Earvin “Magic” Johnson was the Monday night keynote speaker. About 4000 mobile devices in the audience tried to capture “the magic”. He graciously walked up and down each isle from the front to very back – he gave attendees plenty of opportunities for close-ups and dozens of selfies. I consider myself restrained when it comes to fawning celebrities, yet I couldn't resist snapping a few photos as he made the rounds.
Magic is more than a nickname. The name was bestowed upon Earvin by a sportswriter when Earvin was only 15 years old. Over the next 40 years, Earvin cultivated the name into his own personal brand. Behind Magic’s warm personality and jovial character there is a mind of a warrior. Like Alexander the Great, Magic consistently finds a way to win in sports and in business for himself, for his team and for his community.
In his junior year at Everett High School, at the age of 14, Magic took his last place in standing team to the championship and win! He is the only one to ever win MVP in the NBA Finals in his junior year. He turned his $18 million earnings from his sport career to business holdings worth $500 million today. His foundation has provided 10000 scholarships for urban college students.
Behind the seemingly magical ease of his success, there is a lot of hard work, discipline and a keen intellect. As John Maxwell said “champions are not made in the ring they are merely recognized there”. During the keynote Magic shared some of the key components of his recipe for winning. When he joined his high school team, he showed up every day at 7 am for practice, three hours before his teammates. When the coach found out, he forced the whole team to do the same. In the NBA, he learned that his competitor Larry Bird was shooting 1000 shots a day in practice, so he also practiced just as hard. He studied his teammates, knew their strengths and weaknesses, knew if they were on their game by studying them in the locker room before the game. Like a general, Magic knows how to train himself and to lead his team to overcome specific opponents and situations.
In business he executes SWOT analysis on his businesses twice a year and before any new big change. A consistent winning streak is never an accident. He knows what is required to win and he prepares himself and his team to win. I particularly enjoyed his recipe for winning customers. In the early days of Starbucks, Magic opened more than a hundred Starbucks stores in urban communities. He replaced the usual elevator music with R&B and he added more sugary drink as is the preference of the African-American and Latino-American communities.
In his words, you have to know your customer and you have to over-deliver to them on your commitments. Sounds like a pretty good recipe for building good relationships.
Magic at 55 years old is still working on his game. Two years ago he made 28 three pointers in a row at a charity event against his arch rival Larry Bird. He still gets up at 4 am every day and hits the gym. He showed up two hours early for the keynote.
The last nugget that really impressed me was during the Q&A session of the keynote. Magic commented that when he first joined the Lakers, “it was Kareem’s team, although I ran it”. He was talking about the official team captain being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, yet he made sure to lead the team even without the title of captain. The big takeaway for me was that regardless of our title, we should all look for opportunities to lead ourselves, our team and our company to victory.