Kobe & Gianna Bryant: Reflections from a Dad and HR Professional 

By Alan Collins

So sad.

My heart hurts.

Life’s so short.

Those were my feelings and emotions after hearing about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his 13 year old daughter Gianna and the seven others (pictured below) in a helicopter crash.

Like everyone else in the world, my heart and prayers go out to ALL these victims — Kobe, Gianna, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Payton Chester, Sarah Chester, Christina Mauser and Kobe’s private pilot, Ara Zobayan — who were all killed in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

My first reaction when hearing the news was shock.

I’m a HUGE basketball fan.

But more than that I’m a father.

So when I learned about BOTH Kobe and Gianna, this incident immediately took me back to the unexpected death of my son, Bryan, in an auto accident thirteen years ago.

At the time, it was painful and devastating.

At the time, it was life changing.

At the time, I cried uncontrollably.

At the time, it was something I was not prepared for or thought would ever, ever happen.

Truthfully, even today, I’ve never recovered. The pain is deep and it still exists. I’ve just become much better at dealing with it and managing my emotions. 

But when Kobe & Gianna’s deaths hit the news, all those emotions returned.

The other thing that returned is the ONE BIG LESSON I always try to remember when hearing about these kinds of unexpected tragedies.

It’s a lesson, which I hope you too as an HR professional find helpful.  And it is this…

You Must Make Time For
What’s Really Important.

This is not profound.

I’m sure you’ve heard this all before.

Many times.

However, it’s times like these that underscore it.

We all lead overwhelmingly hectic, busy lives.

As HR pros, we balance dealing with our clients, making sure we add value to our organizations and managing our personal lives…along with thousands of other commitments.

And because of this, one of the greatest mistakes we can make — and I know I make it often — is to believe that we always have a tomorrow. 

A tomorrow to say to our loved ones: “I’m sorry” “I love you,” or “Thank you.”

A tomorrow to say to our friends, colleagues and mentors:  “Thank you for being there for me,” or “I appreciate how you’ve helped me in my HR career” or “I really cherish our relationship.”

A tomorrow to begin going after that dream project, that HR position you want, that exciting new initiative that you’ve been putting off — believing that “someday” you will pursue it.

Please know that no one’s “tomorrow” is guaranteed.  “Someday” might never come.

Don’t assume you have years or decades to do what’s really important.

You don’t.

Life is short.

Your career in HR is even shorter.

It can end in an instant.

Just like it did for those nine people in that helicopter.

So don’t delay…

Take steps NOW to live your life fully,
pursue your career dreams aggressively
and hug the people you love.
Every single day.

Nothing is promised to any of us.

These kinds of tragedies remind us of this.

Take care and be well.


I would welcome hearing your own reflections.  Feel free to provide them in the comments below by CLICKING HERE.


About the author: Alan Collins is a father and Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals.  He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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20 Responses to “Kobe & Gianna Bryant: Reflections from a Dad and HR Professional ”

  1. carla waddell Says:

    I have been receiving your email for many years now, and has great tips for my HR career. You are correct on today’s article. In HR we take care the employees but no one ask about us and our life. They assume we are always happy and nothing is wrong. I found out I have high blood pressure ( never had it in my life) and everyone at work knew I went to the doctor, but when I came back NOT ONE person ask me how it went. So, it sads me, in our field we do not have the same compassion as we give to other back. You are right tomorrow is not promise. I will stop returning emails on weekends and vacation with phone calls. It my time and my space and my family. Thank you Alan for the article today. I only have 1 life.

  2. Alan Says:

    Thank you Carla for your thoughts. I’m so sorry to hear about your blood pressure and sincerely hope with your doctor’s help you’re able to get it under control and feel better. You’re so right, we only have 1 life. We owe it to ourselves to take care of ourselves, our loved ones, fill it with meaning and live it to the max. Take care.

  3. Diana Dema Says:

    Thank you Alan. Such a sad loss! People live with such losses, at first by not believing what has happened. And, then, by living what’s really important in life, it heals the wound of pain little by little, but missing your lost beloved, remains a lifelong pain. There is so mucch empathy, understanding, share of human support, as similiar losses, have broken hearts of people around the world. The learning should generate optimism for living life with sincere positivism and appreciation and gratitude. May the families of Kobe and others lost in the crash, be blessed with the courage they need to be enabled to make whats really important in their lives. You Alan, serve as a real model, of finding strength over pain of your belived son’s loss, to making time serving and empowering HR people, globaly. Thank you, again.

  4. Alan Says:

    Thank you, Diana for your insightful words of wisdom. Taking time to grieve and then as you said, taking more time to “find the strength over pain” and “find others to serve and empower” are important longer-term factors in dealing with these devastating situations. Wise words. Thanks for sharing them. Be well.

  5. Christy S Says:

    Alan, what a powerful story you shared. It must have been very hard to write and that makes it all the more meaningful. Your point is well taken regarding not waiting to do things until tomorrow. I have also been using another piece of your advice this year and my word for this year is Simplify. I believe the two go hand-in-hand. Thank you for this blog and all that you do.

  6. Alan Says:

    Thank you, Christy S. Simplification and prioritizing what’s really important do definitely go hand-in-hand. What a great connection and deep insight! And you’re right, this was one of the toughest articles I’ve ever had to write primarily because of the memories and emotions that resurfaced in the process. I almost didn’t write it. I’m now so glad I did, because hopefully others in our profession can draw strength and insights from it. Be well. Thanks again.

  7. Priya Says:

    Thank you for writing this. I’m a huge Lakers fan and this loss hit me pretty hard. It’s amazing how many things in life we take for granted. Going to and from work is a major one. Something so routine can turn into tragedy. We really don’t know what will happen tomorrow or even the next moment. Pursue your dreams and don’t hold back. Say what you need to say and do what you need to do. Love fully and live happily.

    Thank you!

  8. Alan Says:

    Priya, great point – merely going to and from work is a little thing we take for granted, that has huge life changing implications. Love your point — “Love fully and live happily”…great message for us all. Thank you.

  9. Gail Sanderson Says:

    Your column today took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. It is the HUMAN side of life that we ALL share – no matter your job, income, age, etc. Thank you for sharing your deep feelings and you are SO right about the decision of what REALLY is important. When I started working, I was a kid recruiter in a large Bank. I was told “Don’t bring your personal life to work.” I am glad that the world of work has changed, somewhat, and companies and people are seeking work/life balance. It’s impossible NOT to bring your life to work. And, thank heavens we now can talk about it!

  10. Alan Says:

    Thank you Gail, I’m so honored and thrilled that this article touched you positively. What an awesome point you make about bringing your REAL self to work. I would go so far as to say that you or any of us will never achieve our career dreams at a workplace where you CANNOT be yourself and bring your REAL self to work. Many organizations now recognize this and that’s great for us all. Thank you again for your heartfelt comments. Be well.

  11. Madonna Bentz Says:

    Alan – If we can’t or won’t care about others we work with and in our personal lives – that doesn’t say much about us as a person. Thank you for sharing your sadness with us all and the reminder to treasure each and every day.

  12. Alan Says:

    Well said, Madonna. Thanks for the share.

  13. Pamela Says:

    Thanks Alan for sharing. My heart goes out to you. You press on and find ways to continuously motivate and help others. God Bless.

  14. Alan Says:

    Thank you, Pamela. Your kind words are much appreciated.

  15. Valerie B. Says:

    Thank you Alan for sharing your inner-most thoughts and wisdom as they relate to Kobe’s death and how we can use this time to do some self-reflection. My heartfelt thoughts to you as you re-live the loss of your son. This is the first article of its kind that I’ve seen written by an HR professional since Kobe’s death. As heart-breaking as the news was, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of peace knowing that Kobe and Gianna are together in eternity playing basketball together everyday. I took stock of my career and priorities in 2015 after more than 25 years in corporate HR and haven’t looked back since. I witnessed the birth of my first and only grandchild in 2016 and she is the only person I plan to supervise (or it may be the other way around ?). Now, I spend my afternoons taking long walks and photographs of nature when most people are sitting traffic going to a job they despise.

  16. Alan Says:

    Valerie B, thanks for sharing your wisdom. Taking stock of one’s career is one of the most important endeavors we all can take…and I feel your joy when I read your story. I wish your much continued fulfillment in the future with your grandchild. Be well.

  17. Mark A. Griffin Says:

    Alan, When the news broke it brought back the memories of losing my Mother. It’s been 13 years but is still very real and painful to me. I often times think about you and the pain you must endure. I can see how this shocking tragedy could evoke such strong emotions in your memory of Bryan. Prayers for you and your family at this time.

  18. Alan Says:

    Mark, it is so great hearing from you. It’s times like these that make me cherish our relationship. Even though it’s been years since we’ve seen each other in person, I’m thrilled we’ve kept in contact and I really appreciate how you’ve supported me virtually all these years. I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom and sadness and pain I know you must continue to feel. Please accept my prayers and continued support for you and your family as well.

  19. Happy Colisile Mavimbela Says:

    A touching reminder Alan, more heavier since its within this tragedy.

  20. Alan Says:

    Thank you, Happy!