In the 1993 baseball film The Sandlot, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez dreams he is having a conversation with Babe Ruth, who says the following, “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”
Rodriguez uses this motivation to pull off one of the most epic rescue missions in cinematic history, thus becoming a legend around the local baseball parks. Many of us who grew up watching The Sandlot dreamt of one day achieving a similar feat, but as we grow older, we start to realize that the ghost of the Great Bambino isn’t going to walk through our office door at just the right time to offer some words of advice.
Becoming a legend is less about one magic moment and more about a life filled with small actions that add up to a big result. While that may make you feel like becoming a legend will take FOOOORRRREEEVVVEERRR, don’t worry, there is one thing that all legends have in common.
When you type “Legendary Basketball Coach” into a Google search, you don’t have to look far to see the names of Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim. They rank as #1 and #2 in career coaching records for wins by a men’s division 1 college basketball coach. They combined for six National Championships, 17 Final Fours and nearly 2000 victories. If that is not enough, both are Hall of Famers and gold medal winners.
You’d think that because they share so much in common, they would have accomplished their success in similar ways.
Both from a tactical perspective and from a personality standpoint, they are very different. Coach Boeheim has spent his entire 40-year career employing a zone defense. On the flip side, coach Krzyzewski is known for being a staunch supporter of man-to-man defense, and once admitted that he probably lost 2-3 games one season by refusing to play zone.
Despite their differences, they have one major thing in common.
Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel learned of this similarity when he was fortunate enough to shadow both legends as they led the USA men’s basketball team to a gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
When asked what stood out from this experience, Capel said,
You see how different (Coach K and Coach Boeheim) are. The passion is the same for the game, but the way they teach it and their philosophies and things may be different, but they are right because it’s who they are.”
Capel learned that when trying to emulate a legend,
The best thing you can be is you. And use the lessons and the things that you’ve learned from these people to do it your way.”
This is a good reminder for all of us. Whether we are writing a book, running a food truck or starting a career as a dog groomer, there are others in our field who we look up to and whose success we want to match. Often we think we need to copy them if we want to get to their level.
However, that is just not true. You don’t have to imitate a legend to become one yourself. There’s plenty of room for differences as long as you are true to who you are.
That’s the one thing all legends have in common – they are themselves. They don’t pretend to be someone they are not.
We remember the quote, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die” but we often leave out the last part of the advice that Babe Ruth gave Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, “Follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong.”
If you want to be legendary, you need to be you.