Many of us today are watching the documentary, The Last Dance. It’s a masterful piece of storytelling about a basketball player, Michael Jordan, who changed the game in many ways. But more than anything, its a story of dedication and hard work. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
I grew up watching Michael Jordan play. I was even lucky enough to watch him live in a Bulls/Hornets game the year before he retired. But I owned a highlights reel (on VHS, of course) of his greatest moments and owned at least one Chicago Bulls hat. I knew the starting line up. I had the basketball cards and a poster on my wall.
Now, you might read that last paragraph and think of me as a super fan. I’m the furthest from it. I haven’t attentively watched a game of nearly any kind in probably 20 years – except the super bowl – and even then, I do so mostly for the ads, and so I have something to talk about at work the next day.
But in the ’90s, many of us were caught up in a moment together. And it was magical. Jordan defied gravity. When you watched the slow motion of his leap from the free-throw line, suspended in the air feet above the ground, lights flashing in the background and jaws hanging open courtside, you felt you were watching a kind of mystical being doing the impossible.
And you got the feeling that something was happening and you, in some small way, were a part of it. You were watching someone do things no one had done before. A kind of cultural handbook was thrown out about what was possible.
We have these moments from time to time as a culture. We get in a groove until someone – or something – redefines what’s possible.
Last night, I went for a run after work as I have occasionally been doing with my gym shut down. I won’t share how far I went, as that number is a bit humble compared to many others. But I will share that I ran farther than I had been able to go before by something like 30%. And all that changed was what I thought I might be able to do. I pushed a little more than usual to see what my body could do. And it went there.
I had a limit, or edge, on how far I could run. I had a goalpost. And it stayed put until I decide to move it.
What stood out to me about The Last Dance was that Jordan isn’t a mystical being who stepped on a court with all the skills he needed, but rather an incredibly hard worker who pushed harder than maybe any other player at the time. Sure, he had an innate ability. But perhaps more important than a natural athletic aptitude and height advantage at 6’6″, is his relentless pursuit of perfection. He pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed… and what we see is just the result. We see the tip of the iceberg. We see the result of his continually shifting edge.
We remember Michael Jordan’s career because he continuously pushed the line. He didn’t just want something to happen. He made it happen. His edge, and the game around him, shifted as a result.
Where is your edge? How far can you push it today?
Originally published Jun 24, 2020, updated Jan 30, 2023