If Michael Jordan hypothetically didn’t touch a basketball again until he was 60 years old, he’d still be sinking smooth, silky jump shots whenever he returned to playing the game.
Now, you may be thinking, this is obvious considering he is the best basketball player to ever grace a court.
Yet, the reason why he is the G.O.A.T. (“greatest of all time” for non-sports-fans) is in part due to the habits he built since he was first starting in the game of basketball…and life.
This dawned on me a few nights ago.
I was in London visiting Dau Jok, one of the contributors to my forthcoming book 2 Billion Under 20. Since Dau was the former captain of the University of Pennsylvania’s basketball team and more recently a professional basketball player in London, it was no surprise to find a ball in the corner of his bedroom. I hadn’t picked up a basketball in months, let alone shot one, so I picked it up, spun it on my fingers a few times, and found myself shooting the ball into the air, as I did growing up to practice my form.
And as I laid down, I shot the ball into the air more. And it fell back down into my hand. And I shot it again. Over and over. Ball on my fingertips, never touching my palm. Left hand guiding, but staying still as my right hand followed through. Pointer finger last to leave the ball, pointing forward, leaving my hand looking like I stole a cookie out of the jar on top of the refrigerator each time. Solid form every time.
It was the same thing I did growing up. In my teens, there were certainly a few nights you could find me sleeping with a basketball. I was obsessed. I practiced hard, and built up a pretty decent shot.
It goes back to the habits my coaches taught me about shooting. My first real coach and mentor on basketball and life, Justin Bauman…”JB!”…who’s now coaching at Wake Forest, noticed I used my left thumb to help my right hand shoot the ball when I was 10, so he made me shoot with a crushed-up soda can in my left hand. Over and over.
Guess what? For the rest of my life, I’ll never shoot a basketball with two hands again.
And then all the form shooting…Oh gosh, how much time did I spend two feet away from a hoop, practicing perfect form with one hand so that it would become muscle memory for later on…
But that was the point!
Michael Jordan has taken so many quality shots in practice and in games over decades that he built amazing habits that will last a lifetime. He can be 60, or 70, or 80…After he knocks off some rust maybe, he will have a killer jump shot no matter how old he gets.
It’s the same with our education, or our work, or whatever.
If we push ourselves each day to learn new things, and not be scared by the fact that we know so little, compounding will take over and in a couple years, we will be experts in a chosen field. Put in the extra hour or two into improving your craft, and you’ll develop your craft’s equivalent to a smooth, silky Jordan-esque jump shot that won’t let you fail when you need to perform. Build your network one conversation, one helping hand, one value-driven interaction at a time, and in no time you’ll be the life of the party, the connector of deals, and a “tribal leader”.
I know you probably know all this, but it’s just a refresher in a time when everyone is flaming out on their New Years’ Resolutions instead of focusing on the habits they should be building.
And, boy, did shooting a hoop feel good…!