Last week, Forbes contributor Eric Jackson published a list on the 9 lessons that Jeremy Lin can teach you; number 2 on his list was “Seize the Opportunity”. Lin’s not the first, and he won’t be the last, but his meteoric rise has reminded us once again that anything is possible if you seize the opportunity.
In this article, we’ll expand on that and discuss how you can seize your opportunities. It is, after all, easier said than done.
Carpe Diem Is More Than Words
Jackson rightfully pointed out that Lin “got to start for the Knicks because they had to start him.” Indeed, with Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis and Carmelo Anthony all injured – and the Knicks playing abysmally – Lin got the call (the Knicks even considered releasing him to sign another player). What makes Linsanity truly insane is that Lin pounced on his opportunity like a cold-blooded and calculated assassin.
All Overnight Successes Are Years in the Making
While to most onlookers Lin was the “overnight success”, he was anything but. In fact, while it’s debatable whether leaders are made or born, they don’t appear overnight, so don’t get disappointed if you don’t have a breakthrough moment. Successes are rarely the result of Hail Marys, but rather, successive 10-yard gains as you march down the field, with the occasional setback (and there will be setbacks).
Build on a Strong Foundation
For what it’s worth, Lin comes from a solid family (his father taught him the sport at the Y). He was the editor of his school paper. As a high school senior, he captained Palo Alto High School to a 32–1 record, winning the state title.
In other words, don’t expect to slack off all of your life and then be handed an opportunity on a silver platter. It actually does take years of work and sacrifice.
Even When You’re Good, You May Not Be Lucky
Lin wasn’t unknown. ESPN’s Dana O’Neil reported that Lin “was the runaway choice for player of the year during high school by virtually every Californian publication,” with the “instincts of a killer” according to then-Harvard assistant coach Bill Holden. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla picked him among the 12 most versatile players in college basketball while Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun added: “I’ve seen a lot of teams come through here, and he could play for any of them. He’s got great, great composure on the court. He knows how to play.”
Take the Road Less Traveled
Despite all of the praise, at 6 feet 3 inches, Lin didn’t get any scholarship offers and attended Harvard University, which hadn’t produced an NBA player in 50 years!
Undrafted by the NBA, he signed a two-year deal in July 2010 with the Golden State Warriors, his favorite team growing up, becoming the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent in the NBA.
You Can Only Succeed If You’ve Failed
His stint with Golden State was unsuccessful, by his second year he was in the NBA’s D-League. In December 2011, Lin was cut on training camp opening day.
The Houston Rockets claimed him off waivers only to cut him on December 24th. Merry Christmas, indeed, to the Evangelical Christian whose ancestors emigrated from China to Taiwan in the 18th century (Lin himself was born in California).
The good news is that in life, you get more than one opportunity. The bad news is that you don’t get that many, so don’t think that patience is necessarily a virtue, either.
No Flash, All Substance
Part of what made Lin unsuccessful at the draft explains his success with the Knicks – his third pro team.
University of San Francisco coach Rex Walters opined that the NCAA drafting rules hurt Lin: “Most colleges start recruiting a guy in the first five minutes they see him because he runs really fast, jumps really high, does the quick, easy thing to evaluate.”
Lin didn’t disagree: “I just think in order for someone to understand my game, they have to watch me more than once, because I’m not going to do anything that’s extra flashy or freakishly athletic.”
In other words: keep it simple.
Make Your Doubters Pay At Every Level
After being outscored 38-34 by Lin and losing to the Knicks, LA Lakers‘ Kobe Bryant noted: “Players playing that well don’t usually come out of nowhere. It seems like they come out of nowhere, but if you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning. It probably just went unnoticed.”
Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob added that “Stanford’s failure to recruit Lin was really stupid. The kid was right across the street. If you can’t recognize that, you’ve got a problem.”
People are driven by fear and greed. Make the fear of them doubting or not backing you haunt them, forever.
Despite effectively filling the injured Carmelo Anthony’s role, it was he who suggested to coach Mike D’Antoni that Lin should play more. In other words, you need to be humble and understand the dynamics of loyalty.
Respect the Chain of Command
Yes, before drilling that game-winning three-pointer against the Toronto Raptors, Lin held on to the ball to kill time. It was a gutsy move; but if you look at the footage, Lin clearly turns to the coach and gets clearance. Strategically it was a sound move, tactically he nailed the shot, and yes, luck was on his side, but luck is required to succeed in life – along with vision, ambition, execution, determination and timing.
No Risk, No Reward
Ultimately, he took the risk, he prevailed. That’s how you seize the opportunity. As they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Everything happens for a reason: maybe it was a good thing that he had a chance to fail in a smaller market before hitting the prime-time in the Big Apple.
Jeremy Lin didn’t just give hope to the Knicks and the NBA, he made underdogs around the world walk taller.
Image credit to nikk_la
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