Michael Jordan Turns 50: Leadership on Acid (part 6)

Leadership and Greatness

Michael Jordan turns 50: Leadership on Acid part 6. 

Leadership and Greatness

I think we view Michael Jordan in sports the way we viewed Michael Jackson in music: Unquestionably one of the most talented players of their game. As I think about Jordan, who played his last NBA game some 10 years ago, I think about what it must be like to be at the top–to have people talking about you for decades to come. To have this sort of impact must truly be a magical feeling. 


An article in the Chicago Sun-Times shares the stories of 50 people close to Jordan who have experienced him one way or another. I say “experience him” because so many have learned or taken away something important from playing with, doing business with, or knowing him. Not only do people want to know what it feels like to be him, people want to know what it is like to know him or be friends with him. That is the epitome of fame, when even those you speak to are interviewed about you, and are interviewed again many years later as well. 

Michael Jordan reminds us that it is possible to achieve greatness on this almost God-like level. It is a level that seems unreachable to most of us–for even if we put in the time, the talent must also be there. 

But it doesn’t have to be sports, music, or even movies. Achieving greatness can be something as non-glitzy as preparing food. I recently saw the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and it tells us the story of a man who is basically the Michael Jordan of making sushi. Jiro is a man in Japan who works harder than perhaps any other chef out there, he is in his 80s and it doesn’t seem that anything other than death will stop him. He tells us that you must love what you do, and invest everything about yourself in it, in order to be successful. An apprentice who seeks to learn from Jiro and develop the skills required to achieve anything close to his level must devote 10 years to the training. Even if you have 10 years to do this, of course you must have an exceptional ability of taste, in order to know what is the difference between great quality sushi and ridiculously great quality sushi. That is what it all comes down to–knowing those differences. Michael Jordan knew what it took to not just be a great player, but a ridiculously great player. 

How does one achieve that level of success? 

Whether or not you know if you have the natural talent, if you want at least a chance, you have to do three things: Work harder than anyone else (put in the time), learn everything and anything about your craft, and know that even when you think you have a great product–you know it could still be better. The film tells us that Jiro is always thinking about ways to make his sushi even better–he dreams about it, and it is all he ever thinks about.  

Now that, I believe, is the ultimate pathway to be, and stay, successful.

What do you wish to achieve a high level of greatness in–perhaps the top level in your corporation? Perhaps a master of the musical instrument you play? Perhaps the master of a ballroom dance?   Share with us your thoughts. 

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