Good, Better, Best: Lessons in Perfectionism from a Basketball Player
Chicago traffic is no joke. For me, the podcast boom has helped maximize the time I spend behind the wheel, and presents a unique opportunity to learn from industry experts in sports, business, and beyond. I wanted to recommend a podcast series for the inquiring mind, and I’ve provided a personal favorite episode to get you started.
You may know Malcolm Gladwell as the author of The Tipping Point, Outliers, and other books that examine the social science behind our decision making. His podcast Revisionist History is similar, and in this episode, we learn the story of former basketball player Rick Barry, who is best known for his unconventional – yet effective – free-throw shooting style.
When he retired from the NBA in 1980, Rick owned 4 of the 7 best free-throw shooting seasons in the history of American pro basketball. He was undisputedly the best free-throw shooter of all time. He was also the only player in the league who shot the ball underhanded – what many basketball fans refer to as “granny style” – an incredibly unusual tactic by traditional basketball standards. But despite Rick’s enormous success, there have still been zero full-time NBA players to use this underhanded method.
To these pro athletes, the negative social stigma surrounding a switch from the traditional shooting motion outweighs the potential benefits of optimal performance. If even the best athletes in the world are hesitant to carve their own path in pursuit of excellence, surely we fall into this trap in our professional lives as well!
Sports often serve as a microcosm of human behavior; one of the reasons I love working in this industry. Our natural tendency at work is to default to industry norms, but this story highlights how success is often the result of bucking the status quo. Where else can we find inefficiencies, and how can we push ourselves to develop new, innovative methods to help us be our best?
by Andrew McCarthy