I have to admit it. I am still reeling from the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss. But there is a sports story rising up very quickly from the same city that spawned the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, fortunately distracting me from that fateful game. If you haven’t heard, Jeremy Lin is a 23 year basketball phenom for the New York Knicks who recently rose to prominence after living a brief NBA life in obscurity. Lin is unusual stock for the NBA as he is one of the league’s very few Chinese-Americans players and a rare NBA-playing graduate of an Ivy League School. This 6 foot 3 Harvard grad has been sleeping on his brother’s couch in the Big Apple but his digs are bound to be improving soon as he has now set a record for the most points scored by an NBA player in his first five starts.
What I find encouraging is how many lessons can be gleaned from the rise of Mr. Lin:
1. Persistence often pays off.
While there are no guarantees that hard work will always result in great success, a lack of effort ensures a lack of success. There are numerous examples in history of great stars who succeeded after failure…Lincoln’s ascension to the Presidency after so many losses, Einstein’s many debacles before his theory of relativity, even the enigmatic Richard Nixon who lost the California gubernatorial race before being elected to two terms as President.
We may never know how the world could have changed if particular men and women remained steadfast to their dreams and fought through failure. Lin could have easily given up after being cut by two NBA teams.
2. Know your strengths and be ready for the opportunity to implement them.
Success often occurs when there is a good match between our personal skills and our opportunities. In my field, educators have to find the right community match in order to find success. Jeremy Lin fell into a perfect situation with the Knicks. He was needed because of numerous injuries and he was ready to step right in. Good fortune is often a match between opportunity and preparation.
3. Be flexible
While setting goals and vision is imperative for success, successful people must be ready to take on different roles if necessary. Lin began his unbelievable entry with the Knicks as a scorer, shooting three pointers, making jump shots, and driving to the basket. As players come back from injuries and the rest of the NBA learns about Lin a bit, he is having to retreat to more of a traditional point guard, distributing the ball to others. His stats will shift from points to assists but in the long run, this will help his basketball team to win. I don’t think statistics are important to him whatsoever.
4. Be humble.
Lin is on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, he is the darling of social media, television, and radio, and he is about to move from his brother’s apartment to earning the NBA league minimum of around $700,000 a year. It’s important that one’s personal values remain constant no matter the consequences swirling through our lives, positive or negative. Jeremy knows who he is and understands that fame and fortune is potentially fleeting.
Years ago basketball great Charles Barkley proclaimed that he should never be a role model and that mothers and fathers should take on that role. Obviously that would be ideal, but with the power of the media, I am happy when our celebrities espouse positive values. We could use more role models like Jeremy Lin.