The Best Professionals Are Amateurs
This is what Michael Jordan and Latin etymology teach us.
In an article published on The Players Tribune, 19-year-old French basketball player Frank Ntilikina, who has recently been drafted by the New York Knicks, narrates his encounter with Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time (GOAT):
“I knew it was called the Jordan Brand Classic, but in my head, I never thought we would actually see Jordan. That’s like saying you’re going to church and you’re gonna see God, you know? It’s Jordan. […]
He goes around the room, shaking some of the guys’ hands. And I’m like, O.K., you have to ask him a question. You have one chance at this. But I’m so shy. No — more than shy. What’s the word in English? I’m pétrifé. I was shaking a little bit, and I had a little voice. So I said, ‘Hello, Michael. Can I ask you, what is the key to all your success?’.
MJ looks at me. He takes a second. I thought for sure he was going to say what everybody says to me when I ask the question. They all say something about hard work. It’s MJ. He’s going to tell me to work harder than everybody, 100%. But he doesn’t say that. He says something really surprising. I thought about it all day. I thought about it all week. I still think about it. […]
He thought about it. Then he said, ‘What you have to do is love basketball. You can’t be great unless you really love the game. Once you love basketball more than anyone else in the world, then you’re willing to sacrifice. You’re willing to wake up early. You’re willing to do what it takes to be the best. But first, you have to really love it.’”
Michael Jordan tells us that passion is the most decisive factor for motivation and success.
This is also what Latin teaches us.
The root of the word “amateur” is the Latin word “amare“, meaning “to love.” Etymologically, an amateur is an individual who practices their activity out of love, and not for money.
Hence, the paradox is that, to succeed, a manager must motivate their employees to behave like amateurs so that they give free rein to their passion for their work.