How Michael Jordan Manufactured Fuel

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I binged on 'The Last Dance' the other day for the second time since it aired (something I plan to do once a year because there are so many lessons in winning throughout this incredible documentary).

One of my many takeaways from 'The Last Dance' was that Michael Jordan would look to find the game within the game. He had an insatiable appetite for winning and constantly looked for fuel to keep him motivated.

Jordan was once asked, which championship was the hardest to win, the first or the last. He said, “the last because every time you win a little piece of your motivation dies.”

Motivation doesn’t last. It fades. Think of motivation as fuel in your car. Every so many miles you need to refuel the tank. That’s exactly what Jordan did. He looked for opportunities to make fuel out of a situation.

Here’s a powerful story told by Jordan in ‘The Last Dance’ that does a great job of illustrating this.

Here’s a powerful story told by Jordan in ‘The Last Dance’ that does a great job of illustrating this.

On March 19th of 1993, The Chicago Bulls were in the championships against the Washington Wizards.

In one of the games, the player who was guarding Jordan, LaBradford Smith ended up getting the best of him that night. Jordan was off that game and just wasn’t hitting his shots. On the contrary, LaBradford, the guy Jordan was guarding was on fire. The Bulls ended up losing to the Wizards in that game.

When the game was over, Jordan mentioned to his teammates that he walked by LaBradford as he was walking out of the gym and LaBradford told him “nice game Mike”.

Mike took that personally. He used it as fuel. He told his teammates, next game “within the first half, I’m gonna hit all the points he made in the entire game.”

Sure enough, the next game comes around and Jordan does just that. Jordan scored a whopping 36 points in the first half, more than what LaBradford had scored throughout the entire last game.

Here’s the take-away

What Jordan did was he twisted and used what many would consider a harmless comment - “good game Mike” as fuel to make up for his last performance and annihilate his opponent to win the game (which they did).

The kicker

Fast forward decades later, a reporter asks Jordan if LaBradford Smith really said to him “nice game Mike”. Jordan said, “No, I just made that up”.

He made it up as a way of fueling up to make sure they didn’t lose that next game.

This was just one of many examples throughout 'The Last Dance' where Jordan would take something personally as a way of re-fueling before a big game. He was always on the hunt for fuel that would motivate him to perform at his best and win.

What can you use as fuel to motivate you to hit this week's goals? What about when that fuel source fades? And then?