Calvin Murphy was a 5 foot 9-inch basketball player in the 1970s and early 1980s. Murphy wasn’t just one of the shortest pro ballers ever, he was also one of the best. His vertical leap was legendary. Murphy was rumored to be able to pull a dollar bill off of the top of a backboard. Allegedly, when challenged by fans wondering if the legend were true, he said, “no… but I can take a $50.” Where’s that skill and confidence come from?
At 5’9” he wasn’t just blessed with those types of ups. A jump like that takes practice. A lot of practice. There are no natural all stars in basketball, which applies to more attainable skills like public speaking, sales, and storytelling too. Like Murphy, we might be predisposed to have some talent and even higher tolerance for the required work to be great (there has to be some nature to be nurtured), but the best of the best always put in the practice too.
Once we’ve honed our skills, it’s all about the story. We can objectively google Murphy’s stats and then talk about how great he was. That option doesn’t exist for most of us. Part of being a professional is figuring out how to tell our own story because there aren’t a group of journalists waiting in the wings to do it for us.
Consider the differences in impressions each of these scenarios leaves you with: A. he could jump really high for a relatively short guy, B. that short guy could jump so high that he could take a dollar off of the top of a backboard, C. I met him once and he really is not tall – so I asked if it were true that he could grab a dollar off of the top of the backboard. Do you know what he said? No… but I can take a $50! Do you believe that?!
Which is the most memorable?
Our jobs require a level of confidence that isn’t easily faked. Early in our careers the sheer amount of information can be intimidating and it’s normal to feel like an impostor. But, as we practice and acquire the skills, we have to be aware of the internal confidence story that comes along with them. Not everyone can touch the top of a backboard just like not everyone knows what we know in our field.
Opportunities come from interesting people doing interesting things. The skills AND the story matter.