Michael Jordan and the Secret to Beating Your Competition


It’s not a coincidence that the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, was also known for being one the hardest-working athletes of his generation. His relentless work ethic is legendary.

With Jordan’s work ethic in mind, it might seem odd to hear him say that he always tried to avoid “work.” Yet, it was exactly that approach which allowed him to consistently outwork his competition. Jordan explains…

To this day, I don’t enjoy working. I enjoy playing, and figuring out how to connect playing with business. To me, that’s my niche.

People talk about my work ethic as a player, but they don’t understand. What appeared to be hard work to others was simply playing for me. We were playing a game. Why not play as hard as you can? There’s no pressure in taking that approach. Play to win. Why else would you play?

I don’t consider what I do at the Jordan brand working either, because I have a passion for the brand. I could sit around talking about shoe design and fashion all day. You ask me to sit in an office and answer email for eight hours—to me, that is work.

– Michael Jordan, from his book Driven from Within

What I love about the above passage is that it reminds us how much easier it is to work hard if you love what you’re doing. If you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. As MJ says, it feels like PLAY.

Jordan’s advice makes it clear that if you want to rise to the top of your field, you have two choices: find a way to do what you love or find a way to love what you do.

A version of this article appeared in the Sports for the Soul newsletter on May 5, 2016.