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Growing up, I loved basketball and as a Boston Celtics fan, Larry Bird was my hero.

He was a ruthless competitor who wanted to win at all costs.  He ended his career with three NBA titles and three MVP awards.  He also played in 12 All-Star games, testament to his consistency.

Whilst he was 6 foot 9 inches tall, he certainly wasn’t blessed with the same athletic abilities of many of his peers.  He knew that talent alone wasn’t going to get the job done, so he found other ways to get to the top.

What can we learn from Larry Bird?

Practice, practice, practice:  Bird’s success started in high school when he would shoot 200 free throws every day before school.  Then when he went to college he was the first one to the gym for practice and the last to leave.  This solid foundation in the fundamentals of his sport gave him a technique that he was able trust throughout his career.

I don’t know what your future holds or what your goals are, but what we can learn from Larry is to make sure that we start preparing now and begin practicing.  Whatever your aspirations are, start learning the necessary skills now, don’t just expect them to suddenly appear when you think you’ll need them.

Remember, you reap what you sow, so start improving your skill-set now.  It will pay off in the long run.

Have confidence in your abilities:  One of my favourite Larry Bird stories comes from a game against the Seattle Supersonics.  With just a few seconds left in the game, the Celtics needed to score to win and they called a time-out.  As the coach drew up a play, Larry interjected, saying, “Just give me the ball and get everyone out of the way.”  It was hard to argue with him.  As the players made their way back out to the court, Bird went straight his opponent, renowned tough guy Xavier McDaniel, and told him that he was going to get the ball and pointed to the spot where he was going to hit the winning shot from.

You know how the story ends, Larry got the ball and hit the shot just as he predicted and marched triumphantly off the court with his team-mates while his opponent just shook his head.

Confidence is a huge factor in successful people.  The formula of confidence is to like ourselves and feel good about our skill-set.  One of the benefits of practicing hard is that we gain confidence in our skills to execute them under pressure.  Job interviews, public speaking, sales pitches, crises at work, dealing with difficult customers and effectively parenting your kids are just some of the many scenarios that you need confidence for.

So feel good about who you are and what your skills are so that you can hit the winning shot when the pressure’s on.

Don’t be satisfied with winning once:  After winning his first championship, Larry celebrated for the night with his team-mates.  Early the next morning, one of his team-mates who lived nearby dropped by to continue the drinking session.  He was greeted by Larry’s wife who explained that Larry was out jogging, preparing for the next season.

Larry’s biography was called, “Drive” and this word is a great description of the inner will that he had to maximise his potential and get the most from his career.

No-one remembers the one hit wonders, we remember those who were able to create winning habits and weren’t satisfied with being number one once.  I often say that the only thing harder than getting to the top is staying there.  Once you have experienced some success, you need to re-set your goals, revitalise your hunger and maintain your work ethic.

I hope that you are able to pick up a couple of things from someone I consider to be very inspirational.

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