Extreme Determination and Extreme Success

Growing up, I watched Michael Jordan play basketball. He was, with little argument, the best basketball player of all time. He was incredibly dominant -- probably 5-6 standard deviations above the mean.

Michael Jordan was in the news a lot when he turned 50 years old. There was an in-depth profile of his life and career from EPSN that I'll share with you in a moment.

But first, let me explain why you might consider reading on even if you don't like basketball.

It boils down to one simple reason:


Just like you read what I write to pick up tips, strategies, and "clues" to how to succeed in case interviews, consulting, and, to some extent, life, I do the exact same thing by reading about and learning from others.

I have found that the underlying principles of success in one field are very transferable to other fields.

The Michael Jordan profile I'll share with you in a second is fascinating.

First, you have to realize Michael Jordan is over 50 years old. He hasn't played professional basketball in a decade or so.

He has a partnership with Nike to create the Michael Jordan brand of basketball shoes. Today, the Jordan brand has 58% market share even though he has been retired for years!

The Nike stand-alone brand has 34% market share as is. Combined, Nike has a 92% market share -- which is remarkable.

Even after all these years, Jordan dominates.

Second, as you learn more about his personality, you see that his drive to win is extreme... bordering on mental illness.

I'm certainly not advocating this approach, but it is fascinating to observe his mindset.

It's also interesting to see how it has played out over the last 3 decades and how his "must-win" mind struggles with an over 50-year-old body.

For example, as a part-owner of an NBA basketball team, his team recently recruited the second-best college player in the United States.

Just for fun during practice, he decided to play 1:1 against this 21-year-old superstar recruit.

Michael Jordan, the 50-year-old man, beat him.

That's amazing!

But, reality is reality, and the next day Jordan skipped work in the office. Why?

...because his body was too sore to move.

He was in the training room, being iced all day and presumably taking pain medications. Despite the physical cost, you get the distinct impression that he felt it was totally worth it.

These days he takes his NBA championship mindset and applies it to playing computer games like Bejeweled and offline games like Sudoku. Apparently, he is extremely good at both.

He has to win at something.

It's fascinating to observe the history of such a remarkably successful person.

So, what's the big takeaway?

Here it is:

While talent counts, determination matters a lot.

* No Determination = No Success

* Average Determination = Average Success

* Extreme Determination = Extreme Success

While there's most definitely such a thing as too much determination (when you're willing to sacrifice health, relationships, etc... to get what you want), it's useful to see the [determination = success] formula as:

1) A continuum

2) A choice

First, there are degrees of determination. Second, it's your choice where you want to play along that continuum.

In striving to achieve any personal or professional goal, often the outcome is partially determined by factors out of your control.

But, the decision to choose your own level of determination and work ethic IS within your control.

Choose wisely (and keep in mind, more is not always the better choice). My message isn't to advocate for more or less, but to advocate that you be conscious and deliberate about the choice.

You can read the full article on Michael Jordan here:
Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building

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8 comments… add one
  • Sunny Roy Dec 27, 2016, 2:54 am

    Right article at the right time, when I have an interview in a few days. Thanks, Victor.

  • Sol Jun 17, 2016, 5:36 pm

    “But, the decision to choose your own level of determination and work ethic IS within your control.” This part truly resonated with me. Recently I’m learning to recognize that many things may be out of my control but what’s even more important is to realize what IS in my control and to build discipline to act on that control. Thank you Victor for the great article and great insight once again.

  • Faisal Apr 26, 2016, 2:26 am

    Great advice! Thanks Victor for sharing it.

  • What I Learnt on Wall Street Dec 30, 2015, 6:07 am

    Great article Victor. Determination is key.
    I just signed up for the Strategic Outlier letter – good idea.

  • Damilola Nov 10, 2015, 6:32 pm

    So insightful. Thanks for this article.

  • Abhijeet Ghosh Dec 10, 2014, 8:16 pm

    Really amazing article. There is always a learning opportunity in your articles.

    • judy Oct 22, 2015, 10:50 am

      Great story and “take-aways” on Michael and his determination. I truly believe life is basically full of choices…what matters is how we approach them. Trust your gut, follow your heart, and just do it! “Just do it” has been my motto since Nike introduced it in the 90’s. Thus far it’s worked for me! (And I’m 62 teaching English at Universities in France)

  • Saurabh Banerjee Nov 20, 2013, 2:36 am

    Just amazing. Thanks for the article.

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