“I can tell you the truth and it won’t sound like false modesty” — Michael Jordan on what made him a special basketball player

Michael Jordan

© Anne Ryan – USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Fast Break | Apr. 2

Like most basketball players, Michael Jordan wasn’t born with superior basketball skills. He had to work relentlessly on his game to become the greatest basketball player of all time. His incredible basketball talent wouldn’t have been possible without his mentality, which he used to his advantage for most of his phenomenal career. In fact, what separated MJ from normal basketball players was that instead of competing and comparing himself against his competitors, he did it mostly with himself.

Michael versus himself

According to motivational speaker Tony Robbins, Michael once told him that he became the best basketball player in the world because he always competed with his expectations and standards instead of others’. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to live up to people’s expectations, but more so the fact that he knew he was the one who demanded the most out of himself — which was why he used it as the measuring stick.

Michael Jordan. Remember I interviewed him years ago? And I said, ‘What makes you the best in the world? Is it skill? Is it talent? Is it abilities? Is it background? Is it training?’ And he was so awesome. He said, ‘Tony I can tell you the truth and it won’t sound like false modesty.’ He said, ‘I didn’t even make the high school basketball team, sophomore year. I was cut.‘ He said, ‘What it is is everyday I demand more from myself than anybody else could possibly expect. I don’t compete with other people. I compete with what I’m capable of,’” Robbins shared.

A life lesson from Robbins and Jordan

Aside from being rich multimillionaires and high-profile personalities in their crafts, the similarity between Jordan and Robbins was that they always had high standards for themselves. When it comes to public speaking, Robbins always felt that his next talk had to be better than his last, no matter what he was going through. Like Jordan, he always expected himself to achieve his goals before attempting to go after them.

The success of both Jordan and Robbins’ careers is yet another reminder that most of the time, we don’t need to let other people’s expectations limit the possibilities of what we can and want to achieve for ourselves. Comparing yourself to other people’s expectations becomes moot if you hold yourself to a greater standard. As Mike said, it’s a matter of competing against what you’re capable of.

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