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.