The NBA leg­end explains the thought process he uses on and off the court to find a way to win.

9 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

My friend Joel Mar­i­on, founder of BioTrust Nutri­tion busi­ness, launched a new pro­gram, $100 Mil­lion Mas­ter­mind Expe­ri­ence, where he brings togeth­er entre­pre­neurs and influ­encers who’ve gen­er­at­ed 100 mil­lion dol­lars, views or fol­low­ers to teach mem­bers of the group the “insid­er secrets” they need to rapid­ly scale their busi­ness. I invest­ed and it was one of the best invest­ments I ever made. 

I could write a small book about all the life-chang­ing lessons I’ve learned inside of the Mas­ter­mind but today, I want to share five of the most pow­er­ful and unex­pect­ed suc­cess lessons I learned from Mag­ic John­son

Relat­ed: 8 Suc­cess Lessons From the Rich­est Per­son on the Plan­et

I’ve attend­ed hun­dreds of events, Mas­ter­minds, and sem­i­nars over the past 20-years, but I have nev­er seen a pre­sen­ta­tion as pow­er­ful and action­able as the one he gave. And today, I want to pass on some of the wis­dom I learned from him to help you break through to your first 7‑figures and build the life and busi­ness of your dreams. 

1. Know thy market

When Mag­ic retired from pro­fes­sion­al sports and began his entre­pre­neur­ial jour­ney, the first step he took was becom­ing inti­mate­ly famil­iar with his mar­ket and buy­ers. 

He didn’t wor­ry about his offer or his sales fun­nels or his Face­book ads — he focused all of his time, atten­tion, and ener­gy learn­ing every­thing he could about the peo­ple he want­ed to serve. Specif­i­cal­ly, Amer­i­can minori­ties. 

Through­out his research, he dis­cov­ered that this wild­ly under­served mar­ket had more than $1.3 tril­lion in spend­ing pow­er and love going to movies. And so, he made his first invest­ment in a movie the­ater and mall that was oper­at­ing at 50% capac­i­ty. 

Mag­ic set to work improv­ing the mall to make it more appeal­ing to his tar­get audi­ence and with­in a mat­ter of months, the the­ater was oper­at­ing at 100% capac­i­ty. He and his investors made mil­lions of dol­lars before even­tu­al­ly sell­ing their invest­ment to AMC.

As an entre­pre­neur, know­ing your mar­ket and buy­er isn’t just a good idea — it’s a manda­to­ry pre­scrip­tion for suc­cess. Chal­lenge your­self to dou­ble down on your mar­ket research. How well do you know your tar­get audience…their pain points, fears, desires, hob­bies, and lifestyles? 

Remem­ber, when you know your cus­tomers bet­ter than they do them­selves, your busi­ness will grow faster than you ever thought pos­si­ble. 

Relat­ed: 15 Suc­cess Secrets From Female Founders With $1 Bil­lion Com­pa­nies

2. Plug into stillness to think bigger

Mag­ic has three rit­u­als he uses to think big­ger and keep him­self open to new oppor­tu­ni­ties: 

The first is wak­ing up at 4 a.m. and spend­ing 30–60 min­utes “thinki­tat­ing” (think­ing medi­a­tion) on the tread­mill. 

The sec­ond is retreat­ing to his house in Lagu­na Beach, after a long week of fly­ing across the coun­try to attend board meet­ings and give pre­sen­ta­tions, to get down to the water’s edge, slow down, and reflect. 

And the third is tak­ing the entire month of August off every year to trav­el to Europe and expe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures. 

These three rit­u­als help Mag­ic see through the chaos in his life and unlock cre­ative busi­ness ideas like the deal he made with Star­bucks

Mag­ic made a deal with Howard Schultz to become the first “out­side own­er” of a Star­bucks loca­tion. 

Mag­ic put loca­tions in urban areas, changed the menu and atmos­phere to cater to his mar­ket, and soon, his stores were mak­ing more per cus­tomer ($4.89) than the Star­bucks-owned sub­ur­ban loca­tions ($4.59).

How did he do it?

“We don’t like scones,” Mag­ic told our Mas­ter­mind, refer­ring to his minor­i­ty sta­tus as an African Amer­i­can. “We don’t even know what scones are. We like peach cob­bler. So we took the scones out and put peach cob­bler in. We removed all the things we didn’t like.”

Mag­ic then asked a mid­dle-aged white mem­ber of the Mas­ter­mind to stand up.

“What’s your name, sir?” Mag­ic asked.

“Gary,” answered my friend Gary Wat­son.

“What’s your favorite musi­cal group?” Mag­ic asked.

“I’m old school,” Gary replied, “It’s Aero­smith.”

“Well…We took Aero­smith out!” Mag­ic said with a big mis­chie­vous smile on his face.

The room burst out laugh­ing. Clear­ly Mag­ic had done that gag before. But it proved the posi­tion of know­ing your mar­ket to cap­ture max­i­mum prof­its. 

Relat­ed: 18 Destruc­tive Habits Hold­ing You Back From Suc­cess

Now here’s the thing. Mag­ic nev­er would have had this oppor­tu­ni­ty with­out “unplug­ging” from the mad­ness and plug­ging into still­ness so he could think big­ger. As an entre­pre­neur, it’s easy to let life get away from us. To spend every wak­ing minute putting out fires, man­ag­ing our teams, and work­ing in our busi­ness. 

But your biggest insights and break­throughs often come when you step away from the chaos and find time for still­ness and intro­spec­tion. 

Chal­lenge your­self to con­scious­ly make time to unplug. Get away from your busi­ness and the demands of dai­ly life and make time for qui­et intro­spec­tion. I promise you’ll be amazed by the insights you dis­cov­er. 

3. Run with the best

Magic’s men­tor, Dr. Jer­ry Buss, the for­mer own­er of the Los Ange­les Lak­ers, advised Mag­ic to get the best accoun­tant, mon­ey man­ag­er, and lawyer he could afford. “If you believe you’re the best, always run with the best,” Mag­ic said. “Because if you don’t, you’re gonna end up pay­ing for it and come back to get them any­way!”

He went on to say some­thing I res­onate with: “If you want to stay on top of your game, you have to stay on top of your rela­tion­ships.”

After shar­ing this les­son, Den­nis Rod­man, anoth­er Mas­ter­mind attendee, asked Mag­ic to tell the sto­ry of how Dr. Buss came to be Magic’s men­tor.

In 1984, after the Lak­ers had won two cham­pi­onships in Magic’s first three years on the team, Dr. Buss want­ed to get Mag­ic to com­mit to the Lak­ers for the rest of his career. He offered John­son an unprece­dent­ed 25-year con­tract worth $1 mil­lion per year.

Mag­ic accept­ed – on one con­di­tion. He required Dr. Buss to be his busi­ness men­tor. Over the next two decades, Dr. Buss taught Mag­ic all about busi­ness, finances, invest­ing, and net­work­ing.

Lat­er, Mag­ic made anoth­er extra­or­di­nary move. He asked Dr. Buss for access to the phone num­ber of every sea­son tick­et hold­er who sat in the first two rows of the are­na. Mag­ic called 150 wealthy bas­ket­ball fans and asked them to lunch.

Guess how many said no? None, of course. From those 150 lunch­es, Mag­ic met sev­en more mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires that became his men­tors.

Big Les­son: Get a men­tor (or 7)… and if you can get paid to get a men­tor, even bet­ter!

4. Always over-prepare and get there early

Mag­ic was sched­uled to speak to our group at 12:30 p.m. He arrived at 11:30 a.m. and watched us play bas­ket­ball with Rod­man, Matt Barnes, and a few oth­er stars (that was the “Expe­ri­ence” part of our $100 Mil­lion Mas­ter­mind Expe­ri­ence).

This wasn’t just a one-time thing; it’s Magic’s m.o. 

He explained to us lat­er, “I once had a meet­ing with Michael Ovitz, the most pow­er­ful man in Hol­ly­wood. I arrived at 1 o’clock for a 2 o’clock meet­ing. I’m always ear­ly and always pre­pared.”

Mag­ic also made the news for show­ing up an hour ear­ly to meet with Lebron James and con­vince him to join the Lak­ers as soon as his con­tract with the Cav­a­liers was up. Mag­ic knocked on James’s door at 9:01 p.m., lit­er­al­ly the very minute he became a free agent. 

Magic’s prepa­ra­tion and prompt­ness led him to suc­cess then and has many times after. Imag­ine what his habit of prepar­ing and show­ing up ear­ly says to the peo­ple he’s meet­ing with and how at ease he feels by not being in a rush. 

Relat­ed: Richard Bran­son’s 8 Keys to Hap­pi­ness and Suc­cess

5. Losing is not an option 

“My daugh­ter plays col­lege bas­ket­ball,” Mag­ic said, “And she’s a point guard. One day my wife told me to go play 1‑on‑1 with my daugh­ter.”

“I said, ‘Hon­ey, you know me.’ But she just told me to go play. When your wife asks you to do some­thing twice, you don’t argue. So we went out to the court. The game went to 10. I let my daugh­ter get to 9… and then… I crushed her.”

Now, as heart­less as it might seem to “crush” your child in a game of bas­ket­ball, this sto­ry reveals an impor­tant part of Magic’s mind­set that is respon­si­ble for his suc­cess: Los­ing sim­ply isn’t an option for him. 

“That’s just who I am. I am the most com­pet­i­tive per­son you know, and I will not lose.”

This isn’t just Magic’s mantra in bas­ket­ball; it’s his life mot­to. He’s had his share of hard­ship, but he doesn’t let it knock him down.

When asked what he would do if every­thing were tak­en away from him, Mag­ic said, “I’d wake up tomor­row, and I’d fig­ure some­thing out. Win­ners win. Win­ners always win.”

Apply this mind­set to your own life. Nev­er give up. Nev­er set­tle. And nev­er allow the cir­cum­stances in your life to defeat you. 

Either find a way or make one. Because there is always a way if you’re resilient, per­sis­tent, and resource­ful enough. 




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