“I can’t explain it… I’m in the zone.” -Michael Jordan
The film “Good Will Hunting” tells the story of a genius kid, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), born with a photographic memory. He can solve complex mathematical formulas only a handful of people in the world can solve.
He says to his girlfriend, “Mozart could sit at the piano and just play. I look at the piano and just see keys, but when I look at this (math and science problems) I could always just play.”
Will is aware of his talent, but he refuses to use it. He poses as the “tough guy” from the wrong side of the tracks, working construction, and as a janitor while on parole. We discover he was an orphan and was abused throughout his childhood through a series of foster homes. He is deeply wounded. He has never opened up, never let anyone get close, and spends most of his time trying to be someone he’s not.
Will eventually learns he cannot create for himself a lasting identity; only embrace the identity he was given. He can really only ‘just play’. The movie ends with Will driving away to find his girl and to live out his true talent, his true identity.
Talent is not created, only discovered and refined. You can work. You can try hard to better yourself in different arenas. But only within your true talents can you really ‘just play’.
Michael Jordan, after burying his sixth 3-pointer at the buzzer to close out the first half in game 3 of the ‘92 playoffs against the Portland Trailblazers, turns to Amahad Rashad on the sidelines as he is running to the locker room:
Rashad: “Michael, you just scored 35 points in the first half, 6 for 7 behind the arch; what are you feeling right now?”
Jordan: “Amahad, I can’t explain it. It feels like time stands still. This bucket is huge, it’s like I can’t miss. I’m in the zone.”
Jordan could find that zone where he made the game look effortless. There was no thinking, no self-awareness involved; he was on autopilot and everything around him was in slow motion. But Jordan did not get to pick his talents, only use them. What if after getting cut from the team in 9th grade, Jordan decided to give up basketball and instead become a businessman? Chicago may never have won a single Championship in the 90’s and Nike, Gatorade, and a host of other products and markets may never have experienced such explosive growth.
If a talent is not used, something will be missed. We each carry talents that, big or small, can change the world. We were meant to find ‘the zone’, to play the game that seems effortless to those that watch, to find those moments where the head and heart are on autopilot and all else is slow motion. Talent must be used. It is a reminder to slow down, to recognize those talents, to look for the feel of ‘the zone’, and to allow ourselves to ‘just play’.