RD > Insights

8 min read
6 Life Lessons from Michael Jordan

We’re revisiting the riveting documentary series that captivated the nation (heck, the whole world) earlier this year, ESPN’s The Last Dance . . . because it’s that good. As the bustle of fall begins, we figured we could all use a little reminder on how to live our best lives. We’ve summed up a few lessons from the iconic basketball legend, Michael Jordan, as greatness isn’t limited to just the NBA.

My favorite quote was in the last episode:

“My passion on the basketball court should have been infectious because that’s how I tried to play. I played for them. It started with hope. It started with hope. We went from a shitty team to one of the all time best dynasties.  All you needed was one little match to start that whole fire.”
– Michael Jordan

There’s a lot packed into that one, so let’s break it down.

  1. Hope.

    It is undeniable that the ambition, energy, and drive that ONE man brought to his craft sparked a transformation within his team, which ultimately resulted in the Chicago Bulls winning six championships and playing a major role in popularizing the sport internationally.

    He was able to pinpoint the exact moment the fire was ignited:

    “If I had to trace my evolution, the Michael Jordan evolution, it’d always have to start back in college hitting the shot against Georgetown in 1982 when I really didn’t know exactly what I was doing. It awakened a person inside of me to excel, to compete to excel, to be one of the best, or be the best. That drove me. And I guess with that shot it kind of ignited a fire inside of me that nothing was going to stop.”

    At some point or another, we have all achieved something we are really proud of that leaves us gleaming. That feeling might last a few days, maybe even a few weeks. But I think Michael understood how special that feeling is, and made goals for himself so he could continue feeling that feeling. He was able to carry that hope for years.

    Lesson #1: Figure out how to keep that fire alive.

    This is not easy, but Michael can teach us how to do that too. Read on.

  2. Standards.

    In this interview with Richard Lawson, Michael Jordan stated:

    “I never feel that I’m at my best. I feel I still have room to improve. I still set goals for myself to strive for . . . I’m never really too complacent with myself or with what I’ve achieved. When I get to a point where I feel I can’t improve as a player, I walk away from the game.”

    Later in life, he shared what sets him apart with Tony Robbins [paraphrased here]:

    “I have a lot of talent, a lot of God-given talent, a lot of skill. I worked really hard. But really, it's my standards. Every day, I demand more from myself than anybody else could humanly expect. I'm not competing with somebody else. I'm competing with what I'm capable of. You know there are days my back is hurting, my throat is hurting, I've had a challenge, or my father passed away, and I've still got to deliver for these people because my standard is give my all every time.”

    We see evidence of this throughout the documentary -- from that time he played an entire game with his foot covered in blood from a new sneaker, or when he kept moving forward after he got ill from some bad pizza.

    Lesson #2: No excuses.

  3. Priming.

    When Jordan started playing baseball, he would be the first one at practice every day, and the last one to leave. He needed the practice as it was a new sport for him. When asked about what it was like for him in the morning, he said:

    “I get up before the sun comes up, and I make myself some breakfast by myself. And I get in the car and I’m driving to Spring Training and there is no one really out on the roads yet. And I look at the seat next to me, and I see my dad, and I talk to him. I think to myself, ‘Pops, we’re doing this. We’re doing this together.’”

    Whether he knew it or not, he was priming, or filtering out negative stimuli to prime himself for more positive experiences and results. You can read more about that here.

    Lesson #3: Develop a ritual for yourself to get yourself in the right state of mind for the day. Every. Single. Day.

  4. Playing for them.

    The final game of the 1995 – 1996 NBA Championships was on Father’s Day.  It was an emotional day for Michael Jordan as this was the first championship he was playing without his father, James Jordan, by his side. The enormous effect his presence had on Michael’s life was clear as we watched Michael break down into tears with the winning trophy in hand.  He told his mother, “I know he’s watching.”

    Later in the documentary we see Gus Lett, who Jordan often referred to as a father figure, serve as an inspiration for him to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in 1998.

    Lesson #4: It’s not really about us. We tend to push ourselves further when we have someone else in mind.

  5. It all starts in the mind.

    In 1993 LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets scored 37 points while playing in Chicago against Michael Jordan. At the end of the game, he said to MJ, “Nice game, Mike.”

    The next night an embarrassed Michael Jordan went on to destroy Smith on the court: he scored 36 points in the first half.

    Years later reporters asked Michael Jordan if the taunt ever happened.

    “No. I made it up.”


    Lesson #5: Never underestimate the power of a story. If you don’t feel particularly driven one day, construct reasons for yourself to work hard and give it your all.

  6. Coaching.

    In the beginning of his career, Michael Jordan was territorial with the ball. He knew he was good, and he wanted control.  But this attitude prevented him from success at times: even though he scored the most points in a game, the team would still be defeated.

    It was Phil Jackson, former coach of the Chicago Bulls, who told Jordan to pass the ball to teammate John Paxson near the end of Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals. Jordan listened, and Paxson finished with 20 points as the Bulls won their first NBA title -- effectively beginning their winning streak.  It was a pivotal moment for Jordan as he finally realized his team could help him out, and he started trusting them.

    Their bond became so strong that it ultimately played an instrumental role in Jordan’s decision to retire a second time. Jerry Krause, general manager of the Chicago Bulls, made it clear that the 1997-98 year would be Jackson’s last. “If Phil is not back, then certainly I’m not back,” Jordan told a television reporter. “It doesn’t leave me with any other choices not to play next year.”

    Lesson #6: Even the best of us need a coach.

    Your lender should be one for you when necessary!

There are countless other lessons in the documentary, and I strongly encourage everyone to watch it because the footage is unbelievable at times.

If one man from Wilmington, NC can become such an international phenomenon, we too have the power within us to conquer whatever endeavors we choose to pursue – whether it be your very first flip, or a large development portfolio. We just need to train ourselves to tap into that power.

Oh, and staying away from drugs probably helps too.

If you have any questions or need help with your next flip – whether in getting feedback on a property or with financing, send us an email at contact@rdadvisorsre.com.

This article is written for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon by any party without their own independent analysis. The opinions expressed and other content of this posting may change at any time and without notice. This information is not to be used or considered as an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy, any security, loan, or other product, and is not an offer to provide any services. In addition, the information shall not be considered a recommendation for the content of any website or to purchase any other product, service, or investment. Nothing in the above constitutes any offer to provide a loan or other financial product or a commitment to do so or to discuss providing such products. Our loans are not for everyone. Final approval for our loans is subject to satisfactory due diligence, background and credit checks and general credit approval, which depends, among other things, on a determination in our sole discretion that the loan fits our Fund’s investment strategy and portfolio and is generally a good fit for us.