Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Jeremy Lin can teach us about college success

Hi everyone! It is Thursday and time for this week’s Three for Thursday – and Linsanity has even infiltrated my college success blog.

If you don’t know what Linsanity is, you probably aren’t into sports. That is totally fine – I just got fully into basketball this year. But, so that you can better understand the ideas I am sharing with you, I will catch you up on his story really quickly:

The rise of Jeremy Lin, a professional basketball player currently playing in the NBA, is one of the most captivating success stories that I have seen in media. To witness someone going from being a relative unknown to the absolute apex of popularity in his or her field (within the time frame of a week) is pretty amazing. We're used to this when it comes to the YouTube viral videos of the world, but you don't just become good at sports overnight. You can, however, become popular with the national media and the general masses. But why? 

What has made this story explode, and what allows me (by no means a sports journalist) to have any sort of license to offer advice based upon it, is the back-story of Lin's journey. The characteristics and circumstances of his rise to the top are pretty unique:
  • He graduated from Harvard University (not traditionally a school from where NBA players develop).
  • He is the first Taiwanese-American to play in the NBA.
  • He was not selected in the NBA Draft.
  • He was cut by two teams that had previously signed him.
  • He spent time in what essentially be the Junior Varsity of the NBA (called the NBDL or d-league).
  • He was almost cut by the New York Knicks before getting an opportunity to start for the team.
  • He has led his team to six straight victories (some without their two best players) and is the focal point of pretty much every sports outlet right now. 
These are the things that I find most fascinating about sports: the stories, the unexpected, the hard work, the dedication, the teamwork, the people. Because I think there is a lot to learn. And I think any student striving for success can learn something from this story - some might say "three" things ;)

1. Opportunity requires patience and readiness --  This particular story is great because of the unexpected nature of the phenomenon.  There wasn’t a lead-up moment where sports pundits said, “Alright, now it is time for Jeremy Lin to be a superstar.”  And honestly, I would bet, judging from interviews like this one on ESPN, that Lin himself didn’t expect the opportunity to arise when it did.  

But the opportunity did. And it only did because of that perseverance – the kind of perseverance that reminds us that we can’t always write our own timelines – but that patience can be rewarded if we continue to push forward. 

A reminder - this guy earned an economics degree from Harvard – it isn’t like he couldn’t have abandoned the NBA dream and moved into a career elsewhere.  

But he possessed an intense readiness – and when the opportunity presented itself, he applied those skills he had developed. Imagine if he hadn’t been prepared. If he hadn't, I imagine that none of us non-hard-core sports fans would even know his name.

But we do – because of his patience and preparedness.

Are you focused on your dreams and prepared for when opportunity presents itself? Do you ever feel like giving up because it seems like things are going nowhere? Success only comes to those who push through the times when it feels like nothing is happening. It's called patience, and it's hard work. 

2. Confidence can amplify hard work – Being confident in yourself is important. But what is really amazing is what can happen when others believe in you. 

One of the things that is amazing about Jeremy Lin’s story is that momentum continues to build and build.

And as that momentum builds, Lin’s success seems to develop some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. 

People believe that he is going to save his team from mediocrity – and he is drawing upon that belief to do so. 

Always be on the lookout for your cheering squad, and don't be afraid to seek them out (e.g. mentors). Surround yourself with those who believe in you and draw upon that belief that motivate you to work hard. 

3. Genuine character is magnetic in any field – I watched highlights of a game the other night in which Lin hit a shot in the last second to beat the Toronto Raptors.  And the crowd went insane.

What’s so special about that?

The game was in Toronto.

I doubt that Lin was cheered the entire game – in fact – I am sure that he was booed or jeered just like any other star player in another town. 

But, at the end of the game, it seemed the crowd had no choice but to cheer. 

And it wasn’t just because the guy is playing his sport well.  It certainly wasn’t the first time someone has beaten a team in the last second. 

But there is an authentic humility with Lin; there is an authentic positive, encouraging, and self-aware character. And there is a teammate. In every interview I have seen with Jeremy Lin, he has used collective verbiage whenever referring to success: our, we, this team, our coach tells us…

And that leadership resounds.  It is infectious.  And it can teach us another lesson:

Let people recognize your efforts for you; you don’t have to place yourself on a pedestal in order to relish in your successes. 

Instead, by showing humility, you will find that there are others (not everyone at every time) who will want to help carry you even higher. 

And those are the supporters who will be with you throughout your journey, win or lose. 

If this advice interested you, remember to mark your calendars for March 15th, 2012, when my bookCommunity College Success, will be published by Norlights Press and will be available on  It was inspired by a couple of other people who came to New York to make a life for themselves - my grandparents who moved to NYC from Puerto Rico :) 

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