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How to Win

The Courage to Be You

“I shouldn’t know you again if we did meet… you’re so exactly like other people.” — Alice Through the Looking Glass

Francis Ford Coppola, who turns 70 today, is one of the top movie directors of all time, with masterpieces like Godfather, Godfather II and Apocalypse Now in his resume.

He’s also a living example of the 10,000 hours of practice needed to achieve mastery in a field.

Coppola contracted polio when he was just a boy, and spent long months in isolation. During that time, he watched lots of TV, listened to the radio, and played with puppets. Without even realizing it, Coppola was gaining experience that would contribute to his success as a moviemaker.

It’s the same with you. You have a set of qualifications that prepares you for your life’s work. No one else has exactly the same set. Sometimes it takes courage to draw on these experiences precisely BECAUSE they are different.

For example, a certain memory or experience might lead you to motivate players in a certain way, or to structure your practices a certain way. At the same time, you might feel reluctant to go with your gut because it would leave you out of the mainstream.

Go with your gut! Have the courage to be you! Your unique 10,000 hours are a strength, not a weakness!

Here’s Coppola discussing The Godfather on an Academy of Achievement profile: “They didn’t like the cast. They didn’t like the way I was shooting it. I was always on the verge of getting fired.”

The profile goes on to say: “Executives at Paramount had so little faith in the 32 year-old filmmaker they had hired to direct The Godfather, they actually hired another director to follow Francis Ford Coppola around the set, just to remind him he could be replaced at any moment. Despite studio interference, Coppola trusted his instincts, and The Godfather became a massive success with both critics and public.”

Coppola’s 10,000 hours wound up serving him well. So can yours.

Coach Tully’s Extra Point: Coach Roy Williams, who just led the University of North Carolina to the national championship with a victory over Michigan State, has accumulated his 10,000 hours as well. They include studying under legendary coach Dean Smith.


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