Nathan Tanner

What You Can Learn From Kobe Bryant’s Latest Career Move

Kobe Bryant made headlines yesterday by announcing the launch of a $100 million venture capital fund. Yes, you heard that right. Kobe, the man who closed out his NBA career just a few months back by dropping 60 on the Utah Jazz, is now a venture capitalist.

Apparently he and his partner, Jeff Stibel, have invested in 15 companies since 2013. And their new fund, Bryant Stibel, will be investing in technology, media and data companies.

Many will write this off as a multi-millionaire making an unwise entry to an industry he knows little about. It’s a valid point, but I think there’s something more at play.

The genius of Kobe Bryant

Kobe could have waited until his basketball career came to a complete close before contemplating his next move. Many take this approach. He didn’t.

As it turns out, Kobe’s first investment with Stibel was in 2013, which happens to be the same year he ruptured his Achilles in a game against the Golden State Warriors. At that point, Kobe likely knew his days were numbered and that the time would come when he could no longer play in the NBA. (As they say, Father Time is undefeated.)

Rather than wait until his career ended, he was proactive and started laying the foundation for his next career move. Kobe made the decision to invest in himself.

In a 2014 interview with Bloomberg, Kobe discussed his habit of cold calling successful people such as Arianna Huffington, Jony Ive, and Oprah Winfrey.

I’ll just cold call people and pick their brain about stuff. Some of the questions that I’ll ask will seem really, really simple and stupid, quite honestly, for them. But if I don’t know, I don’t know. You have to ask. I’ll just do that. I’ll just ask questions and I want to know more about how they build their businesses and how they run their companies and how they see the world.

“Humble” is not a word frequently used to describe Mr. Bryant, but his willingness to be teachable, to ask the “dumb” questions, is impressive, especially from someone of his accomplishments.

What we can learn

Change is the only constant in the modern economy. Sad as it sounds, there’s a good chance you’ll be laid off during your career, if you haven’t already at some point. (I have. It’s not fun.)

Companies are continuously looking for ways to cut costs and increase profits. This often leads to massive layoffs, even in a relatively healthy sector such as technology. Needless to say, you can’t rely on the stability of a career path within a single company.

So what do you do?

As I said in my book, to be successful in this new world, we must take a proactive approach to managing our careers. We can’t let our skills grow obsolete. The job we have now may disappear in a decade. Our company may get disrupted. Our industry may shift dramatically. To stay relevant, we must be constantly growing, and occasionally, completely reinventing ourselves.

That’s why I love Kobe Bryant’s latest move. He didn’t let someone else decide when his career was over. Rather, Kobe spent the last few years in the NBA learning and developing new skills so that when he eventually got “laid off,” he could pivot gracefully to a second career.

We can learn a lot from his example.

Disclaimer: I am an unabashed Kobe Bryant fan. My views on this subject are completely biased by his Hall of Fame career and the five titles he delivered to my favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers.