Number 1 – Study Success
Speaker 1: Take us behind the current with Michael. Was there ever a moment that you guys spoke that you felt like it energized you and you learned from him?
Kobe Bryant: Yeah, it was crazy man, because my favorite player was Magic growing up. And then I quickly realized my father stole all my height and I wasn’t going to be a 6’9″ point guard. So I looked at this young guy coming up. And the thing that I marveled at wasn’t the fact that he was getting to the rim and doing these fancy stuff, it was like, “How is he getting to the rim? How is he doing it?” Right? You look at the footwork. You look at the fundamentals. You look at the spacing, the pacing and all those little things, the angles, and that’s what becomes fascinating. I was like, “Okay, how do I get there?” So I started studying all those basics. And then when I came to the league, the first time I played against him, I won his respect because it was like, “This kid’s not scared of me at all.” And he saw a Kindred spirit from that standpoint and that started a relationship and it became something where it was like texting him anytime, he hits me right back, questions, hits me right back and we’re talking all the time.
Number 2 – Follow Your Passion
Kobe Bryant: Follow your passion first, first, first, first, first, first. When I retired from the game and I said they were asking all the wrong questions, “What’s the biggest industry I can get into?” And it’s all the wrong stuff. And you’ve got to sit there and ask yourself, “Okay, what am I truly passionate about? What do I enjoy doing?” And when you feel that way, honestly, I mean, you feel like you have never worked a day in your life. It’s the most fun thing in the world. You get up in the morning excited about what you’re doing and you got to be really honest with yourself about it. If you wake up in the morning and you’re dreading going to work dude, do you do something else.
Speaker 2: Right.
Kobe Bryant: Do something else. And those are hard decisions to make. But when you make those decisions, it’s a very liberating experience and you find out that the rewards will come.
Number 3 – Be a Long Term Thinker
Kobe Bryant: I had a summer where I played basketball when I was like 10 or 11 years old in a very prominent summer league of Philadelphia called the Sunny Hill League, where my father played, my uncle played and every all time greats [inaudible 00:02:07] stuff. Wilt Chamberlain played in league. Earl “The Pearl” Monroe played in the league. And here I come playing and I don’t score one point the entire summer.
Speaker 3: Really?
Kobe Bryant: Not one.
Speaker 3: How old were you?
Kobe Bryant: 10 or 11.
Speaker 3: And you’re playing against other 10, 11 year olds?
Kobe Bryant: Uh-huh (affirmative),
Speaker 3: And you didn’t score once?
Kobe Bryant: Not one.
Speaker 3: Were you in the game?
Kobe Bryant: I was in the game.
Speaker 3: How’d you not score?
Kobe Bryant: Because I was terrible.
Speaker 3: Really?
Kobe Bryant: Yeah, that happened.
Speaker 3: 10 or 11 years old, you were that terrible.
Kobe Bryant: Awful. And I had these big knee pads on.
Speaker 3: No way.
Kobe Bryant: Because I’m growing really fast. I have socks all the way up here and I had like the pod top skinny, like skinny as hell. And I scored not a free throw, not a nothing, not a lucky shot, not a breakaway layup, zero points. And I remember crying about it and being upset about it and my father just gave me a hug and said, “Listen, whether you score zero or score 60, I’m going to love you no matter what.”
Speaker 3: Wow.
Kobe Bryant: Now, that is the most important thing that you can say to a child. Because from there, I was like, “Okay, that gives me all the confidence in the world to fail. I have the security there.” But the hell with that, I’m scoring 60. Let’s go.
Speaker 3: Right.
Kobe Bryant: Right. And from there, I just went to work. I just stayed with it. I kept practicing, kept practicing, kept practicing.
Speaker 3: Is that when you think the mentality of hard work started to come in for you at that age when you failed so miserably, I guess, that summer?
Kobe Bryant: I think that’s when the idea of understanding a long term view became important, because I wasn’t going to catch these kids in a week. I wasn’t going to catch them in a year. So that’s when I sat down and said, “Okay, this is going to take some thought. Alright, what would I want to work on first? Alright. Shooting, alright, let’s knock this out. Let’s focus on this half a year, six months and do nothing but shooting.” After that, creating your own shot and then you focus on it. So I started creating a menu of things. When I came back the next summer, I was a little bit better. Right? And I came back-
Speaker 3: And then you’ve been like, “I’ve got my jump shot from 15. I’ve got my fade away. I’ve got my-
Kobe Bryant: Yeah, I got my jump shot from 15. I got my three point shot, just open shots, not miss open shots and be able to shoot it with speed because those kids are so much more athletic.
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Kobe Bryant: And then the next time I came back, I was a little better. The summer came back-
Speaker 3: You scored?
Kobe Bryant: … that summer, I was a little bit better. I scored.
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Kobe Bryant: It wasn’t much, but I scored.
Speaker 3: This is 12, 13.
Kobe Bryant: 12, 13. Then 14 came around, back half at 13, 14 years old and then I was just killing everyone. And it happened in two years and I wasn’t expecting it to happen in two years, but it did because what I had to do was work on the basics and the fundamentals while they relied on their athleticism and their natural ability. And because I stick to the fundamentals, it just caught up to them. And then my body, my knees stopped hurting. I grew into my frame.
Speaker 3: And then your athleticism, once you have the fundamentals-
Kobe Bryant: Exactly.
Speaker 3: … the hard work, the mindset, and you tack on the athleticism, it’s game over.
Kobe Bryant: And then it was game over.
Speaker 3: Wow. So from 13, you’re good or average still.
Kobe Bryant: I was good. I was good. And then about the end of my… Right when I was turning 14, I became the best player in the state.
Speaker 3: At 14?
Kobe Bryant: At 14.
Speaker 3: So from 12 to 14, you went from scoring zero to being the best in the state of all ages.
Kobe Bryant: Yep.
Number 4 – Outwork Everyone
Speaker 4: I’ve been with you for a long way. The one moment that stands out of we’ve done, I don’t know how many days we’ve done or what, 800 events, the one time was 4:00 AM. We went out to practice at 4:00 AM and that was your idea to do it.
Kobe Bryant: But I mean-
Speaker 4: And you know all these Nike people are like, “No, no, no, no. Let’s not do that.” And then you’re like, “Let’s do it at 4:00 AM.” So you got security, you got brand marketing, sports marketing going, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Let’s not do it.” You’re like, “Let’s do it.” Because that’s your obsessiveness, right?
Kobe Bryant: I mean, to me, it just makes complete sense.
Speaker 4: Not to us.
Kobe Bryant: But I don’t…
Speaker 4: Okay. All right. Usually, I’m sleeping at 4:00 AM. You’re working out. So talk about that.
Kobe Bryant: Okay. So if your job is to try to be the best basketball player you can be, right?
Speaker 4: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kobe Bryant: To do that, you have to practice. You have to train. You want to train as much as you can, as often as you can. So if you get up at 10:00 in the morning, train at 11:00 or 12:00, say 12:00, train at 12:00. Train for two hours, 12:00 to 2:00. You have to let your body recover so you eat, recover or whatever. You get back out, you train. You start training again at 6:00. Train from 6:00 to 8:00. Right, and now you go home, you shower, you eat dinner, you go to bed, you wake up and do it again, right? Those are two sessions. Right now, imagine you wake up at 3:00. You train at 4:00. You go 4:00 to 6:00, come home, breakfast, relax and so on. Now, you’re back at it again, 9:00 to 11:00, relax. And now all of a sudden you’re back at it again, 2:00 the 4:00 and now you’re back at it again, 7:00 to 9:00.
Kobe Bryant: Look how much more training I have done by simply starting at 4:00, right? So now you do that and as the years go on, the separation that you have with your competitors and your peers just grows larger and larger and larger and larger and larger. And by year five or six, it doesn’t matter what kind of work they’re do in a summer, they’re never going to catch up because you’re five years behind. So it makes sense to get up and start your day early because you can get more work in.
Speaker 4: Is that genetic or is that something you ingrained and trained yourself?
Kobe Bryant: No, it was just-
Speaker 4: Who taught you that?
Kobe Bryant: For me, it was just common sense. If I start earlier, I can train more hours and I know the other guys aren’t doing it because I know what their training schedule is. So I know if I do this consistently over time, the gaps just going to widen and widen and widen and widen and widen and they won’t be able to get that back. So to me, it was just common sense and thinking, “How can I get an advantage? Oh, start earlier. Yeah, let’s do that.”
Speaker 4: When did you start doing that?
Kobe Bryant: Man, in high school. My first class in high school, it was at 7:45. I usually get to the gym around 5:00 AM and I’d play before school and then school would start at-
Speaker 4: Who’s playing with you at 5:00 AM?
Kobe Bryant: My coach. My coach would show up and we’d do all these basketball drills.
Speaker 4: So just you and your coach?
Kobe Bryant: Just me and my coach and sometimes it would just be me and a janitor, who’s still there today. And then I play at lunchtime.
Speaker 4: That guy should get a medal.
Kobe Bryant: I hooked him up with a few things. But I played doing lunch and then practice after and then would go home, do my schoolwork, and then watch a bunch of game film and games on TV and study, study film.
Speaker 4: Was that the only thing you’ve been obsessed about, basketball?
Kobe Bryant: Well, until recently, yeah. Until recently, yeah. Basketball had dominated my entire life more than 30 years.
Speaker 4: When I brought it up like, “Is it genetic or you just learned it?” I mean, how did that idea even come up? Because that’s obviously a pillar of Mamba mentality, the obsessiveness. It is just like you said, “I’m going to get up at 4:00. Everybody’s get up at 6:00. If everybody’s going to get up at 4:00, I’m going to get up at 2:00?”
Kobe Bryant: Right.
Speaker 4: Right. How do you developed that or where do you learned that from?
Kobe Bryant: Well, I think it’s just a matter of what’s important to you. What’s important to you? For whatever reason, I felt like I didn’t feel good about myself if I wasn’t doing everything I could to be the best version of myself. If I felt like I left anything on a table, it would eat away at me. I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror. So the reason why I can retire now and be completely comfortable about it because I know that I’ve done everything I could to be the best basketball player I could be. And so that’s where it comes from for me. You can’t leave any stone unturned.
Kobe Bryant: I think the best way to prove your value is to work, is to learn, is to absorb, to be a sponge. You always want to outwork your potential. As hard as you believe you can work, you can work harder than that. And that’s what I try to do when I first came in to league. But basketball is such a direct competition sport, that me coming in at 17, I hated when my teammates would say… I get hit with an elbow. Shaq would hit me with elbow in practice and like… Nick Van Exel will come up and say, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “Motherfuck what? Am I? Are you okay? What the hell is wrong with you?” I always have that extra chip on my shoulder. So everyday in practice for me was really trying to annihilate everybody that I was playing against because I wanted to prove you don’t need to babysit me. I’m fine.
Kobe Bryant: And so it was always that competitive nature, the work ethic and curiosity because I asked a lot of questions. Playing with Byron Scott, I asked him a lot of questions. Eddie Jones, who was great at chasing guards off the screens and I didn’t understand how to do that, I would sit with him before practice, after practice. Magic, James Worthy, Kurt Rambis, Kareem Abdul, all the Laker greats, I would always sit down and just ask them questions about certain games that I studied growing up. “What actually happened there? What did you feel there? Why? Bird tough to defend, why? Because he looks slow as shit to me. Like I’m missing something so tell me what I’m missing.” You know what I mean? And so I would always ask questions and try to learn as much as I could.
Number 5 – Have a Strong Purpose
Kobe Bryant: Trivial things weren’t going to pull my attention. It weren’t going to pull my attention. It had to be things that were, “I had a purpose. I want it to be one of the best basketball players to ever play.” And anything else that was outside of that lane, I didn’t have time for.
Speaker 5: At what age did that goal become crystal clear [crosstalk 00:11:38]?
Kobe Bryant: I made that deal with myself at 13 years old.
Speaker 5: At 13 years old?
Kobe Bryant: 13 years old. It’s the deal I made.
Speaker 5: You were crystal clear about it?
Kobe Bryant: Crystal clear.
Speaker 5: And where did the inspiration come from?
Kobe Bryant: The love of the game. The love of the game, the challenge. I would watch Magic play. I’d watch Michael play. And I would see them do these unbelievable things and I’d say, “You know, can I get to that level? I don’t know, but let’s find out.”
Number 6 – Be the Best You Can Be
Speaker 6: And I was wondering if you’ve had to tone down your competitiveness and your approach in a new work environment.
Kobe Bryant: Yeah, more than a little bit.
Speaker 6: Yeah.
Kobe Bryant: No. Well, like I said, basketball is different because it’s such a direct competition and what we do now, there isn’t. The competitiveness that I bring to work every day is really helping people in a sense be competitive with themselves, right? If you’re animating something or you’re writing a screenplay or you’re composing a piece of music, is that the best you can do? Don’t ask me. Don’t say, “Do you approve?” Don’t ask me. I’m not the musician. I’m not the composer. You know. So the competitiveness is more from an individual perspective. “Is this the best you can do?” And if the answer is yes, then off we go.
Number 7 – Protect Your Dreams
Kobe Bryant: The dreams, they should be pure. I think a lot of times when we’re born into this world, we actually wound up going backwards. And it seems like the more we mature, the more responsible our dreams become, and the more governors we put on ourselves and our ability to dream and to reimagine. And it’s always a fight for us parents and for you guys to make sure that your dreams always stay pure. And so it’s not a matter of pushing beyond the limitations or expectations, it’s really a matter of protecting your dreams, protecting your imagination. That’s really the key. And when you do that, then the world just seems limitless.
Number 8 – Commit Fully
Speaker 7: I read a quote that you said you love business as much as basketball. There’s no way that’s true.
Kobe Bryant: It’s 100% true.
Speaker 7: There’s no way. I mean, basketball was your life, your passion, everything. You’re telling me you love doing business as much. If you could basically snap a finger and be 25 year old Kobe or the Kobe today, you wouldn’t go back and keep playing basketball?
Kobe Bryant: No, because I’ve already done it. See, here’s the thing. When I was playing and teammates would say, “Kobe is not out in the road. What is he doing?” They see me on a plane. “He’s reading. What is he reading? He’s writing. What is he writing?” I’m practicing. I’m writing. I’m practicing. I’m understanding how to tell stories. I’m reading Joseph Campbell and how to create arts, compelling arts and plots. I’m reading that stuff. So this is going back 15 years, right? So I don’t just retire, write Dear Basketball and luck into winning an Oscar. You know what I’m saying?
Speaker 7: Yeah.
Kobe Bryant: That stuff comes from hard work and from studying for 15 years how to write and how to organize structure, right? And you can’t do that without having a serious love or commitment to the craft.
Number 9 – Learn From Failures
Kobe Bryant: We talk about this often and we always talk about the fact that you can learn a lot more from the failures than you can from the successes. And you have to figure out where those landmines are and then how to best avoid those or help entrepreneurs and ourselves included to figure out the clues of where those landmines are. Not that you’re going to avoid all of them.
Speaker 8: Right.
Kobe Bryant: But it’s also when you do step on one, figuring out, “Okay, how do you recuperate? How do you balance back and pick yourself up?”
Number 10 – Focus on One Thing
Speaker 9: Do you think one of the edge you had over everybody else was the biggest percentage of your focus was on one thing?
Kobe Bryant: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Speaker 9: Do you see it that way, like that was my edge over everybody else?
Kobe Bryant: I do. At that time, I didn’t really understand that. And so, basketball for me was the most important thing. So everything I saw, whether it was TV shows, whether it was books I read, people I talked to, everything was done to try to learn how to become a better basketball player. Everything. Everything. And so when you have that point of view, then literally, the world becomes your library to help you to become better at your craft.