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Have Fun Like 1983 North Carolina State and Never Lose

The following is a guest post by Mark Kinsley

Have you seen ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentaries? There’s a great episode about coach Jimmy Valvano and the 1983 North Carolina State national championship team.

For me, there’s one moment in the film that sums up the reason these underdog Davids took down a number of Goliaths. It’s a scene where Jimmy V is giving a post-gamemoments-valvano1 interview after winning the national championship. As he’s answering questions a player walks up, kisses Jimmy V on the head, and everybody starts laughing and smiling. Right in the middle of that interview, his player doesn’t hesitate to let Coach V know he loves him, and show how much fun they’re having. You can see they have a culture of fun.

Play the clip below and scrub to 45 minutes and you’ll see it (and if you have time, watch the entire documentary).

In that moment I see one of life’s greatest lessons: if you’re having fun, nobody can beat you. Nobody. And if your team’s having fun, look out world.

North Carolina State took on Hakeem Olajuwon and the University of Houston and, against all odds, won the national championship. I think the reason the team made it so far was because they were having fun. Think about it: during pre-game warm-ups, which is more intimidating – the guy with skulls and flames tattooed on his neck, or a team that’s laughing, enjoying the camaraderie, and nonchalantly throwing down tomahawk dunks?

There’s another magical, poignant moment in this documentary worth sharing that can connect to the fun factor. Before that 1983 season began, and before practice ever started, Coach Valvano had his team ceremoniously cut down the net, as if they’d just won the championship game. That moment, that feeling, that vision, was planted in the players’ minds and gave them a guiding star to light their path. Stuck inside their heads was an expectation to live up to, a mountain to climb, a dragon to slay.

How often do you envision your hoped-for future? Better yet, how often do you enact that moment of success you’re striving for?

Try this experiment: write down one goal, file the paper away, and set a reminder to look back at that piece of paper in one year. In the past I’ve done this and even when I forget and don’t consciously work toward that objective, I often find I’ve completed the goal. Putting your hoped-for future in front of you is powerful. Acting it out, living it, and pretending you’re already successful is a mind-blowing way to put yourselfn.c.-state-1983-jim-valvano-cutting-down-the-nets-unlikely-final-four-teams ahead of the competition. To launch your goal of being “Top Retailer in North Dakota,” put together a party for your team with those words in quotes printed on a banner. Celebrate in advance and plant that vision in your team’s mind. Cut down your net.

And don’t forget to have fun along the way because when you do, nobody can beat you.

Now you have a legitimate business reason to make sure you and your team are smiling, joking, playing, and having fun. Go do it.

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