Self-punishment and incentives

by on March 30, 2013 at 7:03 am in Sports | Permalink

[LeBron] James told me that when he was working on his 3s, he’d punish himself until he met a lofty set of self-enforced shooting milestones.

“It’s work,” James says. “It’s a lot of work. It’s being in workouts, and not accomplishing your goal, and paying for it. So, if I get to a spot in a workout and want to make eight out of 10, if I don’t make eight of 10, then I run. I push myself to the point of exhaustion until I make that goal. So you build up that mentality that you got to make that shot and then use that in a game situation — it’s the ultimate feeling, when you’re able to work on something and implement it.”

Here is more, all of it focused on how LeBron James improved his game.

Dave March 30, 2013 at 7:45 am

This is good to hear. So often we think of super athletes as just having this natural talent without considering the other side of the coin–work and self-discipline.

zbicyclist March 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

Michael Jordan had a legendary work ethic also. It’s likely that most of the people at the very tip-top are extreme on multiple dimensions.

Martin March 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

On the other hand, Mario Lemieux was known for being quite lazy, AFAIK.

maguro March 30, 2013 at 11:30 am

He was. Though in his defense, he had a bad back and perhaps he knew his physical limitations better than his critics.

derek March 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Yes, so lazy that during the Gold medal game in Utah, he didn’t even go for the pass from the blue line but let it slide to Kariya, who scored. Lazy as a fox.

The fitness demands of the sport has changed. Guy Lafleur smoked, yet his play was characterized by end to end rushes.

Brokin April 8, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Some people can’t let a second of praise for the man be given without bringing MJ into the conversation. Who cares how hard MJ trained? The topic here is LBJ and how he dedicates himself to being the best he can. Not about tired comparisons. Long live the king.

Floccina April 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm

You cannot tell how hard he works from that article.

Ray Lopez March 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

eff dat! How do I improve my Elo rating TC? Two steps forward two steps back! I need to get over the hump! Somebody said play blindfold. Another said play for money–so you don’t blunder. I will sell my house for 100 more Elo points! NB–Ivanchuk upset Carlsen in the candidates tournament round-robin today to possibly rob Carlsen of first place–what a development! Chucky had such a bad lifetime score against Magnus, but finally bit back at the most inopportune time for Carlsen.

RZ0 March 30, 2013 at 10:28 am

Of course, LeBron really improved his game when he cut back on three’s and started posting up low.

Owen March 30, 2013 at 11:50 am

The article talks about that, but also about how he’s been reintroducing them this year to diversify his game, so he’s had to polish his 3-point shooting. That’s assuming the article’s accurate, of course–I don’t live in America and I hate watching basketball, but I do love stat charts.

Fallibilist March 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

The nice thing about LeBron James is that he’s not an A-hole like Michael Jordan. (Aside from dumping Cleveland.) I hope he gets at least as many rings as Jordan but, at this point, it’ll be tough.

Nick March 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Regardless of how people compare the three, I’ve always though Kobe and LeBron were much more likable than Mike.

Slugger March 30, 2013 at 11:45 am

Sure, supremely elite performers are highly internally motivated which is probably especially true if they did not benefit from external forces like a college coach. But is there a danger of overtraining and “leaving it in the gym?”
I once heard a oral memoir by Andres Segovia recalling the twenties in Paris. He rehearsed twelve, fourteen hours a day. He found the time to befriend Artur Rubenstein and was dismayed that Rubinstein only practiced three hours a day. Segovia thought that Artur was not devolping his talents fully. Artur responded that over-rehearsal would erode the freshness and passion of his performances.
At what point does LBJ risk physical and emotional burnout?

Nick March 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm

There are bound to be substantial differences between ideal practice times in music and in sports. I’ve heard lots of people in music throw around the 4-5 hr/day figure. Except those 4-5 hrs have to be completely and utterly involved and distraction-less.

Mike B April 8, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Wow — incredible data analysis, not to mention James’ work ethic! Imagine if we spent all of that talent and energy doing something worthwhile — curing disease, preventing war, fighting injustice. We could probably solve the world’s greatest challenges. That would be awesome.

Nino April 8, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Disagree here. Imagine LeBron would have had a choclate milkshake everytime he missed his goal of 8/10. Would our assumption be that milkshake help you reach your goal? Psychologically, punishment makes us feel better on hindsight, once we have reached our goal. However, the more you practice, the better you get – here sticks and carrots play a much smaller role than we tend to believe. I recommend some reading about Daniel Kahneman’s time in the Israeli military.

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