Can you think like a champion? - THINKERS Notebook

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Can you think like a champion?

I want to let you in on a secret. One that may have dire consequences for my online reputation. Please, don’t judge me.

Here we go…I don’t like basketball.

It’s not that I am against basketball (or any sport, really), it’s just that for entertainment value, I have a lot of other things I would prefer watching or doing.

But my ambivalence towards basketball changed after watching “The Last Dance” on Netflix – the ESPN documentary of the famous 1990’s Chicago Bulls lead by team captain Michael Jordan.

If you have not had a chance to watch this amazing documentary, you should.

And while I was impressed by the physical feats of these professional athletes in their quest to dominate the NBA, that is not what stood out to me as I watched the show.

What I found most fascinating was the profile of Michael Jordan and the mental acuity he possessed to excel in his field.

There is no question that Jordan had the physical talent to excel in the sport. But to be fair, so did several others, including his teammate Scottie Pippen.

To me, what truly separated Jordan from everyone else was his mental attitude – an all-consuming drive to be the best and win at everything he pursued.

At THINKERS, we spend a lot of time discussing the nuances of our mental abilities to make better decisions from better thinking.

While becoming a better thinker is very important, putting those thoughts into action matters as well (something we are discussing on the THINKERS Manifesto podcast right now).

And it is the mindset you have for your thoughts and your actions that have a direct impact on your individual results.

To quote Michael Jordan,

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
"My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength."


As these quotes demonstrate, Michael Jordan’s mental success is directly correlated to his ability to mentally process setbacks and failures as learning experiences.

Or what is more popularly known as the Growth Mindset.

The Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, coined the term after studying the behavior of thousands of children in how they responded to a series of small setbacks.

Here thesis is based on the belief that people have two types of mindsets; a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.

Fixed mindsets assume that our abilities – from creativity to intelligence to character – are static and change very little over the course of our lives.

In contrast, a growth mindset thrives on challenges and perceives failures as learning opportunities that we can grow from as we seek to improve our abilities.

As Carol writes,

For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life?

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics.


I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? . . .

There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development.

This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.


Looking at these definitions, it becomes easier to understand how Michael Jordan’s growth mindset could help prepare him for future success.

Every lost game became a lesson plan for the future. Every missed shot became an experience to be improved on.

And combined with Jordan’s incredible physical talent, his mindset helped him lead the Chicago Bulls into NBA history.

What is your mindset?

Developing and maintaining a growth mindset is not easy. The negative emotions generated from repeated failures can be hard to process.

You can sometimes feel alone and despondent.

We know. That is why we created the THINKERS Workshop as a haven for thinkers to find inspiration and support from other growth-oriented individuals.

So the next time you need a dose of inspiration or need help pulling yourself out of a fixed mindset, make sure to visit the Workshop. We are always here to help because we know that the best way to improve your mindset is to grow with others that are sharing your journey.