Consider Michael Jordan’s Advice If You’re Struggling Right Now

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Champion athletes learn from the past, focus on the present, and prepare for the future.

Entrepreneurs and small-business owners need to adopt the same attitude as they figure out what to do next during the coronavirus pandemic. For many, it will be possible to emerge from the crisis better, leaner, and smarter–if they adopt the Michael Jordanattitude.

This week, ESPN aired the first two parts the Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance,” named after coach Phil Jackson’s title that he unofficially gave to his final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98.

The series runs a lengthy 10 episodes. Viewers get to see behind-the-scenes conflict, struggle and, of course, fabulous highlights. They also get valuable lessons into the mindset of one of the greatest players in sports history.

Episode one takes us into the locker room after the Bulls had won their fifth championship (in the previous seven seasons). On November 1, 1997, the packed stadium at Chicago’s United Center was going crazy as the Bulls were introduced for the championship ring ceremony.

Champagne was flowing, fans were screaming, and fireworks were exploding. And then came the huddle to kick off the first home game of the season. Jordan took the lead, brought the team together and said:

“Let’s get re-focused back in this game and let’s do what we did last time.”

Jordan wasn’t looking behind. He was hyper-focused on winning a sixth trophy. Winning in the future meant putting his all into the game at hand.

Control the Present

The other day, I asked a successful CEO how he’s coping with the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Although he continues to pay his employees, he has zero visibility on future earnings. He’s an optimist and expects business to return, but nobody knows when the recovery will kick in or how strong it will be.

This CEO has a mental advantage. He’s nearly 60 years old and has survived–and thrived–after several major economic disruptions over his professional career. His advice:

“The best thing you can do is control what you can in the present and manage for the future.”

What are you doing to control the present and manage for the future? I’ve lost count of how many friends, families, and peers relive their “glory days” of just 40 days ago. “My business was going so well,” they tell me as their voice trails off.

Mourning the past doesn’t help. It’s wasted energy. Worrying about the future doesn’t help. It’s wasted energy. The only thing you can control is what you’re doing now.

Today, plan to:

  • Hold a meeting.
  • Stick to an exercise schedule.
  • Volunteer to help people in need.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Read a business book.
  • Check in with a customer–not to sell anything–but to ask how they’re doing.

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everyone has had them,” Michael Jordan once said. “But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Jordan had the same attitude when he came off a success–or a failure. His attitude has rubbed off on one national leader–New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I’m a big Michael Jordan fan,” Cuomo said during a Covid-19 press briefing on April 21.

He [Jordan] doesn’t make the varsity team. He got knocked on his rear end. He was disappointed. What did he do? He worked harder, practiced more. Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan wasn’t just born. He made himself the great player that he is.”

Cuomo concluded by applying Jordan’s attitude to those of us who are trying to figure out how to navigate the new world we find ourselves in.

“You get knocked on your rear end. It’s going to happen,” Cuomo said.

“The question is do you get up, and if you get up, what type of person are you, and did you learn from getting knocked on your rear end?”

There’s another championship in your future. Prepare for it today.

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