You + Motivation = Success

December 3, 2009 at 7:56 pm 2 comments

Listening to a recording of a speech Jimmy Valvano gave in 1987, I was reminded of how much I liked that guy.  “Jimmy V”, as he was affectionately known was the head coach of the 1983 North Carolina State basketball team that won the NCAA Tournament and National Championship.  Quite a feat for a team that had to compete all season in the ACC against teams like Duke, Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia, Maryland, Clemson, etc…and then head into a tournament with the nation’s best.  Most people attribute his success to his unique ability to inspire the people around him.  In 1993, after a brief battle with cancer Coach V’s life was sadly cut short when taken by cancer at the young age of 47.  But he left in his wake thousands who were touched, motivated, and improved because of his example and electric influence.   It would be well for all who wear the “coach’s” hat in business, in sports, or just in “life” to learn from one of college basketball’s greatest.

What most of us remember Jimmy by was his incredible passion, energy, and enthusiasm for everything he touched.  “Don’t give up…don’t ever give up”.  You couldn’t be near him or hear him without feeling like jumping up and doing something great!  He was just that kind of guy.  On the walls of his locker room, he had one, and only one saying: “You + Motivation = Success”.  That’s all…no other quips, quotes, or maxims…because he really believed that it was that simple.

In his speech he shared an experience he had while attending a youth basketball camp at age 16.  Bob Richards (Olympic Gold Medal – pole vault – 1956) gave the opening remarks.  He looked around at the group and said, “God must’ve really loved ordinary people, because He made so many of us”.  Not real encouraging to a 16-year-old…but then he said words that would change Jimmy’s life.  He said “Every single day, in every walk of life, ordinary people do extraordinary things”.  “Wow”, Jimmy thought, “sign me up…I’m an ordinary guy and I want to do extraordinary things!”  And he did!

True to his motto, he built his life successes on the principle of “motivation”.  Along the way people would ask, “how do you motivate an 18 year old” or “how do you motivate a whole team?”  His answer… “I can’t…the best I can do every day is to get James Anthony Thomas Valvano up…that’s a full-time job…but hopefully if I’m motivated it begins to rub off on others”.  Coach V. recognized one of the great secrets of leadership…that one person cannot motivate another – that motivation really has to come from within.  We can inspire and influence – but not motivate others.

Jimmy V. gives three keys to motivation.  They are Enthusiasm, Having a Dream, and Work.

Enthusiasm – Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm”.  In order to be enthusiastic you really have to love what you do, and you have to love it EVERY DAY.  Often the longer people do something, the less enthusiastic they become.  You’ve seen new people come into a job energetic and ready to go, and then once they’ve mastered the basics, out goes the light.  Staying enthusiastic requires challenge and growth.  Be certain to provide yourself and your employees with new vistas, learning, and opportunities to grow as often as possible.  As you do you’ll find that challenge breeds enthusiasm.

Have a Dream – To have a real shot at success you have to have a dream, a vision, and a picture of what it (success) looks like.  Under Coach Valvano, each season one special practice at NC State involved no balls and no drills –  just a pair of golden scissors and a net.  The entire team would practice cutting down the net, with Jimmy V cutting the last loop.  They’d even film it and then watch the film in the locker room.  They’d also watch the film of the 1983 team cutting down the net after the championship game.  They’d look at their dream and reality side-by-side, helping to keep a clear vision of success throughout the season.  Can you see your completed goals?  Are your sales goals (yearly, monthly, weekly) right in front of you and your branch?  Out of sight, out of mind, out of mind, won’t find the time!

Work – Coach Valvano said he learned an interesting and simple lesson about work.  He said “Hard work does not guarantee success, BUT successful people work hard.  If you don’t work hard you won’t be successful.  In other words, you don’t necessarily have to work harder than everybody else…just as hard as everybody else.  Hard work combined with working smarter is the key.

Coach V concluded by imploring the audience to add a good measure of “laughter” to all they do, and finally to give the greatest gift we can give to others, and that is to believe in them.  He received that gift from his father, and resolved several years ago to give it to others freely.  Every human being has unique gifts and dreams that if cultivated can lead to success.  We help each other by believing in one another.  When Jimmy first started coaching at Johns Hopkins, he told his father, Rocko Valvano, I’m going to win the national championship.  Rocko didn’t say “that’ll be hard”, or “don’t set your sights too high”, he said, “I’ll be there [when you do]”.  The next time they spoke, and every time they spoke he’d say, “my bags are packed”.  It took eight years before he even made the tournament while at Iona, and then another seven before he and his father embraced on the court in Denver Colorado, after winning the Title.  All the while Rocko would say “my bags are packed…you’re gonna do it!”  Jimmy attributes much of his success to his father’s belief in him, his goals, and his dreams.  There is great power in expressing belief and confidence in others and in telling them “you can do it”, or “you’re going to make it”.  On the other hand, by being critical and faultfinding we produce just the opposite effect – killing spirit and alienating others.  Great coaches point to strengths and accomplishments, and try to bring out the “win” rather than highlight the “lose” in their team.

Remember, the formula is simple: You + Motivation = Success, with YOU providing the motivation.

Be enthusiastic about what you do, or go find something to be enthusiastic about.  Others will feed of your enthusiasm.  Have a dream – a vision of what you want to achieve.  Share that dream with others and they will support you as you support them. Work hard (and smart) to achieve your goals. Laugh…a lot.  Believe in yourself, believe in those that work with you and for you, and believe in those you work for.   Success will follow!

Lead on………..    Cliff


Entry filed under: coach, leadership, management, motivation, Perserverance. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Don’t Forget the Free Throws “You Can’t Fool the Chickens”

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Avi Heinisch  |  December 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Coach Jimmy Valvano was a great person. First time I heard about him was in 88 while listening to a tape from his “my bags are packed” speech held at “Million dollar round table”. I had to return the tape to a family member that attended the MDRT in 87.
    If anybdy can help me get this tape or CD I will be his friend forever.
    Remembering his words that “Lord likes ordinary people s he made so many of them”, the Lord liked very much Coach Jimmy Valvano, so he took him to be close to himself.

  • 2. Garagegymplanner  |  December 14, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Wonderful tips on motivation, thanks!


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