I’ve missed over nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost almost three hundred 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. -Michael Jordan
You probably know him through basketball and clothing line. Or, if you’re like me, through Space Jam. The basketball maniac grabbed the attention of the media with courage, persistence, and faith. He committed his life to basketball. He practiced every day, persisting through each failed shot or through times when his skills weren’t improving for long periods of time, where many would have given in to discouragement, thinking that maybe basketball isn’t for them and that they need to find something else.
The difference between Jordan and others? No, it was not the level of passion – each started with the same burning desire to succeed in basketball. But Jordan had something others didn’t quite understand and grasp, and that was faith in his success.
There is no question that he visualized himself just playing basketball on the court in front of thousands, eying the prize. The key to achieving that dream for him was persistence in hard work, discipline, and obsession. Every great basketball player makes it look easy, but the amount of time and effort put in for that effect would be enough to make most people lose their jaws in awe.
Basketball, just like any other sports, is not easy to master. It is not just a sport, but also a technique. You dance, you move, you throw, you jump. To be even remotely good at basketball, you have to master all of these. It’s not just about shooting. Jordan knew this. And you know what? He probably studied beyond the physical aspects of it. As a highly competitive individual, who was said to have been massively competitive as a kid, it wouldn’t surprise me if he studied past NBA games for tactical studies to give him that extra edge against other players. The process of mastery is a very long one. But through faith and persistence, it is guaranteed possible.
As a kid, he was highly competitive in anything he did – he played to win. He was also competitive with himself. He would tie one hand behind his back to see if he could still do it. And he’d try and fail, try and fail, until he mastered it.
One day, his high school had announced that they were going to try out new players for its basketball teams. Jordan jumped at the chance and went to try outs with 50 other ambitious athletes. He has trained for this ever since he was born. He was confident that he would make it to varsity as a sophomore – he was thinking BIG. How was he confident? He plays to win, and he has played against others taller than him, older than him, more experienced than him. And he has consistently scored points here and there. There was no doubt that he would at least be the last one to make the varsity team.
Then, the news came. He came into school one morning and noticed a group of people gathered around a bulletin board. His eyes lit up, and he dashed towards the group. He ran through the list. His name wasn’t there.
He failed to make the team. The average Joe would have just said, “Oh, well. At least I tried. I’ll find something else to do.” But not this young Black man. He accepted the offer to play for junior varsity with the goal of proving his coaches wrong.
But it wasn’t easy. There were others just like him trying to make it big.
“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.”
He simply tuned out all distractions and focused on his race to apex – to become the greatest at his craft which he chose to indulge in. He leveraged his failure to make the team to motivate and push him further, to not ever accept one rejection as defeat but to keep trying until he succeeded.
Jordan wound up scoring multiple 40-point games on his junior varsity team. He grew four inches and with a breeze made the varsity team his junior year, going on to becoming their leading scorer. Through sheer persistence of hard work, he awed his coaches, and eventually the state, by averaging more than twenty points per game. As a junior. In varsity.
He could have stopped there. He could have enjoyed his success and partied with his teammates. But he simply did not stop there. He continued his training regime, reaching higher. As Bruce Lee once said, “Be happy, but never satisfied.” Jordan followed that 5-word-but-life-changing philosophy with his heart. He was happy with his success, but he wasn’t satisfied. To become one of the best, you must keep pushing. He envisioned himself surrounded by scholarships from the top colleges in the nation.
So, Jordan was constantly in the gym and in the court. He didn’t have time to sit around and watch TV, although he would love to. But he forced his mind to force his body to go through hours and hours of training until he his senior year, where he would average a triple-double (that’s an average of double figures in at least three categories-in Jordan’s case, points, assists, and rebounds–which I’m told is a big deal). He was an All-American and a top recruit at nearly all the major college basketball programs. He joined University of North Carolina. There, he continued his training, eventually driving his team to the NCAA championship game and scoring the buzzer-beating game-winner. He then went to the NBA – the dream of nearly every basketball player in high school, a dream reserved specifically for those who work hard at their game through persistence, faith, and passion.
And the end, his sacrifice of the opportunities to try out new things, of having fun as a teen, of taking vacations, in return for training daily, surrounding himself with others who share his passion for basketball, and focusing on mastering his techniques has paid out in millions.
He earned $98 million over the course of his NBA career. He retired and trasferred his interest in basketball into post-NBA life by purchasing the Bobcats team and working with Nike for the Jordan brand. He now reportedly makes up to $100 million a year.
His formula is simple to follow:
1. Find one thing you are passionate about (basketball)
2. Envision yourself as the leader of that field. (NBA MVP)
3. Train for it by engorging yourself in the field and surrounding yourself with its experts, weeding out distractions and naysayers that bring your level down.