Tall Lessons from Shaquille O’Neal

My Tall Friend

Some people pop into your life unexpectedly and have an even more unexpected impact on your life. I met Shaquille O’Neal in 2008. Over the past three years, we’ve been in touch almost on a daily basis. He’s been a friend, mentor and client who has taught me a few tall lessons along the way.

Working with Shaquille has been easy. We’ve developed a rare, symbiotic friendship that is a constant transaction of value. An “I’ve got your back and you’ve got mine” agreement that you never question and never take for granted. Those relationships don’t come around often.

I remember calling Shaquille to pitch the idea of “Random Acts of Shaqness.” I went out on a limb and realized he might think I was crazy. Thank goodness I colored outside the lines that day. It was a first step in getting to where I want to be today . . . writing this blog post.

I’m a first time entrepreneur and this is my first rodeo. Shaquille has been there to give me advice, pep talks and plenty of chuckles. Now, at this time of paradigm shifts in both of our life paths, I thought I’d pass on some lessons learned along the way:

Tall lessons:

  1. There’s no such thing as living a “normal” life. Don’t fight your passion or what drives you. Do what it takes to reach your goals and let everything else fall into place.
  2. Go big or go home. Otherwise, what’s the point? Don’t half a*s it, even if you find yourself rapping about a former teammate in a NYC club at closing time.
  3. Your personality, confidence and the way you conduct yourself defines your brand. It can always be improved. (Applies to #2 in da club.)
  4. There’s a difference between transparency and authenticity. Shaquille has zero ability to fake anything. When you’re 7-feet tall, there is very little “normalcy” and no disguise. Guessing his stance is never an issue. That’s why people connect with him. He doesn’t hold back. His genuine honesty is even refreshing to those who don’t agree with him.
  5. Humor can solve pretty much anything. Live your life in a way where making people laugh seems selfish because you benefit so much from the act.  He once told me his number one goal in life is to make people laugh and smile. (We all just got lucky because now he has more time to make us laugh.)

Shaqisms to live by:

“Never defend yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies will never believe you anyway.”

“Be a leader not a follower. If you have a team, work with the team because only teams make it big. “

My Takeaways from the big Social Media Center:

Color outside the lines. It’s okay to invent your own rules. You can be edgy, unexpected and still likable. It’s not easy but it’s powerful if you figure it out.

In the end, Shaquille seems to live by the fact that it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters how you make people feel. Shaquille knows he owes a lot to those who have cared about and supported his journey. I’ve worked with many celebrities and he’s one of the few who has never denied an autograph or photo with a fan. He genuinely enjoys every moment he’s around his “fans” which he considers friends. You can’t fake that.

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