He was a little boy in North Carolina who was frequently beat in sports by his older brother Larry.
Larry was somebody everyone looked up to and everyone wanted to be like. In fact, family and friends would say, “Why don’t you be more like Larry?”
At the time this little boy was considered lazy, he only held one job during his life. But when it came to sports it was a different story.
One day while watching the Olympics on TV and witnessing the US team getting beat he told his Mom, “I’m going to be in the Olympics one day and I’m going to win.”
He was right...
Not only did he end up winning in the Olympic Games but he proceeded to become arguably the best basketball player of all-time, Michael Jordan.
But how did he get there? Whenever somebody achieves anything extraordinary people like to say that it was all talent.
They’ll say things like, “He was cut from a different piece of cloth.” I’m not so sure if that’s valid though especially when you examine Jordan’s you’ll begin to see there are patterns of excellence that emerge.
Of course Jordan is not perfect. However, there are certain patterns found in Jordan’s life that allowed him to ascend to the levels that he did.
1. Ferocious Competitor
He was simply a ferocious competitor who played all out. He played with a fury and immense prowess.
People said he practiced like it was game 7 of the playoffs. He would show up 45 minutes early to practice just to work on his shooting.
The effect that this level of practice had was not only his own skills improving but he would play so hard that the other players had to dramatically improve their own game just to keep up with him.
2. Open to Feedback
While there are some people who are ferocious competitors, ego can sometimes take over and they think they know it all. Jordan resisted this tendency.
He once said, “My greatest skill was being teachable, I was like a sponge.” Even if he believed the feedback he got was wrong or misguided he always listened and tried to learn something from it.
He was also diligent about learning from exemplars like Magic Johnson. He would model his game off of him and other greats. Jordan possessed a unique balance of being strong and confident but also coachable and open-minded to improvements.
3. Developed Requisite Variety
Requisite Variety: The larger the variety of actions available to a control system, the larger the variety of perturbations it is able to compensate.
Jordan was extremely versatile; over the course of his college career at North Carolina he was able to play three different positions. This increased how many different ways he could approach the game as opposed to someone who was just used to one position.
This versatility compounded though as teams would begin to make adjustments to him. In fact, a coach came up with something known as “The Jordan Rules” as a game-plan to overcome Jordan.
In response to this, he would then learn how to “make adjustments to their adjustments.” This increased yet again how much “behavioral flexibility” he had at the game.
People who played him would describe him as doing new and different things every game.
He would beat them in so many different ways that it was incredibly difficult to defend against him.
4. Evolved Tremendously After Each Failure.
After each one of his failures/ losses Jordan used them as an opportunity to get better.
Whether it was being cut from his high-school team or being beaten by the Pistons repeatedly in the NBA, he found a way to improve each time. He would find out what he needed to improve and get to work on improving it each and every time.
When the Bulls were defeated by the Pistons yet again, Jordan was crying in the back of the bus.
He had repeatedly been out-played physically by the Pistons. In that moment on the bus he declared “It would never happen again.”
He took that next summer to lift weights and get even stronger for the coming year. And that following year the Bulls overpowered the Pistons finally.
5. An Insatiable Hunger to Improve
Even as he got better in better in college and the NBA he was always telling his coaches “he had to get better” even when he was dominating opponents.
He would always say things like “I’ve got a lot to learn.”