I have been an NBA basketball fan since young. In the midst of the NBA legends, Michael Jordan is probably the only timeless superstar who inspire awe, admiration and respect for people around the world.
Over the last twenty years, no single basketball player has achieved the kind of cult status like Michael Jordan. His ability to turn around critical situation in a game is simply mesmerizing. His superman image has created profound inspiration for millions of fans.
Michael Jordan epitomizes the character strength of tenacity and determination, which has had tremendous influence on the personality development of countless teenager fans since his time. Despite his quiet demeanor, Michael Jordan has an immense internal drive that never allow himself to be defeated. Deep inside, he was not one to challenge. His ability to rise up and strike down an opponent was simply awe-inspiring, to which he said: “Unless I’m challenged you don’t see the mean streak in me.”
The indomitable competitive spirit in Michael Jordan has made him the most feared and respected opponent for other NBA players. In the lyrics of “Don’t Mess Around With Jim”, Jim Crose described Michael Jordan most aptly: “You don’t tug on superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, and you never pick against Michael Jordan.” After losing to The Bulls in 1998, New Jersey Nets coach John Calipari said: “Playing against Michael is like playing blackjack against the dealer. He ain’t losing.” When Madonna was asked about her favorite player when she was at the Bulls game, she said:”M.J. is an amazing human. A god. If I could coma back as another person, it’d be as him.”
It is interesting to know what had attributed to Michael Jordan’s enormous drive to win. One argument has it that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and the devastating trauma of the event had given birth to an extremely competitive spirit that refuses to be beaten. This mentality has made him one of the world’s greatest athletes ever.
In psychology terms, “drive” is synonymous to “arousal”. It is an emotionally charged state that results from a competitive nature. The degree of arousal or drive, up to a certain level, is the key determinant of the quality of performance whether in sports or business. Beyond that optimal level of arousal, any extra drive will only cause performance to decline. This state of optimal performance only last for a short time, during which the mind, body and emotional system are closely aligned. It is a transcendental state where one is optimally situated between euphoria and depression, boredom and excitement, and relaxation and anxiety. In sports, athletes who are in such optimal state are known to be “in the zone”.
It is the state of “flow” that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talked about in his book: “Flow”. He said: “Flow is a highly focused state of relaxation concentration that obliterates all else out of consciousness. It is the state of self-actualization or transcendental behavior that is euphoric.”
Michael Jordan’s success lies not just in his extreme competitiveness, but also in his ability to swiftly and frequently enter the flow state, or to be “in the zone”. When he is “in the zone”, he can jump with amazing ease, float through the air in gravity-defying grace, and never miss a shot. It is the state of euphoria that is addictive. He knows it when he is there. When in the flow state, he simply becomes unstoppable. This is the same experience you probably may have had in the past when you find yourself doing everything with amazing ease, as if aided by some divine forces. It is indeed the divine force that is within you when you are in that optimal state of mind, body and emotional alignment.
How can we enter into such flow state?
Being competitive is important but it alone does not help, because competitive drive can only induce anxiety. Anxiety up to a certain level is key to achieving flow state, but any excess of it will not lead to optimal performance. There is a very fine line that exists between under-stressed and over-stressed. The secret of optimal performance is found somewhere in the middle. According to psychologist, a maximum potential for achievement is reached when a subject performs under moderately stressful situation.
In sports, optimal performance is seen when two opponents are closely matched. Any significant gap in the proficiency of opponent will not bring out the best in the other. To the elite sportsman, their closest rival has a special place in their personal pursuit of excellence. Their closest rival is that unique person who has the ability to push them to perform their best.
The key success factors of Michael Jordan provide valuable insights on what we all can do to create success in our life:
– Find something that you are truly passionate about;
– Committed to massive amount of hard work to perfect the core skill sets, and enjoying it in the process;
– Strengthen your mind power with determination and resilience;
– Learn to harness the state of relaxed but intense concentration by regular practice of meditation and creative visualization, which improves the alignment of your mind, body and emotion, and enhance your ability to enter the flow state.
If you can experience flow state regularly in the activities that you pursue, winning in itself is no longer important, although you will inevitably be performing at your best. It is the euphoria state of being in the flow that brings immense joy and fulfillment to life, in its moment-to-moment experience. This is the essence of successful living.