Known for: Athlete, Entrepreneur, Team Owner, Billionaire, GOAT?

Primary Soft Skills: Goal Setting, Resiliency, Drive Strength / Motivation

Even if you’ve never watched basketball, you’ve heard of Michael Jordan. You can see him driving to the basket, leaping in the air with his tongue hanging out, and dunking the ball over opponents. He revolutionized basketball and became a household name.

Hard skills, like knowing how to play the game, only account for 15% of success in life. However, it was Jordan’s soft skills that truly turned a kid with raw talent into probably the Greatest Of All Time to play his game.

Since it can be tough to identify soft skills in yourself, let’s look at how Michael Jordan’s soft skills helped him succeed.

Goal Setting

To succeed, Jordan developed a goal setting system that he applied from high school, through the NBA, and even now as the first athlete-turned-billionaire. He explains his process in his book, “I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence”:

[blockquote]“I had always set short-term goals. As I look back, each one of the steps or successes led to the next one. When I got cut from the varsity team as a sophomore in high school…I set a goal of becoming a starter on the varsity. That’s what I focused on all summer. When it happened, I set another goal, a reasonable, manageable goal that I could realistically achieve if I worked hard enough. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there.”[/blockquote]


The Bulls desperately needed their leader for Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, but Jordan was lying in a fetal position in his hotel bed, drenched in sweat. He could barely sit up from the stomach virus wracking his system. The team doctor said there was no way he could play.

He had every excuse (even a doctor’s note) to stay in bed. However, though weak and pale, he showed up and played, making a 3-point shot with 25 seconds left to lead his team to victory.

mj-singleDrive Strength / Motivation

Arguably the best basketball player of all time, Jordan was cut from his varsity team in high school. But that didn’t stop him. He worked harder to not only get back on the team, but also to start.

When he was drafted into the NBA in 1984, he wasn’t a very good shooter. To get better, he spent his off-season shooting hundreds of shots a day to become a reliable and intimidating 3-point shooter.

To become a standout defensive player, he spent countless hours studying his opponents and committing their moves to memory to hone his defensive instinct.

Taking nothing for granted, he applied himself to every part of his game to steadily get better and better until he was the best.

Be Like Mike

Success didn’t fall into Jordan’s lap. He created a system to drive himself to accomplish his goals and held on to his dream no matter what. That’s encouraging because it means anyone can succeed if they develop similar soft skills. You, too, can be like Mike.

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