It’s hard for me to imagine one of the world’s greatest athletes, 216 pounds of god given talent standing at six and a half feet tall, curled up in the fetal position; yet, there was Michael Jordan on the night before game five of the 1997 NBA Finals.
At 6pm the next day, the greatest player of all time dragged himself onto the court of the Delta Center in time to take a couple warm up shots. The man could barely even stand! With the Bull’s star player crippled, the Jazz took a quick lead in the game. MVP Karl Malone and his all star teammate, John Stockton, worked their magic to establish a double-digit lead in the second quarter.
I remember this night well as I sat row 7 directly across from the Jazz bench, right next to where Michael made the winning shot. I wish I could describe the pain of what happened next, but only a Utah Jazz fan like myself with extensive experience in high hopes and crushed dreams could truly understand.
Michael’s performance in the game defines what it means to be fiercely competitive with the heart of a champion. Every point that the Jazz scored on the crippled superstar fueled him to win. Jordan is consistently referred to as the most competitive athlete on the planet. Sports writer Kimani Gregoire says “For Jordan, beating his opponent wasn’t enough. He wanted to embarrass and annihilate them! His opponents not only respected him, they feared him. Jordan’s competitiveness bordered on maniacal. He just hated losing at basketball – or anything else for that matter.” Jordan was willing to do whatever it took to be the best.
With the flu and a crippling food poisoning, Jordan elevated his game and went on to score 38 points, hit a game winning three pointer, and collapsed into teammate Scottie Pippen’s arms in one of history’s most legendary sports moments. This was a moment that I will always remember (on one hand with gratitude that I was able to see such an amazing demonstration of human willpower, on the other with bitterness that 20 years later the Jazz still haven’t won the championship. I don’t know how much more heartbreak I can take)
Jordan had an obsession for being the greatest that I believe ran deeper than proving to the world that his team could beat the Utah Jazz in the 1997 finals. He wanted to prove to himself that he could be great even with a crippling illness. He was the greatest because he pushed himself to these extreme limits. He was a fierce competitor both inside and out.
If this story doesn’t prove that competition can make us great, maybe this study will.
The Science of Competition
A few years ago, a man named Stephen Cheung performed an experiment to study the science of competition. 14 cyclists volunteered to participate in the experiment in which they would perform various 2000m trials – two solo “preparation runs”, and one against a computer trainer that virtually simulated competition.
The catch? The simulated racer was a recording of their best trial. Each racer was competing against him/herself. The racers didn’t know this, however, and were told that they were racing in real time against a similar competitor in another room.
These results prove that competition improves performance:
- 12/14 racers beat their best time
- The two that didn’t beat their best time only lost by .06 and .01 seconds.
- Racers tended to ride at a similar pace for the first 1000m and hold a sustained pace through meters 1000-1750m
- While the aerobic contribution and blood lactate values remained the same, there was a big difference in anaerobic composition.
Cheung concluded that this enhanced performance was due to a difference in anaerobic contribution – this means that when the racers were competing, they were able to “tap into a central physiological reserve that we all have, because the brain is willing to let the body work harder.”
Let’s now translate this into business. Imagine you go into your real estate office with seven days left in the month. Each agent has tracked his or her numbers down to the most granular of sales activities, and results are posted on a central scoreboard powered by Sisu. Everyone in the office knows exactly what sales volume each agent has put under contract and what they have closed. They also know what listings they have taken and each agent knows their own numbers to the T. They know exactly how much they’ve made so far this year as well as how much they will make next month. While the team leader has incentivized his/her agents with an iPad for agents who put the highest dollar volume under contract, there is an even more compelling prize on the line - bragging rights and a feeling of personal accomplishment. Banter around the office changes from “got any cool plans this weekend?” to “you don’t really think you can outsell me this month, do you?” and a sly smile. Sisu has turned work into a game, where each player (agent) feels motivated to give his or her all to be their very best, to be the champion. In addition, it no longer feels like work because it’s FUN.
This sounds a lot better to me than than just “surviving” the last week of the month. Sisu creates a culture where agents can thrive because they are having fun while pushing themselves to the edge of their capacity.
Even more important and rewarding than outperforming your peers each month is the personal growth that takes place. Cultivate the ambition to never lose to yourself, because if you aren’t growing, you’re dying!
A problem that we have identified in the industry is that many salespeople don’t have a concrete idea of how they have performed in the past, making it impossible to determine where they should be, or, more importantly, where they could be. Sisu solves these problems. Real-time number tracking allows users to input numbers as they happen. For example, a real estate agent can log that they showed a house or met with a buyer right after it happens, or a loan officer can track each individual pre approval made with the click of a button. These numbers are then stored in a database for the user and for their broker to show daily, weekly, monthly, or year over year statistics - allowing salespeople to effectively gauge their past performance. Once salespeople know what they have accomplished in the past and what it took to get them there, they can set goals and activities that push them to new levels. This is the formula for growth.
What does it take to be the best?
You probably can’t annihilate the competition on the basketball court like Michael Jordan did, but you can incorporate the champion’s mentality. Jordan would practice at his house before the teams regularly scheduled practices. When his teammates caught wind of this, they joined him. Jordan elevated his whole team. He paid close attention to details. And even when the odds were against him, he did everything in his power to perform his best.
If Michael Jordan could do this, can you continue to sell houses when the market goes down? Can you do the small things that the top 10% of agents do?
The answers depends on how bad you want it and what you actually do about it. If you want it bad enough and know WHY you want it, Sisu will hold you accountable and empower you to accomplish your goals and live a life that allows you to be happy, to grow, and to contribute.