Why I read it… I’m a huge NBA, Michael Jordan, and Space Jam (yes, that’s right) fan, and that was compounded in 2020 with the excellent documentary The Last Dance, on Netflix. Jordan doesn’t go out of his way to ingratiate himself with the public or his team mates, but his dedication to honing his craft is unparalleled.
A very concise (36 pages) guide, written in 1994, about what it takes to become the best. Michael Jordan shares the golden rules that he has lived his life by, and what it lacks in filler, it certainly makes up in clear, focused guidance that can be transferred to any industry, any level of performance, or indeed any aspect of our lives.
The title hints at what is to come: Jordan recognises that talent isn’t bought, but his career was based on working harder than anyone else, always taking the shot, and being pragmatic and diligent in his quest for improvement. He expects the same of those around him.
- Dream big, but achieve it in small steps – Jordan advocates high ambitions, but cautions the reader that without a series of small steps, big dreams become intimidating, and gradual progress feels disheartening. He discusses how he would construct small, achievable goals, with success in each providing motivation and satisfaction that the dream is one step closer.
- Fear is an illusion – this chapter title could be mistaken for a machismo soundbite, but Jordan does not deny or belittle fear. He likens fear to a barrier that you create: ‘you think something is standing in your way, but nothing is really there.’
- There are no short cuts – Jordan played as hard in practice as he played in the games (seen in The Last Dance) and expected the same of others. He seems incredulous that some can expect to practice or prepare with less intensity than when they need to perform in the real thing; he argues that you can’t turn commitment on or off like a tap, so you’d better keep it running!
- Master the fundamentals – no matter how successful Jordan became, he stuck to this mantra: constantly honing and mastering the basics of the game. Sometimes success and ambition can be a distraction; sometimes you can perform well for a time with a hot streak and a bit of luck. But working on the fundamentals will ensure long-lasting success and keep you going when other things ebb and flow.
‘Find fuel in any failure. Sometimes failure gets you closer to where you want to be. If I’m trying to fix a car, every time I try something that doesn’t work, I ‘m getting closer to finding the answer.’
Jordan is infamous for being one of the best basketball players of all time, and certainly the most well known. But he spends more time in the book discussing team work than anything else. He dedicates his most passionate words to how his Bulls worked as a team, won as a team, overcame more talented opposition as a team. For all of the critics who say he was difficult to play with, or an overly demanding teammate, this section of the book is a lesson for all readers: ignore placing individuals on pedestals, and celebrate how we can achieve things in teams.
Question and reflect
- When we make a resolution or a target for ourselves, do we lay the ground work for this dream by plotting out the small steps that will take us to our goal?
- What do we fear? Why does this fear exist? By thinking about our preparation and the opportunity in front of us, how can we overcome the barriers that we create?
- We make commitments. We make dreams. But do we follow up with the same level of commitment and intensity every day, or just for the ‘big games’?
Read this if…
You want a concise, passionate guide about to how to develop an area of your life
You want to cut through the filler that so many books include, and just hear some experience and wisdom from the horse’s mouth.
I’m going to say it: read this if you are fan of Michael Jordan