Lessons from “The Last Dance”

Thomas Bunn, Candidate Manager

May is normally one of the best times of the year for sports fans. With the NBA playoffs, the final weeks of the English Premier League and the AFL and NRL in full swing there is more sport than we can find the time to watch. This year that’s all changed with a global pandemic leaving no live sport possible.

Fortunately, Netflix and ESPN brought forward the release of The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. It has allowed sports fans like me to relive some of the greatest sporting moments and see why Michael Jordan is remembered as ‘the greatest of all time.’

The Chicago Bulls were a dynasty winning 6 championships in 8 years after struggling for the best part of a quarter-century, before drafting Jordan in the mid 1980s. The Last Dance documentary showcases their achievements and explains why they were so successful. Beyond the basketball highlights, The Last Dance was replete with life lessons that can be applied to any business or career. Here are 9 that I took from the series…

The Journey to Success is Never Easy

If success was easy everyone would have it. There are always hurdles and obstacles that we must overcome. Those that succeed don’t quit or give in when it gets tough. Jordan went through years without success when he entered the NBA, but his persistence paid dividends when he finally won his first Championship.

– Use Setbacks as Motivation

Jordan was the best because he found ways to motivate himself. Whether that was in High School when he was left off the team or in the NBA when they lost to the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Jordan always used his setbacks as motivation to work even harder and become stronger. His Father told him to ‘turn negatives into positives’ and no time is more apt for that phrase than now. We are all going through a tough time with regards to the pandemic, but we must keep focus, as there will be so many positives that can arise from this period.

– The Issue Might not be the Goal, But Your Approach

Often the goal we have is achievable but the method we are taking to get there is letting us down. Jordan and the Bulls realised they wouldn’t get past the Detroit Pistons if they did not make changes. If something doesn’t work, then you need to change else you’ll never succeed.

– Always Believe in Yourself

Jordan had unwavering confidence in himself. He never thought that someone could beat him and knew that he was the best player in the world. Self-belief in any walk of life is vital to success, you won’t achieve if you don’t believe.

– Don’t Think About Failure

One of the great quotes from the series is “Why would I think about missing a shot I haven’t taken yet?” Jordan never thought about failing, he didn’t allow what he couldn’t control to get in his head. Often, we are all guilty of the fear of failing and as a result, don’t even try in the first place. However, it is always better to try, even if you do fail. You learn.

– Be the Hardest Worker

When Jordan was at the University of North Carolina he told the coach that he wanted to be ‘the best player to ever play there.’ Thinking he was already working harder than his other team members; he was disgruntled when told to ‘work harder.’ The coach then explained that he would never be the best with that resentful attitude and from that moment, nobody outworked Jordan.

– People have Different Needs

Phil Jackson can be regarded as one of the best man managers in sports history. He understood that each person in the team is different and they all have unique requirements. Whilst it may not be best to allow a member of your team to take a trip to Vegas mid-season, knowing what gets each person working to their best ability will lead to success. 

– Team Spirit Rules

Individuals don’t beat teams. This was one of the biggest lessons Jordan had to learn. While in the 80s he had historic individual statistics, he wasn’t seen as a winner. Only once he realised that he had to trust those around him and work as a team did the glory begin.

– Invest in Talent

When Nike gave Jordan his own sneaker line as a rookie in 1984 it was revolutionary. He signed a five-year deal worth $500,000, the richest deal in NBA history. In the first four years, Nike was hoping to sell $4million worth of sneakers. After one year the brand had already generated over $100million and grew into the billion-dollar business it is today. That initial investment has proved to be one of the best business decisions Nike has ever made.

Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.

– Michael Jordan 

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