Talent Versus Mindset (Part 2)


In my previous post, I shared the five nuggets (principles) we can take from the greatest myth in sport’s history.  We love that story, even people who don’t watch sports love it. These are the other five nuggets we can take from Michael Jordan’s experience with failure:

6. EMBRACE FAILURE: MJ learned how to convert the pain of defeat into motivation throughout his life. He checked into hotels under the name “Leroy Smith” as a reminder of the person who beat him in high school.  Leroy was a constant reminder to never stop working or take anything for granted. We all have a “Leroy Smith” experience in our lives, but how are you using it for good?

7. EXECUTION IS A HABIT: MJ’s Chicago Bulls went 6 for 6  in the NBA finals. When his opportunity came; he executed. Many of us set goals, make plans, come up with ideas, and dream about stuff we’d like to achieve but without EXECUTION none of it matters. Ideas aren’t worth anything. MJ turned winning into a habit. We can make execution a habit when we treat everything, especially the small stuff, as an opportunity to gain small wins.

8. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: After winning a game, I remember Jordan would always give credit to his teammates, but after losing he’d take responsibility.  Instead of worrying about the things that are out of our control, it’s better to focus on the things that we can control and crush it! Effort and Attitude are ALWAYS under your control.

9. SET STRETCH GOALS: Why did Jordan, as a sophomore, try out for the varsity team of a really good school? Why didn’t he focus on the JV team instead? I don’t know why. But I do know he set a stretched goal. Like Les Brown says, “Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.”

10. Sorry, I couldn’t think of a 10th thing, so let’s turn it into a question. What would you rather have natural talent or a winning mindset?

 I don’t know if you realized this, but none of these 9 principles have to do with natural born talent or gifts. The one common trait is that they are all under our control. Jordan was constantly looking for ways to take his game to the next level and surround himself with the best. He had the best coaches, played with the 2nd best player in the NBA (Pippen) and greatest rebounder (Dennis Rodman), etc. None of this has to do with natural talent. His mindset helped him create a winning environment, which turned winning into a habit.

These two posts aren’t about Jordan, sports, or athletic talent. It’s about you and I developing the right mindset, regardless of our circumstances, to create small daily wins that will eventually snowball into a great life.


By the way, I’m including some version of this blog series in my first book which I’m working on right now.


Gary Vee On Success

“Greatness comes from adversity.”

“Bet on your strengths.”

“Put yourself in a position to win with your strengths.”

“My success is a product of some level of skills, but I think I win because I outwork people.”



Gary Vaynerchuck

Talent Versus Mindset


One of the greatest stories in sports is the one about Michael Jordan. I’m sure you heard that Jordan’s high school coach cut him the high school basketball team. Well, I’m sorry to break the news but that version is not really true!

So it’s true that his Air-ness didn’t earn a spot on the varsity team that day that rocked the universe.  But most story tellers leave out that MJ’s earned  a spot on the junior varsity (JV) team.

That’s the most important part of this story!

Jordan, who was only 5’10” at the time, was devastated. What made it worse was that his classmate, the much taller Leroy Smith (6’7″), made the team. In teenage Jordan’s mind, Leroy beat him, so it was personal. I’m not sure what Jordan dreamed about that night, but he woke up on full BEAST mode.  Jordan committed to never let anyone beat him again.

There’s so much we can learn from this one event in MJ’s life. These are some the main nuggets I took from his story.

1. CHOOSE YOUR ATTITUDE: Even though he was upset for not making the varsity team, Jordan used that failure as motivation. He worked harder than anyone else on that JV team because of it he developed great ball handling skills. He learned that what matters most is not what happens to us, but how we choose to respond that makes the biggest difference. 

2. CONSTANT SELF-IMPROVEMENT: MJ is famous for continuous improvement or the “growth mindset” explained in the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. To fans, he’s known as one of the greatest, but to his teammates and coaches, he was considered the hardest working athlete in the world. He was constantly improving his game.

3. HUSTLE WHERE YOU ARE: Instead of giving up, losing interest, or being embarrassed to play on the JV team, MJ hustled like a BEAST. He was the hardest-working kid on the team. He turned a setback into a setup for something greater. That JV experience gave him the chance to gain confidence, skills,  and find his niche. You can’t wait until you have the job, spouse, or life of your dreams before you decide to make the most of it. You have to make the most of what you have now in order to make it into something great tomorrow.

4. TALENT IS OVERRATED: During his tryouts, coaches considered MJ an AVERAGE player. He wasn’t a child prodigy. But his will to win (aka growth mindset) compensated for the things he lacked athletically. Often we don’t see the work ethic that high performing people invest in their craft, so we label them prodigies, overnight successes, and super talents.  But research is showing that “natural talent” is not as strong a determining factor for athletic, musical, or artistic success as people think. The coach who cut MJ said there wasn’t anything remarkable about Jordan during his tryout except that he seemed very determined. The real gift is found in one’s ability to continually practice (or “deep practice” (like it’s called in the book “The Talent Code”), focus, and stay motivated.  You don’t know how good you are until you’ve given it all you can.

5. WORK HARDER (ON YOURSELF): Why did Jordan practice more than the other players if he was already the best?  Maybe he was the best because he was always working. Jordan practiced as if someone was going to take his spot. He had a reputation for out working his teammates and was constantly seeking feedback from his coaches. For MJ, it wasn’t about beating others; it was about beating himself.

Stay tuned for Part 2.