This week, ESPN ran a long profile of Gregg Popovich, the legendary head coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. “Pop” is a modern day renaissance man, a thinking man’s jock, the winningest coach in league history, a 5-time champion, and a next-level food and wine connoisseur. The article is about 90% focused on the coach, but the opening story illustrates what can happen when you bring a “challenge mindset” to a single task.
It seems that one night, the coach has brought players and staff, 40+ people, into an LA restaurant for a private team dinner. The coach looks at the wine list and immediately asks to see the manager. When 29-year-old Jeremy Threat introduces himself, the coach wants an explanation. How in the world does this list have so many hard-to-find favorites of his? Just an incredible coincidence?
No, turns out the young manager found out hours before that Popovich and Company would be dining at his restaurant, so he:
Remembered and tracked down a Wine Spectator magazine feature that listed the coach’s favorite wines,
Called a nearby friend with a wine cellar and persuaded him to haul in about 120 bottles worth roughly $50,000 in total,
Built a customized list that evening of 54 wines.
The coach was immediately floored by the effort, ordering 10 bottles he takes around himself to tables to pour and talk about. On the way out, he buys another 10, to go. He comes back multiple times to dine and buy more wine. Great story if it ends there.
Word spreads. Threat is interviewed by the local paper. Guests come to the restaurant asking about the “Popovich list”. The manager graduates a few years later to a job with the esteemed Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, where he works with some of the most respected sommeliers in the business. He now runs his own consulting business.
Who knows if Threat ever aspired to “move up” or had an ultimate goal of being a wine consultant to high profile clients. The larger point is, on one night, he saw an opportunity to do something that went above and beyond what any person — Hall of Fame coach or otherwise — could reasonably expect. In a specific situation, he found the challenge. And it paid off for years to come.
Remember, having big goals are often self-centered. They’re about what we want to gain.
But challenges are about what we are willing to give.
Founder, The Idea Enthusiast. Speaker, Trainer, Facilitator, and writer about all things creative consulting. DC-based consultant to individuals who want to be more creative, teams who want to collaborate without fear, and anyone who wants to deliver the best pitches and presentations.