Every Sunday night for the past few weeks I’ve been watching the Last Dance on ESPN, as many people around the world have. I have enjoyed every episode thus far, but my favorite ones were definitely last night’s: episodes 7 and 8. There were some great takeaways from these episodes and for me most of these revolve around Michael Jordan’s mindset, leadership and disagreeableness.
The first is Michael’s mindset about whatever he is doing. In the previous episode, he talked about how he wanted to retire when he was at the top of his game. He said he didn’t want to play until he had to be carried off the floor, he wanted to walk off the court. This idea defines Michael Jordan- he won’t do something unless he’s 100% committed to it. When he left to play baseball, it was because he couldn’t put 100% into basketball anymore and he explored something he wanted to go all-in for.
Even if there’s steps along the way that aren’t fun; because there will be times that aren’t fun and motivation is running low. Imagine yourself on the court: tie game, one minute to go, against your rivals in front of a packed house- and there’s a loose ball- it’s easy to put your body on the line and dive for that loose ball- adrenaline pumping, everyone cheering. But now imagine practice number 73 of the season, an hour in and you’re tired, no one in the stands- it’s not so easy now. What we can take from Michael Jordan is that success depends on you committing to hard work and effort all of the time, not just when it’s easy or when you get recognition. This idea can be simplified into one phrase- How you do anything is how you do everything. If you care about something- you dive for the ball in the game AND you dive for the ball in practice.
You create that work ethic by creating goals you truly care about and are fully invested in. Michael Jordan even shows that it doesn’t matter how you motivate yourself, heck you can even pretend your opponent said something he didn’t just to motivate you. The lesson to take from this is that you should never do anything half-way, only with your full commitment can you achieve your best possible outcome. In basketball, it’s wanting to learn plays, get stronger or shoot better. In life, it’s losing weight, eating better, building a relationship or learning a new skill; you have to be all-in to get the results you want.
Michael Jordan was all-in on winning a championship, but, in basketball you don’t win individually. That being said you can’t lead a team if you can’t lead yourself. Michael had definitely learned to lead himself, but then his mindset fueled his ability to lead a team. He didn’t start to win championships until he was a leader of an entire team rather than just himself. He shows leadership when he says he doesn’t ask any teammates to do anything that he’s not willing to do. When you know you’re fighting for the same thing as your leader and you see him giving his all, that makes you want to work that much harder. But it works both ways, if teammates see a leader quit on them like Scottie Pippin did in the 1994 playoffs, it will crush the team. Michael says, “Winning has a price. Leadership has a price. So I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled”.
This quote leads directly into my third championship quality in Michael Jordan: disagreeableness. What I mean by disagreeableness is that when they talk about him not being a nice guy, or they use the word tyrant to talk about him. People see those words and think of someone who is self-centered, mean and downright no fun to be around. This is far from the definition I have. My definition of disagreeable is one I heard from author Malcolm Gladwell: “Someone who is disagreeable is someone who does not require the approval of others to do what they believe is right”.
I love hearing about these kinds of people; these are the type of people who are innovators. These are the people that change the world. Walt Disney was fired and told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. The Beatles were told “Guitar groups are on their way out”. But it’s those who dare to disagree and do what they believe is right that find their success. It’s Jackie Robinson who doesn’t see why only white players should be in the MLB and Don Haskins who plays only the seven black players for the entire 1966 national championship game and beats Kentucky, proving to the entire world, the skin color has no basis for who should and shouldn’t be on the court. These are the disagreeable people I love to learn from and the ones who are responsible for changing our minds.
It takes a disagreeable person to retire from the NBA and go play professional baseball. “You’re so good at basketball, why would you quit?” But he didn’t quit because he wasn’t good. He quit because it was what he thought was the right decision. He wanted something else in life. You should never stay somewhere or keep doing something because you are good at it, you should stay because you want to. It’s something he wanted to do rather than something other people told him he should do. The same media that had be following him throughout his career called him an embarrassment and told him to hang it up. But Michael Jordan wasn’t driven by the approval of others, he took social risks because he was driven by himself and what he wanted. There are definitely some negatives that go along with highly disagreeable people, they usually make enemies, but everyone needs to have some disagreeableness to achieve want they really want.
I know not everyone can be like Michael Jordan, actually no one else is quite like Michael Jordan. But we can, and I am going to learn from and continue to incorporate some of his his mindset, leadership and disagreeableness into my life.