Adrian Wojnarowski has an amazing article over at Yahoo! Sports about Kobe Bryant’s drive. You should definitely read the whole thing, but the opening does a great job of setting the tone, talking about how Michael Jackson reached out to Kobe as a rookie and ended up mentoring him over several long visits to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch:
“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports.
Bryant isn’t much for nostalgia and sentimentality, but it hung in the air as he cut into his steak over dinner recently in the fourth-floor restaurant at the Graves Hotel. Jackson is gone, but Bryant is going on 15 years with the Lakers.
“We would always talk about how he prepared to make his music, how he prepared for concerts,” Bryant said. “He would teach me what he did: How to make a ‘Thriller’ album, a ‘Bad’ album, all the details that went into it. It was all the validation that I needed – to know that I had to focus on my craft and never waver. Because what he did – and how he did it – was psychotic. He helped me get to a level where I was able to win three titles playing with Shaq because of my preparation, my study. And it’s only all grown.
“That’s the mentality that I have – it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from [Michael] Jordan. It’s not from other athletes.
“It’s from Michael Jackson.”
I think people underestimate how important this personality trait is to reaching the mountaintop. It’s not just about “passion,” or about “determination,” or about “desire.” You have to have a single-minded, obsessive compulsive insanity to you. It’s not about striving for wins, or for records, or for fame, or for money. It’s about perfection. It’s about swinging for the heavens. It’s about immortality – achieving what can never be achieved again, surpassing what people believe is possible to such an extent that you shift the paradigm, that you change the conversation forever.
The single greatest threat to a person with this mentality is satisfaction. If you’re ever – ever – satisfied, then you’ve lost all hope. You have, for all intents and purposes, retreated towards mediocrity. And any chance you had at immortality has vanished.
The downside, of course, is balance. You won’t have any. But that’s the price you pay. And, ultimately, what you accomplish is rarely for your own benefit. You might have fleeting moments of happiness, but only until you realize that there’s more you can do. And you return, to continue working, to continue improving. Because there is no end. Perfection is something you’ll never achieve. But that’s not the point. The point is that you’re getting closer to it than anyone has ever gotten before.
If there’s one thing I can’t stand in artists, it’s satisfaction.
Don’t be satisfied. Be psychotic.