Normally, when you hear LeBron James, you'll think about his illustrious basketball career, his winner's mentality, or his recent move to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But this time, he was capturing our attention because of his off-the-court activities from an ambitious goal he had years ago. On Monday, LeBron was opening the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The I Promise School is the culmination of a dream ten years in the making by James' foundation which had a mission of educating children from challenging situations and backgrounds. The school is starting with the third and fourth grades, but plan to expand in the coming years.

From a quick glance on the surface, an NBA athlete opening a school may not seem to correlate to how you can become better at business, leadership, and whatever other roles you play in life.

But, if you unravel a few layers, by merely completing this feat, LeBron James is teaching us key lessons in responsibility and perseverance which happen to be essential attributes of top performers.

1. Take actions then refine them.

Much like his early basketball career, James's foundation showed amazing potential but failed to deliver the desired result. At the beginning of the foundation, the foundation hosted major events but ended up losing money and strangling the city's budget.

However, over the course of time, the foundation discovered solid footing as its focus became clearer on at-risk children and providing them with a solid education.

In business, I've experienced many growing pains along with making many mistakes. Much like the foundation, I found solid footing once I found my target of people who I wanted to focus on and serve. Knowing your customer is business 101 but the odds of perfecting this right out of the gate is slim.

Moving beyond identifying your market, this lesson from the foundation teaches us that we should always be moving forward with action and extracting feedback from it which will later help us optimize a better set of actions the next time around.

2. Don't let a standard identity box you in.

LeBron is an athlete. To some, he's supposed to entertain through his athleticism and leave it at that. And if you assess the entire professional athlete spectrum, there's a large percentage of athletes who shy away from these sort of ventures James is undertaking.

While James opening a school is breaking the mold of the athlete label, this behavior started when he was a little kid.  He's said numerous times on interviews that "he's just a kid from Akron" and "was supposed to be a statistic."

It's been well documented that he faced poverty, instability, and many other things which increased the odds of James not becoming a top performer.

While you're most likely not facing such dire circumstances as James did at the moment, the key nugget to extract is not to let your current circumstances dictate your future. It may sound cheesy, but future scenarios are all predicated on the quality of your actions and behaviors in the present moment.

If your business is slow, don't time travel to the future. This only leads to more worrying. Instead, create a better future by improving the quality of your actions in the present moment. This could be tripling your outreach emails or reaching out to mentors and peers for guidance.

3. Think bigger.

I like to think of myself as a big thinker, but then I see these types of things and think maybe I could think bigger.

In this program, James has arranged for the students to have free college tuition at the University of Akron if they follow the curriculum laid out. They are also helping the parents earn their high school diplomas and other various continuing educational achievements.

With those factors along with creating a support system for the at-risk students, they have the potential to change the way cities and school systems view these issues.

How could you positively disrupt a system or change the paradigm of something?

Odds are, you can raise what you're pursuing by ten-fold. Plus, the benefits of thinking bigger is that it intrinsically raises the stakes which lead to you showing up more focused and creative due to the scope of work needed to get done.

You don't have to drop millions of dollars or stage a huge crusade, but know that you can do much more than you think if only you allow yourself to dream--but don't forget the work afterward.

Published on: Jul 31, 2018