3 Lessons on Success from The Last Dance: How to be like Mike

Michael Jordan.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the greatest basketball player ever. Recently, ESPN came out with a documentary about Jordan’s time on the Chicago Bulls called “The Last Dance.” If you’ve seen it, you probably have certain impressions of players portrayed throughout the documentary such as Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, and of course Michael Jordan himself. Regardless of whether you’re a basketball fan or not, there are some great takeaways from this miniseries.

When watching this show, it was clear to be that successful people possess similar attributes to one another in any setting. It may manifest differently depending on the skill set–NBA championships and MVPs in this instance– but the fact remains that there is a clear recipe for success if you look closely enough. If we take a deep dive into Jordan’s career and the success of the Chicago Bulls, there are an abundance of lessons that will bring you to the top of your chosen field.

SPOILER ALERT. The lessons below contain information from “The Last Dance,” so don’t read any further if you haven’t seen it yet.

Winning Mentality

One thing that becomes apparent as soon as you turn on the documentary is Jordan’s winning mentality. Whether he was at practice, a regular season game, a card game with friends or the NBA finals, he played to win. By the end of his career, Jordan walked away from basketball with 6 championships under his belt. When you do anything with one sole purpose, in this case to win, it becomes inevitable. Is it a coincidence that the greatest player of all time is also one of the most prolific winners in the game’s history? I think not.

Perhaps some readers will quip “yeah, but Jordan had more talent than I could ever acquire in my field of interest.” To that I would retort that you alone are in control of your mentality. If this is 100% up to you, why not wake up everyday with the determination to win? In the NBA there are 82 regular season games, Jordan played each one like it was the last time he was going to set foot on the court. Like the regular season, we have 365 each year to win. Each day is it’s own battle.; win enough days and you’ll be on your way to success. All it takes is a winning attitude.

Practice Makes Perfect

Another key factor in the success of Jordan and his teammates is the untold number of hours spent practicing. The Chicago Bulls were not satisfied losing to the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals. Their solution? Practice even more. They did weight training during the off season when they could’ve been on vacation. Jordan was also known to stay after practice and put in extra time on top of this. These small increments of change daily, getting 1% better at practice, ultimately enabled them to win consecutive titles.

To reach a high level of success, you need to put in the work. Edison didn’t figure out the light bulb on his first try. Warren Buffett didn’t just read one book and become the greatest investor of our lifetime. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he claims that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert at a given skill. Set aside time each day to hone your craft. If you expect to become great at anything, you need to be willing to stay up late studying or practicing, then wake up early the next day with the same ferocity to do it all over again.

In order to take your talent to the next level, it helps to like what you’re doing. Few if any people are willing to work day in and day out on something they don’t like. Burnout usually sets in at some point, so why not focus on what you like? Chances are that you like things that you’re good at and you’re good at things that you like. If you’re good at something, it’s a lot more fun to practice.

Take Dennis Rodman, one of Jordan’s teammates, as an example. He wasn’t a great scorer, but he was one of the best rebounders and defenders in the entire sport. Did he practice scoring? No, instead he doubled down on rebounding. Rodman used to stay up late studying the trajectory of balls coming off the hoop. Over time, he was able to anticipate shots and put himself in the best position for rebounds. This relentless energy towards something he had an interest in made him work even harder to become the best. I encourage you to do the same.

What natural talents can you practice that will take your life to the next level?

Know Your Worth

Something that most people struggle with in life is determining their worth. On one hand, life is intangible, but in many respects it can be quantified. Think about people who work at a low hourly rate, people too afraid to ask for a raise, or even significant others who have disproportionate responsibilities. None of these people remain happy for long. In order to thrive at anything or sustain production, we need to feel valued.

Scottie Pippen was an integral part of the Chicago Bulls teams that won championships. He was second in almost every category on the team and was considered one of the top ten best players in the entire NBA. Despite that, he was the 122nd highest paid player in the game. Why? He undervalued himself by locking in to a long contract. If he’d taken less years, he would’ve been able to renegotiate after proving his worth. He was operating out of fear and necessity, not thinking about his worth. In many respects people across all industries do the exact same thing.

So how do we go about asking for more?

1. First, figure out why you feel inadequate.

Are you doing more and getting paid less? Are you trying harder in the relationship than the other person? Spend time reflecting until the answer is crystal clear.

2. Next, define what you want.

If you want a raise, consider how much you want to be paid. If you feel like you do too much in your relationship, envision what equal roles look like.

3. Once defined, you need to craft a pitch to ask for what you want.

Although this is about YOUR worth in a given situation, this step is counter intuitive. To be persuasive, you need to create a list of benefits that highlights what you provide to the OTHER PARTY.

Try the compliment sandwich approach. Say something nice, ask for what you want, give a compliment again. If you want a raise, this is an example of what it might look like:

“Hi (insert name), I wanted to let you know that I love working at (company name). Over the past few years I have consistently brought in more accounts and revenue than any other employee (or whatever your value to the company is). As such, I feel that a raise would help reflect the value I bring to (company name). I know that this is a great company to work for, so I have faith that we can work something out together that helps (company name) keep growing.”

Notice that the focus is on your value to the other party. Yet, by the same token, if it were to happen, you would be a direct beneficiary as well.

4. Be ready to act based on a variety of outcomes.

Perhaps you will get what you’re asking for. Maybe you’ll find common ground to compromise. There’s also the possibility that the other person won’t budge. If the latter occurs, you really need to evaluate whether your efforts in that particular endeavor are worth it or could be best served elsewhere. It could be that you need to add more value, but it could also be that you are undervalued. It’s up to you to decide.

In the end, we all need to know our worth. This will directly affect our happiness and thus all other aspects of life. Make sure that you are rewarded in proportion to what you give to others.

Final Thoughts

The triangle offense in basketball allows the core players to thrive by giving them options in any scenario. In life, let mentality, practice, and worth be the trifecta for success.

Be sure to let me know what other elements of this documentary are applicable to life and how you use them in the comments below!