Growth mindset profile – Michael Jordan

Widely recognised to be the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan is a name we all associate with sporting success. But was he simply born great?

Although blessed with the height required to do well in basketball, Jordan is in fact a perfect example of an athlete that possesses a growth mindset. Although many of us would define him as a natural athlete, the truth is his psychology and attitude played an integral part in making him the success story he is today. This story is ideal to help your students with educational and emotional development, as it contains many examples of trying new challenges, practicing, and dealing with failure.

Jordan - Growth Mindset

Michael Jordan’s story 

Jordan was born in Brooklyn, and played basketball from an early age along with his brothers.

He aimed to make the high school basketball team, but was deemed too short to play. Undeterred, he played at the junior level and practiced relentless, going on to become the star of the team. He made the team the following year.

He began his NBA career with the Chicago Bulls, where he encountered jealousy from other players that was so bad, they refused to pass to him. Jordan continued to play well and work hard, determined to overcome this challenge.

At the height of his fame, Jordan shocked the NBA and fans around the world by announcing his retirement. This shock was compounded further when he signed a contract with the Chicago White Sox – a baseball team. He wanted to try something new, and was unafraid of failing in doing so. In his own words, Jordan describes how he feels about attempting something new: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

Jordan would eventually return to the NBA, and continue to enjoy success until the end of his career in 2003.

How to motivate students with the story of Michael Jordan

Not only is Michael Jordan’s story inspirational, but so is his attitude towards failure.

One of the keys to student motivation is to remove the stigma around failure. Failure should be seen as an essential part of learning, and not an indicator of intelligence or capability. Consider this quote from 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.”

To motivate students, keep this quote visible in the classroom. Remind them that even a man considered to be the best at what he does missed thousands of shots along the way.

You can also encourage students to conquer fears and challenges by using the example of how Jordan bounced back following failing to make his high school varsity team. Did he give up? Did he accept the set back as a reflection on his ability? No – he persevered, practiced, and made the team the following year. You can also use the example of his exit from basketball and attempts at playing baseball as another great example of trying something new.