How I Apply the Mamba Mentality in Graduate School

Photo by Dean Bennett on Unsplash

I’m currently in my first year of graduate school pursuing a Master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Graduate school is indirectly competitive, while basketball is a direct-contact sport. What connects the two domains? For me, the Mamba Mentality.

Kobe Bryant left us with abundant wisdom about life. Here are five Mamba Mentality life lessons I apply as a clinical psychology graduate student:

1. Focus on the Fundamentals

“Why do you think I’m the best [basketball] player? Because I never got bored with the basics.” -Kobe Bryant, 5x NBA Champion

Kobe modified his weight-training program to prepare for 82-game seasons. He utilized meditation and prioritized sleep to improve his performance.

An average person ignores the fundamentals. The outlier fixates on them.

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In my Master’s program, ~70% of the academics is writing analyses. The remaining percentage is exams and presentations.

I dedicated the final months before starting graduate school to refine my reading, writing, and grammar skills. Focusing on the fundamentals is a repetitive process — but I found the small hours I spent each day on the basics compounded to great results.

Today I continue learning how to improve my fundamentals, and it’s paying off. Writing papers and taking exams have been manageable thus far, leaving me time for outside hobbies (such as writing this article).

2. Be a Sponge

“Everything was done to learn how to become a better basketball player. Everything. When you have that point of view, the world becomes your library to help you become better at your craft.” -Kobe Bryant, Founder of Granity Studios

Kobe consumed ideas every waking hour as if he needed them to survive. Every book he read, film he watched, and person he talked to were to help him be a better player.

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As a graduate student, my time and energy are limited. I choose to invest my time into resources expanding my knowledge of clinical psychology.

I allocate my energy to people pushing me to be a better version of myself.

I don’t make time for anything or anyone coming short of those standards.

3. Achieving Goals Requires Inherent Sacrifices

“We can all be masters at our craft … but you have to make a choice.” -Kobe Bryant, 2018 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film

One of the clearest sacrifices Kobe made to achieve greatness was his time with family.

Kobe reported spending up to 9 months away from his wife and daughters every year in the NBA. Despite the sacrifices, his wife and daughters understood his dream.

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The most significant sacrifice for me in graduate school has been my relationships.

My dating life? It’s on pause. My friendships? They have wavered and suffered.

I know the people who can’t understand my goals are not meant to walk with me this season. But my closest friends don’t impede on my dreams. They embrace them.

4. Befriend Your Mistakes

“It’s exciting when you win and when you lose. The process is the same. You go back, look, and find things you could have done better.” -Kobe Bryant, Bodyarmor Investor

In the 1990s, Lakers fans remember Kobe’s notorious airball game where he shot four airballs in 5 minutes.

I’m guessing fewer fans know that when he was 10-years old, he played minor league basketball one summer and didn’t score a single point.

How does someone go from scoring no points in one summer to scoring 81 points in a single game 16 years later? He learns from his mistakes.

Graphic by Steph Smith

Graduate school is a playground for making mistakes. It’s easy to make them — it’s painful to swallow your pride and face them.

But when you face your mistakes, analyze them, and learn what you can do better, you’ll be at least 1% better. I’ll take a 1% improvement over remaining stagnant any day.

5. The Dream is in the Journey

“Those times when you stay up late and you work hard; those times when you don’t feel like working — you’re too tired to push yourself — but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream.” -Kobe Bryant, 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee

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Success is not the dream.

The dream is the culmination of small steps from your journey. Choosing:

  • Emotional regulation over emotional destruction (i.e., channeling your anger into motivation, not discouragement)
  • Productivity over pleasure (i.e., waking up at 4 am for the gym instead of sleeping in)
  • Short-term pain over permanent suffering (i.e., shooting two free throws with a torn Achilles)

…are part of the Journey — the Dream.

And I’ve learned to fall in love with the journey.




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