A couple of months ago I wrote a blog called “Using Disrespect to Motivate Yourself and Prove People Wrong.”
I decided to reprint some of it now. You see it in sports all the time. When you’re disrespected it gives you extra incentive to not only prove your doubters wrong, but to beat them if it’s in the sports world, or if outside of the sports world then at least to show them that they made the wrong decision.
You see, you take a personal slight, get upset about it, make it bigger than it is, and then actually relish the fact that someone disrespected you. It takes on a life of its own – you never, ever forget – and then you do some truly great – even transcendent – things afterwards, partly because of the extra motivation. You may say that you shouldn’t need that extra motivation, but it is what it is, and you should do whatever works for you.
I was reminded of this lately because of the recent situations involving Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, not to mention countless games in which underdogs beat favorites, and I’ve even had a few situations myself for which the concept applies.
I’ll start with me and then get to the more interesting stuff.
Three years ago I wrote about why I like working with kids with autism under my first FAQ at http://www.coachmike.net/autism-faq.php:
“I’ve always loved sports, and I root for the underdog. Anybody who has played sports or been a sports fan knows that when someone says you can’t do something, you love to prove them wrong. I prefer working with the kids who have the most severe disabilities because I love the challenge. One of the things I like most about working with kids with autism is the amount of progress that they have the potential to make.”
In the past five years, I’ve worked with a lot of children and several adults with autism. I have never had a situation that didn’t work out well. But sometimes schedules change. I was working on sports skills with a five-year old child once. When he started kindergarten he had less free time so I had to stop after about eight months. Sports was the first thing to get cut because of the “schedule.” I could have (perhaps should have?) – said that that made sense. But I took it personally.
I use things like that for extra motivation and can honestly say that the kids who I work with make great progress in all areas. I believe that with all my heart, and I will do anything to make it so. I can assure you that any kids who I work with will end up being more successful in all areas (and I usually break the areas down into 1) academics, cognitive skills and communication skills; 2) social skills, playdates, and emotional awareness and management; and 3) sports, exercise, and motors skills).
Anyway, now onto Michael Jordan. His speech at the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in September was considered controversial because he mentioned several times during which he felt slighted and he used those incidents for extra motivation. Jordan was famous for that.
In 1993, LaBradford Smith of the Washington Bullets (yes, the Bullets – here’s hoping new owner Ted Leonsis will change the name back and change back to the old red white and blue uniforms too) scored 37 points against Jordan and the Bulls and supposedly said, “Nice game, Mike.” Jordan vowed to score 37 points against the Bullets the next game by halftime and he scored 36 by the half, 47 in all in just 31 minutes.
Great story, but it never happened. At least the part about Smith taunting Jordan.
The funny thing is that Jordan admitted later that Smith never taunted him, but he just made the story up to give him extra motivation. Here are some highlights from the game in which Jordan got his revenge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdDb32m2EsM.
Jordan didn’t mention that incident during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony, but he did mention the following, and I borrow from Brian Mahoney’s article from the Associated Press:
- The coach who cut him from the varsity as a North Carolina schoolboy.
“I wanted to make sure you understood: You made a mistake, dude.”
- Isiah Thomas, who allegedly orchestrated a “freezeout” of Jordan in his first All-Star game.
“I wanted to prove to you, Magic (Johnson), Larry (Bird), George (Gervin), everybody that I deserved (to be there) just as much as anybody else, and I hope over the period of my career I’ve done that without a doubt.”
- Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy – Jordan called him Pat Riley’s “little guy” – who accused Jordan of “conning” players by acting friendly toward them, then attacking them in games.
“I just so happen to be a friendly guy. I get along with everybody, but at the same time, when the light comes on, I’m as competitive as anybody you know.”
- The media who said Jordan, though a great player, would never win like Bird or Johnson.
“I had to listen to all that, and that put so much wood on that fire that it kept me each and every day trying to get better as a basketball player.”
- Lastly, Utah’s Bryon Russell. Jordan recalled meeting Russell while he was retired and playing minor league baseball in 1994 – and with Sloan looking on in horror – told of how Russell insisted he could have covered him if Jordan was still playing. Russell later got two cracks at Jordan in the NBA finals, and he was the defender when Jordan hit the clinching shot to win the 1998 title.
“From this day forward, if I ever see him in shorts, I’m coming at him.”
Brett Favre is another example of someone who tries to prove somebody wrong. Now let me first say that I’m not a Brett Favre fan. I think he’s been overrated throughout his career because his tendency to throw too many interceptions hurt his team almost as much as his abilities helped him. Also, he was very wishy-washy the last several years about whether to retire or continue to play quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.
In fact, a couple of years ago he said his heart wasn’t in the game. I still think the Packers made the right choice by keeping Aaron Rodgers instead of Favre. By the time Favre wanted to come back, Green Bay had made other plans. But having said all that, Favre is having an unbelievable season. True, he has a great running back and an excellent defense, but Favre has 24 touchdown passes and just three inteceptions, and the Vikings are 11-1.
The thing is, Favre wanted to play for the Vikings, one of the Packers’ most hated rivals last year but he had to go to the New York Jets instead. This year he got his wish, and you have to give him credit – the Vikings beat the Packers twice this year. Part of Favre’s motivation is to say, “I told you so,” to the Packers and to make the Packers regret their decision. I don’t think it’s healthy to use revenge as a motivational tool, but maybe a little bit of “I told you so” or “I’ve proven you wrong” is healthy.
Now, this isn’t the stuff of MJ legend, but when I tried out for the junior high school tennis team in ninth grade, I was cut from the team. I made the team the next year in high school, and during my junior and senior seasons I had a combined record of 23 wins and eight losses playing at number one doubles. Then I lettered for four years at Division III Ohio Wesleyan University, albeit a small university. I never forgot that the “coach” wrongly cut me in ninth grade and put other players on the team ahead of me whom I was much better than.
Then in 2000, after not playing competitively for a decade, I signed up to play in a 4.0-level tennis league. They told me I would play the first match and then I showed up and they said I wasn’t going to play the first match – I would have to watch. So I went home, cancelled the check, and looked for a 4.5-level (higher level) league. I found one and won six of the eight matches I played in doubles. The local tennis board had to rule on whether to let me play after cancelling the check and writing a new one. Luckily, they let me play.
Anytime somebody tells you you can’t do something or doubts you, you hate it. You hate it so much, but then you savor it. Because it gives you extra motivation. You never, ever forget it, and then you use it to achieve something great.