Michael Jordan wasn’t just born to be the best basketball player of all time. Yes, he did have phenomenal athletic ability. Speed, power and jumping ability don’t necessarily make a basketball star, though, let alone a six-time world champion.

Michael Jordan had an unmatchable work ethic. Teammates often said he was the first player to arrive at the practice facility each day. He was the last one to leave.

Where did this work ethic come from? Was he born with it? Maybe. He might just be wired differently than the rest of us. But I would argue that Michael used something to get himself going – something we can all use – motivation.

Buzz Peterson unknowingly motivated Michael Jordan to excel

After his playing days were over, Jordan played golf with his old friend and teammate at the University of North Carolina Buzz Peterson. Peterson and Jordan arrived at Chapel Hill in the same freshman class, although Buzz was actually the more heralded recruit.

During this round of golf, Jordan looked at Peterson and said, “I want to thank you for something.” After Peterson asked what it was Jordan was thankful for, Michael proceeded to explain how Buzz helped make him the legendary player he became.

Michael Jordan worked harder than everyone else.

Everyone told Jordan he would never play because of Peterson

Out of high school, Peterson was the golden boy of North Carolina hoops. Everyone told Michael that Buzz would start and Michael would ride the bench. His family and friends told him he would never play because he was behind Buzz Peterson.

Jordan didn’t allow himself to get frustrated by these comments or start doubting his abilities. Instead, those words fueled his fire.

Michael Jordan tried to be better than Buzz Peterson in every way

Every day when Jordan went to practice at UNC, he reminded himself, “You’ve got to be better than Buzz.” Michael tried to do every drill better than Peterson. He aimed to make more shots. He vowed to play better defense. He wanted to be better than Buzz Peterson.

What could you use as motivation?

What could you use as motivation? Think about it for a few minutes. What would light your fire, as the comments that Jordan would always be behind Buzz Peterson fueled Michael?

If you work in sales, you could remind yourself of the top salesman in your company each day. If a competitor receives an award, you could post the newspaper article about it in your office.

On the other hand, maybe it’s not competition like these examples or Michael’s. Maybe a reminder of why you do what you do would work. Putting photos of your kids on your desk could get you going. You make a few extra calls each day because you want to provide a better life for them. Or maybe it’s a fancy car or extravagant vacation you desire.

Whatever you use as motivation, it has to mean something special to you.

Set a goal for your career. Then find and use a person, event or cause to motivate you every single day.

Note: Each week, I share stories from some of the best athletes, coaches, and trainers in the world. These sports lessons aren’t just helpful on the field or court. They can teach you to excel as a leader and a champion in business and in life. If you have friends or family who would appreciate these lessons, please share this article with them. If you would like to receive more of these articles, sign up for my Champions in Sports, Business and Life email list.

Source: Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by David Halberstam

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