A few weeks ago, I was watching “The Last Dance” on Netflix, a series about the golden era of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, in the days of Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson.
How is it that Jordan was still obsessed with being the best, having reached the age of 35 with 5 NBA championships under his belt?
He had already won everything. He was extraordinarily rich and famous, and no longer had the physical freshness of his earlier years. He did not need to convince anyone of his remarkable talent.
And yet he still had that “hunger”, a decisive factor for his professional progress and sense of life fulfilment.
He had an inner fire, an extraordinary desire to achieve his aim (to thrill spectators and work his magic with a basketball) and produce his very best once again.
Why do some emerging stars in the world of sport fail to turn their potential into tangible results and success?
This “hunger” is key to understanding the performance of stars like Jordan, but also of millions of “everyday heroes” who constantly aspire to improve, channelling all their energy towards this goal.
It has been clearly shown that this “hunger” is a valuable ingredient in both our professional and our personal lives.
Its effect is very powerful, since it reinforces a number of key elements: self-knowledge, self-motivation, self-demand, self-responsibility, self-development, humility, healthy ambition, resilience, … harnessed over a period of time, these elements make a difference.
“Hunger”: an essential component of our education, development and performance
Why do some emerging stars in the world of sport fail to turn their potential into tangible results and success? How is it possible that Federer and Nadal can continue to beat talented young players to win Grand Slams?
Of the many possible explanations, I believe that “hunger” is all-important.
Today, I wonder whether our education system instils this “hunger” and these sparks into the character of our children and young people. Or whether on occasions, and with the best of intentions, we are over-protecting both our youngsters and adults with whom we interact.
“Hunger”, understood as the desire to constantly improve, was key to (personal and collective) social progress in past centuries. Our parents and grandparents are living testimony to those times when material resources were in shorter supply, and yet this driving force in their lives was in abundance.
“Hunger”, understood as the desire to constantly improve, was key to (personal and collective) social progress in past centuries
Today, there are many examples like that of Rafa Nadal which remind us that this “hunger” is alive and well, as reflected in his wise words:
“You work on your mental attitude when you go on to the court every day and you don’t complain when you play badly, when you have problems or you’re in pain. If I’m playing badly, if I have physical problems… I go on to the court every day with the same passion to continue improving.”
This is the epitome of “hunger”. An attitude that helps him process his successes, defeats, pain and praise.
Most of us are not “stars” in any particular field. Nevertheless, it is important for us to cultivate this “hunger” in our day-to-day lives, without an exaggerated show of feeling and with tenacity. It will undoubtedly help us to face what life throws at us with greater fortitude and greater success.
This article has also been published in Do Better by ESADE