The greatest sports stories of all time aren’t just about points or rings, championships or goals. They tell of a come-up, of heart. They rattle our bones and tug at all of the emotions – all at once. Pride, empathy, happiness, love – greatness inspires us to feel it all… but what inspires greatness? How do you end up being the GOAT? What does it really take to find so much success and then sustain it?

My success story, my path to greatness, will most likely never be likened to Michael Jordan’s (a man can dream though, right?!) but we could draw similarities across all of the paths of greatness, foundational elements that we know inspire greatness to happen, regardless of the feat.

What Inspires Greatness?
Without coaches, supporters and key players around him like Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman, even Michael Jordan’s story would look a lot different. Greatness requires a village. As my recent podcast guest and sports enthusiast, Jake Kelfer, put it, “We will never get to where we want to go, we will never reach greatness without others. No matter how great we are as an individual, we can never achieve true greatness without support.”

Jakeis a best-selling author, a lifestyle entrepreneur, and the founder of Professional Basketball Combine, a place where they help NBA hopefuls get drafted, which is a really cool job if you ask me. And another foundational element to greatness – which is to take others with you on your way.

Incredible Goodness Requires Heart
When Phil Jackson went to coach the Bulls, he realized that in order to go from good to great, they had to shift focus. So he tells Jordan it can’t all be about him moving forward, that they had to really focus on being a team and putting more hands on the ball. They had to bring others with them – into the action. Remarkably, out of goodness and heart, setting his ego and maybe even personal desires aside, Jordan agreed and went with this strategy. To me this is a true mark of greatness and something not often talked about. Before we can ever be great – we must be good.

Easier Said Than Done
Here’s a thing we know about life, it isn’t always easy, and maybe it isn’t supposed to be, right? Because of resilience and wisdom and all of the gifts we get from our trials and tribulations. And even though I know that and you know that, we struggle through our struggles. What I mean by that is we resist. We resist the struggles, we resist the greatness, and sometimes life is just dragging us, up this hill, down that hill. Every single story you hear of greatness includes some sort of resistance. Whether it’s based on fear, or fear… or fear (noticing a pattern?) we can easily recognize resistance as another element on the path to greatness – Hey, it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows. 

Let’s Be Honest
There are a lot of things going on right now that are pretty crappy and it isn’t always easy to think about goodness or greatness. But I have noticed in my own life, the days I don’t want to be great are the days I need that the most. This is the exact reason I started building rituals into my life – to be great on the not so great days. Or to at least try. I have told myself I loved my life, even on days when I felt like life was really hard to love. I have woke up, feet on the floor, telling myself I love my life – no matter what for years now. And it seems to me that the more I choose this conscious goodness, the more I feel like my own path to greatness is being supported by everything around me. The path to greatness requires gratefulness, especially on the hard days.

One Last Element
When I was young, you couldn’t tell me anything. I was proud, I knew it all and nobody was going to tell me differently. As I grew more resilient and more Change Proof (able to take whatever comes my way and use it) I realized that, more important than knowing everything, was the ability to be taught anything. If Jordan hadn’t been coachable, he would have never reached the level of greatness he did. He will tell you that because this is something we see in stories of greatness.

Coachability is something we learn out of adversity, out of our own personal fristration or through making mistakes. Once you’ve run into the same wall so many times in a row, something in your mind clicks and says, “Hey, I don’t want to run into this same damn wall again. It’s time to do something different.” The ability to be coached, the ability to really listen and be self-aware is the staircase to the next level, if you’re willing to tune in.

“For me, there have been a lot of those moments in different initiatives and endeavors that I have pursued where I have had to say, “Hold up, what am I willing to do here? Am I doing it for myself or for the greater good, something bigger than just myself?” Those moments have always forced me to come to a place of humility while also still maintaining that competitive edge to be great.” – Jake Kelfer

Be good. Do good. Inspire good. Achieve Great. And no matter what happens – keep moving forward.