By Joe Pulizzi published July 27, 2012

Michael Jordan, Failure, and Setting Content Goals

My favorite Michael Jordan/Nike commercial came out toward the end of his career. It’s a 30 second spot of Jordan getting out of his car, walking passed photographers, and out a door. There’s no flash. No game winning shot. It’s just Michael…and then you hear his voice.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

The one thing that most people take from this commercial is that you have to try in order to succeed. But I think the meaning is so much deeper than that when we look at our marketing and content goals.

On Setting Goals

Success is easier to define for athletes (sorry athletes ;)). There is usually a very distinct goal that an athlete is shooting for: a championship, a gold medal, or simply to win the game. Michael Jordan always stated that his goal was to be the best basketball player to ever play the game. He measured that goal by winning the NBA championship six times, including countless scoring titles and MVP awards.

For us mere mortals and marketing managers, this is where we must start – we must have at least one tangible goal.

Michael Jordan knows when he’s failed because he knows what his goal is. If a person doesn’t have a goal, there cannot be failure. I believe that is why so many people don’t set goals…they don’t want to set themselves up for any failure in life. In some cases, the same is true for marketers.

Goal Hunting

I can’t stand the phrase “goal setting”. It sounds too easy when it comes to content marketing.

Finding content goals that ultimately drive your business can be an excruciating process. You don’t set goals…you hunt them. It takes passion, determination and some soul searching to truly determine what kind of content you could create that could have an immediate impact on your customer.

Think of it this way: if all your content marketing were erased from existence, would anyone notice?


So, let’s go hunting for some higher purpose content goals that will make an impact on your customers and prospects AND deliver on your business goals. Start first with the pain points of your customers…then match those with your business goals.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Liz Goodwin

    Joe, I love this Michael Jordan quote, and enjoyed how you were able to tie it into content marketing goals.  It seems like a no-brainer to have; but really, not all businesses and bloggers do. Thanks for driving the point home about how important it is to develop these.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Liz…it’s funny…I know hundreds of bloggers, and most don’t have defined goals for their blogs.  The same goes for businesses.  Some simply don’t have a good handle on why they produce content.  That is the first step.

  • Kent

    Jordon is a NBA legend. Success is not easy to define for athletes, you clearly don’t know what athletes lives are.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Kent…I’m not a professional athlete, so this is completely my opinion.  You are correct, I don’t know that life.  That said, life and business goals are incrementally harder to put a finger on than athletic goals.  Just ask LeBron James.

    • Mherman

      I would disagree. Joe’s
      point isn’t related to the difficulty or strain of an athlete’s life or career.
      The point is that career goals are often more black and white than it is for
      content marketers. 

      Either the goal of winning the game or it wasn’t, either the
      athlete’s team made the playoffs or it didn’t, either the championship was won,
      or it wasn’t. For content marketers, it’s too easy to be vague. It takes more effort to uncover the best goals that go beyond the “wants” (e.g. “more website traffic”) to meeting the organization’s needs.

  • Joe Pulizzi

    Thanks Jim!

  • Jason Diller

    This commercial gives me chills.  

  • Stanley Rao

    Success is achieved only when you put in some efforts.. in terms of content you need to wait for a longer period of time to just know the response towards your content

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Great points.  So many content marketers just start writing or creating because that’s “what they are supposed to do”.  They don’t think about the end goal other than hoping someone reads it. Having a goal allows your content marketing to be more focused.  

  • Rebecca Livermore

    It seems to me that the process of setting content marketing goals is a progressive one that becomes clearer as time goes on. When I first started my blog, I wasn’t even 100% clear on who my audience was. I had a basic idea, but it wasn’t as defined as it should have been and in fact, is still being developed.

    But one thing that I’ve learned is that when we’re intentional and mindful of the need to have our goals defined, the more we keep plodding along, the clearer things become.

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