I’ve been watching The Last Dance on Netflix.
It has been A TRIP down 1990s memory lane for this almost 40-year-old. (I turn 40 in January.)
It has the music. It has Carmen Electra (and Madonna!) … because it has Dennis Rodman in those baggy plaid pajama pants and multi-colored hair.
It has the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.
But most importantly, it has M.J.
The Greatest of All Time. In the first years of the ’90s, Michael Jordan could have made a reasonable case for himself being the most famous person on Earth.
I know he could have, because I’ve never even followed pro basketball! Yet I still remember him being everywhere.
Nike. McDonald’s. Gatorade.
“Like Mike! If I could be like Mike!”
Remember that TV ad? The Last Dance is about nothing so much as it is about dissecting and examining every element of what it actually took to be… like Mike.
Let me tell ya: it’s a mixed bag.
He was what my 12-year-old, 1990s self would have called a super-big jerk. He held grudges. He yelled. He punched a teammate, possibly two. He talked so. Much. Shit.
The filmmakers ask one of his teammates from that era if he was a nice guy.
The teammate responds something like, “He couldn’t be nice. He couldn’t be nice and accomplish what he wanted to accomplish.” Six championships in a single decade. With a 20-month retirement thrown in the middle! Truly legendary.
So what does any of this have to do with writing?
Jordan was the G.O.A.T. But being the GOAT meant he couldn’t be a lot of other things.
He could be the GOAT but he couldn’t
be approachable, let alone be the nice guy on the team.
have a rich private life, away from cameras and reporters.
be around his kids regularly while they were growing up.
When I was a kid watching the Dream Team, I learned that if you’re not aiming to be the best, you’re not trying hard enough.
But now I’m old (see: 40). And it seems more reasonable to me to think of being legendarily great as just one of many ways you can do a thing.
Being the best at all costs is not only NOT the only way, it’s also not the best way.
If you have kids whom you like to see on a regular basis, you know you’ve had to figure out other ways to do a thing.
Like writing a book.
You have other stuff going on. You have a family. You have work. You have relationships, a community counting on you.
But you can still write your book. You can still show up in your corner of creativity. And your writing can still be a meaningful success. Unless you decide that anything less than greatness is an automatic failure.
During his playing days, Jordan often said,
“Why would I think about missing a shot I haven’t taken yet?”
Which I’m stealing, because… what a profound insight, right?
It comes in handy every time you want to write but you stop yourself before you begin because you’re afraid what you write will be trash/piss people off/be a waste of time.
Why would you think about missing a shot you haven’t taken yet? Think about it. XO