By Christopher Lochhead
When you ask the average professional athlete what got them to where they are, most will credit hard work, determination and discipline. Three-time NBA champion Andre Iguodala’s answer? Life design.
The 2012 NBA All-Star and current Golden State Warriors swingman says that, with the right life design, “you’ll learn what it takes to be an NBA world champion. Your own ideas of dedication, sacrifice, commitment, and performance will be expanded.”
Don’t forget to have some fun and laugh a little along the way though, he adds.
I was stoked to have Iguodala on my podcast to talk about life design—how you can build the life you want through forethought and willpower. The goal here is to leave you with valuable actionable advice that will immediately help you design a life built for success, whether that looks like a big, shiny NBA Championship ring on your finger or a corner desk with a view in your company’s C-suite.
Build that culture.
Sure, the Golden State Warriors roster is chock full of talent highlighted by big names like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. But it’s the culture they’ve built to support their superstars that makes Golden State a true dynasty, says Andre Iguodala.
Simply put, talent alone isn’t enough.
Mark Jackson, the head coach of the Warriors for three seasons between 2011 and 2014, understood that. As a former player himself, he understood the ups and downs of playing in the NBA. Jackson wanted his players to play the game how they wanted to play it, to enjoy the ride. While his three seasons fell short of expectations, Iguodola credits Jackson for laying the foundation for what became a dominant team in the coming years.
When building a strong team culture, the best coaches and managers consider the personalities behind the players. They really get to know each name on the roster and envision how they will function both on the court and in the locker room.
Of course, two elite players who aren’t on the same page don’t have that chemistry. They will only bring each other and your culture down. This is true for both sports teams and in the workplace.
Picture a team of rowers in perfect synchronized unison. When your team culture is healthy, that’s how your organization will function—efficiently, seamlessly. But when something throws off that synchronization and disrupts healthy team culture, it doesn’t matter how much talent is on that boat or out on the court. Across all sports teams and companies, big egos and disputes over dollars can throw an entire organization out of sync.
For leaders of a team of any sort—whether it be the Golden State Warriors or a financial firm—building culture is mostly about getting everybody on the same page. You’ve got to create a support system that will help each individual become their best selves, achieve peak performance. It’s about taking a good, hard look at each piece of your organization and making sure the right ones are in the right places.
The three-point shot.
For every time Steph Curry sinks a three-pointer that draws a collective gasp from the crowd because it was so darn beautiful, hours of gritty, unsexy hard work behind the scenes made it happen.
Fans see Curry or Kevin Durant draining threes all day and call it talent. But it’s about so much more than that. It’s about the little things those guys do day in and day out to keep their minds and bodies right so they can perform that way. The guys who stay on top are able to because they put in the hard work behind closed doors—every damn day.
When someone tells Iguodala that they wish they could trade places with him, he says, “You wouldn’t stand a chance. You see me on TV for five minutes. The other 23 hours and 55 minutes, I’m working my tail off. This is not a game. It’s not a joke.”
How do you think about failure?
For Andre Iguodala, failure is a learning experience. Something that he truly believes he was meant to go through.
His sophomore year of college at The University of Arizona, Iguodala was in a dark place. Suffering from sleep deprivation, he wasn’t playing up to his own or his coach’s expectations. His confidence wavered. A career in the NBA seemed like a long shot. In terms of confidence, Iguodala considers himself “a late bloomer.”
Even when the Philadelphia 76ers called his name ninth overall at the 2004 NBA draft, 20-year-old Andre Iguodala wasn’t sure he was actually an NBA-calibre basketball player. But he used that self-doubt as the drive to get a little better each and every day.
What does it feel like to win a championship?
Up by a handful of points with two minutes to play in the 2015 NBA Championships, Andre Iguodala distinctly remembers Cleveland Cavaliers forward J.R. Smith—unstoppably sinking constant threes—striking fear in his bench. Of course, Golden State weathered the assault and ultimately came out on top. But even still, it didn’t feel real at first for Iguodala.
When the final buzzer of the 2015 season sounded, time froze. Iguodala didn’t know what was about to happen. He didn’t know what to do next. So he just embraced the moment.
As for what he’s taken away from having now won three NBA championships, Iguodala says that these are the lessons that stick out when he reflects back on his paths to glory:
- There are so many variables out of our control—don’t worry about them. All you can really do is train and prepare to be the best version of yourself.
- After you win your second (and third) championship, you get a little jaded.
- Understand that your opponent is on high 82 times a year and will play amazing because they are playing you—so have a little fun while staying in the moment.
- Reflecting back on all the struggles—“Man, remember we got over that hurdle? Remember this guy got hurt?”—and considering the culmination of your efforts will greatly broaden your perspective.
- The journey is the reward.
Designing the future.
Iguodala, 35, is already preparing for life after the NBA.
He looks forward to taking his talents to the business world—more specifically, investing in the exciting nearby world of Silicon Valley tech startups. Ever since he was a little kid, Andre Iguodala has been fascinated by math and numbers. Couple that with an intense natural curiosity and eagerness to learn, he is poised to become a successful venture capitalist.
There’s a classic quote—credited to both Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie—that goes, “Put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” This is a great way to think about taking advantage of the opportunities you have.
To that end, Iguodala says, “The window of opportunity—that window is very short. So, you just try to maximize that window with the understanding that you’re going to be alive until you’re 85 or 90 years old, and it’s not just about you. It’s about leaving a legacy behind for the next generation.”
Note: This post first appeared on Medium.