Friday, June 25, 2010

The Heart of a Winner

"The most readily identifiable quality of a total winner is an overall attitude of personal optimism and enthusiasm. They know life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Things don't "just happen" in their lives; they make life happen by choosing a goal or destination worthy of their effort and commit to reaching it....Winners make commitments. Losers make excuses." (an excerpt from Built to Win, by John Schuerholz, baseball's winningest GM)

I love inspiration. I love to be moved so deeply that I feel empowered to take on the world and invincible against failure. This week, the sporting world has provided me with a great deal of inspiration.

First, there was the U.S. team in World Cup soccer. That game against Algeria was intense! Everything was on the line for Team USA, and after one goal was disallowed on a bad offside call, the players' spirits easily could have been crushed. They already had been robbed of one win by lousy officiating and seemed poised to suffer the same fate again. Often in sports, when a team is psychologically beaten down in a high-pressure situation, you see them just unravel until they barely even can play the game anymore. Not so with this team! They never gave up! They kept their wits about them and remained calm and focused. Over and over again they just kept trying, kept pushing, kept bouncing back from every near miss until finally their tenacity was rewarded with a goal and a win in the extra time at the end!

The U.S. team might not win the World Cup, but on Wednesday they proved that they are winners.

My next source of inspiration was the marathon Wimbledon tennis match played by John Isner of the U.S. and Nicolas Mahut of France. As an American, I'm thrilled that Isner ultimately won, but as just a human and a sports fan, I am humbled and amazed by both of them. Their physical endurance is impressive enough, but it's their mental stamina that truly blows me away. Rarely in my life I have seen such a great lesson in never giving up, never quitting. For 11 hours and 5 minutes, spread out over three days, these two men kept playing as hard and as well as they could, never once giving in to exhaustion. What makes it even more remarkable to me is that this was just a first-round match, and between two barely-known players (Mahut is only ranked 148th in the world!). We might expect this level of passion and endurance from two champions, fighting it out for another Grand Slam title; from these two guys it was nothing short of amazing.

John Isner might not win Wimbledon, and Nicolas Mahut might not in the future either, but on Tuesday, Wednesday, AND Thursday, they proved that they are winners.

Also from Built to Win: "Life for winners is not about making outs. It's about scoring runs. It's about having opportunities and people believing in you. It's about making progress and never quitting."

I've learned some lessons this week on what it means to be a winner, and I am applying them to my own life. I probably will never win a 5K race, or do any better than just survive a triathlon, but every time I fight back from an injury, or overcome a fear, or push through pain, exhaustion or my own overwhelming laziness, I will prove that I am a winner too.

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