Famous Perfectionist: Ex-Senator and Basketball Star Bill Bradley


ImageBill Bradley (born July 28, 1943) is an idealist and a hard worker, two prime characteristics of Enneagram Perfectionist types. He was an American hall of fame basketball player, Rhodes scholar, and three-term Democratic U.S. Senator from New Jersey. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in the 2000 election, beloved especially by many college students who admired his stance on anti-materialism. He was an Eagle Scout, played all-county and all-state basketball in high school, and was offered 75 college scholarships. At Princeton University he earned a gold medal as a member of the 1964 Olympic basketball team and was the NCAA Player of the Year in 1965. He attended Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.

Bradley spent his ten-year professional basketball career playing for the Knicks, winning two championship titles. Retiring in 1977, he ran for a seat in the United States Senate and was re-elected in 1984 and 1990.

Bradley is the author of six non-fiction books, including The New American Story, and hosts a weekly radio show, American Voices, on Sirius Satellite Radio.

On Meet the Press he said he believes people are searching for some meaning in their life that is deeper than the material. Being only interested in material things is a reaction to the hollowness of life, he said. “To these young people who believe that America can be just, I say, never give up and never sell out. You don’t have to give up your idealism to be successful in America. You don’t have to become complacent. To the contrary, you should be angry with the state of our democracy, the conditions of poverty, the absence of universal health care, the continuation of racism; and if you get angry enough and are smart enough and work hard enough, you can change things. You don’t have to give up what you truly believe so as not to offend power, for real power lies within each of you-the power to mobilize an army of citizens who want to change the world. … you can triumph over ignorance and spitefulness, corruption and greed. You can take the high road and succeed, if enough of you take it together.” –The Journey From Here by Bill Bradley

This is also typical of a Perfectionist: During his high school years, Bradley maintained a rigorous practice schedule, which he carried through college. He would work on the court for “three and a half hours every day after school, nine to five on Saturday, one-thirty to five on Sunday, and, in the summer, about three hours a day. He put ten pounds of lead slivers in his sneakers, set up chairs as opponents and dribbled in a slalom fashion around them, and wore eyeglass frames that had a piece of cardboard taped to them so that he could not see the floor, for a good dribbler never looks at the ball.” Another sign of the Perfectionist is that he felt uncomfortable using his celebrity status to earn extra money endorsing products as other players did.

My last blog was on Robert Reich, who spoke eloquently at a University of California rally on the Occupation movement. Bill Bradley makes a good spokesman for the ideals of the 99% as well.

See more Famous People Enneagram examples on my Psychology Today blogs, my web site, and in each chapter of The Career Within You and Are You My Type, Am I Yours?

One Response to “Famous Perfectionist: Ex-Senator and Basketball Star Bill Bradley”

  1. ewagele Says:

    From Facebook:
    Hi Elizabeth,
    Ted Grabowski commented on your status.
    Ted wrote: “How bout MLK and Gandhi as models? Would love to see the OWS put values, character, and non-violence at the top of their list. Non-adversarial, non-polarizing–and not demonizing or objectify anyone (the 1%) in the us/them fashion that almost always leads to violence.

    From MLK rules for protest:

    * Remember that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation – not victory.
    * Walk and talk in the manner of love;
    * Observe with friend & foes the ordinary rules of courtesy.
    * Perform regular service for others and for the world.
    * Refrain from violence of fist, tongue, and heart.
    * Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

    Pledge to Nonviolence Taken by Marchers With Gandhi, 1921

    A civil resister will harbor no anger.

    He will suffer the anger of the opponent.

    In so doing, he will put up with assaults from the opponent, never retaliate; but he will not submit, out of fear of punishment, to any order given in anger.

    He will voluntarily submit to the arrest and he will not resist the attachment or removal of his own property.

    Non-retaliation excludes swearing and cursing.

    He will never insult his opponent, nor take part in the newly coined cries contrary to the spirit of nonviolence.”


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