Our student leaders were responsible for recently hosting the North Carolina Association of Student Councils annual convention at Terry Sanford High School. They spent the weekend talking about their contributions to society. On Friday night, they had a legend speak: Retired NBA Great, Michael Jordan. What a treat to hear him speak to students and answer their questions.
He shared with them the times in life that led to his development as a leader. When he was in high school, he motivated his team after they lost a state championship. He talked about as a professional during the Chicago Bulls historical season, he had to be tough on his team mates because they were taking winning for granted. He remembered what it felt like to be cut from his high school team and to spend many seasons building the Bulls into a winning team.
Although blessed with tremendous talent, it took hard work to be a winner. Days when he didn’t feel like showing up, he worked harder. He knew that those looking for an excuse, would find it on any day he didn’t work hard. When he said the comment about working hard, it reminded me of a statement from another sports legend, Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays. He said that he grew up with more talent players, but they didn’t have the discipline that he possessed. For many of his friends, their lack of discipline led to their down fall and to a life of crime.
Michael talked about defining moments in his life such as the famous shot in the NCAA finals. He became “Michael Jordan” as opposed to Mike Jordan. It defined him and of course, the rest is history. He spoke proudly of his brother that spent 31 years in the military, making our country safe for the Michael Jordan’s of the world to play basketball.
As I listened to him, I hope the students heard what he said. To be a leader requires hard work. It requires you to show up on the days that you don’t feel like it. It requires you sacrificing comfort for results. Obviously for Michael Jordan, he followed his own playbook.
What struck me as Michael spoke is that he gave credit to people that expected him to succeed. His parents played a key role as did former Carolina Head Basketball Coach Dean Smith. Still he talked about a math teacher that ‘got after him’ and prepared him, in her own way, to be a business leader. She must have been tough, but he smiled when giving her credit for preparing him for success.
If the young people reflect on his message, they will see that it was more than championships. He worked hard to be successful. He and measures his success now by his relationships, including the ones with his family.
The lesson is: No matter what your talent, work hard to realize your potential. Our job is to set the expectations for our children’s success. We may not have his talent on the basketball court, but we can be the men or women that he referenced. Define success as showing up on the hard days and making a difference.
Dr. Frank Till
Published by Laurie Pender on April 1, 2016