Tuesday, 17 July 2012

10 Lessons from Michael Jordan that anybody can use

Michael Jordan's success in basketball is attributable to his habits, simple outlook and yes, natural talent.  I always maintain though that with the exception of singing and sport, talent is not a necessity for success.  Based on interviews and soundbites from Michael Jordan, here are 10 philosophies that are adaptable to any walk of life:

#1: The system is fair

If you believe that you're starting at a disadvantage or bemoan the fact that the privileged kids have it so much easier, then you may as well not start at all.

Jordan: “Be true to the game, because the game will be true to you. If you try to shortcut the game, then the game will shortcut you. If you put forth the effort, good things will be bestowed upon you.”  He didn't believe in conspiracies and game rigging.  He just got on with his business.  And that's how you have to take anything in life.  

So some corrupt businessman wins government contracts.  So your competitor dodges taxes.  So your friend cheated in his exam and passed without detection.  It's a waste of time to contemplate the fairness or lack thereof of everything.  All you can do is bring your A-game and have the faith that your efforts will be rewarded. Don't worry about how the rewards will come either, because often it comes in ways you can't anticipate. 

#2: Master the fundamentals

"You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”  
Jordan warns that when you “get away from fundamentals… the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job… whatever you’re doing.” 

In a world of complexity we tend to forget that even the most complex of systems, machines and methods are built on the foundation of sound fundamentals.  And once the basics are mastered, they need to be kept sharp through practice and repetition...

#3: Practice hard

Michael Jordan was overlooked for his high school basketball team.

“It was embarrassing not making that team. They posted the roster and it was there for a long, long time without my name on it. I remember being really mad too, because there was a guy that made it that really wasn’t as good as me.”

This fueled him to train harder.  “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it… that usually got me going again.”  If you're a writer, practice entails things like blogging often, reading good work produced by others and setting time aside each day to write your book, no matter how "stuck" your brain may feel.  If you're a performer, it means running through your routine until it becomes second nature and you don't have to consciously think about it when get on stage.  Anthony Robbins often says, "Repetition is the mother of skill." 

Exception: Practice has limitations in a typical desk job though: how hard can one practice a debtors reconciliation or a management report?  When you practice then, make sure it's toward something that can bear fruit when you become proficient at it.

#4: Fear is an Illusion

“I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it’s an illusion to me.” - Michael Jordan

Right there probably lies the greatest difference between people at Jordan's level of success and those who experience little to none.  Most are paralyzed by fear of failure.  Others who do try have the possibility of failure playing in the back of their heads and as a result don't act freely.  They end up getting mediocre results as their actions are neither here nor there.  One must act freely ignoring the possibility of failure.  If failure happens, it happens.  Thinking about it more will not make the probability of it lessen.

#5: Quality sells itself

When Jordan was in the Chicago Bulls, every game in every stadium they played in across the country was sold out.  (As a matter of interest, sports clubs make most of their money from ticket sales.)  There was no need for clever advertising or complicated marketing.  What drew people in the droves was the quality of basketball they knew they were in for.  Excellence doesn't need promotion.  “Let your game be your promotional or marketing tool,” said Jordan.

#6: Expect the best

“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.” - Michael Jordan

Jordan was entrusted to take the big shots, and often he missed.  Yet he believed he would score on every shot he took.  “I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot…when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.”  You can think of a good possibility, or a bad one.  It's a choice.  So you may as well think of the good one.

#7: Changing is not the same as quitting

In 1993 at the age of 30 Jordan retired from professional basketball. In the prime of his career, after winning three championships, such a move seemed silly and almost arrogant.

His reason?
“I just needed to change. I was getting tired of the same old activity and routine and I didn’t feel all the same appreciation that I had felt before and it was tiresome.  A lot of things correlated with that — my father dying, the opportunity to play baseball, my desire to make a change. I look back on it and it was perfect timing to break away from it and see what I was missing, to see what it meant to me, to see the enjoyment that I got from the game.”

Baseball didn't work out too well for him, but it was about the change in scenery baseball provided rather than replicating the achievements he attained in basketball.  In 1995 he returned to the NBA and continued his winning ways as if he never left.  What many would call throwing in the towel was actually a re-focusing exercise.  Had he not taken this hiatus from basketball, there is a chance Jordan would have burnt out from doing too much of the same thing.  Burnout and sheer boredom happens to all of us, but most choose to continue along the same road hoping for better horizons to appear, rather than having the open-mindedness and courage to acknowledge that you're not going anywhere along a certain road.

#8: Enjoy the process

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” - Michael Jordan

This was Jordan's advice on business.  In any avenue of life you perform better and success comes more easily when you're engaged in what you're doing.  Jordan loves basketball and that helped him to practice harder and excel, but if you are to attain a similar standard in whatever you're doing, you have to do something that turns you on.  An end result like money or prestige will usually not provide you with enough steam to fully see things through.  One needs to enjoy the process of becoming successful, not just the idea of success itself.

#9: No regrets, no second guessing

“Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.” - Michael Jordan

You've already chosen to travel down a road once you've made a decision, so looking back after the fact is an exercise in futility.  You can stop and choose to do something else, sure, but to look over your shoulder and contemplate what could have been will not change what has already happened.  So learn to forgive yourself when you make a bad decision and most importantly, make decisions based on what's best for the future.

#10: Focus on the present...all else is an illusion

“Never think about what’s at stake… If you start to think about who is going to win the championship, you’ve lost your focus.” - Michael Jordan

The only thing real is the present moment.  The future is your imagination; the past is your memory.  They exist only in your head.  The complexion of the future depends on what you do in this present moment, so pondering the many possible permutations of the future will cause you to drop the ball.  A game is won one goal or point at a time.  The objective then is not to win the game; it's for the offense to score as much as possible while the defense concede as little as possible.  The result is just a by-product and pondering it is the same as entertaining an illusion.

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