Win, Lose, or Draw at the elite level


Gold MedalWe often wonder why some excel at the Olympics, some disappoint and others wilt under the pressure. When you look at the training regimens now of the Olympic athletes, many are identical. Coaches now are truly international moving from one national team to another. Equipment is measured and equalized. 

So the never changing question - Why do some win and others don't, in the big arena? Why do some athletes make "The Show" and many with similar or even better skills never quite make it? 

As someone who once represented his country at an international event, there can be many reasons, and I am not here to discuss the politics of sports at all levels and skills. But I believe the biggest reason is internal and it comes down to four levels of attitude. We have all heard the Vince Lombardi quote - "Winning is not everything. But making the effort to win is." This is often misquoted but we won’t worry about that here.

I believe it can be more and less than that and, that there are four levels of success or lack thereof:

  1. Not wanting to lose syndrome. This is the worst place an athlete can be for it is the fear of losing. It is the fear of making a mistake. And it is where many "favorites to win" don't, in the big game. They are so fearful of doing something wrong, that their mind focuses on the one thing not to do. This is the Stave Sax syndrome, where an athlete of obvious skill becomes so obsessed with the negative that the only outcome they achieve is just that.
  2. "Meh" Attitude. This is just the attitude that it is all ok. No matter the outcome, things are just fine. This can be a very healthy way to look at things but ultimately keeps athletes as ‘also rans’. I have seen this with athletes who make the playoffs for the first time. They are so satisfied just to have arrived; the rest is "meh". I have talked with coaches who say their team just didn't try hard enough. This also happens when the only focus is just to arrive. Once you have done that - "meh".
  3. "I want to win". This is the place for those people who are so close. They work hard at training. They study and practice to get themselves to the highest level and do very well. They succeed almost all of the time. Almost. And in the big game, they make it close. Sometimes, these are the favorites to win that just miss the podium.
  4. "I WILL NOT LOSE". I believe this is IT! This is THE difference between Olympic gold and fourth place. These athletes stretch a little farther, fight for the puck a little longer, and just will not be beat. This was Lombardi's team. This is the underdog who shouldn't make it. This is Stallone's Rocky! 

You may ask, why put this in a business blog. What does this have to do with anything? 

I believe business is like sports. You can have one of four attitudes. Which one do you have?


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