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what does it mean to win

Dr. Craig Manning

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What Does “Winning” Mean?

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” —Vince Lombardi

Winning is engrained in our society. We want to win. Whether it’s in athletics, business, or life, winning has become a measurement of success or achievement. In this short post I want to address the illusive question: What does it really mean to win?

Classic definition of winning

Most people think that winning means coming out in front of someone else. They think winning is synonymous with “beating” others.

Winning has been associated with being egocentric and ego-oriented because of the idea that winning not only depends on you or I, but also the person we are competing with.

The truth is that winning is not about performing better than others, rather it is performing to our highest abilities.

The real definition of winning

Kilian Jornet, one of the most dominating (and competitive) endurance athletes in the world, said this about winning:

“Winning isn’t about finishing in first place. It isn’t about beating the others. It is about overcoming yourself. Overcoming your body, your limitations, and your fears. Winning means surpassing yourself and turning your dreams into reality.”

-From the book Run or Die, by Kilian Jornet

This definition most accurately describes what winning really means. Winning is not ego-oriented, it is task-oriented. You can finish a race far ahead of anyone else and still not win according to this definition. A business can be more profitable than a competitor, but if it did not reach its full potential, did that business really win?

Winning depends on us, and us alone. One of the reasons Kilian Jornet is so dominate in the Ultra Running community is that he understands that the real competition is not with the other runners—it is with his body, his limitations, his fears, and the trail.

What does winning mean to you?

What do you think about winning? In your business, sport, or life, what are you really competing with?

The greatest businessmen and athletes in the world, to one extent or another, know that they are competing with their industry or sport to be the best they can be. Coming out in front of others is a by-product of fulfilling their potential.

The truth is that you can win without being first, and you can still lose coming out on top.

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What it Really Means to Win, Lose and Find Success Through it All

What is winning?

“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.” — Wilma Rudolph

W hat does it actually mean to win at something? In sports and competitive endeavors, there are clear-cut winners and losers. What do you think about winning and losing when you look at each day in your life. Are you winning? Are you growing, learning, succeeding?

I throw these questions out for your consideration, because winning has become an arbitrary hashtag in the social media and pop culture world. Turns out, winning actually has a lot of definitions. According to Merriam-Webster, to win means:

“to get possession of by effort or fortune; to obtain by work: earn”

It also means, “to gain in or as if in battle or contest.”

Here’s my favorite definition because I think it’s the one that is most relevant to all of us: to obtain by work — to earn. The more I’ve worked with and coached Fortune 500 executives, military officers and successful athletes, the more I’ve learned this very simple life truth:

We learn a tremendous amount from losing! We learn from failures, mistakes, adversity and setbacks. How we begin to win is by moving forward with a positive attitude and strong work ethic and building our foundation for our next win on the previous losses. That my friends is how success begins.

No one wins all the time. No one.

Steve Jobs was FIRED from the company he founded! When he returned to Apple over 10 years later, he built it into the most profitable company on the planet.

Michael Jordan suffered crushing playoff defeats for six seasons. He didn’t win a championship until his seventh season in the NBA.

J.K. Rowling endured depression, physical and mental abuse, poverty and humliation. Today, we know her as one of the most successful authors to ever live.

Everyone can win. Everyone can also lose. It’s through our experiences that we grow and experience success, which only we can truly define for ourselves.

Dr. Laurence Weinzimmer, author of the book, The Wisdom of Failure, found that by researching 25 leadership books that many of them said the same thing. But what he extracted as a hidden lesson provides tremendous value to all of us:

“What we found with most of our interviews was that most leaders told us the most important lessons came from their toughest challenges, not from imitating somebody else’s success.”

“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he (she) who never made a mistake never made a discovery” — Samuel Smiles

You must be willing to give things a shot, even when you think that in probability it won’t work out. Probability means that the supposed odds are not in your favor. But make no mistake — probable does not equal possible. The world is gifted with many contributions from great women and men that endeavored to do something special that was highly improbable at the time.

Losing leads to winning and winning does lead to success. It’s imperative that you define success for yourself in your hobby, career or entrepreneurial venture by defining what success means for you. Have measurable goals that will back up your definition of success. You are the architect of your plan, whether it’s a long or short-term plan. Have one. Have a purpose.

Because once you’ve committed to this both mentally and emotionally, you are better able to invest yourself and immerse your mind to succeed in whatever you choose to do. I thought of the example of one of the world’s greatest athletes, Tom Brady. He wasn’t an overnight success. He was picked in the late round of the NFL draft and has worked for everything he’s earned.

He’s earned success. He’s lost. He’s been overlooked. And he’s now one of the greatest winners in sports history.

Building Toward Success

“Too often in life, something happens and we blame other people for us not being happy or satisfied or fulfilled. So the point is, we all have choices, and we make the choice to accept people or situations or to not accept situations.” — Tom Brady

As NFL executives plan for each season, they are reminded of their eternal regret. As the 2000 NFL Draft wore on and name after name went off the board, a skinny kid from northern California was simply waiting for his shot. All he needed was a chance. An opportunity to make a team.

The New England Patriots provided that opportunity. And Tom Brady made the roster. But it seemed he would have to wait years to have a chance to start with the Patriots. He was behind a three-time all-pro, Drew Bledsoe, who had led New England to the Super Bowl only a few seasons earlier. Well, technically.

Brady was the fourth-string quarterback, also behind two other signal callers.

One year later, following an injury to Bledsoe, Brady, who had become the team’s back-up quarterback for the 2001 season, was thrust into the action. He stumbled at first, but matured quickly and went on to lead New England to the NFL Playoffs. Just a few weeks later, he was a Super Bowl Champion. And the MVP of the game.

Alternating as starter during his college days. Passed up in the draft. Assumed to be a back-up for a while.

Brady was ready for his opportunity when it came. He worked tirelessly, had a fierce competitor’s attitude and exuded remarkable confidence. He waited his turn and persevered to make the most of it.

Eight Super Bowl appearances, a record five championships, and holding a place among the greatest players ever to live, Brady has succeeded beyond measure. Not on talent alone. Instead, because he never stopped believing and working toward becoming the best he could be. He learned through mistakes and adversity what it truly meant to win and succeed. On his terms.

Every great innovation, idea and breakthrough in personal development comes from building upon losses and mistakes. Outstanding accomplishments in our lives come when we stay positive, work passionately and fervently in a cause or for a goal that may seem impossible. It likely won’t happen overnight, yet over time we’ll realize the success of a venture that seemed like a total pipe dream years before.

I think about this in the context of our lives. While we may not compete for a professional sports championship, we have decisions — choices — to make every day. A winning choice is always to collaborate with a group of people who will bring out the best in us and vice versa. Our goal should be to elevate our thinking, as well as our performance.

And winners know that it is through losing that we begin to build for the next win. We’re forced to go back to the drawing board and draw up the plans that will lead us to the life of our dreams.

Go for the Win

Join my newsletter and let me know if y ou’d like to work together as you build each day toward living the life you truly want. Let’s GO!

Also check out my Amazon Bestselling book, The Value of You . This will give you inspiration to start planning for success on your journey.

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