When most people think about Michael Jordan, they consider the athlete. After all, we’re talking about the best basketball player to ever play the game. He finished his career with six NBA championships, five MVP awards, 11 All-Star nominations, two Olympic gold medals, and a long list of other worthy accomplishments. On top of that, Jordan took a shot at playing professional baseball at the age of 31. He played in 127 games for the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League before deciding to transition back to basketball. That’s not something any athlete can just decide to do. Yet, Jordan did it and never missed a beat.
But when you start to look past all the athletic accolades, championship rings, trophies, and stats, you realize that Michael Jordan is much more than a superior athlete — he’s a polarizing businessman. Forbes estimates his net worth somewhere north of $1 billion, thanks to his part ownership in the Charlotte Hornets and lucrative marketing deals that bring in more than $100 million annually from global brands like Nike, Gatorade, and Hanes. Jordan also owns seven restaurants, a car dealership, and is involved with a handful of other ventures.
The takeaway? Jordan is more than one of the greatest athletes of all time – he’s one of the savviest businessmen of the twenty-first century. As an entrepreneur, there are plenty of lessons to be gleaned from his time on and off the court. Let’s take a look at a few of those:
1. You Must Desire to be Great
“When you are around Michael enough, you realize very quickly that his rise to the top was far from coincidental,” said Andrew Walters, one of Jordan’s former business advisers. “I observed his leadership style, his quick mind, and his pure desire to be the best.”
There’s a common misconception that successful people stumble into greatness. While it may make for a good Hollywood story, this is rarely the truth. Successful people aim for greatness and do what it takes to get there. In Jordan’s case, he’s obviously been blessed with the talent to match his desire, but it’s the latter that fuels the former.
2. You Must Rebound from Failure
It’s a worn-out story, but is worth reiterating. Did you know that Michael Jordan was actually cut from his high school varsity basketball team the first time he tried out? That’s right, the coaches told him he wasn’t good enough to play high school basketball.
In the NBA it wasn’t all success, either.
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career,” Jordan once famously said. “I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
People who say Jordan has it all obviously haven’t watched closely enough. There have been times when he failed, failed again, and failed some more. However, at the end of the day, he always picks himself back up and learns from his mistakes. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to fail. You’ll probably fail more than once. Do you have the courage and tenacity to get back up and succeed?
3. You Must Get the Fundamentals Down
As an entrepreneur, you have to identify the handful of skills that you need to succeed. Those skills will look different depending on the industry you work in, but you have to recognize them and master them before focusing on more complex, bigger-picture things.
“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way,” Jordan warns people. “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
4. You Must Stay on Guard
In your pursuit of success and greatness, people will try to bring you down. They may call you callous or greedy. You can’t let the noise drown you out. Sometimes you’re the only one that can protect yourself, so don’t be afraid to take a stand.
Just recently, Jordan was forced to do so himself. After a supermarket used his name in an advertisement without his permission, Jordan decided that he couldn’t sit back and let people devalue his brand. He filed a lawsuit and was eventually awarded $8.9 million (which will ultimately be donated to local Chicago charities).
“He was compelled to send a message to the marketplace that he takes the protection of his identity seriously,” said Kevin Adler. It was a risky move that could have damaged his reputation with many, but it ultimately paid off. Jordan stood his guard and provided a lesson for entrepreneurs everywhere: Success doesn’t come by taking the easy route.
Featured photo credit: Jason H. Smith via flickr.com