The Man Behind The Magic

Magic Johnson is a legend in both basketball and business. But his most important teachings are not mastering a jump shot or commanding a board room. The lessons we can all learn from Earvin relate to being a better human being.

Magic Johnson


This past week was truly a “magical” one for
me. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the hall of fame basketball star,
brilliant entrepreneur, and generous philanthropist joined my venture capital
firm, Detroit Venture Partners, as our fourth partner. His
extensive involvement will help Detroit rebound by creating jobs, urban
renewal, and hope.

Spending the day with Earvin reveals
something much more than his legendary stats and accomplishments,
however. His rarified level of achievement is actually overshadowed by
his warmth, humility, and passion. He doesn’t talk of money, power, and
fame. No words of crushing the competition, self-enrichment, or
glory. In the place of typical boastfulness that oozes from so many
celebrities lies words of encouragement and purpose. Beneath the surface, I
quickly discovered a whole new kind of magic.

His most important teachings are not mastering a jump shot
or commanding a board room. The lessons we can all learn from Earvin
relate to being a better human being. So I want to share my observations
with you, in the hopes that we can all benefit from learning a little magic:


MAGIC TRICK #1: Make everyone
feel special
. Whether he’s talking to the President or the parking
attendant, Earvin is totally engaged. He’s an incredible listener, makes
you feel like you are the most important person in the world, and cares deeply
about you. He doesn’t size someone up and consider how he could extract
benefit. Instead, he looks into the eyes of the person, not their resume.

MAGIC TRICK #2: Develop
boundless humility
. Many celebrity athletes and business leaders
overflow with ego and pretense. They travel with an entourage, drape
themselves with bling, and anoint themselves king of every situation.
Earvin is exactly the opposite. He celebrates the accomplishments of
others over his own. He’s grateful for each opportunity and just wants to
contribute. No entitlement thinking. No outrageous demands.

MAGIC TRICK #3: Focus on
impact, not money
. In the discussions leading up to our new partnership,
the focus was always on making a difference. We talked about how we can
create jobs, how we can help talented entrepreneurs win, and how we can rebuild
our beloved city. Earvin keeps his eye on the real prize–driving
positive change in the world. And from there, money follows as a
byproduct. I’ve learned over the years that if you chase cash, you’ll
seldom find it. Pursue greatness instead, and your earnings will rise in
the process.


I’m certainly never going to win
an NBA championship, but I grew as a person this week by hanging out with someone
who transcends the world of athletics. His thoughtful approach to both
business and life is an inspiration to everyone he touches. At 6’9″,
he’s certainly tall. But his character, strength, and honor are what make
my friend Earvin a giant.

And that’s the real magic.

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About the author

Josh Linkner is the New York Times Bestselling author of Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, named one of the top 10 business books of 2011. Josh is the CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners