I love sports. I often use examples from the sports world in my business. Winning strategies, attitudes, and actions that are developed in sports can also be successfully applied to business. The sport where I have most experience is American football. I started when I was ten years old and competed every year through the college level at Dartmouth College. There, I was fortunate to have won an Ivy League championship, been named the team’s most valuable player and to hold the record for the most tackles in the history of the school. I have observed through sports that winning teams and individuals develop certain habits or characteristics that become engrained into their persona. These winning characteristics can be adapted to business and bring similar results of victory and success. The following are six characteristics of a winner that I have experienced in sports that can be adopted for successful outcomes in any field.
1. No Limits
Winners do not put limitations on themselves. People are often impressed when they hear of my records of 387 tackles in my college career including 35 tackles in a single game. The truth is that I never noticed nor focused on the significance of these numbers. I simply wanted to be in on every tackle. I had no preset limit on how many tackles I could make. Winners focus on what they CAN do as opposed to what they cannot. Many will remember the example of Roger Bannister who broke the four-minute mile barrier at a time when doing so was believed to be a physical impossibility. Within a few months after of breaking the four-minute mile barrier, ten others had accomplished the feat. Everything is impossible until someone does it!
2. Fast Learners
For winners there is no such thing as failure. Every experience, good or bad, is seen as an opportunity grow. They either win or learn. Everyone is unexperienced at some point in his or her life. The winner knows that the key is to learn from every situation and to learn fast. Often in sports and business, things move quickly and those who can absorb and adapt new information expeditiously will have the upper hand.
3. No Dwelling on the Negative
Winners do not dwell on the negative. They understand the difference between DWELLING on a negative experience and simply remembering one. As I have already mentioned, winners learn from everything, even when things don’t turn out as planned. However, when winners experience the pain of defeat, they use it as powerful motivator to improve. Winners try to find what is RIGHT in the situation and to build on it. When they think back on their past they tend to remember experiences in a good light and with a positive slant.
4. No Panic
Winners do not panic. In fact, the more dire the situation, the more calm and focused they become. The winner’s brain kicks into auto mode when confronting a stressful experience quickly assessing the situation while considering the options. The winner elevates to a higher level where the solutions become more apparent. Winners also know that they are an example to their teammates and that any irrational responses based on panic can flow to others causing confusion, loss of confidence and defeat.
5. Refuse To Lose
Winners don’t take ‘NO’ for an answer. They refuse to lose. They know that a way will open up. They focus on solutions and alternatives. Before a door closes, they are already searching for another. This is how winners pull victory out of the jaws of defeat over and over again. When Muhammed Ali faced George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle” on the night of October 30, 1974 in Zaire, Africa, no one believed that Ali could win. Ali had been stripped of his championship title because of his opposition to the Vietnam War and was now an aging fighter. Forman was a young, powerful and undefeated fighter who had easily knocked out fighter after fighter, including the great Joe Frasier, to become the World Champion. The only one that believed that Ali could win was Ali. With all the odds against him, Ali refused to lose and knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round. It is considered as one of the greatest efforts and strategies in the history of sports.
6. Higher Power
Most winners recognize the importance of tapping into a force that is bigger than themselves. They sense a higher power that can prepare them beyond the physical and provide the inner strength of character that is needed to make it for the long run. This conviction helps keep the athlete grounded. The result is a confidence and a humility that keeps the success and glory of winning from going to the winner’s head.
Winning is a sweet and powerful experience. The qualities of a winner can evolve into habits and a way of life. Much can be gained in business and in any endeavor by contemplating and adapting these winning characteristics. By incorporating these winning characteristics anyone, whether on the sports field, in the boardroom or in life, can experience the thrill of victory and the pride of being a champion.