How do winners think?

If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius. ~Joseph Addison

One-Minute Answer: You’re a “winner” when your deepest craving is to become the best ______ ______ (fill in your name) you can be. If you find the adjective “best” a little fuzzy, let’s agree that the best you is the one that provides the most helpful service and greatest possible value to others–your family, your friends, your coworkers, your company, and the world at large. In the context of work, a winner is some one whose value to an organization becomes so apparent that higher ups want to reward that person with advancement and increasing levels of responsibility.

One of my treasured mentors is a C-level executive in one of the largest professional service firms in the world. As he and I strolled through the hallways of his headquarters one day, an aspiring young manager stopped the two of us. As soon as a short stream of small talk passed, the somewhat brash young man popped the question: “Tom, (not his name) what do I need to do to become a partner here? Tom’s answer was immediate. “You need to think, speak, and act like a partner.”

I’m not sure if that wannabe partner found the answer as helpful as I did. It has paid dividends for me in many ways, particularly for my professional development. It also inspires this and the next two emails that you’ll receive. Next week the question is “How do winners speak?” Following that is “How do winners act?”

Now, let’s discover how winners think.

Five-Minute Answer: Successful people’s minds often work in these ways.

1.    They are possibility thinkers. When confronted with a daunting challenge, they imagine success rather than fear failure. They ask lots of “what if” and “why not” questions. They exude optimism and enthusiasm.

2.    They reject dark thoughts. Winners know that when they fill their minds with evil and debased imaginings and beliefs they crowd out the wholesome thoughts that elevate effectiveness.

3.    They do not claim entitlement. Parents are entitled to reverence. Leaders are entitled to respect. All human beings are entitled to civil and considerate treatment. Winners understand these entitlements but don’t necessarily claim them. They don’t feel owed such behavior by virtue of their status and so aren’t offended when others act counter to them. This puts them into a great position to require reverence, respect, and civility without having to demand it.

4.    They think strategically. When they do something, fail to do something, or make a decision winners anticipate its impact on tomorrow. And if they want something to happen tomorrow they consider all that they will need to do today to cause that outcome. They anticipate the future and are rarely surprised by what it brings.

5.    They identify the truth in disagreements. When witnessing an argument winners know to side with the antagonist debating the issues and reject the one making personal (ad hominem) attacks.

6.    They rarely want to take it back. When caught up in emotions they do not allow their first thoughts–particularly their angry thoughts–to be verbally expressed. They wait until they can calm down and gain some perspective before speaking. They find a way to buy the time they need to cool off.

7.    They’ve laid yesterday to rest. Winners aren’t victims of the past. Oh yes, they remember their past mistakes and they recognize how historical hardships shape their present, but they’re not enslaved to those adversities. They spend most of the time peering out the windshield, only rarely glancing into the rear view mirror.

8.    They balance cost and benefit. When there’s a best way and a good enough way to choose, winners consider the cost of each to the situation at hand before picking one. If doing something in the finest fashion takes little or no more effort than a less excellent approach, they go for the gold. But when quality comes at a high price, they balance the dynamic tension for the most value-added outcome.

9.    They focus on purposes they are called to. We all have finite power and time. Winners accept that they cannot solve every problem, fix every relationship, and right every wrong. They commit their limited energy and attention to those issues they feel called to. Without guilt they leave distracting causes, however worthy, to those better suited for them.

10. They seek to get better rather than struggle to keep from getting worse. Winners are ever on the lookout for techniques to communicate more successfully, decide more effectively, lead more influentially, and relate more intimately. In that search they won’t focus on what not to do; instead, they center on what to do. They are success insurers, not failure preventers.

11. They assume responsibility. When it’s time for a decision, they make it. When one of their relationships sours, they look first at their contributions. When a task assigned to them fails, they accept accountability for their missteps.

12. They welcome problems. The most successful among us don’t hide from trouble. We know that the appearance of a problem is actually a good thing. Sound crazy? No! The problem had been brewing and was previously hidden from sight. Only when it does not come to the light of day where we are in position to do something, is it bad.

13. They are on a never-ending, continuous-improvement journey. Winners count on performance feedback as the basis for getting better. Based on that feedback as well as their life goals, they are at any and every time striving toward at least three unrealized personal development goals.

14. They do not think highly of themselves. Winners–revisit the definition above–are humble. They’re careful not to exploit the perks of their positions. They ignore their press clippings. They credit their talent to their Maker.

Breakthrough! If you were that young professional and Tom could see your thoughts as he advised you to start thinking like a winner, what did he see in your mind that you need to replace or renew? Are you fully committed to the effort?



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