up on observations that need improvement and we shouldn't continue to give passes to people who don't care as much.

Sometimes we are stuck until we are in a position that we can make change... either a change in environment, a change in approach, or a change in who we are surrounded by. In those times, people don't get better by refusing to look within at the self in terms of what ticks our buttons and what makes us push ourselves in unfavorable situations. By already determining that laziness was not an option for him, the behaviors of the people on his team never diluted Kobe's own drive. He found ways to tell them how he felt and also raised his expectations of their abilities.

Part of being self aware is evaluating our capabilities and setting boundaries when it comes to other people or how we handle being pushed against the wall. If we always defer to others in order to keep the peace or out of concern about reputation, the entire team can suffer but it is absolute that we will. Self-confident people use their voices and and the fundamental belief that they matter. Be brave enough to draw lines in the sand and be ready to confront those who dare to bring us down.

Jeff Gross | Getty Images

"I realized that intimidation really didn't exist if you're in the right frame of mind". -- Kobe Bryant.

Question: Are you more afraid of failure or success?

Anxiety and fear about the future or about other people's power over us is a big thing for people around the world. It isn't an American problem or a religious problem or money problem. It's just something that every individual either learns to harness or they completely succumb to and never thrive.

I believe it was around 2012 or 2013 when I stopped giving a damn about basing what I do primarily around how I guessed someone would react. The key word there is guessed. Sometimes we think we already know the outcome because sometimes we've been right. However we've also been handed a few surprises when things that should have been innocent blew up or things we thought were going to cause a stir actually received praise.

We become intimidated by other people only if we perceive that their age, background, financial status, job title, connections, or other societal preferences. I've noticed though that many of those people only appear successful because they have a lot of help from people that know more than they do. It isn't a bad thing to have help but the point is that they often don't have any special powers or insights that should make them invoke fear or nervousness in other human beings.

People who have to work hard from the bottom often turn out to be the warmest, most inviting personalities. They understand what it is like to make sacrifices and connect with others in order to make things happen. In Kobe's story that led to the above quote, he was describing a martial arts class he took as a child in which another classmate handled him, but it wasn't as bad as he thought it was going to be.

We psych ourselves out over interviews, first dates, bill creditors, coworkers, parents, etc as if getting rejected by those people means that there is something wrong with us or that we are not "qualified" for what we want. In some cases, maybe we are not what those people prefer but I have learned that there is usually somewhere or someone with open arms if we look hard enough or decide to make our own way.

What does it take to be in the right frame of mind, though? It takes telling yourself and believing that the vast majority of people are helping us. Even if they are not giving us what we want, we are learning other ways to get it or how to prepare during the wait of it coming. We are learning when and when not to deal with people who are draining or lazy or flaky and so forth. We are learning that sometimes we appear to be intimidating to others, and then we must evaluate when to soften ourselves and when to stand firm in the choices we make.

We must always find ways to muster courage, which is something Kobe did during times of negative press, high profile losses, locker room drama, and so forth. People may never recognize that it is what we are doing but without being self-aware and confident enough to act on it, we have no influence over our own lives or our own happiness. I, for one, cannot live like that. Can you?

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