Having recently watched The Last Dance on Netflix like many, I reflected deeply and attempted to decipher the Jordan Mentality. In summary, here’s what I learnt from Michael Jordan on achieving greatness:
- Achieve a flow state.
- Use failure as a fuel.
- Never look back.
- Be so good at the thing you do.
Before Michael even became Michael, he was denied a place in the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year. But following this, he pretty much was ‘the player’ to watch closely in any game he played - let’s have a closer look at how he achieved this.
1. Achieve a flow state.
“The court for me, during a game, is the most peaceful place I can imagine. On the basketball court, I worry about nothing. When I’m out there, no one can bother me.” — MJ
Too often, when people are at the heart of the action, whether it be in sport or in an otherwise working environment, they let their mind drift. They think about the next match or the next meeting. They begin to contemplate weekend plans or how they will overcome a particular problem in another aspect of life.
MJ says when you’re at the heart of the action, the single aspect that should receive 100% of your focus is what’s immediately in front of you. So, if you’re in a client meeting this would involve giving your client your undivided attention and providing the best value proposition you can in that moment. If you’re revising for exams, this would mean giving your undivided attention in piecing together content and grasping a clear understanding.
So many people don’t achieve greatness not because they don’t have the talent or the ability. They do. They don’t achieve greatness because they aren’t in a flow state - the one thing that requires their full focus doesn’t receive it.
2. Use failure as a fuel.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — MJ
We only ever hear about the highlights. On social media, we typically post our most successful moments. In summarising any great athlete or businessman, we speak about their accolades or net value. Little do we speak about the 10,000 iterations or failures that led to success.
Every successful person is advertised as an overnight success, a genius entrepreneur, a visionary. But the truth is, a lot of these people have been working hard for years before making it to the spotlight.
How often do you see articles about Elon Must sleeping under a desk or hitting near bankruptcy on multiple occasions? We see him as the wildly intelligent man who has revolutionised automobile and space travel. Some more examples:
Walt Disney = revolutionised entertainment. Not a man who filed for bankruptcy.
Bill Gates = changed the software game. Not a man who’s business idea was initially ridiculed and rejected by top dogs.
Usain Bolt = 100m world-record holder. Not a man who threw up numerous times from exhaustion at training sessions.
What one can take away from this is that it takes a lot of iterations, a lot of failures, and a lifelong addiction to improvement to become so great that you are defined only by your successes.
3. Never look back.
About to win their first-ever NBA Championships, Chicago Bulls required a break in the 4th quarter.
All opposition defence was on MJ - they needed another man. Phil Jackson (head coach) tells MJ to pass the ball to Paxson, a teammate who was open and could score.
MJ was sceptical of this - he didn’t want to pass. But he listened, and he passed. Paxson scored. Again, and again. Until they won.
Too often, we doubt our decisions. We think to ourselves could I have made a better choice, should I have gone with B instead of A. However, all that you achieve in shifting your mind all the time, is a state of stagnancy.
This is made all too easy by our current digital environment. If you want to pick up a new skill, it’s easy you can go on YouTube or Skillshare. If you want to start a blog or a newsletter, it only takes a few clicks. This makes shifting between commitments and trialling new things ever so frictionless. However, if we want to make big progress then we must learn to stick with it and not go back on ourselves too often.
“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.” — MJ
Commitment has never been so hard because the temptation is everywhere. The key is to invest your time in a handful of things and don’t look back.
4. Be so good at the thing you do.
So far we’ve focussed on the game he played, the accolades that made him the greatest of all time. But now let’s have a look at the successful entrepreneur he became.
“My game was my biggest endorsement. What I did on the court, my dedication to the game led to all this other stuff. Believe me, if I was averaging two points, I wouldn’t have signed anything with anybody.” — MJ
Simply put, MJ didn’t chase after his humongous Nike deal, it came chasing him. The deal lives on, even today, producing more revenue for Nike than they could have ever imagined. Air Jordans became a lifestyle choice, a fashion piece one must own. From Barack Obama to Justin Timberlake, millions of individuals wanted in on a pair of Air Jordans.
“My game did all my talking.” — MJ
What I took away from this is many a time being extremely good at the one or few things you do can lead to many other opportunities. For the average person, this could be attaining the highest level of performance at work. For the student, finessing your exams to the best of your ability. For the writer, putting out the best piece of writing you can. All of these could lead to a promotion, entrance to more competitive institutions or jobs, better engagement, etc.
The idea is that you don’t have to go seeking the next big thing, all you have to do is be great at the things you do and everything else will come along.
Love yourself and expect great things to come from within. Be able to have laser focus on the agenda at hand and give it your absolute everything. Don’t shy away from failure and when you fail, learn.
Michael Jordan was just a kid who loved playing basketball before he became Michael Jordan.
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