Greg Smith Keynote Speaker

Leadership Expert on Resiliency and Inner Strength – Greg helps leaders and teams “Go Full-Strength!” for maximum productivity.

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Inner Strength insights from the world of sports, disability, entertainment, business, politics and everything else I’d like to share with you.


Talking Inner Strength with Dwight Howard

Talking Inner Strength with Dwight Howard

LIfe’s instruction manual says your reputation follows you everywhere. That may be true, but there is no listing that says you have to follow your reputation.

I’m gambling that a case in point is Dwight Howard. For “Strength Coach” fans who don’t know basketball, Howard is one of the greatest physical talents in the NBA. For 8 years, he was one of the league’s brightest stars with the Orlando Magic. He was “Superman.” A dominating force in the middle.

But Howard grew frustrated about the probability that he could never win a championship in Orlando and around that time, his boat sprung a leak:

Drama surrounding rumors that he wanted his coach fired and didn’t want to be in Orlando… Then back surgery to repair a herniated disc… Then the trade to the Lakers… Then slow, painful recovery and starting a season without the normal off-season conditioning… And then a shoulder injury that he is ‘playing through!’

Interviews showed him being honest. Fans took it as complaining and excuse making. And they have been unforgiving. This is no “Superman!” His new reputation around the league? Crybaby. Whiner. Soft.

I got a chance to visit with Howard last week and I was surprised by his calm focus.

“My goal my whole life is to be great,” he stated. “People don’t understand how it is to hurt your back. I really had to learn from scratch just to walk. People don’t understand just how hard that was to force myself back to where I am today and even though I’m not 100% right now, I’m better than I would have been if I had not been focused mentally.”

Despite his new reputation, over the last 10 games, Dwight Howard has averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds and the Lakers have won eight of those games. Yes, Kobe Bryant has played MVP level ball during that spurt, but would the Lakers have won all those games without steady play from Howard?

“The Strength Coach” sees Howard as an example that it is important to ignore other people’s perceptions of you and create your own self-definition. For example, I don’t see myself as a helpless, dependent, lonely cripple. I’m a powerful 65 pound giant! I travel, speak, author, broadcast, parent, drive, inspire. I’m the wheelchair dude with the winning attitude!

Dwight Howard doesn’t see himself as a defeated, excuse making, overpaid, spoiled big baby the way fans have pegged him. He does not follow that reputation. He sees himself as the greatest center in the NBA today.

“I really don’t see obstacles in front of me,” said Howard. “All I see are my goals and all that I want to accomplish in my career.”

His immediate goal is a playoff run. Let’s revisit this article in June to see what Howard and the Lakers end up doing.

In the meantime, take a few minutes to think about your own self-definition and how that definition differs from the reputation that follows you. If your reputation is solid, congratulations. If not, be the difference.

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11 thoughts on “Reputation

  1. Greg,
    Congrats on the blog and scoring a top rate interview.
    I feel all athletes need to read Walter Payton’s autobiography, “Never Die Easy”. Heck, everybody should read this book. It tells people how to handle life. You need to attack life hard and control every situation. Walter lived and died that philosophy.

    I don’t watch the NBA much anymore since Jordan retired, from the Bulls in ’98. I see stories about guys like Howard, Kobe, LaBron and the like. What I see are men not taking charge of their talents and/or lives. They allow the media or their handlers to define who they are on and off court. Today’s superstars need to take control and not try to be a “cartoon” of themselves.

  2. Hey Shawn… my childhood friend! It is good to hear from you. The rough patch you speak of is no match for your inner strength. Boosting is what I intend to do, so stay close. Say hi to your folks for me!

  3. Greg whats up!

    You are an inspiration my brother and I have always looked up to you ever since I was trying to keep up with you on the drums when we were kids:)

    Going through a rough patch now and your post on reputation was a boost for me.

    Take Good Care!


  4. Great interview, Greg. I always chuckle when I hear fans or radio hosts saying a professional athlete is soft or not dedicated. No one that has the letters NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL on their resume is a slacker. They’ve lived and breathed their sports since elementary school. Most have 15 years of experience BEFORE they ever got a paycheck. The superstars shine but ever guy who laces up to warm the bench in the NBA has worked damn hard to get there. Keep striving, Dwight Howard!

    • I see it everyday in my son who is striving to excel in football. These guys grind every day. If everybody worked as hard at their craft, whatever it is, as top level athletes do, we’d be a lot more productive as a society. There is something magical about having a specific dream, knowing what it takes to achieve it and actually doing all the painful work necessary.

  5. To be honest, I read this because you are a friend more than anything. I am remarkably illiterate when it comes to sports. I watch PTI with Steve and have learned a little, but sports is generally not my thing.

    Big surprise for me – I liked the article cause I love the way you see the world. I’ll be back! Thanks!

    • I want you and everyone to know that you don’t have to be a sports fan at all to enjoy the messages in my blog. I promise!

  6. I can appreciate his thoughts but as we know it is the actions that count. You won’t find a more physical body than Howard in the NBA and by now I would think his maturity level would be higher but sadly it still seems to be a me me attitude.

    When he realizes he can’t win any championship by himself only then will he become a complete player. It took MJ a few years to realize this as well. Kobe too.

    His words in this story might finally be taking him in that direction.

    • Time will tell about his maturity level. My main observation in the blog is the fact that he is ignoring his critics, which allows him to define himself. That, I admire. Thanks for your comments and please stay active in the blog!

  7. “I really don’t see obstacles in front of me,” said Howard. “All I see are my goals and all that I want to accomplish in my career.”

    Greg, this sounds like something YOU would say. Congrats on the interview, and the blog. I’m looking forward to more posts like this!

    • Q, you’re right. This is something I have said often. Just getting my body in the right position in front of this computer to type this reply was an obstacle, but instead of whining about that, I’m typing. And when typing becomes too difficult, there’s voice recognition. I hope that sense of determination comes through in this blog. Thanks for participating and thanks for your support. Stay engaged!

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