Success Strategies - March - 2018

How to Create the Will to Win

Leading a team of technicians and office personnel doesn’t seem to be directly related to winning, but a winning attitude and a winner’s discipline is present in every successful shop you see.

Olympic Gymnastic Champion Peter Vidmar told me, “My goal was to train about 15 more minutes than the rest of my teammates. That little extra focus over a few years led to some perfect 10s at the Olympic Games. Perfection does take time… (so) see what 15 (extra) minutes a day can do for you.”

Here are some ways to increase the winning spirit in your operation.


Most everyone has the desire to win. Some even have the will to win. But to actually win, they must also develop the will to prepare. Boxer Muhammed Ali famously said his fights weren’t just won in the ring; they were won in the training he did to prepare. If he hadn’t done the intense and painful training, he’d have been unprepared to face his competition and would have lost.

Winners learn to love training. Notice I didn’t say they love training. I said they learn to love training. That starts with just showing up and engaging with the training.

When I’m not speaking or writing, I play guitar and sing professionally. My wife and I perform together and with friends about once a month, and I frequently perform on my own. And I practice to maintain my repertoire.

I forgive myself for the mistakes I make in practice and I keep playing until I get them right. But during a live performance, any lack of practice and preparation would quickly show. What are the skills essential to your success that need brushing up?

Commit to the practice. Set dates and times. Make an appointment with yourself and honor it, just as you would an appointment with a prospective customer.


My friend Marty, who’s in his mid-eighties, is a member of my mountain hiking club. We meet three days a week at sunrise and hike or run 6 miles up and down the Santa Monica mountains near Los Angeles.

Marty’s always there, even when he doesn’t feel like hiking. He shows up earlier than the rest of us because he doesn’t hike as fast as he used to.

Of the sixty people in our group, Marty is the most admired. Why? Because he always shows up to do the work. He could make excuses and nobody would criticize him, but he doesn’t. He may still be on the trail when the rest of us are heading back, but he completes each hike without complaint.

What’s “the work” for you? Do you show up early? Stay a bit late if needed? Complete each assignment fully? Do you learn what you need to do it well? It isn’t hard to find someone to do the job, but to find someone who’ll consistently do it well and without complaint, that’s a treasure!

Don’t just do your work, do the work! Do what’s necessary to make sure your efforts succeed.


You didn’t start with the skills you need to win; no one does. We aren’t “eligible receivers” until we’re downfield, in the open, and skilled and focused enough to catch the ball and score.

We accumulate habits and mannerisms over time and many don’t serve us well. It could be a vocal pattern or the use of certain vocabulary. It could be a work habit or a preferred way of doing something. It might even be our instinctive responses to what other people do, but somewhere in each of us, there are traits that get in our way when we strive to win.

J.C. Penney, the famous retailer, once said, “No one need live a minute longer as he (or she) is, because the Creator has endowed us with the ability to change ourselves.”

Joe Willard, a national leader in the insurance industry, says he went from “eager new agent” to “agency sales leader” by asking one simple question every day: “How would the agency sales leader do what I’m about to do?”

By using his more enlightened and successful future self as his role model, he upgraded every action until it started producing successful results. He quickly became the agency’s sales leader and then led his entire company.

I adopted that question in my book, The Acorn Principle, and dubbed it The Daily Question: “How would the person I’d like to be do the things I’m about to do?” The more often you ask yourself that, the more successful you’ll be.


As a young salesperson, Mort Utley would join his peers each morning for breakfast before beginning their workday. One day, as they were leaving, he noticed the company’s top salesperson was still working. So Mort invited him to join them for breakfast.

To his surprise, the agent gave Mort a handful of money and said, “I’ll buy everyone’s breakfast today, but I won’t join you.” Mort asked why and the agent said, “It’s less expensive for me to buy all of your breakfasts and stay here and make sales calls than it is for me to share a meal instead of doing the work.”

From then on, Mort stayed at work instead of doing the popular thing and following the crowd.

There are always discouragers who’ll offer seemingly plausible reasons not to do what you’ve chosen to do. They say, “Don’t work too hard,” and “Take it easy,” as if these were important cautions. Not so: Learn to resist the naysayers and follow the path to win.

Diminish your time with negative people. Avoid TV shows, books, and discussions that focus on people’s weaknesses and cynicism. Resist the urges that tell you to quit. Take just one more step, one more call, one more minute of sustained effort.

Resist the temptation to take the easy path. Nobody gets stronger by lifting lighter weights. As my colleague Rory Vaden says, “Take the stairs!”


Slow and steady wins the race, says Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare. I don’t know so much about “slow,” but I can assure you that “steady” dedication to stay the course and not let up on your effort is great advice.

Long-distance swimmer Florence Chadwick was trying to swim the English Channel… a very ambitious swim! But on one attempt, she gave up just two miles from the French shores. When asked why, she explained that she couldn’t see the shoreline and didn’t realize how close she’d come.

We need reminders, “just two miles to go,” “three more jobs and we’re outta here!” “call one more customer before you leave today.” Inch by inch, it’s a cinch.

You have the same opportunity: you can change yourself. Do the preparation, resist the skeptics, do the work, and stay the course. You can literally change your world by following this process.

And, if you truly commit to it, you may be able to change your shop, your industry, or the entire world. Every great thing ever done began with one individual who was unreasonably committed to making it happen. That can be you!


GEARS has a treasure trove of great ideas, inspiring stories, and clever strategies for winning. By learning from each different author, by rereading each article at different times in your life and under different circumstances, you’ll gain the insights you need to overcome any obstacle.

Not alone, not on first try, not in the ways you might suspect, but succeed you will. There’s that word again: will. The people who attempt things say, “I’ll try.” The people who achieve things say, “I will!”

Will you?

Jim Cathcart is a strategic advisor to ATRA, a long time contributor to GEARS, and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. For more on his books, speeches, coaching and advice contact Email