6 June 2020
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Whether they be winners in business, politics, the professions, sport, or even the arts - how do they become the greatest?

The nature of winners, revealed!

Peter Switzer
23 August 2016

By Peter Switzer

One of the intriguing aspects of the Olympic media coverage was seeing normal people, like sports journalists, ask medal winners, especially gold medal winners: “How will you celebrate?” Such an unimportant question!

These people have other priorities and that’s why they win gold! Or they take silver or bronze or make a final in company with the world’s best.

I’ve always been intrigued about winners, be they be in business, politics, the professions, sport, or even the arts.

Their ability to focus is a common characteristic and I have to say, a lot of them admit that they have had troubled family or relationship issues because of their singled-mindedness about winning. That said, there are many others who pull off the double play — hell, even Bill and Hillary Clinton made their family work after all of Bill’s distractions while he ran the USA and the globe!

And at a local level, clearly Malcolm Turnbull’s success, until now, has been inextricably connected to Lucy’s input, so winning doesn’t have to be at the expense of a relationship. In fact, anyone who can pull off the double play of a successful career, business building story, etc., as well as a great family, has to be hailed as a mega-winner!

So what are the characteristics of winners?

They’re focused. Steve Jobs saw it as one of his musts for life: “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Even look at his language — “you can move mountains.” This says a lot about these people and it’s something we all should embrace if we want to be a winner.

I always use this one from tennis great Chris Evert but I love it: “There were times when deep down I wanted to win so badly I could actually will it to happen. I think most of my career was based on desire.”

This adds desire to focus and is something that comes out loud and clear when you talk to great business builders — they really want it. 

Brian Tracy, the US business thinker, who I MC’d some years ago, underlined the importance of desire in telling us: “The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.”

And this ties in with that great line “everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.”

I reckon some of our great athletes lost out to rivals who wanted it more and had pushed themselves into their discomfort zone.

Unluckily for them, there’s only one gold medal at the Olympics but in so many other endeavours, such as business, there can be many winners. The mortgage industry turned out two well-known winners in John Symond and Mark Bouris, but there were many others who saw the opportunities of taking on the banks and providing a new deal for borrowers. These people, like RAMS founder John Kinghorn, were winners but they just kept a lower profile.

Winners also have a great plan and a wonderful set of people around them who help them win. The legendary US business speaker, Zig Ziglar, once observed: “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”

That direction comes from an exceptional plan and team. Gerry Harvey told me a few years back that he learnt a lot from the company he kept when he was young. Old heads showed him stuff that he would never have read in a book and friends such as John Singleton gave him insights into the power of advertising.

Undoubtedly, all the winners I’ve mentioned so far have been boldly hard workers, but the standout characteristic was they really wanted to win. They wanted it so badly that they became professional about it. It was never a half-hearted goal — it was everything — and I’ve seen it with fanatical charity workers such as Ronni Kahn, the social entrepreneur, best known for founding the food rescue charity, OzHarvest.

Pete Sampras didn’t muck around when he was asked about winning and this is what he came up with: “All I cared about in tennis was winning.”

But others are more philosophical about winning and Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of them. I liked this from him: “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”

Winners don’t always win and someone like Aussie Home Loans founder, John Symond, freely admits he learnt much from nearly going broke early in life. The great basketball player Michael Jordan gave us all good advice when he admitted: 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.” 

But these winners have courage as well and that’s what takes them outside their comfort zone, which in turn makes success more likely.

Winners take the shot, kick for a goal, chance their hand and risk a lot to get the prize. Legendary Canadian ice hockey star, Wayne Gretsky, summed it up neatly with: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

And powering all these characteristics of winners is a gale force wind of self-belief.

Muhammad Ali believed in the power of conviction and it’s the common trait of winners.

“It is the repetition of affirmations that leads to self-belief and when that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

He told us “I am the greatest” even when he wasn’t but he became it because his affirmation became his conviction.

I hope this helps you win and if not you, maybe someone you love.

If every parent and boss got in the business of creating exceptional people who really want to win, Australia would be a more productive and better place. 

And maybe we’d care less about celebrating achievement and instead be more committed to actually achieving something really worthwhile.

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