Kobe Bryant’s Secret Ingredient: Visualization

with special guest Rob Dial #MakingBank S4E32 

The late, great Kobe Bryant was renowned for his extreme work ethic. It was common knowledge that he was dripping in sweat before 5am every morning and drilled so much that he held himself to making 800 shots before tipoff every night. 

But what many don’t know is that Kobe was working even when he wasn’t in the gym, on the court, or in the film room. Some of his most important work was done in a quiet room, alone, with his eyes closed, where he would visualize the game to be played, a practice Michael Jordan was also known for. Both were taught by George Mumford, a mindfulness and meditation expert who has taught many world-class athletes. 

Visualization is a great complementary practice to physical training. When your body needs rest, the benefits of pushing on diminish greatly, but through visualization, you can continue achieving amazing results without punishing your body. Learning this simple trick can help build muscle memory, build confidence and ease your mind when chasing your dreams. 

How to Practice Visualization 

There are several ways to practice the art of visualization to enhance your life and build your dreams. The most common is akin to a more active form of meditation. Find a quiet, dimly lit room, close your eyes, and calmly picture whatever you wish to achieve. That could be a specific, short-term goal, such as winning an upcoming game, or it could be a more long-term life goal, such as being successful in your career. 

Another way that visualization can aid your success is by mentally going through every tiny detail of a task in advance. This has been trumpeted by athletes in many different sports as well as some of the world’s most successful businessmen. 

Visualizing Success 

Maybe the most popular form of visualizing is to picture yourself having achieved what you want to, and having everything you want to have. Many of the most famous gurus and coaches in the world talk about this in one form or another, and many people call it the ‘Law of Attraction.’ By picturing yourself already having everything you want and easily achieving everything you want to, you will begin to believe it, act in alignment with it, and attract that situation to yourself. 

Many people practice this method by creating vision boards – a picture of everything they want to have – and spending time looking at their board every day. Others simply use the closed eyes, meditation method. Choose whatever feels comfortable to you, but this may work better if what you wish to achieve is not something tangible, i.e. it cannot be drawn specifically. 

The law of attraction is based on visualizing something you want and attracting it to you, but it’s important to remember Rob’s companion law: The Law of Action. If your visualization is not followed up by hard work and dedication, you will never achieve what you want to. Think about visualization as a means of keeping yourself focused and on track, rather than a means to an end in and of itself. 

Visualizing Everything Specifically 

Another method that many of the great athletes of our time have used, from Kobe to Michael Jordan to Wayne Gretzky, is to visualize an entire game – each play – beforehand. By going through how they expect the game to go, they not only set themselves up to succeed by picturing themselves victorious; they also build something akin to muscle memory through the neural pathways in their brain. 

Rob cited the German track and field team in the 1932 Olympics, who used visualization to dominate the competition and take home gold. After they were finished with practice they would spend a portion of their night visualizing their individual events, going through every throw, every jump, every step. This allowed them to continue getting better even after their bodies were tired and needed to rest. 

Kobe went as far as to practice dribbling on the basketball court without the ball, literally running through plays while he was actively visualizing the game around him. Despite Shaq famously making fun of him for this quirky routine, Kobe considered it a key part of his success on the court. 

As Rob states, this type of visualization helps build something in the brain called myelin – a substance that covers our neural pathways, strengthening them and allowing for quicker transmission of thoughts, allowing athletes to act automatically. In a game that can come down to the smallest of margins, having built-in automatic reactions is a big advantage. 

Visualizing Yourself Staying Calm in Big Moments 

Michael Jordan references having always visualized himself taking the last shot of the game – long before he was bestowed that responsibility. He constantly pictured himself in the biggest moment, making the biggest shot, and when his time came, he was ready. 

In this episode of the podcast, Rob recants his own experience employing visualization in basketball. When he was young, with his team going to the championship game, Rob found himself to be extremely nervous. He felt overmatched by his opponent, specifically his best friend on the other team who he knew was more talented than him. 

His mother, a fan of Tony Robbins, decided to teach him to visualize the game – except to specifically visualize himself not being nervous at all, but calm and confident instead. He visualized himself going through the plays and even the biggest moments of the game with a calm, cool head, never letting his nerves overtake him

By picturing this it became a reality, allowing him to go through the entire game with confidence, propelling his team to victory. If anything, this is the most important story to take away from this article, because it does not involve a world-class athlete. It involves a teenager who used a simple trick that his mother taught him in order to overcome his nerves, build confidence and lead his team to victory. If he can do it, anyone can! 

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