Last night ESPN aired the final two episodes of The Last Dance which is a docuseries about the legendary Michael Jordan. This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen and left me nothing but inspired to go out and push myself to the limit.
Jordan is widely known as the greatest basketball player of all time and his story to how he got there can teach us all some major principles to winning at life and business.
Below are 4 key takeaways from the show that I believe can help any of us rise above and deliver greatness.
1. Use Your Losses to Fuel the Fire to Win (and Win Big).
If you beat Michael Jordan, the world knows he will come back and dismantle and destroy you. Over and over MJ bounced back from losses with historic wins by absolutely demolishing and embarrassing his competition. His ability to use a loss to fuel a forest fire of competitive drive is second to none and The Last Dance does a phenomenal job of demonstrating this.
In the early 90's, the Detroit Pistons were the team to beat. They were known as "The Bad Boys" as they would target the best players on the opposing team and create havoc and go as far as physically beating them down if they have to. They were known for fighting, fouling, talking trash, taking cheap shots and winning games.
Michael Jordan was their key target when they played in both the 1989 and 1990 Eastern Conference Finals. When Jordan would drive to the basket, they would hammer him with aggressive fouls, push him while he was down, and even throw punches if need be. A skinnier Jordan back then just couldn't seem to get past the brute force of the Pistons' physically tough defenders as he was out-muscled. Jordan couldn't stand this. He would do whatever it takes to win and so he hit the gym harder in the offseason and dedicated himself to packing on 15 pounds of pure muscle so he could withstand the Piston's blows and retaliate when needed - and boy did he.
The Bulls met the Pistons again in the 1991 Conference Finals and the Pistons didn't stand a chance. Jordan and the Bulls swept the Pistons in 4 games and completely embarrassed them in the process. It was so bad that the Pistons wouldn't even shake the Bull's hands after game 4 and even left the court with 7 seconds still left on the clock. The now muscular Jordan combined with his unprecedented competitive nature was a force to reckon with. After defeating the Pistons, the Bulls would go onto win their first ever NBA title and win it all again the next two seasons for their first of two three-peats.
Another example of Jordan's propelled retaliation was in 1993 when LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets scored a whopping 37 points against Jordan and the Bulls in their big win. This was a career high for Smith and the media exploited it. Jordan of course used this as nothing but fuel for motivation. The very next night, Jordan isolated and attacked LaBradford to show him who was king and MJ put up a staggering 36 points in the first half alone! He finished by scoring 47 points in the game conducting a free basketball clinic for Smith to witness from the front row. The Bulls of course crushed the Bullets 126-101 when it was all over.
Another great scene demonstrating this key takeaway was against his former teammate B.J. Armstrong. In the 1998 Eastern Conference Semifinals the Bulls faced Armstrong and the Charlotte Hornets. In Game 2, B.J. was on fire throughout the game and he scored a clutch set of points at the end of the 4th quarter that resulted in the first loss for the Bulls in that postseason. B.J. was elated to say the least and went as far as to stare down MJ and the Bulls' bench followed by a stretch of high fives to his teammates to rub it in. Jordan's response, “I felt like B.J. should know better. If you’re going to high-five, talk trash, now I had a bone to pick with you …You know I’m suppose to kill this guy, I’m supposed to dominate this guy, and from that point on I did." In Game 3, Jordan covered B.J. which ended badly for Armstrong as he was held to shooting a horrific 14% from the field while Jordan lit up an easy 30 points. The Bulls would go onto sweep the Hornets the next 3 games and finish out the season with their 6th NBA title.
Like Michael Jordan, you should use your failures to learn, better prepare, and fuel your engine to compete at a higher level.
"I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." - Michael Jordan
2. Trying to do it all yourself will Only take you so far.
It's no surprise Jordan's individual talent had a major impact on the Chicago Bulls' organization since coming into the league in 1984. The Bulls only won 35% of their games the previous 3 seasons before MJ and his presence made them playoff contenders since day one. Despite Jordan's super human ability and staggering statistics during the 85'-86' & 87'-88' seasons - the Bulls ended both seasons by getting swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round. In Game 2 of the 86' Bulls vs Celtics series, Jordan scored 63 points in the game which is a playoff record he holds still to this day. The Bulls still lost that game despite the record-breaking individual performance.
The problem was, teams knew where the ball was going at all times when they played Chicago. Team's like the Detroit Pistons who were the Bulls' roadblock in the playoffs from 1987 - 1990 implemented, "The Jordan Rules" which involved double and triple-teaming him whenever he had the ball. This made things extra difficult for Michael and the Bulls to win games as they were single-threaded and predictable.
It all changed when new head coach Phil Jackson came in and created a more "team" approach with the introduction of the "triangle offense." The triangle offense was designed to give enough touches on the ball to make every player a scoring threat. The result was a transformation from being known as a "one man team" to a well balanced machine involving every single player. Jordan knew this was the right thing to do for them to get over the hump. With this new approach led by Michael and architected by Phil, the Bulls were able to bulldoze teams year after year and win in 6 NBA titles and go down as one of the greatest dynasty's in all of sports.
In life and business, you can't do it alone. Involve your teammates, coworkers, friends, & family in your quest to be the best. The more people you have standing alongside you, the more dominate of a force you will be. Win in numbers.
"Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships." - Michael Jordan
3. Block out the noise
It's very clear through all 10 episodes that Jordan is who he is. As big of a celebrity as he was, you can only imagine the size of microscope he had on him at all times. Everything he did was scrutinized and the media would try and find various ways to influence our judgement on him. For example, he refused to endorse Harvey Gant, a Democrat running for Senate in his home state of North Carolina against the long-serving conservative Jesse Helms. Gant would have been the state’s first black Senator. But Jordan, despite his own mother’s pleas, didn't want to speak in favor of someone he didn’t know. He donated to Gant’s campaign but that's about it. Jordan steered clear of politics even though media and others wanted to use his fame to influence votes. “I never thought of myself as an activist,” he says. “I thought of myself as a basketball player. That was where my energy was. It’s never gonna be enough for everybody. I know that, I realize that.”
Another example of this was when the media tried to extract that Jordan had a gambling addiction. After a Game 2 loss to the Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals and the Bulls falling behind 0-2 in the series, it was reported that Jordan had been out in Atlantic City the night before until 2 AM and the story snowballed making Jordan look like he had a serious problem and was jeopardizing the team. When he was interviewed by Connie Chung and she asks him point-blank if he thinks he has a gambling problem, he replies: “No. Because I can stop gambling. I have a competition problem.” A competition problem indeed. Jordan blocked out the noise of the media and the Bulls would win 4 games straight against the Knicks and head into the NBA Finals.
Jordan also got all kinds of criticism from his teammates for being too harsh, demanding, and interrogating. He would push his teammates to the limit and it wasn't always received in a positive light. When teammate B.J. Armstrong was asked if Jordan was a nice guy, his response was, “He couldn’t have been nice. With that kind of mentality he had, he can’t be a nice guy. He would be a difficult guy to be around if you didn’t truly love the game of basketball. He is difficult.” The testimonies of former teammates were all similar. Jud Buechler stated, “People were afraid of him. We were his teammates and we were afraid of him. There was just fear. The fear factor with MJ was so, so thick.” Center Will Perdue said, “Let’s not get it wrong: He was an asshole, he was a jerk, he crossed the line numerous times.”
Jordan never let any of the criticism get to him because he was on a single mission and that was to win at all costs. He blocked all of the noise out at all times so he could keep his focus. The way he treated his teammates may have been interpreted as him being an asshole but the truth is, he was pushing them to their limits and every single one of these guys has at least one giant ring on their finger because of him. “As time goes on, and you think back about what he was actually trying to accomplish, he was a hell of a teammate,” Perdue concedes. “He was pushing us all to be better,” says Bill Wennington. “And guess what, it worked.”
“I wanted them to understand what it felt like to be in the trenches,” Jordan says of his rationale. “And if you don’t understand, then you’re not gonna respond when the war starts.” - Michael Jordan
4. you can make millions By doing one thing, but you can make billions by doing many.
A more subtle takeaway from the documentary related to what Jordan was doing off the court which has translated him into being the highest paid athlete of all-time. Michael's career earnings on the court was $93M over 15 seasons. This type of money would retire anyone on the planet and their extended family & friends for 10 generations. But it's what Jordan has done off the court that has him part of the exclusive billionaires club. The documentary spotlights how Nike snagged up the superstar for $250,000. Nobody could have ever imagined that Jordan would eventually earn north of $100M a year from Nike (which he still does today). His estimated net worth according to Forbes is $2.1B. $1.7B of his wealth has come from corporate partners such Hanes, Gatorade, and Upper Deck. He's also the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets, owns a golf course, a car dealership, many restaurants, tons of real estate, a motorcycle racing team and The Last Dance touches on his acting career for his star role in Space Jam.
The reality is, not all of us will become billionaires but if you want to be super wealthy, you need to have multiple revenue streams just like MJ. This can be accomplished thru a combination of investments such as; buying up real estate, starting your own business, investing in someone else's business, trading stocks, etc. The majority of millionaires (and especially billionaires) are involved in a multitude of residual income producing assets that go beyond their "day job." For most of us, this isn't basketball.
"Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen." - Michael Jordan