The tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant has shaken the world to its core. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a basketball fan. I can’t say I’ve ever watched a basketball game in its entirety, and I certainly can’t rattle off his accomplishments. Still, the name “Kobe Bryant” has been a part of my consciousness since my childhood because my older brother was obsessed with basketball and I felt intense sadness when I heard the news. He lived an incredible life and inspired millions. Here are what I think are the most valuable lessons the legend taught us:

Success Requires Complete Submission

This weekend, I watched the “Dear Basketball” short video for the first time, and it broke me open. The poem, which details Bryant’s love affair with basketball, reminded me that success in any given pursuit requires absolute submission to the goal. You can only submit entirely to something you love fiercely. In “Dear Basketball,” he says about the game:

“I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —

From my mind & body

To my spirit & soul.”

As we push ourselves towards excellence in our lives and vocations, we need to remember that everything must come from a place of love. Trying to do otherwise will almost always end in failure.  

Success Requires Intense Self-Awareness

Toward the end of “Dear Basketball,” he says:

“But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer. 

This season is all I have left to give. 

My heart can take the pounding. 

My mind can handle the grind. 

But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”

Things are always changing: our minds, our values, our bodies. We can’t help that. He reminded us that success sometimes means gracefully embracing life’s inevitable changes and knowing when to walk away. We are not monolithic, and life is about continually discovering new things about ourselves and adjusting our course to match our new truths.   

There’s Always Time For A Second Act. Or A Third.

Basketball was the love of Bryant’s life, and it loved him back. Stories abound about his unmatched work ethic and scholarship of the game. But, even he started planning his post-basketball life years before he actually retired. He recognized that he could take the same ambition, work ethic, and creativity that served him in basketball and apply them to a new career in business. He founded Bryant Stibel, a VC firm, and invested in numerous companies across several industries. He found that he had a talent for “storytelling for brands” and used it to help businesses build and grow. In this interview with CNBC, he talked about how important it is for athletes to plan out their next steps after their sports career ends. He implored athletes to ask themselves, “What is my next passion?”

The shock of the businessman and NBA legend’s death will most likely never wear off, but hopefully, stories of his life and work will inspire us all to start being the highest version of ourselves today and every day.