Coach Bob Knight, on What It Takes to Make it to the Top of Any Career

Coach Bob Knight compiled one of the greatest records ever in college basketball: 5 National Coach of the Year awards, 3 NCAA championships, 11 Big Ten championships, an Olympics championship, and 902 victories overall, along with achieving a near-perfect graduation rate for his players. Knight is also a featured commentator for ESPN’s college basketball coverage. We were able to catch up with him recently to talk about his latest book, “The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results,” as well as his advice on having a successful career.

What are your best tips for studying potential obstacles to neutralize the playing field and get ahead in a career?

No. 1: Whatever you are doing, you’ve got to figure out what you shouldn’t be doing. You’ve got to figure out what you are not doing. You’ve got to know what it is you are being asked to do. Don’t ever do something without knowing exactly what is being asked of you.

No. 2: If you’re on a job quest, you must present yourself in a way that illustrates the hard work you’ve put in to get to where you are now. Be sure that anyone who interviews you can say without question, “This person is invested. Their track record proves it.”

You’re known as a fairly up-front kind of guy. Why is it important to convey your expectations realistically when faced with real-life situations like interviewing or asking for a raise? Any tips?

I’m not sure you should ever ask for a raise, unless you are prepared to go somewhere else. The only time I think you should ask for a raise is when you are doing a better job in your position than anyone else in the company. For example, in coaching, you are beating everyone. and they are all getting paid more than you are. Or when you have the background that compares to those in a position or situation equal to yours, and they are getting paid more than you. If you go in there and say, “Well, I’ve been here for two years,” I’d say, “You’re lucky we’ve kept you for two years.”

When is an appropriate time for an employee to say “I can’t”?

When he or she just isn’t able to do something, just absolutely cannot get it done. Either physically, or in terms of “I’m just not well versed enough in that. I’ll be glad to study it and work on it and see, but I just want you to know that that is not an expertise of mine.”

What particular advice would you give those looking for their very first job?

Look like you know what you are doing.

Sound like you know what you are doing.

Be very quiet, except when there is a need to respond.

What can you tell employees about the power of teamwork?

This team consists of players. All of whom are important. If you don’t do your job, it affects the other nine people we have on this project. If you do your job, you enhance the work of the other nine people. And when you all do your jobs, you will each get the same kind of credit for the improvement that we’ve made in this particular area of the job that we got done. And you’ve all got to work together.

In what ways do you think you can use negative thinking to positively affect your career? Be one of the first two to comment with your answer and receive an autographed copy of “The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results!”

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  • Will

    I the above is great advice for any endeavor:

    “No. 1: Whatever you are doing, you’ve got to figure out what you shouldn’t be doing.”

    Thanks Coach

  • http://monster/bobknight dean

    I want the book. Sounds very interesting. I am fan of coach knight all the way.

  • http://monster/bobknight dean

    Thinking about where i shouldnt be at this point in my career is am interesting approach. Helps me see that really do need a change. Thanks for that perspective coach.

  • ben blad

    Figure out what are the things you are not supposed to do and then do the opposite of that. Return and report to your immediate manager to let them know of situations that you have already taken care of.

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  • http://Yahoo Brian

    Sometime what is perceived as “Negative” is actually striving for Excellence to always improve. I’ve seen many process’ that we look at and say “that’s a broken process. We have to be able to do better than that”. Being strategic in often being brutally honest.

  • Tracey

    Have read about positive thinking – but feel this is easier to do as all of us tend to think about what we may fail in or may be doing wrong rather than try to visualize a fantastic positive outcome every time! I think this book’s a real winner!

  • Ryan Anys

    WTF!?! Why is Monster lauding Bob Knight!?! A tyrant, bully and total ASS who believes it’s perfectly acceptable to “mold character” by smacking people around.

    How far would Bob Knight have made it in any business (outside of academia ivory towers) if he choked and hit his underlings? Is this Monster’s message to job seekers hoping to “make it to the top?”

    Bob Knight is not a hero or role model — this post is a disgrace and should be taken down.

    Hint: being a good basketball coach doesn’t exempt you from appropriate behavior — nothing does!

  • Karen Falgore

    Very solid points. I like how he says to never ask for a raise unless you know you can make more money somewhere else. I see that all the time in the workforce. This is a very intense and emotional man, way cool article though.

  • ellen

    Although people that i surround myself with in the workplace continue to say No it makes me want to say Yes. Their negativity promotes my laser focused approach.

  • david

    One need only look at Mr Rice’s behavior at Rutgers as evidence of the success of following the example of Mr Knight. That leaves us with Knight’s advice amounting to
    ‘do as I say not as I do’ – look like you know what you are doing, sound like you know what you are doing, but where is the actually know what you are doing?

  • J.R.

    I have read it, Coach Knight is clearly the best, IU will never have a coach a can fill his shoes. Even after getting the bad end of the broomstick at Indiana he went on to put the Texas Tech program on the map and even led a once pathetic Red Raider team to the Ncaa tournement. This man is a winner in everything he does, just ask Dickie V or Digger Phelps.

  • D. Wehner

    Adoration of this man is ridiculous. He is the role model for the type of people that include the coach just fired at Rutgers. Had we you tube in the Knight heyday, he too would have been exposed for his ridiculopus behavior on a much wider basis and met a much deserved worse fate than now writing books about how to succeed.