The Mind-set of a Champion: What YOU can learn from Ray Allen

In the last post, I talked about how to use role models to help us achieve our goals.

I mentioned that I’d be doing some digging into my own heroes too.

So that’s exactly what I’ve done.

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 10: Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after breaking the NBA All-time three point record against the Los Angeles Lakers during the game on February 10, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

In this post, I’ll talk about my biggest* role-model, Ray Allen, and what we can learn from his mind-set.

So, who is Ray Allen?

Simply put, he’s the greatest 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA, and all-round terrific basketball player.

2-time NBA champion, 10-time All-star, Olympic Gold Medal winner, and holds the record for most 3-pointers ever scored.

And why is he my biggest role-model?  What do I respect him for most?


His work ethic.

“99% of the (NBA) players do not have that type of consistent work ethic (that Ray Allen has).”

Now, the last time I checked, NBA athletes aren’t the laziest bunch of people. If NBA players can learn a trick from Ray Allen, then so can anyone.

So, let’s find explore the mind-set of this legendary basketball player, and see how we can apply it to our own lives.

Lesson #1: Nurture over Nature

Ray Allen nailed one of the greatest shots ever taken in the NBA.

Let me set the scene;

It’s Game 6 (out of 7) of the NBA finals. Allen’s team, the Miami Heat, are down 3-2 in the series. If Miami lose, their championship run is all over.

It’s Miami’s last possession of the game, and they’re down by 3.

With 10 seconds left on the game, Miami-superstar Lebron James launches a 3.

He misses.

But a Miami player grabs the rebound, and manages to pass it to Ray Allen heading to the corner.

Backpeddling like crazy, with 5 seconds left, Allen catches the ball, launches it at the basket, and nails it.

The game becomes tied, eventually goes to overtime, and Miami manages to win the game then went on to win the championship.

His shot was described by many as “a miracle”.

Ray Allen’s reply;

“It wasn’t a miracle. It was routine.”

It wasn’t nature’s doing. Luck, fate and “miracles” had nothing to do with it.

It was nurture at work. He’d practiced hundreds, if not thousands, of similar shots in practice. He’d spent his whole career rehearsing just for those moments.

The shot was no miracle. It was a natural result of the countless hours of training he’d put in.

Nurture over Nature. Hard work over given talents.

Another example of this “Nurture over Nature” mind-set shows up when commentator Mark Jackson described Allen as “born to shoot”.

This didn’t go down well.

“I’ve argued this with a lot of people in my life,” Allen said.”When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot, it really pisses me off. I tell those people, ‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day. Ask anyone who has been on a team with me who shoots the most. Go back to Seattle and Milwaukee, and ask them. The answer is me — not because it’s a competition, but because that’s how I prepare.”

Allen’s success has nothing to do with Nature-given talents. His incredible work-ethic is what makes him a champion. His success was nurtured. Not blessed by nature.

“When hard work and talent meet, hard work wins every time.” Ray Allen

Again. It’s Nurture over Nature.

This is what we can take away and apply to our lives.

With a nurture mind-set, anything is possible, as long as you’re willing to put in the work.

“Hey, that looks coo! If I work really hard at it, I can do it too.”

“Sure, that looks tough, but with enough hard work I can get there.”

“Yeah, I suck at XYZ just now, but as long as I work at it, I’ll get better”

Having a nurture mind set is such an important tool to have. Suddenly, limitations and obstacles become challenges, which in turn become strengths. The world is truly your fat, juicy oyster.


“Man, I really suck at talking to people. I sure would like to become a charming conversationalist.

Oh wait, actually I can.

 I’ll talk to a stranger every day, and really work at it.”

6 months later…..

Hey, I’m awesome at talking to people. Thanks Nurture mind-set!”

Let’s compare with a Nature mindset, where you’re stuck with all the talents you were born with.

“Man, I really suck at talking to people. I sure would like to become a charming conversationalist.

Oh well, guess I’ll just have to avoid talking to people for the next 80 years then.


THERE IS NO POINT IN HAVING THIS ATTITUDE IN LIFE. It serves no purpose whatsoever. You’ll never improve, and you’ll be stuck with the same old you with the same old flaws. Forever.


Adopt a Nurture over Nature mind-set.

Lesson #2 Consistency is Key

Ray Allen’s nickname -“Everyday Ray”. Why?

He works on his craft not some days, not most days, but every single day.

Ever since his second season in the NBA, Allen shows up 3 ½ hours before games to carry out his pre-game shooting drills. Every single game-day. He’s consistent.

“That’s a key to his success, being able to consistently have a window to hone his craft,’’ said team-mate James Jones.

And it’s not just in his workouts. It’s how he shoots the ball.

Every single time, he shoots the ball exactly the same way. He feels so comfortable shooting the ball, that it almost feels like a part of his body.

His pre-game rituals are consistent too;  a nap from 11:30am until 1 pm, a meal of chicken and white rice at 2:30, an arrival time at the gym of precisely 3:45 to stretch.  He then shaves his head, then walks out to the court at exactly 4:30. He then methodically take shots from both baselines, both elbows, and the top of the key.


Another great example of Everyday Ray;

“He had sprained his ankle and we sat him out the Charlotte game,’’ coach Spoelstra said. “I was curious. This is probably one that he’s going to take the third bus (to the arena). He can’t shoot on the ankle.

“But, sure enough, he took the shooters’ early bus. I get over there and he’s already finished his routine. I’m like, ‘What are you doing. You’re not playing tonight.’ He had a sprained ankle but he still wanted to get up free throws.’’

Even when he was younger, he’d developed a consistent routine.

At 8 years old, he’d only let himself leave the court once he’d made 5 left and 5 right-handed lay-ups in a row.

A great in the making….

So, takeaway from lesson #2?

Be consistent.

Always have a window to hone your craft, just like Ray Allen.

It doesn’t matter how small you’re action. If you’re consistent, you’ll see big results.

You know how long Allen’s pre-game shooting routine is? Only 20 minutes long.

But that’s 20 minutes every single day. Before every single game. It all adds up.

Consistency is key.

Lesson #3 Focus and dedicate yourself completely on your goal.

“Ray Allen is the most disciplined person I’ve ever met” – his wife.

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more focused and dedicated to his craft.

He’s so focused on following his routine that he’s become almost an abstraction to the process. He’s a machine.

He doesn’t need to question himself. He just does what needs to be done.

He also knew the sacrifices he would have to make to become a champion.

He always packs light on road games, because he leaves his nightclub clothes at home. He gave up crappy food when he entered the league to fuel himself properly.

He made sacrifices. He dedicated himself to his craft. He focused on what needed to be done.

When Ray Allen signed for the Miami Heat, there were two options to get to the stadium on game-day; either the earlier bus or the later bus.

But for Allen, the earliest bus wasn’t early enough, so he took cabs to the arena instead.

Noticing his routine, his teammates started joining him. Soon, Miami were shelling out thousands of dollars just paying for cabs.

They were spending so much money, that they ended up buying a third bus, dubbed the “Early Shooter’s Bus”.

And Allen’s dedication to his craft had an effect in his earlier teams too.

“It got to the point,” says former Seattle coach Nate McMillan, “where the first bus was more crowded than the second bus. And that never happens.”

You might imagine that these pre-game routines are in the perfect conditions for shooting practice, being quiet and deserted and all.

Well you’d be wrong.

Sound and lighting systems are tested, dance-teams practice and cheerleaders rehearse. There are even performers bouncing on trampolines. It’s a circus!

Nevertheless, Allen always carried out the same pre-game shooting routine. He was focused. He was dedicated. And he saw the chaos around him as a way to improve his concentration.


In his 20s, Allen devoted 90% of his life to basketball.

Now I’m not suggesting that you devote 90% of your life to your goal. We do have jobs to go to.

But we can focus on the goal.

Dedicate yourself. Make your goal your no.1 priority. Plan your day around it. Make it a big rock!

Takeaway from lesson 3? Focus on the task at hand. Dedicate yourself to it. Prioritise it.


Lesson #4 Always be learning.

Ray Allen is always learning. He’s always improving himself.

When he first came into the NBA, he looked to learn from his most successful team mates. That’s how he came to implement his pre-game shooting routine – learning from older guys.

He learns from his role-models.

Often times, when people reach their goals, they relax because they’ve done it. They’re successful.

Not Ray Allen. Even after winning it all, he still works tirelessly at his craft.

Imagine that. Someone’s who’s done it all is still working harder on improving his game than players who haven’t even made it yet.

Ray Allen is 40 now, which is considered “old” for a basketball player, though for him, age is just a number.

Instead of slowing down as he gets older, he’s speeding up.

“I’m not going to let my age slow me down and think that I have to be pushed out to the pastures like most guys would be in their mid-thirties. You can be even better than where you were.”

He’s always improving.

And it doesn’t end when he steps off the court.

He’s an avid reader – his favourite book being The Alchemist by Paul Cuelho.  When he first finished reading it, he bought 10 copies to give out to his friends and family because the book was so inspiring. (The Alchemist is such an inspiring book. Give it a read!)

Some of his favourite memories were his student-athlete days at university, where he was learning not only basketball, but subjects in the classroom too.

Takeaway from lesson 4?

Always be learning. How can you work on yourself?


So, to recap.

Here’s the 4 lessons we can take away and apply to our lives.

  1. Nurture over nature. Hard work always beats talent.
  2. Consistency is key. No matter how small, do it every single day.
  3. Focus on the task at hand. Dedicate yourself. Make your goal your no. 1 priority.
  4. Always be learning. You can always improve.


So there it is. I learnt a ton from looking at my role model.

How about you? Who inspires you and why? What can we learn from them? Leave a comment!


* Parents aside of course. (You can pay me later :P )




BOSTON, MA – FEBRUARY 10: Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after breaking the NBA All-time three point record against the Los Angeles Lakers during the game on February 10, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

2 thoughts on “The Mind-set of a Champion: What YOU can learn from Ray Allen

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