Kobe Bryant fractured a bone in his right hand during the early part of his third season in the NBA and missed fifteen games. Doctors taped his ring finger to his pinkie to treat the injury.
Even though the bone healed, for the rest of the season Kobe didn't shoot as well as he had prior to the injury. Why?
Unfortunately, when the splint was removed Kobe's fingers were no longer evenly spaced; his index and middle fingers were separated from his ring and pinkie fingers. (Think Mr. Spock's Vulcan salute.) While visually subtle, Kobe realized the resulting difference in finger placement gave his shots a slightly right-hand spin.
So during that summer's NBA offseason, Kobe decided to make 100,000 shots to correct the flaw in his technique.
Not take. Make. (According to Kobe, he never practiced taking shots. He practiced making shots.)
The next season his shooting percentage improved. And the Lakers won the NBA championship.
The Power of Process
Process gets a bad rap. Hard work, relentless effort, extremely long hours... grinding it out is for people who work harder, not smarter.
Take Michael Ovitz, the guy who built Creative Artists Agency (CAA) into the largest and most powerful organization in Hollywood. He started in the mail room at William Morris,
then the biggest agency in town. Here's what he told James Andrew Miller in the excellent book Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency:
"When I went to William Morris, I decided that I had to do something that was disruptive. I was in the mailroom with about twenty guys. They'd come in at nine, so I came in at seven. They'd leave at six, I'd leave at ten o'clock at night. Some days I left earlier because at that time I was also going to school at night to get my master's in business.
"I worked my butt off -- reading everything there was to read. I was a scavenger. Those guys were waiting to be fed things; I went looking for things. I viewed the mailroom as an education course, period, and was going to move over everyone very quickly. I volunteered for every job and was very aggressive.
"Three months into the training program, I had begun to notice that the president of the company would often come back to the office after dinner when everyone else had left, so I made sure to be there and became the only guy sitting at a desk on the first floor. As I figured he would, he asked if I could do a favor for him. I did the favor so well that he asked me to work for him some more.
"I kept doing it each night until he finally made me his assistant."
Ovitz is incredibly smart. He later almost totally transformed the way the talent agency business operates, and in many ways, how Hollywood operates.
Yet Ovitz decided the best way to succeed was to develop a routine and then stick to that routine. He did things no one else would. He didn't just rely on his intelligence and talent to succeed. He didn't wait for his boss to "discover" his talents.
Work Smarter and Harder
Ovitz put his head down and followed his process. He worked smarter and he worked harder. He did the work.
So did Kobe.
So can you.
Do the work. Do what other people aren't willing to do. Most of our limits are self-imposed; you are always capable of more than you think.
Want to achieve great things?
Focus on doing the small things -- over and over and over again.
That's what will make you great.