Thursday, December 15, 2011

16 Characteristics of True Champions

The 16 Characteristics of True Champions
By: Don Yaeger

It is fascinating to me that when these Great winners were asked what separated
them from others, they almost never pointed to a physical trait.  They talked
about doing what some might think are common things—but doing those uncommonly
well.  And they told me that they worked on those non-physical traits just as
diligently as they did their bodies because each of the characteristics needs
the same attention and development as any muscle.

It seemed to me that what set the truly Great athletes apart were small, almost
imperceptible things that made them dramatically different from their peers.
There were incremental improvements in who they were and how they acted.  These
were the tiny changes, the ever-so-slight differences that gave them an edge in
competition and in life.

Greatness readily accepts blame, and acknowledges responsibility and ownership
of a situation.  It requires action and dedication, not simply patting one’s
self on the back.

Greatness does not make excuses—it makes progress.  It recognizes that there
will always be obstacles in one form or another, and it uses those challenges as
a means of growing stronger and wiser.

Greatness lies not in what we’re given, but in what we do with what we’re given.

Greatness is defined by the very struggle it requires, because the desire to be
Great is the first step in achieving Greatness.  It can be reached no other way.

Anyone who desires to be Great must understand that failure, disappointment, and
letdowns are a part of life.  The Great ones learn from those experiences and
become stronger as a result.

The Great ones hate to lose more than they love to win.

When Coach Wooden offers advice on what makes the Great ones Great, the lesson
is sure to be a valuable one. When I asked that question a few years ago, Coach
explained to me that among the most important things he looked for when trying
to get a sense of a person’s capacity for success was who that person included
in their inner circle.  “Their associations told me everything I needed to know
about them,” Coach said.  “I could tell what their future held by how important
it was to surround themselves with the right people.”

Like so many Great winners, Tony Dungy’s faith has been central to his success.

Evaluate your life honestly and consider how you live your faith in terms of
your decision making and your priorities.  What do you believe in?  How do you
take a stand?  Where do you turn in times of trial?

The truly Great strive to keep their faith at the center of all they do.  Faith
in God—by whatever name you use—determines how we treat people, how we react to
circumstances, and how we view the opportunities that we’ve been given.

Studies estimate it takes ten thousand hours to become an expert at any skill.
That’s ten years of practicing three hours a day, seven days a week.

The Great ones understand that there is no off-season; there should be no lapse
in activity that can break your stride, because only further practice can lead
to better results for the next go-round.  Only effort can launch you into the
realm of Greatness.

Stopping negative thoughts is important, because visualizing failure is as
effective as visualizing success.

The truly Great find opportunity in the worst of times.

Adversity is one of the most potent forces in life, one that can bring out your
best or your worse.  Ultimately, it’s up to you.

The key is that once you’ve realized you’ve made a mistake, you simply move on.
Don’t dwell on it.  Fail fast and go forward.  Risks are everywhere in life, and
you won’t get far without taking them.

How you deal with failure is ultimately what will help you succeed.

On their road to success, the truly Great find a detour that bypasses each
roadblock.  When all else fails, Greatness finds a way to be successful.

Greatness is assuming whatever role is necessary for the team to win.  By
placing the needs of teammates above their own desires or preferences, the Great
ones are willing to take on different responsibilities in order to positively
affect the desired outcome of their team’s aspirations.

If you are ever to achieve Greatness, you must realize that the highest level of
success can never be accomplished alone.

It is up to each one of us to determine if we are going to look beyond our own
lives to see the countless people whom we can help or encourage, or if we are
going to be content with lives focused only on our own interests.

The question that each of us needs to consider very carefully is whether we are
going to be people of apathy, selfishness, and blind ambition, or if we are
going to strive toward being people of action, people of kindness—people of

It is one thing to act with integrity when circumstances call for it, and
another to live with it each and every day of your life.  Through challenges,
tragedy, or triumphs, when everyone is watching or when no one is around,
integrity is living with honor and respect, and acting for all the right

Integrity isn’t just about honesty.  It isn’t always righting a wrong—though
that’s certainly something a person with integrity does.  Integrity is simply
holding oneself to a high standard and consistently adhering to it no matter the
circumstances.  It is unwavering standards that don’t change with the
circumstances—audience or not, public or private.  A life of integrity is
honest, good, fair, and consistent.  It is rare, but it is powerful.  In short,
it is Great.

The truly Great embrace the idea of being a role model and act accordingly.

Honesty and loyalty will translate into longevity and success for anyone in any
field, but more important, they are qualities that can influence others and make
a difference in people’s lives.

There are the choices we make quietly each day, and there are the choices we
make because we understand that we have a responsibility to model right living.
“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity,” Dwight D.
Eisenhower once said.  “Without it, no real success is possible, no matter
whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.

Author Mark Twain said that the truly Great “make you feel that you, too, can
become great.”  We all need someone in our lives whom we can look up to.
Without Great men and women to follow, we would not question our limitations or
dream as big as we do.

Don’t get caught up pursuing honors—trophies and plaques are all just trinkets
that will mean nothing in the long run.  Instead, pour yourself into something
that will have an impact, something that will last.  Greatness is not achieved
through titles and awards; Greatness is achieved by becoming the most complete
person you can be, and then reaching beyond yourself to lift others.

The truth is, when your career is over, it’s not about how many awards you have
or who you know, but what you did that will last longer than your name.

The truly Great understand that their legacy is much bigger than anything they
will ever do in athletics and that their careers are a means of introducing them
to new opportunities for growth.  That’s how it should be for all of us:  our
careers are the door-openers that allow us to do something else.

The truly Great have heartfelt pride and special humility.  They are fierce
competitors and generous givers.  They are tremendous individuals, and they are
the ultimate team players.

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