“Well, the weather was miserable so my timing was off.”

“I was really sore from our workouts and my hips just felt tight.” 

“The refs were terrible. Fairly certain the other team paid them off.” 

“I just wasn’t feeling it today.”

Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how you feel. What matters is how much you can get out of yourself every single day, in every single situation, under absolutely any circumstance.

In a society that has become obsessed with winning, we have simultaneously become terribly afraid of failure. This tends to shift one’s perspective from becoming the best one can be to trying to be perfect. In turn, this often causes people to defer responsibility for one’s lack of “perfection” to anything other than themselves: the weather, pain, referees, etc.

Athletes are highly touted from very young ages for their strengths on the field of play. They grow up trying to live into and highlight these strengths on a consistent basis, becoming defined by these very attributes. In theory, I’m quite ok with this: I think we should live into and play to our strengths. But what happens when the conditions for performance are not optimal, and those strengths cannot be demonstrated “perfectly”?

As one of my colleagues who is a Division I college head strength football coach noted, “I’m sick and tired of hearing about these kids’ ‘A games.’ I know you have an A-game, we recruited you! I’m more concerned about what your B-game looks like, and how much of yourself you can get out when things aren’t going your way.”

The reality of life is that conditions are usually not optimal. The weather will be rainy, your body and mind will be fatigued, there will be adversaries who are overtly trying to thwart your success, and you have to learn how to WIN ANYWAY.

It will not always be pretty, but Champions understand that it is not about being perfect, it is about being excellent. And you can be excellent through trials, you can be excellent in pain, and you can be excellent even when you don’t “feel like it.”

Just like most things in life, this mindset of “Win Anyway” can be trained and developed. Here are five ways to practice “Winning Anyway”:

  1. Stop trying to be perfect. | Target building skills of excellence such as persistence, emotional control, and refocusing after an error or setback. Skills of excellence apply to every domain in your life, whereas perfection is limited to the single task at hand and can leave you feeling very fragile.
  1. Be gritty. | It is not always going to be pretty, so accept that fact and choose to be gritty instead of pretty. (See “From Grit to Greatness”)
  1. Get it all out. | There are days when you only have 70% to give: make sure you get all 70% of it out of you. As high-performers we tend to have an “all or nothing” mentality: if we can’t give 100%, what’s the use in giving anything? This is faulty thinking. Champions move the marker forward every single day, even if it means getting only 1% of 1% better.
  1. Prepare relentlessly. | When you are prepared, it drives confidence and engagement. Champions are fully prepared physically, technically, tactically, and With this, even when things aren’t perfect you’ll be prepared to adapt, execute, and get everything out within you on a given day. (See “It Feels Like Preparation”)
  1. Focus on W.I.N. | Coach Holtz’s “W.I.N. Principle” applies here as well. “What’s Important Now?” The answer to this question is always to where your attention should be directed. Stop focusing on excuses and start focusing on what will position you to WIN ANYWAY.
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