Kenneth Flakes, PE
11 Tips for Applying Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality to Your Career
"Mamba Mentality is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most." — Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant was an 18-time NBA All-Star with 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVP awards, two Olympic gold medals, and an NBA regular season MVP award. He was one of the most accomplished athletes of our generation.
Kobe’s success was built off hard work, dedication, and persistence. Later in his career, he created the mamba mentality which described his approach to basketball and business. In his book, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play”, Kobe Bryant said:
“The mindset isn’t about seeking a result — it’s more about the process of getting to that result. It’s about the journey and the approach. It’s a way of life. I do think that it’s important, in all endeavors, to have that mentality.”
Although it is easy to think that Kobe’s talent is God-given and that you can’t have similar success in your own career, that is certainly not the case. The mamba mentality applies to everyone.
Below are 11 things to take away from Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality, along with suggestions on how you can apply them in your career or profession today.
1. Maintain a commitment to hard work and excellence. Kobe had a laser-like focus on his commitment to excellence. His work ethic was unmatched by his peers and he refused to be complacent in his career. “Without studying, preparation, and practice, you’re leaving the outcome to fate. I don’t do fate,” said Kobe.
How to practice it: Remember your goals and stay focused on achieving them. Eliminate your distractions and surround yourself with colleagues who are hard workers.
2. Always stay curious: During Kobe’s playing career, he was notorious for reaching out for advice from legendary athletes such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Muhammad Ali, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Even after his NBA ended, Kobe reached out to great minds such as Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, and JK Rowling. In an interview with Bloomberg Business, Kobe said:
“I’ll just cold call people and pick their brains about stuff. Some of the questions that I ask will seem really, really simple and stupid, quite honestly, for them. But if I don’t know, I don’t know. You have to ask. I’ll just do that. I’ll just ask questions and I want to know more about how they build their business and how they run their companies and how they see the world.
We can all learn from Kobe’s curious nature. Curiosity in the workplace is proven to lead to greater innovation. Curiosity among your teammates often leads to better communication and team performance. Embracing your inner curiosity will lead to greater experiences in your career.
How to practice it: Most persons don’t have direct access to an executive at their company, but you can reach out to someone who you respect on your team and ask for their approach to problem-solving. You can also try being open to new ways of doing things. Lastly, listen to and observe others. You’ll be surprised how much you learn from actively listening and observing.
3. Be your authentic self. When Kobe was younger, he was very careful about his image and how he was perceived, but that changed as he got older.
“As I became more experienced, I realized, no matter what, people are going to like you or not like you,” says Bryant. “So be authentic and let them like you or not for who you actually are.”
It is often a challenge to be authentic in the workplace, but you will be your happiest if you are your authentic self at work. You’ll also find more enjoyment and satisfaction in your work and you’ll be less likely to be disengaged.
How to practice it: Know your inner self. Know your strengths and weaknesses and accept yourself for who you are. Don’t be afraid to articulate your ideas in your language, not someone else’s language. Speak openly and honestly.
4. Share your knowledge. A great way to encourage others to be their best is through sharing the knowledge that you have gained through your career. Kobe was great because he worked hard for greatness, but other greats often advised Kobe. Towards the end of his career, Kobe became an advisor to many younger professionals.
“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they do.” — Kobe Bryant
How to practice it: Mentor a younger colleague. Volunteer to train others. Conduct a lunch and learn at your workplace. Write and share articles about your work.
5. Pay attention to the details. Kobe paid meticulous attention to details. He would regularly notice things other athletes did not notice and then use that to his advantage. In an interview with the New York Times, Kobe said.
“When you watch me shoot my fadeaway jumper, you’ll notice my leg is always extended. I had problems making that shot in the past. It’s tough. So, one day I’m watching the Discovery Channel and see a cheetah hunting. When the cheetah runs, its tail always gives it balance, even if it’s cutting a sharp angle. And that’s when I was like: My leg could be the tail, right?”
This level of detail is what enabled Kobe to become one of the all-time basketball legends.
How to practice it: If you work with numbers, check the numbers for accuracy. If you review documents, check for consistency, especially in formatting. Prioritize quality in everything. Also, limit your multitasking. You’ll be surprised how limiting your multitasking will allow you to pay attention to the details more.
6. Every day is a competition with yourself. In Kobe’s 2016 Mamba Mentality Tour in the Philippines, he said, “To sum up what mamba mentality is, it means to be able to constantly try to be the best version of yourself. That is what the mentality is. It’s a constant quest to try to be better today than you were yesterday.”
In our professional careers, we should all strive toward daily progress. Aspiring for anything less than daily progress is cheating yourself, which is contrary to the mamba mentality.
How to practice it: Devote time to reading something new each day. Set achievable daily goals and track your progress. Keep a daily journal to track new ideas and thoughts.
7. Live your passion. During an interview with the USC Sports Science Institute, Kobe was asked when he first began to play basketball. Kobe proceeded to explain that he was born to play basketball and his film Dear Basketball expressed his passion for basketball. Kobe added:
“That’s the trick, isn’t it? It’s finding what you love to do. We talk about hard work all the time……If you have to get up every single morning to remind yourself how hard you need to work; you probably need to choose a different profession.”
Now, most people are not able to live their passion like Kobe, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work towards that dream. Living your passion could consist of you pursuing it in parallel with your day job until your passion can become your day job.
How to practice it: Identify and document what you do best. Build upon your strengths. Invest in yourself and do what makes you happy.
8. Understand empathy. Early in his career, Kobe was far from the greatest teammate. He even acknowledged this during his interview for the USC Sports Science Institute:
“As a young kid when I came into the league, it was like I’m driving this way and either you’re going to be on the train or be on the track. There was no such thing as understanding that people have lives outside of the game……If I understood that at an early age, it helps me as a leader to communicate better. I came to understand that later, getting to know people on a personal level.”
Once Kobe realized that empathy was critical to great leadership, he became a better leader and teammate.
How to practice it: Build trust with your team members. Master the art of active listening.
Acknowledge your team members’ feelings. Pay attention to nonverbal communication. Ask questions to better understand your team members’ perspectives.
9. Handle adversity with resilience. On April 12, 2013, Kobe suffered a devastating tear of his Achilles tendon. This was his first major basketball injury. According to Kobe, his Achilles injury was his personal Mount Everest. With a Hall of Fame resume by the time of his injury, Kobe could have easily retired from basketball, but instead, he embraced the challenge of a rigorous rehab. He also treated the injury as a chance to prove to his critics that he could respond to adversity. Kobe shocked the NBA community and was able to return to the basketball court within 7 months of his injury.
How to practice it: Believe in yourself and keep a positive mindset. Make peace with the situation. Embrace adversity as a chance for opportunity. Take inspiration and learn from others who have successfully responded to adversity.
10. Embrace failure. As a rookie in the 1997 Western Conference playoffs, Kobe famously attempted 4 shots during a game against the Utah Jazz that were airballs. His first airball was an attempt to win the game in regulation. His final shot was an airball at the end of overtime to tie the game. The Lakers ended up losing the game and being eliminated from the playoffs.
This experience would have broken most players, but not Kobe. After returning to Los Angeles after the game, Kobe famously went to a local high school and shot jump shots for many hours and repeated this exercise daily throughout the offseason. He also committed himself to an intense workout regimen to strengthen his arms and legs so that he could have the stamina for following through with his shots.
How to practice it: Stop dwelling on your mistakes because failure can enable growth. Reframe your failures as learning opportunities. Address the cause of your failure and create a plan to move forward.
11. Greatness requires sacrifice. Becoming great at anything requires a dedication that most people aren’t willing to make. “A lot of people say that they want to be great, but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness,” Kobe has said. “They have other concerns, whether important or not, and they spread themselves out.”
Kobe was notorious for completing early morning workouts before his kids awake and then returning to the gym after they were asleep at night. He made great sacrifices to be the best, but he was able to find a balance that worked well for him and his family.
How to practice it: Identify your priorities and stop saying yes to things or people that don’t support your goals. Evaluate your time and decide how much time you want to give to others.
I was a senior in high school during Kobe Bryant’s rookie season in the NBA. I have always been a Kobe Bryant fan and I am proud to say that he was the first athlete around my age for whom I followed his entire career from start to finish. His tragic death inspired me to revisit his mamba mentality and how I could apply it to my career. I hope that my interpretation of the mamba mentality that I’ve compiled from numerous articles about Kobe and his interviews will help you become better in your career.