What You Can Learn About Self-Observation and Self-Improvement from Kevin Durant

Posted 01.30.2018

If you pay any attention at all to sports, you’ve probably noticed that the Golden State Warriors are a really good basketball team. So good, in fact, that four of their five starters are playing in the NBA All-Star Game next month. With Steph Curry and Kevin Durant leading the team and (my idol) Steve Kerr coaching, Golden State is so good that it’s been reported that other teams in the league are suffering from Warriors Derangement Syndrome.

Still, as good as they are, the Warriors aren’t perfect. For instance, some of the players on the team tend to draw more than their share of technical fouls. Techs are sort of expected from Draymond Green given his game. They’ve maybe been less expected from Kevin Durant but he’s lately moved towards the top of the charts on techs and has been ejected from four games this season for saying more to the officials than they were willing to hear.

Durant’s latest ejection came against the Knicks last week after he felt like he wasn’t getting the calls he was due and spoke up about it – loudly. In the post-game press conference, he calmly talked about why he thought he was right and the refs were wrong. That wouldn’t be much of a story except for what Durant said at practice the next day to a group of reporters. Here’s the quote:

“I wish I had handled that better obviously but it was kind of a heat-of-the-moment for me. I could be better. It was a great learning experience for me though… I wasn’t getting picked on last night. I was being a diva last night. I’ve got to just own up to it. I watched it when I got home. I was wondering why he was coming at me so hard but then I watched the plays I was like, ‘Yeah, I looked like a jerk out there.’ It was bad. Luckily, we won and we can move past it and I kind of owned up to it. I’ll be better next time.”

There’s a lot in that quote that any of us can learn about self-observation and owning it when we get it wrong. Let’s break it down.

First, Durant literally went back and watched the tape. When he did, he realized he had been wrong to react the way he did during the game.

Second, he was honest about what he saw and called himself out for all to hear.

Third, he viewed the episode and his review and reflection on it as a great learning experience – “I wasn’t getting picked on last night. I was being a diva last night.”

Fourth, he sounded sincere in his commitment to be better going forward. He built in some accountability for himself by talking through his lessons learned on the record.

One advantage that Durant has that most of us don’t is the opportunity to go back and watch himself on video. It’s probably a really good thing that most of us aren’t taped when we do our jobs, but if we had tapes to review, there’s likely a lot we could learn from the self-observation. In lieu of a video taping system, consider recruiting a few trusted colleagues to keep an eye on you at work and give it to you straight when they see you acting like a diva or a jerk. If and when you get that kind of feedback, take a few tips from Durant. Be honest with yourself and others about what happened and how you showed up. View it as a learning opportunity. Hold yourself accountable by owning your behavior and publicly committing to do better in the future.

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