Life is nothing but a journey full of lessons.
For every individual to master something, they start with learning, for learning is the first step in starting something new, whether it is to boost your career or start a new hobby. Regardless of the different types of things we learn, most of us would benefit greatly from advice from a more experienced mentor, which can help us avoid costly mistakes.
Not everyone has this privilege, but everyone can seek enlightenment through other unexpected sources, like Hollywood movies. Here is the story of Coach Carter and the important lessons you can learn from him.
Coach Carter is a basketball film based on the real-life story of “Ken Carter”, the head basketball coach of Richmond High School in California, who made national headlines for his strict disciplinary measures against his entire undefeated team.
Coach Carter emphasised on changing the team’s conduct, starting with academic performance. He understood that the team’s poor performance before his tenure as a basketball coach was due to poor discipline, as well as factors like familial and cultural pressures.
He thus focused on changing the mindset of the community starting with his own basketball team. Each player had to sign a contract, instructing them to follow a proper academic and dress code, as well as constantly display respectful behaviour on and off the court. When the players failed to meet the terms of their contracts, the entire undefeated team was suspended to teach them important lessons that will serve them well in life: the importance of a good education, delivering their promises, and accountability.
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The journey of the team - from reluctance to follow Coach Carter's strict regime, to the huge on- and off-court success of the entire team - is filled with lessons that we can apply to our own lives as well.
Education is important.
“These boys are student-athletes, ‘Student’ comes first.” Coach Carter locking the school gym and suspending his undefeated basketball team is probably one of the most iconic and memorable scenes, and it drives home a key point of the movie: Education is important. Understanding the slim chances of any of his players joining professional basketball, he strongly encouraged the team to focus on their academics, ensuring that they have the opportunity to excel in other areas if needed.
We often look past the importance of education and the security it can bring us, especially with the stories of successful figures who dropped out of school to pursue entrepreneurship. These stories encouraged people to pursue their passions and insist that a qualification is not needed to be successful.
While credentials do not define success, such stories perpetuate the misconception that anyone can succeed without a college degree. Many often completely miss the point that these high-flyers are trying to make: A degree is not necessary for you to be successful if you have enough drive and pursue self-education.
In other words, you are sorely mistaken if you think success will somehow find its way to you if you do not put in the effort to succeed.
Seek to provide value for others and good things will happen.
Coach Carter was ready to protect his players’ futures even if it came at the cost of the national high school basketball championship. By prioritising his players’ futures over a major achievement in his career (i.e. the championship), he drove the team to work even harder to win many games without compromising on their academics - not for themselves, but for their coach.
This is an incredible insight that is applicable to every single aspect of your life, especially for those who hold a leadership position. Leaders are expected to be generous givers and provide value for their followers, but unfortunately, many do not. If you are the type of manager who sacrifices your employees to advance your own selfish ambitions, you are not a leader. You’re an authority. As author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek said, “Leadership is a choice, not a rank”.
In the case of Coach Carter, he demonstrated his leadership ability by being a generous giver - sacrificing himself for the sake of his players. He sought to inspire everyone around him with the intention of bettering their life, not his. This selfless act was highly valuable to his players, and to this day, his players are still grateful for what he has done. If you seek to provide value for others, good things will happen.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is important, but so is having a solid fundamentals.
Often, we have to be pushed out of our own comfort zones to be a better version of ourselves. When we stay in our comfort zones, we do not progress; we stay stagnant, maintaining the status quo. The team in the film consisted of many talented young high school basketball players that did not know how to hone and utilise their talents. In the first few months of training, Coach Carter focused on conditioning the team - which lacked the physical fitness needed for the sport - with the capabilities of playing the game. In other words, he pushed them out of their comfort zone by improving their physical fitness.
By focusing on the fundamentals, they not only broke their losing streak but became skilled enough to be an undefeated team. This shows that sometimes, a little push to get out of the comfort zone is necessary in order for us to be better at what we do.
Practice makes permanent. Many successful individuals have given advice to “follow your dreams” or “pursue your passions”. While this is true, many do not do enough to make their passions economically sustainable for themselves. If your passion is drawing, you need to practice until you master your craft. If your dream is to be a famous music artist, singing well is not enough - you need to be able to compose songs so good it becomes a hit the moment the record is out. And how do you do that? By practicing, building up the fundamentals and mastering your craft!
One great example of this is Ed Sheeran, who went from a street busker to a global star by producing hits after hits. Before he became successful, he had already written and released countless songs, so it is no surprise that his success tips for songwriting include doing it repetitively to master it.
"You can't make it as just a voice; you have to be an artist... It doesn't matter if they're [terrible]. Just get them out there. The more you write songs, the more you improve over the years, so you might as well start now."
All in all, fundamentals are extremely important. Find out more about the specific skill set that you want, build up the basics, then slowly grow by continuously practicing and putting in effort to improve.
Apply the lessons from Coach Carter to your life.
Whether its a sports or corporate career, the three points above will be greatly beneficial if you constantly practice and apply it in your life. Proficiency in a skill comes by first mastering the fundamentals, which can only be done by practising repetitively. Then, use your skills to provide value and improve your and others’ lives.
Most importantly, start with education to open up opportunities for success and self-improvement and take the initiative to learn more and educate yourself outside school.
In Singapore, the government is very supportive of lifelong learning. Eligible Singaporeans are awarded $500 SkillsFuture Credits and subsidies to encourage them to take up courses and upskill to stay relevant.
Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who are interested in acquiring tech skills through courses may also be eligible for Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme Plus (CITREP+) under IMDA's TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA).
With Data Science on the rise, many companies are in need of Data Analysts. At Gen Infiniti Academy, we offer a Data Analyst course for individuals who wish to equip themselves with this valuable skill set and obtain an internationally recognised certificate as a credential. Eligible trainees can receive the CITREP+ course fee support of up to 70% or up to 90% for the Wiley Certified Data Analyst Course.
For more information about the course, do visit our course page.
For full information on CITREP+ eligibility, please visit www.IMTalent.sg/CITREP.
Written by: Jacob Chong & Chloe Thio (Gen Infiniti Academy)