Leadership Profile: Cory Cotton

What’s the craziest basketball shot you’ve ever made? Multiply that by 100 and you’ve got Cory Cotton, one of the members of the YouTube sensation Dude Perfect. Perhaps you’ve been mesmerized by their trick basketball shots from airplanes, water towers, football stadiums, trains or cars. Or perhaps you’ve seen their brand featured on ESPN, Yahoo! or various daytime or late night talk shows. The simple truth is that Dude Perfect has inspired millions of people with their crazy shots, enthusiasm, and Go Big philosophy.

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But it wasn’t enough to just build a business based off crazy basketball shots. Cory Cotton took things a step further by putting the group’s contagious philosophy on basketball – and life – into a book: Go Big: Make Your Shot Count in the Connected World. In it, Cotton shares not only how the group capitalized on social media to become YouTube’s 3rd largest sports channel, but also how the average person can go big in their own life. Here are a handful of Cotton’s (and Dude Perfect’s) principles for going big:

Get Excited

When it comes to creating a movement, starting a business, getting a job or engaging in any kind of activity, Cotton says that it all starts with excitement. If you aren’t genuinely excited about what you’re doing, then you’re probably doing the wrong thing. It may sound cliche coming from a group of guys who shoot baskets for a living (actually that’s just a small part of it at this point), but the principle holds true. If you aren’t excited to up in the morning to get to work on whatever it is you do, there’s no reason anyone else should be excited about following you, either on YouTube, Twitter or in real-life.

Have Relentless Integrity

According to Cotton, integrity is one of those ideals that is noble in theory but extremely inconvenient in practice. His analogy is patriotism. It’s a lot easier on Independence Day than on Tax Day. But if you compromise once, not only will you be tempted to compromise again, you’ll ruin your brand promise to the public. For Dude Perfect, this meant making a decision early on to never post a video of a trick shot that wasn’t 100% legitimate, even though it would be much easier to doctor the videography than to spend the extra time working.

Blink Later

Cotton and the rest of the Dude Perfect crew are barely removed from college, yet they’ve collaborated on projects with many Fortune 500 brands. With the speed of technology, it’s possible to “go viral” literally overnight. In fact, at one point Dude Perfect picked up over 2 million views in two hours when Yahoo! featured a video on their home page. When success hits you full force, you have to be able to make certain decisions on the run in order to capitalize before the window of opportunity closes. Many times, this means making pre-decisions about who you are and what is most important, and then using those decisions to navigate the uncertainty when things speed up. It may feel uncomfortable, but some things simply can’t be prepared for in advance.

Inspire Others

In the end, Cotton says that money, fame and recognition aren’t enough. They never are, no matter the dream. Do something that makes a difference for other people. Use your platform and your niche to benefit others. Since Dude Perfect are the self-proclaimed Ambassadors of Fun, inspiring others means adding an element of fun to certain non-profits who provide clean water and necessities to under privileged kids around the world. Inspiring others shouldn’t be a separate element of your work. It will mean so much more if it relates directly to your niche.

If you want to know more about Dude Perfect, I’d definitely recommend Cotton’s book Go Big. But don’t start there. Start on YouTube with one of their videos, such as this one:

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, speaker and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.