Excel mastery from a Basketball legend
In 1980 a 19 year old African American boy in Oak Cliff, one of the poorest parts of Dallas Texas, bought a gun from a pawn shop and contemplated whether he should hold it to his head and pull the trigger.
Now this kid didn’t have much going for him, he wasn’t academic or athletic (he never made it onto sports teams in high school) and he had a very troubled childhood after his father left the family when he was just a child.
He had recently got himself a job as a janitor but he was suicidal.
He was about to squeeze the trigger when something deep inside stopped him and he decided to carry on, for the time being.
Then something extraordinary happened to him.
Over the next few months, he experienced a growth spurt of 9 inches bringing him to a height of 6 feet 7 inches.
He knew in his heart that something special was happening so he decided to take up Basketball again after failing to make a team in high school.
Word got around and his stature got him into a small local college to play on their Basketball team.
He began working hard at his game but he was not very good at scoring.
So he decided to concentrate on just one aspect of his game, which was to be a defensive player.
Defence is not a sexy part of any sport but as the famous coach Dave Thorson once said
“Offense wins games but defence wins championships”
He was extremely good, his competitors feared his defence and in one area of defence, rebounds, he became completely dominant.
He began to get noticed by the NBA and in 1986 he was drafted to play for the Detroit Pistons.
In 1989 and 1990 he played a major role in helping Detroit win the NBA Championships and along the way was regarded as the best and most fearsome defensive player as well as a rebounding genius.
From 1996 to 1998, he joined the great Michael Jordon and Scotty Pippen and was an equal force in them winning 3 NBA Finals.
Again, he did not worry about scoring; he just focused on defence and rebounds which alone made every coach and player fear him as much as they feared Jordan.
Now, in case you’re not a fan of Basketball, I am talking about Dennis Rodman, the bad boy of basketball.Legendary Detroit Pistons player and NBA champion, Isaiah Thomas, had this to say about why Dennis Rodman was a genius of the sport:
“We were standing in the lay-up line, warming up and shooting, and Rodman was standing back and watching everybody shoot. I said, ‘Hey, come on, you have to participate; everybody’s shooting lay-ups, you have to shoot lay-ups, too.’ And he said, ‘I’m just watching the rotations on the basketball.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said, ‘Like, when you shoot, your ball spins three times in the air. Joe’s sometimes has 3 1/2 or four times.’
That’s how far Rodman had taken rebounding, to a totally different level, like off the charts. He knew the rotation of every person that shot on our team — if it spins sideways, where it would bounce, how often it would bounce left or right. He had rebounding down to a science, and I never heard anyone think or talk about rebounding and defence the way he could break it down.
When you talk about basketball IQ, I’d put Rodman at a genius level.”
Rodman just focused on 10-20% of his game.
I am a big fan of the Pareto principle and I interpret it as 10-20% of your efforts will give you 80-90% of your results.
So you need to be in search of that 10-20% and get really good it.
Now, I work as a contractor which means I have done many different roles in the biggest and best organisations: Business Analyst, Financial Analyst, Reporting Analyst, PMO, Management Consultant etc. and I worked closely with all kinds of professionals like Management Accountants and Financial Controllers etc.
All these roles heavily rely on Excel.
Over the years, I realised that no matter what role I did, when it came to using Excel to deal with problems, a pattern emerged.
I noticed that most problems fell into one of three categories and Excel was used in the same few ways to solve those problems.
A year or so later, I realised that I was only using 10-20% of what Excel had to offer:
- A handful of formulas (discussed in my e-book)
- A few things on data
- A few charts
- A few formatting things
- Several things with VBA/Macros
Everything else just did not matter; I kept doing the same things again and again whether getting data, data analysis or reporting/dashboard.
I began to teach other professionals just this 10-20% and I was able to get complete beginners to advanced VBA level in a few weeks by focusing on just a few things but doing them really, really well.
Their results were amazing; they were doing work they couldn’t dream of doing like advanced data analysis, report building that they wouldn’t have dreamed of doing weeks before and some were quickly turning those skills into a greater salary.
Like Dennis Rodman did, he focused on Defence and Rebounding, which was 10-20% of the game and he became a master of it.
Along the way, he sought great coaches and mentors who helped him get better.
He won championships.
That is the power of focusing on the RIGHT things.
Why am I telling you this?
Well, many of you reading this are looking to get ‘better’ at Excel. So you might buy books, go on courses, google search or ask others for help.
That’s fine, but it’s neither effective nor efficient.
Most of these courses or books are created by Excel experts. You may say to yourself ‘That sounds good to me, I want to be taught by an Excel expert’
No you don’t.
An Excel expert doesn’t have the ability to edit him or herself. They will have you learning everything Excel has to offer, simply because it’s ‘there’. That’s a waste of your time. You will learn things that you won’t need and you will burn out.
You need to learn the right Excel skills, then no longer think about them and focus on other aspects of being a great professional whether you are a financial controller, PMO or reporting analyst.
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