Maybe you don't care about sports. That's okay. But if you want to be successful in entrepreneurship and life, take a minute to consider the men's basketball team at South Plains College in Texas.

They've had the season of their lives this year, going 31-1, and they're now two games away from the national junior college championship. It's all largely because their coach took the advice of the late Steve Jobs and applied it to the NBA's Golden State Warriors:

"Good artists copy; great artists steal."

I'd never heard of South Plains College, or their team (the Texans), or the National Junior College Athletic Association for that matter, until a few weeks ago. But the Texans' story is inspiring as heck, and not just because it's about an underdog team or any particularly exciting game.

Do what the pros do

Last year, the head coach at at South Plains, Steve Green, was coming off a challenging season. He realized that while he was fully capable of developing a game plan, it might make more sense simply to copy the plays run by one of the most dynamic and successful NBA teams.

So, he started watching all the Warriors' games, diagramming everything, building his team around the Warriors' structure, and sending short video clips of Warriors games to his players at all hours of the day and night.

In short, he tried to turn his team into a junior college version of the Golden State Warriors. In practice, this means a few things:

  • Like the Warriors, the South Plains College Texans pass a lot. ("The ball zips from teammate to teammate," is how The New York Times, which reported on this a few weeks ago, puts it.)
  • They take shots "from Siberia," and insist that every player on the court, even the big men who on another team might have a different role, can sink baskets.
  • As a result of all of that, score a lot of points for a junior college team: 98.4 points per game--including almost 12 three-point shots on average in each game.

"I just want guys who can shoot now," Green told the Times. "If you have somebody on the floor who can't score, you're playing four against five. They just don't guard them."

Sure, some of the South Plains College players hesitated. Not everyone is a Warriors fan, of course. For example, the Texans' starting power forward, Jahlil Tripp, is more of a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and looks up to star LeBron James.

"But Coach wants me to be Draymond [Green, of the Warriors]. So I'm Draymond," Tripp told the Times.

And now, Tripp and the other starters have scholarship from Division I college programs that might not have looked at them if they hadn't had this success. Plus, of course, they've had one of their most successful seasons, with a shot at a championship.

Execute, execute, execute

So, even if you're not planning on watching the NCJAA junior college championships (I'm not sure you can even do that), what should you take away from the South Plains College story? The lessons are simple, really.

  • It means that if you want to succeed in your business, find mentors--and examine closely the paths they took.
  • It means if you want to launch a successful company, quit trying to do everything yourself--and instead study how successful founders in other industries, or who went before you, accomplished their goals.
  • It means if you want to have healthy relationships, or raise successful kids, or achieve any of your goals, spend a lot of your time watching what others who've achieved those goals have done, instead of trying to come up with the plans on your own.

In sum, it's about one of the key things that most people learn (eventually) in life: A brilliant idea never executed is worthless, but a proven idea executed well is priceless.