I have a winner’s mindset. There, I said it. I find it a little uncomfortable to say this, but I keep seeing confirmation of this over and over, so clearly it is true. I was blown away watching The Last Dance documentary and the Kobe Bryant retrospective, and many other high performer interviews, books, and the like. It seems odd to compare my thoughts to those of the best of the best ever, as I did not achieve this same level of status in my sport of choice. But the MINDSET I have been fortunate to develop over the years is clearly in the same ballpark as those who have.
What sparked this blog idea was a recent conversation with a co-worker of mine in regards to a huge presentation opportunity that took place this week. I had not done this particular type of presentation in a while, as this was different that the usual sales presentation that I do with high frequency. I could do that version even without my PowerPoint in front of me. But this one was different, and the stakes were literally higher than ever; this opportunity is an absolute game changer for the company, and I am the one driving the proverbial bus to get there. That is a fair amount of pressure, so I did what I usually do for something like this…I prepared. I practiced, I rehearsed things, I tried to think of as many of the questions my counterparts were likely to ask. I jotted down things that I wanted to be sure that I covered, I wrote an agenda to make sure we stayed on point. I did a practice run and got feedback, and then I tweaked things as needed. By the time Wednesday afternoon rolled around, I was ready to rock and roll.
In my honest opinion the presentation could not have gone much better. My team and I did a great job sharing what we do and how we do it, and that we would be a logical choice of partner by the company we are presenting to. I did a follow up call with my contact two days later and got feedback that confirmed what our impressions of the presentation were. But I am not here to brag about this, I am here to share the follow up conversation with my co-worker that sparked this blog idea in the first place.
My expectation was that I would show up and do my thing to a very high degree of excellence.
YES…THAT WAS MY EXPECTATION, and I would have been disappointed in myself for anything less than that. I prepared for it I was ready, and I did my job. Just like the quote at the top, Michael Jordan expected to be amazing every time he stepped on to the court. I, in my own way, expect the same thing. I have the confidence that I can do this BECAUSE of the fact that I did the work to be prepared. I took the time to get into position to be excellent with the work I did ahead of time, and that is the real key to being able to perform under pressure Everyone wants to win, but not everyone is willing to prepare.
THAT is what separates the few from the masses; Kobe Bryant spent eight hours on the basketball court THE DAY HE WAS DRAFTED into the NBA. He didn’t go out and celebrate being rich, he didn’t hold a press conference to announce who his shoe sponsor would be. He clocked in and went to work. He was making the leap from high school to the NBA, something only a handful of individuals have ever done successfully, and he was afraid of failing. He knew he had not hit the big time, he leveled up to a place he had yet to go, and that he better get prepared for what lie ahead.
I, too, am afraid of failing. To clarify, I am not afraid of not winning, but rather I am afraid to show up and not perform to the best of my abilities. Because I know the deal, if I put the work in ahead of time I can accomplish the goal, and if I do not I have a 50/50 shot at best. THAT is nerve-wracking. Knowing that I am under prepared and didn’t put in the work ahead of time would make me doubt my abilities and question myself throughout the process. I learned this throughout my life as a Pro Racquetball Player, and I carried that mindset into my career in the business world as well.
Homework equals great work when the time comes.
By training and practicing and honing your skills in advance of the times when it really counts is what allows you to be the one left standing in the end. I know this, and I learned it the hard way, like most things in life. I showed up at a tournament under prepared and blew a golden opportunity for a big win early in my Pro career. I vowed to never let that happen again, and to the best of my knowledge I never did. My goal was not to win every tournament that I entered, that is not realistic. But I prepared to the best of my ability BEFORE each event, and then played to the best of my capabilities on the foundation I had built in advance. I won some, lost others, but I can live with those results. The hard fact is, which I alluded to before I was not the top of the food chain in my sport, but I did my best to be MY BEST each time out there, and that is what mattered. THAT was the goal.
I know it is not fair of me to expect my co-worker who is half my age and does not have a competitive background to understand this info above, therefore I do my best to convey this type of information so that it can be understood that this is how a winner’s mindset works. It can be adopted by anyone to maximize their own efforts. Where most people fall short is they don’t do the work in advance to allow them to win. Many just show up and hope for the best. Some set themselves up to fail by doing so, others kind of get by and get away with this approach enough to make them think it is okay to do so. Think about that…if you are “good enough” to wing it and get by, how great could you be if you actually worked and prepared in advance? I think many take comfort in the idea that if they don’t put in the work and they do fail, it is somehow “better” than if they had tried really hard and still didn’t win. I can tell you in all honesty, that is a chickenshit approach and could not be further from the truth. Because when you are all alone and thinking to yourself, deep down you know that this is a lie. And lying to yourself is one of the worst things you can do.
There are so many books and movies and podcasts and documentaries out there that can help teach you this mindset. It if not a gift in most cases, it is a learned skill just like everything else. No one is born with the 100% complete winner’s mindset that never needs enhancing and development, everyone has to work and try and fail and learn some more before they figure it out. But those of us who do breathe rarified air that many others just dream about.
My question to you is simple: How do you want to live?