Back to Basics with Becky Hammon


I had the sincere pleasure of watching Becky Hammon speak at the Rackspace Headquarters this morning. With the new gig as the assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs and the very recent win of the Summer League, Becky has been hitting headlines left and right. It was no surprise she packed the Rackspace Events Center with standing room only as Rackers flooded in with much anticipation to see her speak in person.

What I loved about her speech, or really about her story, was how authentic it was. Sometimes I think we expect these leaders and these people that are breaking barriers to tell a flashy story. In reality, to be a leader like her, starts with a solid foundation. The Spurs organization is a prime example of having a solid foundation that you can build off of and it’s no surprise that she is now one of those building blocks.  If I had to keep it to five things, here’s what I took away.

To earn respect, you need to listen and serve first.

Becky has been on many teams throughout her lifetime. And no matter how good she is or what her experience was, when she moved to a different team, it was like starting new again. She was still the new person on the team and always had to earn the respect of her teammates. When you ask her about how you earn that respect, she said multiple times “you listen and serve your teammates.” She even said if that means grabbing t-shirts and water bottles, that’s what you did. When she played overseas, it was even more important to show your service because of the language barrier; she needed to show her teammates how much she cared for them through her acts of service.

Trust your heart to make tough decisions and don’t look back.

When Becky wasn’t asked to play for the US Olympic team, she had the option to sit at home and watch the Olympics over some BBQ, or she could go play for Russia. As a girl that grew up in South Dakota, she is as American as you can get so going to play for another country was definitely a tough decision she had to make. So how does she handle tough decisions like this one? She literally said “pray, listen to your heart and depend on your circle of family and friends that have your best interest at heart.” When she made the decision to go play for Russia, she received a lot of backlash and people even questioned her patriotism. But because she felt in her heart that she was doing the right thing, nothing else mattered. She focused on serving her team and being the best she could and ended up bringing home the Bronze.

You don’t have control over someone’s attitude but you do have control on how you respond to it.

I love this point because attitude is something that no matter how good you are at a sport or a certain skill, it’s your attitude that will take you through to success. I’ve learned this as an athlete growing up and is something that I continued to drill into the kids I coached a few years back. You can be the best player on the team from a physical standpoint but a bad attitude can oversee that potential and can be detrimental to the team. It’s no different in the business world. The reality is people will still have bad attitudes and sometimes people might just be having bad days but often times, it’s their permanent being. Becky points out that even though you can’t change someone’s attitude, you can control how you respond. It’s so easy to become the complainer about people but it’s harder to not let it affect you and the rest of the team and even harder to rise above and change the course of direction to a positive one.

Going for the quick win does not mean you will have longevity of winning.

This goes back to building a foundation. She talked about how Coach Pop starts with building a foundation first that is not to be messed with, even through loss. Often times in professional sports, when teams don’t make the playoffs, they will change management, change the team and bring in big names that will hopefully get them a ring. Becky says that they might get a quick win and if that is what they want, then they’ve won. But if they’re looking for tenure and a longevity of wins, those practices will not get them there. This really relates nicely to the corporate world. Companies are often under pressure to hit revenue and profit targets and when they are missed, people panic and change direction, strategy, people, etc. But if you have a solid foundation and a set of core values, missing a goal is just an obstacle that you have to overcome to reach long term success. If you react to that loss, you take yourself backwards instead of forwards.

You really can make a living doing what you love, it just may not be in a manner that you initially thought.

As a little girl, starting at the age of five, Becky loved basketball. She emphasized the importance of repetition and practice. She knew that she wanted to make basketball her career. Her dad always told her that she could do anything. When she asked her dad if she would be able to play basketball in the NBA, he said well, “no.” At the time the WNBA didn’t exist so it didn’t seem possible to pursue a career in the NBA. When she landed the job as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, she said she was excited to make that phone call back to her dad to say “You never said that I couldn’t coach for the NBA.”

What an honor to have heard her in story in real life and what an honor it is to have her as a leader in our city. This was truly a special and memorable moment for myself and many other Rackers. Go Spurs Go!

Don’t complain about the complainer. Try to help first.

Gossiping, complaining, ranting – call it what you want, but it’s all toxic. It doesn’t make you feel good inside and it doesn’t make others around you feel good. When you try to make a conscious effort to refrain from negative conversations, you may come to realize that it’s actually a lot harder than you think. Our closest friends, colleagues and family members that we talk with everyday might be “that” person and you might be the person that they go to with all their problems. And sometimes you might be the complainer. How do you stop the madness? I think the challenge we are all faced with is finding the strength to address the negativity. So how do we do it?

First, I think we have to understand where the person is coming from. I thought back to some negative conversations I’ve recently been in and tried to think of what was the underlying core reason why this person was so upset that they had an urge to complain about it to someone. If we understood this, we can better prepare ourselves to address it.

Not Happy

When we’re not happy with ourselves, we tend to complain about others. You should know what I’m talking about because we’ve all probably done it at some point in our lives.  I was in a recent conversation where a friend of mine was badgering another person on their choices in life. “I can’t believe they did this,” or “I think that was such a poor choice and I am so disappointed,” and in reality, the decisions made by the person they were complaining about had zero effect on my friend. So why complain about it? Who cares? I started thinking about my friend that was doing the complaining and recall that they’ve been unhappy lately with a variety of events going on in their life. I think when this happens, we feel like we want others to be unhappy too. It’s hard to see others happy when you’re unhappy. (And being heavily involved in the social web doesn’t help much either)

The best thing to do is ask this person how they are doing. Remember specific goals or aspirations they have and ask them about it. They might list reasons on why they haven’t been able to accomplish some things and that’s when you dissect those reasons and help them overcome them.

Lack of Purpose

I was in a meeting with someone (that inspired me to write this post) where they were flustered by the fact that others were not picking up their slack. You could tell it really bothered this person. They asked, “How does this not bother you?” It took me a minute to answer but when I answered, I realized the reason why this person was complaining.

Slackers bother us because we’re not receiving personal fulfillment with the work we’re doing. Think about it for a second. If you went about your day, doing what you’re passionate about, making a difference and having fun – why would you care if someone else were not doing their work? The reason it bothers you is because you don’t find value in the work you’re doing. You feel like if you’re putting time in, someone else better be putting in the same amount of time and energy. For whatever reason, you feel obligated to work on something that you don’t want to work on and you want others to feel the same pain you feel.

So next time someone complains to you about a slacker, ask them this, why do you do what you do? Redirect their attention to self-reflection. If this person can find true fulfillment with what they are doing everyday, they might forget about what others are doing (or not doing). And if they aren’t, then maybe this will start motivating them to get going on something they actually want to do. This is only better for the world out there (can you imagine the level of productivity?)

Making Assumptions

I’ll use myself for this example (not gonna lie – I’ve done my share of complaining) I’ve been in a situation being around someone that really bothered me. I think what bothered me the most about this person is that I felt like every conversation was a competition. They wanted to have the last word and they always wanted to be right (sound familiar?). It was exhausting. For me, since I am not confrontational, I held back my words but just because I did, didn’t mean I held back my thoughts. Thoughts that would carry with me all day long and all night long. My brain was so fixated on all the things ‘I could have said.’ What a waste of time and energy to be thinking about it so much. I took this person’s comments so personally. What I’ve come to realize is that this person was this way with everyone, it was who they were. Over the years I have been able to overcome this negativity by either addressing my thoughts in words in conversations with this person or just taking their words ‘with a grain of salt.’ It really takes mental exercise to remove yourself from the tiny details and view this person from a place much higher than where you’re at. I got here because my husband would always say, ‘ I think you’re thinking too much into it.’ And I totally was.

So next time you hear someone complain about the same person over and over, ask them if they are like that with everyone. Have them monitor how this person is with others and if it’s the same interaction then they’ll know it’s not personal and hopefully will start helping them overcome being so bothered.

These are just a few reasons why I think people complain and ways to redirect the conversation. Of course, some people are just naturally complainers and there’s nothing we can do about it but just avoid it. I know it’s hard when it’s someone close to you but if you’re not receiving positive fulfillment of being in that relationship, why be in it? Aren’t relationships meant to help you be a better person?

One Loss is Not the End of your Journey

I saw this interview of Lolo Jones on the Today Show yesterday morning and was so inspired by her story. We all know Lolo Jones as the track star and if you didn’t watch the Summer Olympic Games of 2012, you missed out on a heart trenching event when Lolo missed a medal, placing 4th in the 100 meter hurdles (her second straight Olympics missing a medal). And a few days prior to her event, a NY Times journalist  pretty much badgered her reputation as an athlete. I didn’t know about this article until this recent interview. She admits that after placing 4th and not receiving a medal, she went into a state of depression. And the article was a blow to her confidence (which she did respond to).

Fast forward 2 years and she is competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics with the bob sled team. She and her teammate Lauryn Williams will be the 9th and 10th athletes to have competed in both Winter and Summer Olympic Games. In her interview with the Today Show, she quotes,

“I know you can’t change the past, but knowing I hit a hurdle, got fourth place, I wouldn’t change it for the fact that I know that it led me here. It led me to meet a great group of female athletes, and we are truly united and bonded and ready to go to Sochi and dominate.”

See the video below.

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Biggest Takeaway

We all have expectations of ourselves and everyone will always have expectations of us. We will fail. How we deal with failure defines who we are; it’s what builds our character. And win or lose, people will continue to criticize us and try to get us down. This is what makes us stronger. Lolo is an inspiration. She represents a true competitor.

Wise Words from Ashton Kutcher

A friend recently tweeted out a video to Ashton Kutcher’s speech at the  Teen Choice Awards 2013. He was awarded the Ultimate Teen Choice Award and as part of his acceptance speech, he gave 3 life lessons to teens out there (yes, I watched the whole video because it was that good).

I was nodding my head in agreement when I heard his 3 life lessons. Here they are:

Opportunity is hard work.

“I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job.”

And he didn’t always have glamorous jobs. He started doing carpentry work with his dad at 13, then on to washing dishes at a restaurant and then on to sweeping floors at a factory, etc. His point is that the job was never bigger than him and he saw each job as an opportunity for the next one.

Sexy is being smart, generous and thoughtful.

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart and being thoughtful and being generous;  Everything else is crap, I promise you.”

Yes! This has always been a problem for young females. We are obsessed with who is on the cover of magazines and believe that to be wanted and loved, we have to look that way. If we want to continue to feel empty, then that is fine. But to feel wholesome and confident, we have to be smart, period.

Build a life, don’t live one.

“Everything around us that we call life was made by people that are no smarter than you are. You can build your own life that other people can live in.”

I think this lesson came from the inspiration of working on the new Steve Jobs movie that he will be starring in. Imagination is a wonderful gift that slowly gets smaller and smaller as we grow older because we try to conform to the world around us. I feel that it is my job as a parent to not let that happen to my kids.

Ashton is spot on. It’s easy for our youth to get obsessed with reality TV, leaving them to believe that we are entitled to glamorous lives without working hard.  That isn’t reality and someone with a high profile like Ashton needs to tell them so. Kids need to understand that they have to work to get what they want.

Thanks (Chris) Ashton Kutcher.