Sucess — in Basketball, Spelling and in Life — Begins With Self Confidence

Today is Monday, so this post is on self confidence.

Last Thursday, I saw self confidence in action in two somewhat disparate places: the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, and the National Spelling Bee.  The two people who displayed this amazing self confidence are LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Evan O’Dorney of Danville, CA.

Mr. James scored 49 points in Cleveland’s playoff win in Detroit, including the team’s last 25 points and 29 of its last 30.  Mr. O’Dorney won the National Spelling Bee.  Cathy and I were switching back and forth between the two televised events.  Both had a lot of drama.  Both showcased amazing performances. 

Mr. James refused to let his team lose.  After the game, he said, “I was able to will my team to victory.”  He and his teammates went on to defeat Detroit in a game played in Cleveland on Saturday.  They are now in the NBA finals; which begin on Thursday, June 7.  Their opponent is the San Antonio Spurs.

Mr. O’Dorney was equally as confident.  When he was asked when he knew he would win, he said “as soon as I heard the word”.  The word was “serrefine”, a small forceps.  Serrefine is a pretty obscure word.  It comes up as a misspelling when I ran spell check on this document. 

Both Mssrs. James and O’Dorney took their accomplishments in stride.  Mr. James said “Why should I be surprised?  They’re a great defensive team, but I was determined to attack.”  Mr. O’Dorney said “I wasn’t surprised that I won, but spelling is not my favorite thing.  My favorite things to do are math and music.  With the math, I really like the way the numbers fit together.  And with the music, I like to let out ideas by composing notes.  Spelling is just a bunch of memorization.”

Both of these young men (Mr. James is 22 and Mr. O’Dorney is 13), demonstrated what self confidence is all about.  They were optimistic – they believed they could win.  They faced their fears and took action. Mr. James through up an air ball (a shot that hit neither the rim nor the backboard) at the end of the first overtime, yet he continued to shoot the ball in the second period.  Mr. O’Dorney, and the other young people in the National Spelling Bee, stood by himself on a stage with bright lights glaring and television cameras running – pretty intimidating for someone 13 years old — and calmly spelled the esoteric words that were put to him. 

Finally, both Mr. James and Mr. O’Dorney were surrounded by positive people.  The Cleveland Cavaliers players and coaches may have been the only people in the arena on Thursday who thought they would win such an important game on the other team’s home court.  Mr. O’Dorney’s parents were with him on the stage during his run to the championship (as were all of the parents of the finalists).  He was one of the favorites to win the National Spelling Bee.  ABC did mini feature on him and several of the other contestants that they showed during the competition.  It was clear that Mr. O’Dorney’s parents provide the support and encouragement he needs as he pursues excellence – in spelling, math and music.

I particularly enjoyed watching two people from fairly different fields — an athlete and an academic — demonstrate supreme self confidence and win difficult competitions last Thursday.  I hope you got to see one or both of these amazing performances.

The common sense point here: self confidence is the foundation of career and life success.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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