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If you were to write a letter to your 10-year-old self, what would you say?

Mike Krzyzewski could include lots of stories in this letter. He could write about being the basketball coach with most wins in NCAA history, the winner of 11 gold medals including 5 golds in 5 Olympic Games, Duke’s head coach for the past 38 years (longevity in sports?) or the first basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins, you name it. However, Coach K has used a different approach to write the letter to his younger self and he has left a valuable leadership lesson.

Here are three excerpts from his letter (see full video at the bottom of this post):

“Keep playing those schoolyard games – I know that they are the best part of your day and you might not yet know that they are also important to your future. Those games you play with Moe and rest of the boys are laying a foundation for your future as a member and leader of teams.”

 Most of the things we learn or do today will begin to make sense tomorrow. Our ability is not to see them as they are, but as they can be.

 The bigger the moments of uncertainty we live in, the more we have to work and trust the process; work and trust the process.

“When you envision yourself in championship moments, counting down the seconds in your head, driving past invisible defenders – you are giving yourself a destination.”

We should all allow ourselves to visualize future success, our desired scenario and to set our dream goals, no matter what they tell us along the way.

“And when you grow up, when you become a head coach, first at Army and then at Duke, when you find yourself coaching a team in championship moments, you will feel as if you’ve been there before. Because of what you are doing right now in that schoolyard in inner-city Chicago, you will know what to do.”

Past success does not guarantee future success, but a smart present work will bring future success.

Recently one of my former graduate students quoted Bill Gates when talking to me about his path as an entrepreneur: “people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10.”

The problem is that sometimes, opportunities come disguised as hard work and it is not that easy to see them. Our everyday behaviors, our daily work routines and systematic work will be the best confidence boost for that future moment where we will need to make important decisions. Work and trust the process…

opportunity and hard work

Coach K has left a tremendous legacy that goes deeper than the Olympic gold medals and the individual and collective awards. He has created a winning culture at Duke and as the US National team Head Coach, he has made every NBA star want an opportunity for the U.S. men’s basketball team, transforming the organization’s culture: from a group of stars, to a star team.

And it all started with a schoolyard game.

As Coach K mentioned in his letter, never underestimate the immense power of your imagination. You will use it all your life.

Here is the emotional video of him reading the letter: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coach-k-duke-basketball-mike-krzyzewski-note-to-self/

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Pedro Díaz Ridao