Magic and Michael Knew What It Takes to Be a True Champion: Be Prepared!

You Can’t Build a Fresh, Competitive Brand without Preparing Yourself First

Preparing yourself helps you get a large part of the substance for your brand-building. Earlier in your career, this can be used to help you conduct stellar interviews with the best companies and have your pick of jobs. Later in your career, preparing yourself can help make you a top performer and obtain the promotions and accolades that will propel your career forward at a breakneck speed.

For college students, preparing yourself means taking steps like maintaining a consistently high GPA, test-driving potential careers and impressing potential future employers through internships, participating in extracurricular activities, and doing a “heart check” on your major – are you majoring in something you excel at and that truly captivates your interest where you can be passionate about it?

For professionals, preparing yourself means continuing your education, building and contributing to formal and informal networks, maintaining an active intellectual interest and knowledge capital in your career and your life, staying current on the latest business trends and demands in your field, taking on project assignments, asking your boss what you can do to become a better performer, and seizing every opportunity to stay front and center by volunteering for committees and gladly accepting additional work.

If you doubt the value of preparation, or perhaps feel you are already so good at what you do that you can slack off a bit when it comes to preparing, a brief look at the careers of pro basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Michael Jordan will be instructive. They are undoubtedly two of the best players in the history of the NBA (many experts rank them one-two, in both orders) and both were explosive forces on the court from the moment they started their careers till the moment they ended them (of course, Johnson retired and unretired once and Jordan did it twice!). Blessed with immense natural athletic ability and incredible knowledge of the game of basketball, these men could easily have shown up at games with minimal preparation and still won championships and probably made the Hall of Fame.

But they didn’t. Both were notorious for being the first to arrive at practice and last to leave, every single time. Both put in huge amounts of personal time in the offseason staying in shape and working on basketball fundamentals so they would be able to start the season at peak performance level. Less talented teammates couldn’t help but be inspired to practice harder when they saw how seriously two of the all-time best players took their preparation.

It is also not a coincidence that both men have had highly successful post-basketball careers as business executives and corporate spokesmen. Their dedication and preparation helped give them sterling reputations as true “winners” which everyone wants to associate with, and undoubtedly they take the same no-nonsense, hyperprepared approach to their business lives as they did their basketball lives. If Magic and Michael needed lots of preparation, so do you!

Wondering how your efforts to be prepared stack up against the pros? Let’s compile a basketball–themed “shootaround” to measure your preparation. Rate how strongly you agree that each of the following preparedness statements applies to you today from 1-5, with 1 equaling strongly disagree and 5 equaling strongly agree:

1. I have a fully realized ideal of personal and professional success around which I build all my preparatory efforts.
2. I have the utmost confidence that I am truly prepared to achieve success and have no doubts about my ability to overcome any obstacle, no matter how unpredictable.
3. I have mastered the specific skills necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field, organization, business and or company.
4. I have obtained all the credentials necessary to achieve success by being a branded expert in my chosen field , organization, business and/or company.
5. I feel a burning competitive desire that pushes me to always take additional steps toward being prepared rather than feel satisfied with my preparatory efforts.
6. I know the skill sets and the mental attitudes of three people who have achieved success in the area that I want to succeed.
6.5 I gain a new competitive skill on at least a quarterly basis.

Now that you’ve taken the test, let’s analyze your score:

If you scored from 7-13, you launched an airball. You haven’t taken any real steps to prepare yourself for success and are relying on blind luck and last-second thinking to overcome whatever obstacles come your way.

If you scored from 14-20, your ball glanced off the rim. You have taken a few quick steps to get ready to succeed, but hurrying now will only make success take longer to arrive later.

If you scored from 21-26, you hit a free throw, worth one point. You have done all the obvious things it takes to prepare for success in your chosen field, organization, business and/or company, but so have most of your competitors. Those who take extra steps and think outside the box in their preparation are the ones who will stand out.

If you scored from 27-33, you hit a regulation two-point basket. You have gone above and beyond the norm to prepare and are ready for some serious competition. But are you ready to win?

If you scored a 34 or 35, you hit a three-pointer. Congratulations! You have taken the lessons of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to heart and have thoroughly prepared yourself for all contingencies, including unknowns, and done the groundwork necessary to truly stand out from the rest of the competition. You are fit to compete for a championship and maybe even have a Hall of Fame career!