Michael Jordan was arguably the best basketballer to ever play the game. As a kid, I worshipped MJ. I wore his shoes, his jerseys, watched his videos and had his posters all over my bedroom.  I loved the way he played the game, I loved his “give me the ball, I’ll win the game” attitude, I loved the way he and his Chicago Bulls team mates won championship after championship. 

Since Jordan retired, I’ve read more about the obsession he had with perfecting his game that started right from when he was cut from his high school basketball team. In his early NBA years Jordan obsessively worked out in the gym to become the strongest guard in the league, he even used to get out of bed in the middle of the night to fine tune his jump shot. Michael Jordan was one of the hardest working players of his era and the results speak for themselves.

Seven-time Tour de France winning cyclist Lance Armstrong is another phenomenal success who also obsessed over his preparation and training. Armstrong is famous for his fanatical approach to his training and the way he put in longer hours at higher intensities than any of his competitors. 

Both Jordan and Armstrong tasted defeat and (in their eyes, failure) during their time. In fact, Jordan missed more than 9000 shots in his career, he lost almost 300 games and 26 times he was trusted with the game-winning shot and missed.  It’s because of these failures that people like Jordan and Armstrong learn, become more focussed and succeed.

This week I’ve been reading Close to Flying, the Cadel Evans story and it seems that Evans has a similar approach to both Jordan and Armstrong.  One of my favourite quotes of the book was from Cadel’s summary of the 2005 Tour de France. He wrote: “You think you’re goin’ okay but just looking at the face of [Lance] Armstrong tells you another story. While you’re gasping for breath, he’s takin’ a drink or talking on the radio.”

Evans has learnt from his early failures and gone on to taste the sweetest victory of his career, the 2011 Tour de France.

Embracing failure, learning from mistakes and obsessing over what it will take to succeed are the lessons I’ve learnt this week from Jordan, Armstrong and now Evans.   


**This post is from the 2012 series ‘What I’ve learnt this week’. If you’d like to receive these and other Culture is Everything posts in your email, subscribe here.