I’m not a basketball fan.

Truth be told I’m not really a rabid fan of any sport.  I watch the odd game here and there and I’m not above getting swept up in a bandwagon when my local teams go on a winning streak, but I wouldn’t call myself a loyal sports fan.

What I am a fan of is the relentless pursuit of excellence.

To many basketball fans the number twenty-three is the embodiment of these values.  Michael Jordan wore the number twenty-three from 1979 at Laney High School, all the way through college at North Carolina State and for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards of the NBA from 1984-2003.   He won the NCAA tournament with North Carolina, was the 1985 NBA rookie of the year, won 6 NBA championships and 2 Olympic Gold medals, was named to the NBA All-Star team 14 times, and was named to the NBA’s 50th anniversary all-star team in 1996.

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

However; in 1978 he was cut from his high school team because he was too short.   In the 1984 college draft he was selected 3rd overall having been passed over by both the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers for Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie respectively.  While Olajuwon had a respectable NBA career, playing 18 seasons for Houston and Toronto and winning two NBA championships, Bowie never lived up to his potential and retired after just 11 seasons with Portland, New Jersey and Los Angeles.

Jordan rarely led the league in any statistically category other than wins.  It is true that he was the scoring champion for 10 seasons but a closer look at that stat reveals that he also led the league in missed shots all 10 of those years as well.  His actually field goal percentage was only 30% over his entire career.

What made Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time wasn’t his innate ability as much as it was his drive to achieve greatness.  The way I see it we can all learn a thing or two from Michael Jordan.

1 – Don’t Give Up Too Easily

How different would his life, and indeed the history of both North Carolina State, the NBA and the city of Chicago have been had he given up when he was cut from the team in 1978?  No one will ever know.  And you don’t know what the future holds for you either.  Set-backs are a part of life.  Hold on to your dreams and don’t give up too easily.

2 – Listen to the Experts

Throughout his high school, college and early NBA career Michael Jordan was widely regarded as a coach’s dream.  His number one desire was to get better and he would listen to advise and apply lessons learned in every situation.  No one has reinvented the wheel in business, there is always someone who has been down this road before.  If you are willing to seek them out and learn from them chances are you will be better for it.

3 – Work Harder Than Anyone Else

Not only did Michael Jordan listen to and take direction from his coaches he also sought out and hired personal coaches and trainers to work with on the side.  Legend has it that the night he won his 4th NBA title Jordan saw his personal trainer in the stands, as he was walking off the court he looked up and said; “I’ll see you in the gym tomorrow.”  Not even winning could stop Jordan’s desire to be better.

Which brings me to the last point…

4 – Never Settle

Winning is fun.  We should all strive to win and achieve at whatever we set our minds to but once we’ve won this prize or achieved that goal there is always something more.  “What’s next?”, is the question most prevalent on the mind of winners.

I’m not a basketball fan but I am a Michael Jordan fan.  His number twenty-three hangs in the rafters of the United Center in Chicago for good reason but he’s still not done.  Even though his playing days are over, as the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, Jordan is in pursuit of his seventh NBA title.  I for one wouldn’t bet against him achieving that goal one day too.

What does your relentless pursuit of excellence look like?  Let me know in the comments below.

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