“Humble yourself.  Or the game will humble you.” – Joakim Noah , NBA star

Joakim Noah is special to me because he was a stalwart on the Florida Gator basketball team that won national championships in 2006 and 2007.  He was a first-round draft pick and played in the NBA for 13 years.

He was known as a selfless, tireless player who did the little things to make a team great.  He rebounded, played defense, passed the ball to the open shooter.  His stats were respectable but not the best.  Inside basketball experts recognized the difference he made to a team; he is highly regarded for his impact on the team.

Noah said his college coach Billy Donovan taught him about humility.  He said that Donovan always charged his players with keeping the perspective of being humble.  I reflected on the thought process.

It takes hard work to reach the top.  It takes hard work to stay there.  

Once you win a championship.  Once you set a standard.  Once you set a record.  It’s easy to take the foot off the gas.  It’s natural to take a foot off the gas.  But the consequence of taking your foot off the gas is that your game begins to slip.  You have to put your foot back on the gas.  You have to do it every day.

Your competition is always working to overtake you.   

Humility is knowing that someone will come for your trophy someday and will take it.  Donovan was an expert at getting his teams to protect their positions.  It’s humbling to lose ground.  Donovan says you shouldn’t be surprised when it occurs.

Staying humble means staying hungry.   

When you know you can be beaten, you work harder.  When you know you can get better, you work harder.  When you taste success, you want to taste it again.

One time I heard an experienced leader say he was only looking for Ph.D.’s to be on his team.  Ph.D. didn’t mean having a doctorate degree.  For him it stood for: Poor, Hungry and Determined.