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Shaquille O’Neal

Visualize Victory…
The truly great see victory before the game begins

Given all the changes that have occurred recently it may seem like it happened forever ago, but in reality only two years have passed since this scene played out at the NBA finals.

As his 7-foot-1, 325-pound frame would suggest, Shaquille O’Neal is as dominant a player as the NBA has ever seen.
In 2006, four years after O’Neal had won his third NBA Title with the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaq was playing for another championship – this time with the Miami Heat, who had acquired him in a trade two years before. But Shaq “Diesel” was no longer the talk of the NBA. O’Neal’s new team was heavily overshadowed by the up and coming Dallas Mavericks and their 7-foot superstar Dirk Nowitzki. In fact, in a best of seven series most didn’t think the Heat were capable of winning a single game.

At first, the pundits looked to be right. The Mavericks wiped the floor with Miami in both of the first two games in Dallas and held a 13-point advantage in the fourth period of game three.

Then suddenly, things started to change.

The Heat rallied from behind to win game three, then game four and even game five, all in Miami. O’Neal and the Heat were now just one game away from becoming the second team in league history to lose the first two games of a finals series and come back to win four straight and an NBA Title.

I have been lucky enough to know Shaquille O’Neal since he was a 17-year-old kid and each time he has had a chance to win an NBA Championship, I have been invited, along with his fabulous college coach, Dale Brown, to witness Shaq’s success.

Hours before game six, Coach Brown and I sat with him in Dallas, talking about the season, this amazing series and his college years. The team bus was scheduled to leave at six o’clock and at about 5:45, he got up and began to pack his bags – not his gym bag, but his luggage.

shaq 2Coach Brown shot him a puzzled look. “But Shaq, this is only game six,” he said. “If you lose tonight you’re going to have to come back and unpack all that stuff.”

O’Neal broke into what I think is the greatest grin in all of sports.

“Coach Pat Riley pulled us all together at the end of practice today,” he said. “He looked at us and said, ‘Gentlemen, I am so sure that we are going to win tonight, I have checked us out of the hotel.

“‘At six o’clock I want you in the lobby with your bags packed and ready to load the bus. We are going to the arena, we are winning the world title and we are flying back to Miami tonight as champions.'”

As we started to get excited, Shaquille continued. “That wasn’t even the best part. Riley said, ‘I want each and every one of you to go down to the front desk at six o’clock and I want you – not your manager, not your wife, not your running buddies -to hand your room key to that front desk clerk. I want you to say ‘Thank you so much for your hospitality, but I won’t be needing my room tonight.'”

It did not matter what Dallas did that night. Shaquille and his teammates knew they were going to win. They had it from start to finish and they left Dallas hours later with an NBA Title in-hand… just like Riley said they would.

Tips from the Great Ones

I saw in the way O’Neal told the story, in the way each player handed his key to the anonymous front desk clerk, and I saw in the way the Miami Heat played that game, that these were players that knew they were going to be successful before they ever walked on the court that night. Their vision of themselves had everything to do with how they played.

shaq 3Pat Riley got his team to visualize victory, to win the biggest game most of those players had every played, before their bus even pulled up to the arena.

Incorporate a winning attitude in your life. Whatever it is that you do, picture yourself finding success and meeting your goals, and surround yourself with people who can share in that vision.

Only losers prepare to lose, and, unfortunately, visualizing failure is equally effective. Don’t you tire of listening to others complain how nothing ever goes their way? Aren’t they usually right? Instead, visualize your objectives, and pursue them without caution.

As you prepare for your next appointment, see it through in your mind… right up to the point that you get what you came for. If you haven’t envisioned how you’ll say thanks, you truly haven’t prepared for the meeting!

Why wait on history when you can write it yourself?

The truly great, like Shaquille O’Neal, CAN SEE VICTORY BEFORE THE GAME BEGINS.

When Shaquille arrived in Miami in 2004, he promised South Beach an NBA Championship to call its own. And he delivered.

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Certified Speaking Professional (CSP)

About Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger

Don Yaeger is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), longtime Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated, 11-time New York Times best-selling author, leadership expert and executive coach.

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