The Skill of Obsession
There’s one trait that can lead to amazing performances. It’s a trait that many admire, but also many fear. The trait creates a singular focus that cannot be broken until an aim is reached. It makes the holder impervious to both pain and pleasure. It can result in brilliant works but also broken people.
Obsession can be intoxicating. It can create power. If you can harness and use it, it’s invaluable. And it’s not just a trait. It’s a skill.
The Skill That Leads to Greatness
Kobe Bryant told the following story to a journalist, after being asked about his own arrogance and detractors:
“I was at a Gold’s Gym in 1998 and lifting weights. And I get a phone call: Michael Jackson’s on the other line… what the hell is going on? Somebody is playing… He’s a big basketball fan. And I was starting to get flak for being an introvert and being so serious all the time about the game, and he wanted to call and give me encouragement and say:
Don’t change for them. You have to stay focused. If you want to be one of the all-time greats, you have to study the all-time greats. You have to be obsessive about what you do and how you do it.
In the summertime, I would just disappear because I’d be studying. I’d be researching. I’d be studying, researching what the game is. Chicago won another championship. How, why? How do we get to that level?”
Michael Jackson, one of the greatest performers of all-time, called a young Kobe Bryant, to encourage him to stay obsessed with his craft. Maybe Michael Jackson was a Lakers fan and wanted to see his team win. Or maybe Michael Jackson wanted to reach out and share with a younger mind part of what made him great.
“Be obsessive about what you do and how you do it.”
Keep Working Until It’s Great
“When you’re starting out, just try to get five minutes of good material, then work on it and work on it until you think it’s great.”
— Rodney Dangerfield