Hustle plays, success and attitude

I’m a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. And for the first time in many years (14, to be exact) it is FUN to be a Minnesota Timberwolves fan again. The team is loaded with young talent. They have a coach that knows how to shape that young talent. And most importantly, they signed Jimmy Butler in a huge free agent acquisition this summer.

Butler is an All-Star, and a great scorer, but he is really known for his defense. He takes it seriously, and takes pride in being excellent at it. Nowhere was that pride and dedication more apparent than in this steal against the Knicks a couple weeks back. The play in itself is not that remarkable (at least, not by Butler’s standards); it is a good hustle play to prevent a fast break. What makes it remarkable are the circumstances. The Wolves are up 12 with :40 left in a relatively insignificant game. It was garbage time. The game was over, and the win was sealed. Those two points didn’t matter. But they mattered to Jimmy. He plays defense with attitude. That attitude is starting to sink in to this young Wolves team, and it is making a world of difference on the team’s record and success this year.

So what does this attitude statement mean, and how can it be quantified to account for success? There have been all kinds of studies and reports on how the combinations attitude, knowledge and skills play into one’s success, and while the numbers and percentages aren’t always the same, the overwhelming consensus is that most of the traits/characteristics/attributes of successful people are attitudinal in nature.

Let’s do an exercise and see how it plays out:

  1. Take out a piece of paper.
  2. Spend five minutes writing down the traits you see in successful people, whether they are people you know personally or people you respect.
  3. Go through the list and label those traits as Knowledge, Skills or Attitudes (knowing that some may be more than one, or even all three).
  4. Add up the Attitudes and check the percentage— they’ll likely be in the 70-80% range.

Look at your list— talent, brains, and education are probably there, but so might be dedication, loyalty, hard-working, positive, energetic, enthusiastic, generous, optimistic, driven, trustworthy, dependable, grit. . . . the list of Attitudes goes on and on.

Attitude matters. How you approach challenges and problems matters. The way you carry yourself, the way you treat others, the effort you put in each day, matters. We all know that success takes hard work, planning, and yes, talent. What puts some people over the top, what brings them success above and beyond their peers with similar opportunities and talents, is their attitude. They approach each day, each task and responsibility, with an expectation of success. They expect good things, and those positive expectations lead to positive actions, which ultimately lead to more positive outcomes.

Jimmy Butler demonstrates it every day on the court. Pulling down a tough rebound, playing hard-nosed defense, diving to the floor for a loose ball, scrambling to win the 50/50 balls. . . . those plays come down to hustle, desire and attitude. Even in the NBA, where every player is freakishly athletic and uber-talented, this Ross Simmonds quote holds true; “Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t hustle.”


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