My dad always told me that success is where preparation meets opportunity. The funny thing about life is that we don’t really know when those opportunities will come. It has been well documented that Jeremy Lin was more than ready for his opportunity. Forget about Lin-sanity for a moment–tabloids linking him to a rendezvous with Kim Kardashian (really?) or the fact that Ben & Jerry’s created a flavor called Taste the Lin-sanity. Let’s step away from where Lin has landed and take a quick look at where he was.
Jeremy Lin had a 3.1 GPA at Harvard where he scored almost 1,500 points. Despite a stellar college career in the Ivy League, he was undrafted in 2010. The New York Times described Lin as “a smart passer with a flawed jump shot and a thin frame, who might not have the strength and athleticism to defend, create his own shot or finish at the rim in the NBA.” In 2010, Lin signed as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, but was called down 3 times to play with their D-league affiliate team–the Reno Bighorns. In 2011, Lin injured his knee during the NBA lockout, but used the summer to recover as well as alter his shooting form, gain muscle mass, and add 3 inches to his vertical leap. On December 9, 2011, Lin was waived by the Golden State Warriors. Two days later, he was acquired by the Rockets for a few preseason games , but would be cut within a week so that Houston could clear cap space.
On December 27th, the New York Knicks signed Lin to be a backup for a backup (Barron Davis got hurt). On January 17th, Lin was again called down to the D-league (Erie Bay Hawks). On January 20th, after a triple double against the Maine Red Claws (who?), Lin was moved back up to the Knicks. According to the New York times, Lin was attending a pre game chapel on January 27th when the pastor asked the players if there was anything he could pray for them about. Lin spoke out, “Can you please pray that I don’t get cut?”
After losing 11 of their first 13 games, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni got so desperate that he decided to give Lin a chance and the rest is history. In his first nine games, Lin averaged 24.2 points and 9.2 assists and the Knicks record under Lin’s watch — 8-2.
When I look back at Jeremy’s journey over the past few years, I don’t see, what many media outlets have described as, an overnight sensation, but a beautiful story full of passion, persistence, heartache, improvement, preparation, faithfulness–a story full of unknowns. Lin’s favorite Bible verse is Romans 5:3-4 which says, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope”–fitting.
Lin’s pastor was quoted in the San Francisco chronicle as saying, “Through the years, its’ been a struggle (for Jeremy) athletically. He doesn’t believe in a prosperity gospel. He doesn’t believe that if you simply have enough faith that everything you want it going to happen in your life.” You definitely don’t see that communicated that clearly everyday as faith in athletics is usually mentioned only as the pathway to success (and I’m talking about State Championship / game winning shot type success).
Jeremy Lin was clearly ready for his opportunity, but I think his story reminds us that the getting ready part is not a switch that we just turn on, but a long process that is usually the road less traveled. You could easily argue that Lin’s preparation for the last month lasted a lifetime. I suppose in the newspapers, we’re always reading about people who were ready for their opportunity, but what about the millions of people who we don’t read about–talented people who say, “I will prepare for the opportunity once the opportunity comes my way.” Unfortunately for most, opportunities move too fast for this kind of thinking–they leave just as fast as they come. You’re either ready or you’re not.
One of the most common fears I see playing out in young athletes is this: What if I work really really hard…what if I do prepare, but don’t get the result I wanted. In other words, it’s too risky to give everything I have–to put myself out there like that. Over the past eight years, I have heard a lot of people reflect on their careers. Whether in sports or business, I have never heard someone regret preparing for an opportunity that never came. Instead, I’ve only listened to regret for preparation that never took place–the pain of wondering if working harder could have somehow led to an opportunity they never knew existed.
There are a lot of variables in life and for most of us, results don’t always look like Jeremy’s did, but one thing is for certain–preparation and perseverance never hurt any outcome. Maybe it’s time to look at opportunity through a different lins.
[This post is dedicated to Rudy Wu--the world's most dedicated Knicks fan--and my former intern who had an impact on Teammates Matter that will never be forgotten]