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Memorial Day: No Man Left Behind

For many the Memorial Day weekend signifies the beginning of summer. The community swimming pools open, school year’s wind down, and family gatherings abound. Memorial Day is steeped in the tradition of recognizing the sacrifices that so many people have given to provide the freedoms that we enjoy in America today. The traditions and rituals of honoring and caring for those that have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty is a powerful reminder of the teamwork and commitment to each other that is a part of a soldier’s service to the American people.

The United States military branches are well known for “never leaving an American behind.” This is true for the fallen American Soldier as well. A fallen soldier is accompanied by another soldier on the flight home to Dover Air Force base and remains with them until they are returned to the family. We must continue to recognize those that have given their lives to support our freedoms. It is what Memorial Day is built on.

(Yochi Dreazen and Gary Fields wrote a powerful piece on the returning home of the American Soldier. The article entitled, “How We Bury the War Dead” appeared in the Wall Street Journal on May 29, 2010.)

Creating teams with the Heart of a Competitor can learn two lessons from the way United States Soldiers are treated:

  1. Each member of the team is valued.

Regardless of race, ethnicity, or rank, each soldier is treated with dignity and respect. Their service to the country is honored and recognized.

  1. The struggle within your own team can change the way you treat each other.

The Civil War was a major reason the treatment of the fallen soldier was changed. Congress decided that those soldiers that fought for the country deserved to be recognized for their sacrifice and set up the national cemeteries that we have today.

Know that the struggles you face as an individual, a team, or an organization will change you. These changes we undergo are essential to becoming the people, team, or organization we are destined to become.

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Perfection Does Not Win, Competing Does

“Challenges are the doors to success and failure is only part of the journey.”

 – Eric Wong

Perfectionism is a huge roadblock to development.

Each challenge that presents itself is an opportunity to test your development and is not meant to be a demand for perfection. Perfection is never the goal. Pitching a perfect game in baseball has only been accomplished 21 times in the modern day game of baseball began being played in 1900.

Perfection is never the goal, competition is. The journey that we enjoy as competitors is filled with successes and accompanied by failures. The true Heart of a Competitor learns more from the failures than from success. We are not seeking failure however, we are pulling lessons from these failures and progressing to become the best version of ourselves we can become.

The cure for perfectionism is to seek out challenges. Push yourself to edge of your limits, enjoying the challenge and providing the best opportunity to test your ability. You are meant to be experiencing the challenges you are currently experiencing. You are meant to be pushing yourself to find out what you are capable of accomplishing. This is the journey, the doors that are opened when you are focused and open to every possible experience that is presented to you.

Knock each roadblock, remind yourself that you are developing the Heart of the Competitor and you are on the journey to being the greatest competitor you are capable of becoming.

Question of the Day:

 What has been holding you back on your Journey? What have you been avoiding? Seek out the challenge and attack it.

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Excellence Requires a Little Extra Effort

Sir Walter Raleigh learned the lesson of giving an extra effort. When he was younger, he attended an elite boarding school. He was a competitor and desired to be first in his class. He was consistently second to another student at the school. One night when Raleigh was preparing for bed, he looked across the school and observed that his competitor’s candle was still lit. After a period of time, Raleigh noticed that his competitor spent an extra 15 minutes studying each night. At this point in time, Sir Walter Raleigh committed to studying an extra 20 minutes a night. He did this every night and by the end of the school year, he was the Number one student in his class.

You are competing with yourself every single day to improve and become the best that you can be. The Heart of a Competitor commits to an extra 20 minutes a day to improve their skills.   They find a way to make this commitment and be better than they were the day before.

Sir Walter Raleigh had a goal to be the best, so he took it upon himself to focus on what he controlled and commit to doing the little extra. What is it that you will do a little extra of? Will you commit to visualizing for 20 minutes a day? Will you commit to practicing your skills and conditioning for an extra 20 minutes a day? Will you commit to focusing on your schoolwork for an extra 20 minutes a day?

Set a goal. Commit to a plan of daily effort and then add 20 minutes to your plan. The Heart of the Competitor commits this extra time not as a badge of honor, but with the knowledge that greatness requires commitment to do more than the ordinary.

I have committed to getting up between 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM every single day and this has allowed me to continually move forward on completing a book and audio program that is going to impact the lives of thousands of young competitors.

Question of the Day:

 What will you commit to doing for an extra 20 minutes?

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Powerful Body Language = Powerful Competitors

“Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our actions are the bedrock of demonstrating our philosophies, attitudes, and beliefs. Included in our actions are the body language we portray in stressful and pressure packed situations. When working with young athletes and discussing their body language the typical discussion centers on the way we handles ourselves in competition and the effect our body language has those outside of us, when the real focus of our body language and our actions should be on the messages we are sending to ourselves with our body language.

This is a small, yet monumental shift in the view of how the Heart of a Competitor looks at the way they “speak” to our spirit and soul. It is a change in looking at competing from the inside to the environment outside of them, rather than the outside to the inside. Amy Cuddy reinforces the importance of our actions influencing our mindset in her book, Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self in your Biggest Challenges. (I was challenged by Coach Bru to summarize this book in one tweet and it read like this: “Presence reinforces the effect we can have on ourselves, using Power Poses to change our thinking and engaging in being Present.”)

Amy Cuddy utilizes countless pieces of research and experiments that demonstrate how the use of Power Poses just before big presentations, pressure packed interviews, or anxiety producing environments we are prepared and unfazed by the environment, demonstrating confidence and performing at the top of our abilities. I encourage you to add this book to your library, however if you cannot, here are a couple ways Cuddy notes that expanding our body affects our mindset:

  • Expanding your body language –through posture, movement, and speech – makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.
  • Expanding your body causes you to think about yourself in a positive light and to trust in that self-concept. It also clears your head, making space for creativity, cognitive persistence, and abstract thinking.
  • Expanding your body frees you to approach, act, and persist.

Amy Cuddy is a Professor at the Harvard Business School and gave a TED Talk in 2012 that has over 33 Million views. You can find the TED Talk here:

Amy Cuddy – Your body language shapes who you are.

Stay tuned to the Community of Competitors Newsletter over the next couple of weeks for an exciting announcement of an upcoming event open to youth athletes where they can learn how to develop their Heart of a Competitor, including the body language and Power Poses Amy Cuddy outlines in her work.

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It’s Not the Plays, It’s the Players

“Extreme teamwork developed when they transitioned from depending on plays for confidence to depending on one another.”

– John Eliot in his book, Help the Helper

The Heart of the Competitor realizes the importance of selflessness and understands that selflessness is truly self-sacrifice, the giving up of things for others.

For a team of individuals to reach the pinnacle of performance as a unit, there must be self-sacrifice.  When the words sacrifice is brought into the equation, it conjures up images of losing something.  The true competitor realizes that selflessness and teamwork are actually giving everything that we have to developing into a better person on a daily basis.  This giving is a total commitment to the team’s goals, a confidence in teammates, and a realization that a team will accomplish exponentially more than individual.

This is the basis for Mr. Eliot’s quote from his book Help the Helper.  This quote was found in his book when he was describing a basketball team.  With a change in ownership, the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA began to focus their mindset on giving to others rather always taking.  Each NBA team has sound plays they believe will allow them to be successful with their athletic ability. In the Trailblazers case, their extreme and unbeatable teamwork developed when they depended on each other, rather than depending on the play that was designed.

This further evidences that true success if not about the play that is called, it is about the players confidently executing the play that is called.  The Heart of the Competitor is called to connect with their teammates and share the energy that connects them together.

This is the compounding of energy.  Relating this to basketball, the feeling that five are stronger than one, when five play as one.  Regardless of your sport or business, you are stronger together than you are individually.

Question of the Day:

Knowing that giving develops confidence and extreme teamwork, what can you do today to give to one of your teammates?