Control the narrative.
That's a good lesson for anyone starting a business, trying to make a mark in this world, or attempting to combat an injustice (especially against you personally).
Last night during the NBA Finals, after a sweep by the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James explained how he had been playing with a broken hand since the first game of the series. Apparently, he punched a whiteboard in frustration. Which means the best player in the world (with apologies to Kevin Durant and Steph Curry) dismissed an entire season, the playoffs, and the NBA Finals because now we don't know if he was healthy.
It's the same argument you could make about the Houston Rockets series against the Warriors. The Rockets played without Chris Paul in the last game, the tie-breaker of the series, so we'll never really know if the Warriors could have prevailed against their full starting line-up. And now, we don't know if the entire season was a bust, either.
A healthy LeBron can dominate in ways we have never seen on the court. He is a force of nature. At the top of his game, he can drive down the lane; other players sometimes just get out of the way. But with a broken hand? Not at full health? We don't know if he was even making a difference on the court, even as he racked up points and still seemed to control the flow of the game. (Truth be told, even an unhealthy LeBron is still going to direct the team; his presence alone is a powerful force. I'm pretty sure he also decides when to take a rest and when to put himself back into the game. King James, indeed.)
So what does that mean for the rest of us, watching from the sidelines?
I'm convinced that there's no coincidence to how LeBron mentioned this fact after the loss last night. "Oh, by the way, I've been playing with a broken hand." It deflates the Golden State win, because now there's a question about whether the Warriors really did sweep Cleveland in four games, and whether they really could have won the series.
Most of us can do the same.
You can control the narrative as well, usually by making sure the messaging you use for a company or in your own career makes it clear where you stand. Maybe it's a comment about the competition, or a statistic you use that calls attention to a product feature, or a note in your resume or email signature line that helps people understand your strengths (and overlook weaknesses). I like how Samsung does this in their commercials. They cast doubt over Apple's dominance with the iPhone, suggesting that things like a simple dongle used for a headphone jack is a major inconvenience. It somehow works.
It's important to latch onto this idea--that simple, bold statements can control the narrative, and sometimes less is more when it comes to what you say. It's how David took down Goliath with a few stones. It's how Microsoft dominated over IBM in the early days of computing. It's how you can make your startup seem much more legit.
I don't think LeBron was purposefully trying to take away from the Warriors win. I doubt he wanted to make it seem like he was making excuses. Then again, it worked. I'm wondering this morning if a healthy LeBron would have made the series much more interesting. He was obviously not playing at his full capacity--my wife said he seemed "off" all series.
The sliver of doubt has made me question even the entire season and the playoffs.