Seven Life Changing Lessons Michael Jordan Taught Me
Michael Jordan has been named the greatest sportsperson of all-time by fans around the globe. In this article, I have summarized seven leadership & life changing lessons that every leader can learn from Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan is a role model, has inspired generations, and is the reason many people fall in love with basketball.
He managed to unleash his full potential and is an example of success, action and ambition. Many qualities and skills together with a powerful mindset are needed to become that good at something, to reach the top of a career and to stay consistent at it. There’s a lot he can teach us about life.
Six championship rings, 4 Olympic Golds, 5 NBA MVPs and 6 finals MVPs are just a few achievements in his highly celebrated basketball career.
Michael Jordan wasn’t just a great player, he had an amazing work ethic, outlook on life and the ability to inspire and motivate millions of people around the world.
If you want to achieve great results and be successful in life, you need to learn from those who had been there and done that.
Michael Jordan has the qualities to be successful and he is definitely a great role model that we can learn from. Michael Jordan is a guy who was cut out of his varsity basketball team because he was deemed too short to play but he turned out to be highly successful in his basketball career and is known as a legend in the game.
What Michael Jordan taught me is countless and priceless.
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, there are life and leadership lessons to be gained from seeing how Michael Jordan took a Chicago Bulls franchise that had less fans than the city’s indoor soccer team in the early 80’s, and turned it into the dynasty that grew the profile of the NBA globally.
I am privileged to share with you the inspirational life lessons he taught me.
So what makes Michael Jordan such an amazing individual? What life changing lessons of Motivation can we all learn from Michael Jordan? Here are the some key life changing lessons that mostly caught my attention and I hope will also resonate with you.
Lesson #1: Don't Be Scared to Fail
Successful people know that defeats are the most valuable experience in life. It’s our mistakes that show us the right way eventually. And Michael Jordan decided to accept failure, learn from it and do his best next time early on in his career.
Failure has a way of making people want to give up. But it has the opposite effect on Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan wasn’t always a winner. The first time he got to the NBA playoffs, his Bulls were knocked out in the first round. The next two years, they were swept by the Boston Celtics. All Michael Jordan knew was failure. But it only made him want to be better.
Sometimes the only thing holding you back from being successful is the fear that you may fail.
The feelings associated with fear are produced by chemicals released when our body goes into fight or flight mode. If we realize that there is no imminent danger, just huge potential for success when we feel this and it actually gets us motivated to move forward rather than paralyzing us.
We don’t know the result and we may never know unless we try.
Nothing will ever happen if we don’t get out there and try. There will always be obstacles in the journey towards our goals. But don’t let them stop you from taking the first step. Obstacles are meant to be conquered. And the truth is, nothing will ever happen if you don’t do something about it, and there’s no better way than trying.
If you’re not failing you’re not trying. Embrace your setbacks and failures as fuel and motivation.
Accept that failure is part of success. Find perseverance and continue, you have it within you. Michael Jordan, along with successful people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, knew that failing was not just inevitable. It also became a part of his success story.
Fear of failure is a big obstacle on the way to success.
Be we won’t go any further unless we let go of it. It’s important to realize that the only barriers are the ones we set for ourselves. We create such illusions that make us afraid to take action. And without action, there’s no progress. So don’t be afraid to do what you love and fail as much as you can.
Lesson #2: Get It If You Want It
Nothing went above winning for Michael Jordan. When you do things, do them right and with full dedication. Others will take you more serious and will be more willing to support you as you show to have a chance of making it through.
Get in the game. Get involved. Don’t be afraid to make decisions because they may lead to mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitably part of the journey. If you were perfect you wouldn’t be on this journey. Some people fear failure so much that they freeze up and are afraid to make decisions or take take action. Conquer your fears by making decisions and taking action.
When you want something you have to understand that, in order to get it, you have to dedicate yourself completely.
There will be obstacles but overcoming them is essential for your growth. If you want something badly enough, you’ll be willing to learn and invest time and effort. Maybe you won’t get it exactly when you want it, but you will eventually.
Make your mind your biggest ally to conquer your fears and conquer your quest.
As physically gifted as his body was, the secret weapon Michael Jordan possessed was his mind. Nobody in the world could compete with him. He believed he was the best and committed to the idea that he would overcome all competitors.
Michael Jordan believed that he would get out of the game exactly what he put into it.
If you don’t completely trust the game — if you think it’s “unfair” or “rigged” — then deep-down you’re not going to be feel motivated to give it everything you have. With that attitude, you’ve lost before you even begin. Whether in life, or basketball, you get out what you put in.
Believe you can and you will. Pour your love into all that you do.
When it comes to motivation, there are two types. There’s extrinsic, which would be external factors like money or awards. Even more powerful though, is intrinsic motivation where you’re driven because you want to explore, grow, learn, or actualize your potential.
When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you will be successful.
Everyone has dreams and everyone wants to live a successful life. But it all comes down to how bad you want it. If you are willing to sacrifice the things others won’t, and work like your life depends on it. You are on the right path. It’s about commitment and focus. It’s about living actively instead of living passively.
Lesson #3: Earn Your Stripes
Michael Jordan, to say the least, was a bit of a jerk. I’m not suggesting that you repeat his behavior. But, he also worked harder than anyone else on the team. He made sacrifices and strived for perfection. In other words, he walked the talk.
The fledgling level of leadership is “Positional Leadership.”
People follow you because they have to if they want the job they have because you are the person with the title. Titles are bad reasons to follow people. Great leaders want followers that follow for other reasons. Great leaders get the permission of those they lead to lead them.
When leaders work so hard, everyone wants to work as hard.
Michael Jordan was considered sometimes a tyrant by his peers. Indeed he pushed his team’s mates at their limit and sometimes beyond, but they didn’t have any resentment against him because he was so driven, so committed, pushing himself so hard and because he was never asking them something he wasn’t doing himself. So if you want to push your team, first start to lead by example.
You can be a LEADER even when you are a FOLLOWER.
You don’t need to be in positional leadership to start acting like the change you want to see. From the onset as a rookie, Michael Jordan decided what kind of leader he was going to be and what kind of impact he wanted to bring to the team. He did not wait for people to make him the leader, he grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself.
Expecting the best in others helps bring it out in them. Of course, it’s most effective when you lead by example (as MJ did).
Expectations often get in the way of what we want to achieve in life. And if you let them, they prevent you from moving forward. But it’s all in your hands and others have nothing to do with it. So don’t listen to what they expect, don’t take into consideration how they see things, just stay focused on the game and do what feels right.
Influential leaders know how to challenge those around them to become the best versions of themselves.
Michael Jordan expected his teammates to perform at their personal highest level, the same standard he held himself. He pushed his teammates out of their comfort zones, even if they didn’t like it.
Can you lead if you’re not setting an example you want others to follow?
It may not be comfortable in the moment to build discipline or set standards, but you have to stand by your principles that you want everyone to live by. Michael’s toughness was undoubtedly not for everyone, but whether you liked his style or not it worked. It worked in part because he led by example, talked a bunch of trash, and backed it up with his play.
Lesson #4: Hard Work Pays Off
In order to collect your harvest, you need to put in the effort to sow first. That is the Law of Nature. If we want to achieve something, just put in the hard work and the results will definitely come. Be tenacious and improve every single day.
Hard work is the only currency that always pays, irrespective of who you are and your profession.
The Last Dance is probably the best series one can watch to realize that the real value of hard work. It shows that if you decide your goal and work hard with complete dedication and focus, you will achieve the same.
If you put in the work, the results will come.
Glory comes after hard work. Even when you have the natural talent of a Michael Jordan, you still need to work hard and keep your head down until it is your time to reap the benefits.
Where there is a WILL, there will always be a WAY.
One of the most amazing revelations of his life was that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school varsity team. He understood that through dedication and hard work, his basic abilities could be developed. He created a competitive advantage by always finding ways to turn negative experiences, set backs, disappointments into positions of winning and most importantly improving from where he left off yesterday.
Michael Jordan worked as hard — if not harder — than any other player in the game.
What made him so great was that he was perhaps the most talented basketball player to ever play the game, yet he didn’t just have talent. This remarkable fusion of attitude — desire, willpower and obsession with success — and hard work is what brought him to the pinnacle of his profession.
Michael Jordan may have become bored with basketball. He may have craved another challenge.
However, he wouldn’t have risked everything if he honestly didn’t believe hard work conquers all. He didn’t think just because he was successful at basketball that he’d be successful at baseball. He wasn’t so egotistical that he thought he couldn’t fail at anything. Not at all. What he believed is what every person who has the growth mindset believes: Hard work conquers all.
Like all of the other greats in all of the other arenas in life, Michael Jordan had a fire burning in him.
Some believe that it was ignited when he was cut in high school, but he says that it was ignited when he hit the winning shot in NCAA finals to beat Georgetown as a freshman. He says he really did not know what he was doing in that moment, but that feeling ignited something within him that burned deeply.
Lesson #5: You Can't Do it Alone
Michael Jordan was frequently scoring 50% of all the points the team made, but even his amazing talent and ability was not enough to win him a championship. Only when he had a team around him that could support and even lift him up, he started winning.
Yes, it is great to lead by example, it is great to take the pride at being the best, it is great to try to do as much as you can on your own…
But you have to trust your teammates and give them the opportunity to shine and take the shot if you want them to grow, to become amazing players too, to be better as a team.
No matter how much of a superstar you are, you can never do it alone.
Success for any leader depends on the ability to surround yourself with team players you trust to take the last shot. In his early years, Michael Jordan focused heavily on his play. It got him a high stat line, but he couldn’t cross that threshold to win a championship. Ultimately, MJ realized that achieving team success was the only way he would be considered the greatest of all time.
Leaders are only as strong as their ability to recognize the unique strengths of their team members.
Michael Jordan won six titles during his career, and even though people often say he did all the job during those runs, he had a great team by his side. He shared touches with the likes of Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Tony Kukoc and Steve Kerr, among others.
Teamwork is the secret sauce behind every personal and professional accomplishment.
Individual effort is important, but it’s teamwork that makes the dream work. A great leader is those who can make the sum of the whole greater than the sum of the parts, as that’s when teams reach their full potential.
Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.
You need to put a Herculean individual effort to get the same result that a well-knit team could easily achieve. Organizations that cultivate a culture of teamwork generally outperform their more individualistic competitors. Frequently, this leads to a virtuous cycle of self-improvement, as success breeds enthusiasm, which breeds better teamwork, which breeds yet more success.
How you work together is how you win together.
Assembling a team of stars and heroes seems like good business. Super stars are great for ratings in the NBA. But, too much lauding of an individual member can be bad for a team’s performance as a whole. Every member of a team needs to feel valued and know they have an important role to play. When the spotlight is too bright on any one team member, it can dim the attention on other team members and potentially get in the way of team relationships.
Lesson #6: Live in The Present
Most people live in fear because they project their past into the future. Michael Jordan was completely present, that was his separator compared to other great players, that’s what made him the greatest player of all time.
Michael Jordan wouldn’t allow to let something he couldn’t control get in his head.
He made a LOT of decisive last-second shots. However, he also missed some of them, but he never let that make him fear to take the next one. A great example: even though he missed an “easy” free throw 40 sec before the end against Utah at 85-85, he managed to scoop up the loose ball, then shot a decisive 3 points right after.
Most people struggle to be present. Most people live in fear because they project the past.
Michael Jordan is a mystic. He was never anywhere else. His gift was not that he could jump high, run fast, shoot a basketball; his gift was that he was completely present and that was the separator. A big downfall of a lot of players who are otherwise gifted is thinking about failure. Michael Jordan didn’t allow what he couldn’t control to get inside his head.
Mindfulness is being completely and totally present in the moment.
Whereas most people tend to think about multiple things at any given time, contemplate the past or the future, or become rattled by emotion, mindfulness is being fully present in the here and now. While adopting mindfulness 24/7 is not easy, you can train your brain to let go, be clear, and focus, all while pursuing your goals. It’s an effort that takes training like anything else.
The way you feel about what happens ultimately rests with the story that is generated from your own mind.
It’s this story that defines these moments for you, and the impact they have on your life. You are the one that gives these stories the importance and power they have. The Universe is neutral. It just is. You are the meaning maker. If you don’t like the story you’re telling yourself, you can create a new one.
If you don’t like the game you’re playing, create a different game.
You need to live and operate in the present, not dwell on mistakes made, not let dead ends of the past prevent you from getting you where you need to go. Only now is what you need to focus on. Long-lasting success is just a collection of moments. Yes, set goals. But when you work, only work on the task at hand. Give it everything you have — leaving it all on the court — and see it through to the end.
Lesson #7: Goals Need Balls
There are many distractions in life. And it wasn’t any different for Michael Jordan. He had to deal with failures, other people’s opinion, his personal problems, team members, what the media said about him, fame, and many other things. But he never stopped being concentrated on his goals.
If you quit ONCE it becomes a habit. Never give up!
When you hit a roadblock, don’t waste your energy and time panicking. Take a moment to gather yourself and find a solution, it exists. To stop Michael Jordan from scoring, opponents tried to take him out and he got roughed up frequently. He decided to build out his physique and always played on the edge, even risking injury just to make the next shot.
Michael Jordan stayed true to what he believed in, and never let anything from the outside world get to his mind or heart.
I know that seems too simplistic, but without goals — good, concrete goals — you’re like a ship without a rudder, a traveler without a map. Before anything significant can be achieved, it must be recognized and sought after. If you’re tired of being left in the dust, of falling behind in personal growth and business development, the answer lies in the game.
Michael Jordan believed in a “building block” approach to goal setting.
Once he’d set and achieved one short-term goal, he’d work toward the next. The only way he knew of accomplishing anything was step by step. When he was cut from the varsity team as a sophomore in high school, he was determined to become a starter the following year. That’s what he focused on all summer, every time he held a ball in his hands. When he finally saw his name on the roster, he set his next goal.
Crafting goals that are achievable and meaningful is a balancing act. Be audacious — at first.
Audacious goals are difficult to swallow, but they’re much more digestible if you break them into smaller goals. Something we forget is to draw up a roadmap to reach these goals. The big audacious goal is only comprised of little spontaneous combustible habits. A single spark can burn down an entire forest.
Goals are full of unlimited potential. However, if we fail to set ambitious goals we fail to reach our full potential.
We are not always able to achieve all of our ‘high’ set goals, however the act of trying moves you far closer than if you had set them at an average level. By setting your goals high you commit yourself to constant and never-ending improvement. As a result, you learn everything you can do to improve your result.
You can always be better than what you thought you could possibly be.
You need to be ruthless and cut down on distractions to be able to focus, you also need to be persistent and committed to achieving your goals. This all takes a lot of effort but the more you practice the better you get. Set the bar high — don’t be shy about pursuing big goals!
Michal Jordan wasn’t born a champion nor had a raw talent for playing basketball. But he did have something that separates a champion from the average player: he’s relentless and has never, ever gave up once he set his mind to achieve something.
Michael Jordan’s epic career is a master class on the mindset necessary to achieve extraordinary success.
Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it. Everything in life is possible. You just need to have a definite desire and take action upon it every single day.
Michael Jordan developed grit and realized that we, as humans, are the only ones limiting our greatness.
You’ll sometimes fail, but that doesn’t make you a failure. Learn from your mistakes, work on your strategy, be better than you were yesterday, and don’t let a defeat define you as a person.
Leaders and athletes require that same tenacious mindset to grow and achieve success.
What separates the best from the rest of the crowd is that commitment and unflappable belief in themselves, their mission, and organization. The key question here is, are you WINNING TODAY? If not, what’s stopping you?
Remain focused. Find ways to win. Repeat.
The above leadership and life changing lessons go some way to explaining the legendary status that Michael Jordan has achieved. What it cannot convey is that “magic” that set him apart from his contemporaries. If you have not already done, we recommend watching The Last Dance on Netflix. Then share your thoughts in the comments below with our fellow leaders!