Taco Bell and a Future MVP

Where you start, what people label you as, and the outside skepticism you face don't have to determine your future.

Hours into the 2014 NBA Draft, ESPN was airing a commercial for Taco Bell when a slightly difficult name to pronounce scrolled across the bottom as the 41st pick to the Denver Nuggets.

There was no video of him shaking a commissioner’s hand, no mesmerizing highlight tape, no detailed analysis of his game.

On Tuesday, Nikola Jokic, who couldn’t even beat out a quesadilla for airtime that night, was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

It’s been an unimaginable journey for the 26-year-old Serbian center, but it has some important lessons for us.

In our leadership worlds, some prospects come in with tremendous anticipation, some are expected to simply be steady, some are all hype and little substance.

But there’s a select few whom we have few expectations for who turn out to be transcendent.

Katharine Graham of the Washington Post. Lisa Su of Advanced Micro Devices. Tim Cook of Apple.

They were hardly household names when they took over, but they worked tirelessly to lead their respective organizations to renowned success.

We can debate endlessly whether they were terribly misjudged or whether something just clicked for them that they’d never showcased in their prior roles.

But where you start, how people label you, and the outside skepticism you face have little bearing on your future if you don’t allow them to.

What counts is skill, what counts is resilience, what counts is the environment.

Jokic has worked each year to improve his body and shooting and will likely go down as one of the most unique players in history.

But beyond any of his mesmerizing passes or clutch shots is a lesson for us that there are some intangibles that just cannot be measured.

Instead of stereotyping our team members and putting them in boxes based on pedigree, experience or some other factor, let’s ask ourselves if there’s something in our prospects that we could be missing.

There might be some remarkable talent in front of us that just needs a little cultivation.