A Focused Life Series 2021: The Mamba Mentality

I am sure you remember where you were the moment you heard the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s death one year ago today. 

My team and I were getting ready to head to the platform when one of the team members looked at his phone and blurted out, “Kobe Bryant has died!” None of us believed him, until we were able to check our phones later that morning. CNN’s website posted in all capital letters in large, bold print: KOBE BRYANT IS DEAD

It took hours for the news to set in. The world was shocked, in a state of disbelief. 

As the news continued to drip that day, the reality became worse. In total, nine people perished in a horrific helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe and his beautiful daughter, Gianna. 

To say we were collectively overcome with grief is an understatement. It was one of those moments when the world seemed to stop dead on its revolution. A friend of mine who lives in Los Angeles said that day felt like September 11th (in reference to the tragic events on September 11, 2001) all over again. The City of Angels fell to her knees in grief and the world followed. 

Of course, Kobe Bryant is not the first global celebrity to pass away tragically and all-too-soon. However, there was something about him that just seemed other worldly. He defied expectations. He had overcome setbacks, personal and professional. His career was filled with successes. 

You’ve read his list of accomplishments: 

As a nation, we witnessed the evolution of a man we came to respect, love and adore. He entered the rarified realm of basketball greats like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Kobe became an integral part of the fabric of the American way of life…an institution many young men and women could look to for leadership, strength and the example of athletic excellence. Even though his career was over, we wanted his presence with us for many years. 

We watched him become a model father, businessman and citizen in his post-NBA years. In partnership with Jeff Stibel, he founded Bryant Stibel, an investment firm worth $1 billion dedicated to investing in new and progressive products and brands. Most importantly, he created the Mamba Academy, a 100,000 sq-foot facility in Thousands Oaks, CA to train up and coming young athletes. He spent his time coaching his oldest daughter, Gianna, on her quest to become a dominant ball player. 

He was living his best life. 

A life cut short on Sunday, January 26, 2020. 

Yet, the life and memory of Kobe Bryant will live on for many years to come. He lived a life that surpassed the years he was allowed on planet Earth. His level of personal greatness transcends time and space. 

The question is, “What set Kobe apart from mere mortals?” 

The answer, as we now know, was the Mamba Mentality. 

Which leads to the next question: “What is the Mamba mentality?” 

The best answer can be found in the words of Kevin Durant, power forward for the Brooklyn Nets:

“I never wanted to be like Kobe, but I always wanted to have that laser focus, that nothing was getting in the way of what I wanted to do out on the floor. And that’s what I think the Mamba Mentality is for him. It was just like, whatever I want to do, I’m gonna put my mind to it and do it. We all — no matter if you played basketball or not, if you watched and knew who Kobe Bryant was, you took that from him. His mindset, just everything about him, just touched so many people around the world.”

The Mamba Mentality is about mindset. A laser-focused mindset of pursuing whatever you are pursuing with absolute focus and discipline, letting nothing stand in your way. 

To take it a step further, CBS Sports writer, James Herbert writes the following: 

“The Mamba Mentality is about obsession. It is about prioritizing your professional goals over having a normal, balanced life. It is about playing without fear, mastering your craft and wanting not only to win, but to dominate.” 

This is the Mamba Mentality. 

Obsession. Goals over a balanced life. No fear. Mastering your craft. The desire and will to dominate your field. 

While this mentality is not for everyone, in my study of high-performing individuals, the Mamba Mentality is the one constant in the highest performers in any field. These individuals may not call it the “Mamba Mentality” but the characteristics exist. 

Unrelenting focus in one direction allowing nothing – absolutely nothing – to stand in the way. 

Here are the 17 Traits of the Mamba Mentality as taken from the book Mamba Mentality written by Kobe Bryant (I highly recommend this book for any athlete from any sport): 

  1. No fear. 
  2. Tireless work ethic. 
  3. Insane workout regime. This probably applies most to athletes, but for the business leader the correlation is to know the fundamentals of your “sport” and spend an insane amount of time working on the fundamentals, whatever they may be. 
  4. Desire to be the best, to dominate your field. 
  5. Start early. Start earlier than everyone else. (Kobe got in 3 workouts per day just by starting at his first workout at 5am.) 
  6. The details matter. Excellence is found in the details. 
  7. Train the mind AND the body (or the body AND the mind). They work together. 
  8. Total obsession means everyone around you will sacrifice for you and your dreams. Those you love and care about must know where your focus and obsession lie and be willing to accept, embrace it and empower it. 
  9. Ask a ton of questions. Learn from everyone. 
  10. Stop thinking. Just do it. 
  11. Take naps… then get back at it. 
  12. Breakdown is just as important as set-up. Most people focus on warming up for the game; the greats give as much time and attention to the necessary cool down and recovery. 
  13. Your routines may change, your obsession never does. (Translation: The strategy may change but the vision remains the same.) 
  14. Gather a team of high-performing All-Stars around you. You are the sum of the people you surround yourselves with. 
  15. Who your mentors are says a great deal about your future. Kobe looked up to the greatest players in the arena of sports: Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Byron Scott and Phil Jackson. 
  16. Play through the pain. Never let external circumstances influence your inner drive. If you’ve done all you can do to alleviate the pain, get back in the game and play. 
  17. Be real. Be authentic. There will always be people who do not like you. Just be you. 

Years ago, I heard a gentleman talking about Navy SEAL training. He shared that the training, while physically grueling and exhausting, could really be accomplished by anyone. For a day or two. What separates the Navy SEALS from everyone else is their willingness to train at that level for days and weeks and months on end. 

The same can be said of the Mamba Mentality. Everyone can have the Mamba Mentality – and subsequent actions – for a day or two. It is the sustained obsession and focus that separates the “Mambas” from the rest of the population. The ability to remain on purpose and on focus and, as we discussed last week, the ability to continually say “No” to everything – literally everything – that stands between you and your desired outcome and to say “No” for days, weeks, months, years and decades… this takes an unmatched level of courage and discipline few are willing to sustain. 

This is the Mamba Mentality. 

Kobe Bryant. Michael Jordan. Tom Brady. Larry Bird

Every field has them. The greats that stand taller than the rest. The ones who are willing to obsess and focus on one thing until they are able to see that “thing” come to fruition time and time and time again. 

Yes, I know… this philosophy of the Mamba Mentality takes the idea of “focus” to an entire new level, a level most are not willing to ascend to. We have too many distractions and obligations. Yet, understand this: The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. 

The price of greatness is, well, great. 

The level of your focus determines the level of your life. 

Today, our hearts and prayers go out to Vanessa Bryant and her entire family and ecosystem. Thank you for sharing Kobe with us. We learned a great deal from his life and focus. We will continue to learn from the life and excellence of Kobe Bryant. We grieve with you. We stand with you. We wish you all good things. 

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