Jordan Mentality: How to Regain Motivation After Experiencing Failure

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Failure is a two-way street. You either succumb to the setback or learn from the experience. It all comes down to your motivation to bounce back and a tiny bit of luck.

In the mid-70s, a young man from North Carolina was grinding to make it into his local high school’s basketball team. At first, he was deemed too ‘weak’ to play with the big boys. But he didn’t quit until his never-die attitude finally earned him a spot on the team. A few years later, he was recruited to play for UNC and eventually got drafted by the Chicago Bulls.

The boy’s name was Micheal Jordan, and you’ll pay top dollar for a pair of his trademark shoes today.

However, for every Michael Jordan, there are a million other young people who never made the cut. Some gave up after the first rejection — the first sign of a menacing obstacle. 

Maybe these young people could have become world-beaters like Jordan. We will never know. 

But today, I will focus on what I call the ‘Jordan Mentality’ — a sure-bet mindset to recover from any failure.

Let’s look at the core principles.

1 – Forget perfection; you are not God

Most successful people are obsessed with perfection. So, whenever things start to fall apart, they assume it is a sign to change direction. 

Don’t be mistaken; perfection should always be the driving force in everything you do. But you need to accept failure as part of the pie — the essence of being human. 

So, if your perfect record is broken, consider it a minor hiccup and move on. 

2 – Reflect on the failure as part of the learning curve

I am not saying that you should celebrate failure. On the contrary, you should be pissed off and disappointed. 

However, acknowledging the misfortune is the first step to recovery. Take some time to reflect on what happened to discover room for improvement. 

Also, remember that your situation is a product of your choices. With that in mind, you need to analyze every decision to determine what really went wrong. 


3 – Accept responsibility for your mistakes

It is tough to take responsibility for our mistakes. Most people lack the mental fortitude to carry this burden.

Moreover, as humans, we hate being on the losing team or taking the blame for the defeat. So, our first reaction to failure is to blame others. 

But consider this; Jordan could have downed his tools and blamed his high school coach for ignoring him. But he accepted the personal responsibility to improve his game and try again. 

So, take an objective look at the situation and analyze your decisions. 

Could you have done something differently? Did your lack of planning cause the failure?

Subsequently, you will develop a better understanding of the overall picture moving forward.

4 – Focus on the positives

Some mistakes are so grave that we feel too embarrassed to continue. You want the earth to open up and swallow you. 

This moment is when defeatism creeps in — a lack of motivation to continue. 

But you need to cut the crap at once. Don’t let negative thoughts control you. Get rid of that little devil calling you a disgrace. 

Instead, think of everything you did right before things went wrong. Remember when things were good and focus on returning to normalcy.

5 – Surround yourself with right-minded people

Most times, bouncing back from failure can be an uphill task. You need motivation from the people around you. If you are surrounded by negative people, you might even fall into a very dark place. 

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying you should surround yourself with yes-men. Find people with the same motivation to realize their ultimate potential.

You need your loved ones to keep you grounded as you try to reassess. Moreover, they can provide useful insight and emotional support. 

And if someone around you is distracting you from the goal, cut them off. Keep your inner circle tight and goal-oriented.


6 – Let the disappointment fuel your passion

Jordan is famous for dishing out cold vengeance. He never let his opponents best him in anything, and those who triumphed over him faced his wrath. He also hung on to the most inconsequential things when working on his comeback masterplan.

One of the most notable events was his encounter with Gary Payton — an NBA rookie and renowned trash talker at the time. 

Payton was ‘jawing’ at Michael throughout the preseason. However, during their first meeting in the regular season, Jordan played against Gary Payton with so much ferocity and renewed motivation that he forced the rookie into foul trouble. 

This marked the beginning of Jordan’s dominance in the NBA. Subsequently, Jordan won his first NBA championship the following season.

Although this revenge-fueled approach worked for Michael Jordan, you should always keep your emotions in check. Don’t let your adversary occupy real estate in your head.

7 – Don’t be afraid to change

Trying the same thing a thousand times worked for Thomas Edison, but that doesn’t mean you should go the same route.

If the strategy (not sheer bad luck) was the reason for failure, change your approach. Take everything that went wrong into account to develop a foolproof plan.

Jordan failed against the Bad Boy Pistons because he relied on his individual brilliance. But after many years of losing to the same team, he decided to trust his teammates more. Eventually, Jordan’s trust in John Paxson and Steve Kerr paid off twice in clutch moments. 

This change in gameplay took him past the Bad Boys and to his first 3-peat.

In essence, developing a solid plan and sticking to it is a good recipe for success. However, failure is always an inevitable party pooper waiting to pounce. But don’t let the disappointment keep you down. Work on your Jordan mentality and surround yourself with the right people. Conduct an honest evaluation of your choices and make changes if necessary.

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