The world continues to mourn the sudden passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others following a devastating helicopter crash in late January. Details about the life and legacy he leaves behind, on and off the court, continue to emerge.
Kobe lived an exceptional life. Though not a stranger to controversy, it’s hard to argue that a Philadelphia high school phenom beat the odds, broke records, and before his departure from the NBA, was considered a legend.
What strikes me the most about Bryant’s life is nearly every facet of his life was influenced by the “Mamba Mentality” and his unconventional approach to failure.
What’s the Mamba Mentality?
In 2003, during a low point in his career and personal life, Bryant, frustrated with his lack of focus, created an alter-ego, based on one of the mamba snake assassins of the Quinten Tarantino film, Kill Bill. He was drawn to the character’s relentless pursuit of domination and win-at-all-costs mentality. It embodied everything Kobe wished to bring to his own life and he decided it was time to make a change.
Bryant explains the origin of his famous moniker-turned-mantra in his documentary:
“I had to separate myself. It felt like there were so many things coming at once. It was just becoming very, very confusing. I had to organize things. So I created “The Black Mamba.”
And it worked. It soon became a way of thinking, a way of life. Eventually dubbed, “The Mamba Mentality”, it was a way for Kobe to channel relentless focus in pursuit of excellence at all costs. It pulled him out of his slump and altered the course of his career. He went on to earn 5 NBA championships, 2 Olympic gold medals and a 20-year tenure with the LA Lakers. Off the court, he was able to build a robust philanthropic and business portfolio (his basketball venture aptly named Mamba Acadamy), authored several children’s books, won an Academy Award as a director of his own documentary, and was a doting husband and father to four girls.
The Mamba Mentality and Motherhood
Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, as moms, we can all learn a thing or two from the legend that passed all too soon, namely his ability to carry himself with confidence despite facing, and often welcoming failure. In fact, when faced with failure, mamba mentality was born. In Kobe’s words, the Mamba Mentality simply means “trying to get better every day… [it’s the] simplest form of just trying to get better at whatever you’re doing.”
Bryant approached all areas of his life with a focus few can attain, but it’s important to note the mamba mentality was born out of complete necessity to survive a seemingly unsurmountable transition in his life. He describes it this way:
“I went from a person who was at the top of his game, had everything coming, to a year later, having absolutely no idea where life is going or if you are even going to be a part of life as we all know it.”
Sounds like becoming a mom, right? Once you bring home your newborn, life gets crazy. You don’t know which way is up, which way is down, what day it is; when you’ll ever feel normal again. It rocks your world.
Kobe had an unusual approach to failure. He welcomed and embraced it. In fact, Kobe missed more shots than any other player in NBA history- by a long shot. But that’s what made him great. Yes, he missed shots. But he was the player that showed up to an 11am practice at 4am to make 800 jump shots similar to the ones he missed. His goal? Ultimate mastery. And he knew before one can become great, you have to be a novice.
Moms are risk-averse. Kobe wasn’t.
I fail every day. Fire department sent to my house because I forgot about the pot of rice boiling in the kitchen? Check. Trip to the ER for a deep head laceration because I took my eyes off the playground for two seconds? Check. But, I’m learning I can choose to see these inconveniences as opportunities for growth or reasons to drown in despair.
What if, as moms, we weren’t so focused on our daily failures (and comparing them to the highlight reel of social media) and rather focused on bigger long term goals: raising confident, compassionate humans?
Instead of avoiding failure at all costs, what if we expected it? Let all the little inconveniences roll off our shoulders like beads of sweat? Because you know what? Perfection is not only boring, it’s unattainable.
I wholeheartedly believe, if we, as mothers, can incorporate more of the Mamba Mentality into our lives, we’d all be happier. So, whether your toddler is in full-court press negotiation mode or you’re scrambling to defend your newborn’s fast-break diaper blowout, quit thinking so much and embrace your inner “Mamba”.