On January 26th, America was reminded that nobody is immune from the fragility of life. A routine flight, which Kobe has taken thousands of times ended in tragedy.
While I followed Kobe’s career, admired his game, recognized his talent, and participated in shouting “Kobe” whenever I threw something away, it wasn’t until the days following his passing that I learned and understood Kobe’s work ethic. For many this could be common knowledge – this “Mamba Mentality.” For me, I was unaware. The man poured himself into his craft. He worked tirelessly to be his best. In an interview focusing on Kobe’s impending retirement, he was asked how he was feeling. It was evident that Kobe was at complete peace with his decision and excited for the future. Why? Because he had given his all to the game. He worked out before practice and after practice. He recognized that greatness takes work. It takes sacrifices that most people will not make. It’s one thing to wish to be great; it’s another to work for greatness. Kobe embodied greatness.
He did not just embody greatness on the basketball court, but worked to be an incredible father and family man as well. Yes, Kobe had his faults. Some of them were very public and very painful. This should not go unnoticed. However, we can learn something even here. Failures should not hold us back from future success. We will all fail. It is human. It’s what we do next that can define us. Own your failures and learn from them. Allow them to make you better in your work and in your life. It was Michael Jordan who said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Rather than sitting in your failure, allow it to push you to success.
As I learn more and more about Kobe, I’ve been challenged to implement his “Mamba Mentality” in my life and in the workplace. So, what does that mentality look like in the workplace?
I think there’s a continuous circle of failing, learning, and succeeding. I never want to become complacent in my work. I do not want fear of failure to stop me from trying something new. I do not want to even entertain imposter syndrome. Instead, I want to challenge myself and others in my field. As a UX designer, how can I push the limits of what is currently out there and come up with inventive ways to create an intuitive, enjoyable experience? I’ve been challenged to find all the spots in my design where I’ve become comfortable. The spots where it’s the norm for what is currently designed, so I design in that same way. A good example? Cards. Cards are used everywhere in development right now. Is it the best? Maybe, but what’s my reason for choosing cards. Is it because I see other designers using them? Is it because they are readily available in almost every framework? Am I settling for convention rather than innovation?
When I leave work for the day or the week, I want to feel accomplished. I want to look back and see that I was undeterred and undistracted and put forth all of my effort into my job while I was there. This “Mamba Mentality” should not turn me into a work-a-holic. Rather, because I went above and beyond during my work day, I should feel accomplished and ready to bring that drive into my life outside of work – my relationships, hobbies, and service.
In the end, I think we should all strive to be the person that nobody in the room can fault their work ethic, determination, drive, and effort. How we go about our work should drive those around us to complete their best work both in the office and outside the office. By bringing the “Mamba Mentality” into our lives, I believe our work can flourish, we can challenge boundaries, be innovative and we can end the day being proud of our failures and our successes – knowing we gave our all, holding nothing back.