My definition of success is having a plan, successfully carrying it out over a long period of time and having a good time doing it.
That's what John Calipari does as the men's basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. Coach Cal is able to recruit the country's top high-school talent with this simple message: "Commit to each other, be about each other without sacrificing your goals and by doing this you can achieve all your dreams and more."
Because many of his players are one and done — meaning they leave for the pros after their freshman season — Coach Cal views each new team like a start-up business, as the constant flow of new players brings new relationships and new challenges. His job is to mold them into championship material when the season comes to an end in the spring.
I read Coach Cal's new book, "Success Is the Only Option: The Art of Coaching Extreme Talent," and discovered that it contains lessons for CEOs, business owners, coaches, teachers and leaders of all kinds.
First, you have to assemble the talent, as Coach Cal writes: "Talent matters. There's no way around it. But the gold standard is to get your talented team to play with desperation." He says he looks for players who have a purpose.
"I always ask my players: What's your why? Why do you want to have success? Is it just for fame and fortune, and if you attained that, who would it be for? ... What's driving them forward is a cause bigger than their own self- interest."
When I was building my envelope manufacturing company, I looked for employees who embraced TGIM — Thank God It's Monday. I wanted people who were excited to come to work. Similarly, Coach Cal writes: "When I'm recruiting, I'm looking for a kid who's alive. He's got a bounce in his step. A smile on his face. Love for his teammates." He mentions a former player who "came into the gym every day like it was Christmas morning."
Passion and persistence are at the top of the list of skills you need to excel. If you don't have an intense, burning desire for what you are doing, there's no way you'll be able to work the long, hard hours it takes to become successful.
Calipari looks for an athlete's spirit and appetite for work.
"You have to learn to love the grind," he writes. "Loving the grind and feeling fulfilled at the end of a hard day should be part of the culture that extreme talent embraces."
Another important business principle that Coach Cal touches on is trust. He writes, "For a coach, there is nothing more unsettling than having a point guard you can't trust."
To me, trust is the most important word in business. Trust is central to doing business with anyone. Without it, you have another word that begins with T: Trouble.
Coach Cal talks about "red flags," starting with disrespect. When he is recruiting, he takes note of how a player treats family members. If he shows any disrespect, Coach Cal moves on.
I've found that treating people with respect begins at the top of an organization. Senior managers set the stage by treating each other and their subordinates with respect. Be respectful or be regretful.
Finally, Coach Cal talks about creating joy. "From the moment my players arrive, we talk about the concept of how we create joy in our lives. True joy, I tell them, comes from being a giver. On the court, among their teammates, when they are off the court and out in the world, I want every one of them to be a person who lifts up others."
Mackay's Moral: Success is not just the only option; it's the best option.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.