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Lessons I Learned from Michael Jordan

I was on the phone with my good friend Vidal Cisneros Jr. earlier this week. We were sharing work stories—he’s also a coach—and the lessons we were learning in entrepreneurship. The conversation shifted to how we were both going to be 40 years old soon, how we’re fathers and providers, and that we have to adapt up our game as we get older. Then I mentioned Michael Jordan. The one thing that I remember most about Michael Jordan was that his game evolved and improved with age.

How Michael Jordan Changed His Grind

From 1985 when he was drafted up until about 1993 when his father passed, Jordan was a cut-to-the-basket slasher. He still led the NBA in scoring regularly, but at a high price to his body. When his father passed in 1993, he walked away from the game to play baseball and the experience humbled him. When he came back to the NBA in 1995, he was older, wiser, and realized that the game was more like playing chess and less like bumper cars. That’s when he developed his deadly jumper and shot a staggering near 50% from the floor. This preserved his energy, his stamina, and gave him the necessary longevity to be even deadlier at the ends of games when it was all on the line and when the opposing players were exhausted.

Changing Our Game

How do we apply this? I think it starts with thinking about how we use our time. We hear about the hustle and the grind and think that we have to always be doing something. This is the cut-to-the-basket mentality. We’re filling up a to-do list without thinking about whether or not the activities are important or not, or even if they get us closer to the goal. I get it. I fall into that trap, too. Checking things off a list feels amazing. Thumbing through emails feels important. Updating social media statuses feels mission critical. But none of them are. At least not as often as we participate in them. There is a high that comes with doing these. We feel accomplished, but what have we really done?

I want to challenge you to be deliberate. Think about your big goal each time you write your schedule for the day. If the tasks you’re adding don’t move the needle, they aren’t important and shouldn’t be done during your work day. Vet the people you’re meeting, too. Don’t fill your day with meetings with prospects that you haven’t qualified. Sometimes a phone meeting is best when you need more information. Use Buffer or Hootsuite to set your social posts. Unplug and make time to brainstorm, take a walk, or to play. I do this in the middle of my days and the rest of my days are amazing afterwards. Creativity grows in proportion to the amount of fun you have. Be smart. Time is currency. Guard your time and use it well. Change your game.

The End of the Matter

Jordan was a better player when he let go of the flashy and cool play style in favor of a style that was a better use of his shooting ability, his leadership (he saw more of the floor when he wasn’t in the paint every play), that better involved his teammates, and that saved his energy. This made him more effective overall. You, too, can boost your shot percentage by trimming the fat and doing the most important things first. Think about it.


Photo: Guiness World Records