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What Dirk Can Teach You About Grit, Guts, and Personal Resolve

Want to work in sports? You better be one tough cookie.

When you make the bold decision to pursue a career in sports, what you’ve really done—at least initially—is sign up for heartache and rejection. Doors will slam in your face. You will hear the word no. And at some make-or-break point, you’ll have a gut-check moment and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

If you’re struggling to break into the biz, and you’re not sure where to turn, you have two choices: (1) Get a Therapy Buddy and repeat the mantra, “Everything is going to be alright,” or (2) Nut up like Dirk Nowitzki and meet the challenges head-on, crush your competitors and win the prize.

True Grit

This past Sunday we saw Dirk and the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA Championship. We also saw Dirk win the MVP award for The Finals.

What we didn’t see is the gritty, behind-the-scenes work that went into making Dirk the champion he is today. Fortunately, we got to see the fruit of his labor: a gritty on-court performance that brought the Larry O’Brien trophy to Dallas for the first time.

Dirk’s true grit during the toughest series of his life (NBA Finals) on the biggest stage in sports (Sunday night primetime television) helped solidify his place in basketball history as one of the all-time greats.

As an aspiring sports executive, you’re in the same situation as Dirk. But instead of LeBron and D. Wade trying to swat your shot, you’re in a ‘Finals’ competition where students from USC, SMU—and a hundred other top universities—are fighting to win the same sports jobs you’re after. And instead of network TV, the biggest stage of your life is a face-to-face meeting with the person who has the power to change the course of your life.

“Take a page from Dirk’s playbook and add some grittiness to your game.”

Woody Allen famously declared, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And grit is what allows you to show up, again and again and again. Take a page from Dirk’s playbook and add some grittiness to your game.

Gut-Check Moment

Dirk’s had numerous gut-check moments with the Mavs. The first one dates back to the very beginning when the team selected him with the 9th overall pick of the NBA draft—ahead of Paul Pierce!

At the time, no one knew who Dirk was. All fans could see was a tall blonde kid from Germany with a bad haircut and broken English. Mavs fans were livid.

Imagine moving to a foreign country as a teenager, expecting to become the savior of floundering franchise, but instead fall flat on your face. Nowitzki said: “I was so frustrated I even contemplated going back to Germany.”

Dirk could have easily left after his rookie season and made a great living playing basketball in Europe. But he decided to gut it out, stay the course and become a world champion.

You may be at a point in your career where you feel like turning back and heading home where it’s safe. But I want to encourage you to meet the challenge like Dirk did. Gut it out. Keep working hard and eventually you’ll reach your goal.

Eye On The Prize

Remember when you took those test prep courses just so you could get into the college of your choice? You had your eye on the prize.

Then, after you got accepted, you spent the next four or five years blowing through thousands of dollars—and countless hours studying—for what? A college degree. Your eye was on the prize.

Now you’re on a whole new level. You’ve reached some milestones, but your degree is not the end game. Landing a job in sports, is.

Dirk didn’t settle down (or relax) after he signed a $90 million contract. It’s never been about money for Dirk. He didn’t stop trying to win the NBA Title after he was denied in 2006. He kept his eye on the prize.

For Dirk, it’s always been about winning it all. You need the same mindset. Don’t settle for just any old job. Win the job you really want. Fix both eyes squarely on the ultimate prize.

Fortunately for you, there are a ton of prizes in the $500 billion sports industry. Unlike the NBA where only one trophy is awarded each year, the sports industry awards thousands of jobs every single year.

Now, with Dirk-like determination (and personal resolve) go and get the job you want most. Carpe diem, baby!


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2 Responses to What Dirk Can Teach You About Grit, Guts, and Personal Resolve

  1. lifeofriley29 June 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Nice one, Chris. Clever and relevant comparison between Dirk’s grittiness and trying to land a job in sports. You have to have thick skin and commit yourself to your goals to really succeed in this business. Only you can stop yourself from pursuing you passion and dream job.

  2. Tanya October 4, 2014 at 8:15 am #

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