Becoming A Champion

“Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished, but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities.”
John Wooden, basketball coach

One of my friends is Lee Labrada, the former bodybuilding IFBB Mr. Universe. He was and is a champion in every sense of the word.

But what does the word “champion” mean? In the dictionary, it says a champion is “one who wins first place or first prize in a competition.” I disagree. That’s the definition of a winner. A champion is so much more than a person who comes in first place.

Labrada clarifies the distinction. He says, “A champion is not something you become by winning a major bodybuilding title or any other athletic event. A champion is somebody you become through a process of self-improvement, sacrifice, service, and yes, the attainment of goals normally out of reach of all except those willing to pay the price.”

Well, in my speaking business, I’m basically hired by organizations who want me to teach their people how to be champions. After all, to compete in today’s crazy world, you’re not going to make it if you have a workplace filled with just-get-by, good-enough employees. You need a workforce where everyone is a champion.

That being the case, what does a champion look like? What do they do? And how do they behave? Here’s my list for starters. Read through the list and see how well you stack up in each of the categories.

=> 1. A champion focuses on goals.

He knows what he wants, and he focuses his efforts on achieving those things. And he knows, as Charles C. Noble pointed out, “You must have long-range goals to keep you from being frustrated by short-range failures.”

In fact, my 6-pack CD “TAKE CHARGE” album goes into great detail on how you can successfully plan and achieve your goals. Carol Heikkinen, the ORI Operational Manager writes, “Your ‘TAKE CHARGE’ album is awesome. We bought the album and added it to our company education library. However, they have not even had a chance to gather dust as our employees have checked them out every day since we received them. Now several employees are purchasing the album for their family members. They’re that valuable!”

=> 2. A champion takes action.

She knows she’ll never become a champion by waiting for it to happen. She takes action. As Conrad Hilton, the founder of the Hilton Hotel chain said, “Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving.”

Another way of putting it, champions are starters and doers. Joe Sabah said it best. He noted, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” Champions know a little secret. They know that “I must do something” will always solve more problems than “Something needs to be done.”

Champions don’t get sidetracked. They don’t procrastinate. They work on the goals and projects that are important, And they don’t allow those projects to sit until the last minute. They’re proactive … not just busy.

=> 3. A champion does what needs to be done.

In fact, one of the main reasons a champion is a champion is … he does what most people don’t feel like doing. He does the things that need to be done, not just the things he likes to do.

Many years ago, I was asked, “Alan, do you like pleasing habits or pleasing results?” As I pondered that probing question, and squirmed in my chair like a worm at the end of a hook, I knew I had been doing it all wrong.

A few moments later, I answered, “I like pleasing results.” From that moment on … my life changed. I began to do the things that needed to be done … whether or not I felt like it.

What about you? One mark of maturity, one characteristic of a champion, is when you live by your commitments and not by your feelings.

Take a look at your actions. Take a look at the way you use time. As journalist Arthur Brisbane said in the early 1900’s, “People who are constantly killing time are really killing their own chances in life.”

=> 4. A champion moves with enthusiasm.

She knows that her attitude is her most important asset. It doesn’t cost her anything to get it, and it doesn’t cost her anything to use it or maintain it.

Simply put, she knows a good attitude brings good results, and a bad attitude brings bad results. Nothing on this planet has a greater influence on who you become or the success you achieve than your attitude.

What about you? Are you filled with enthusiasm … for your company, your products, your services, your job, your family, and your goals? Many people aren’t. Many people die when they’re 30 and get buried when they’re 75.

=> 5. A champion overcomes obstacles.

He knows there are very few if any “overnight successes.” Instead, he perseveres. He relentlessly pursues his goals, endures hardship, walks away from distractions and temptations, and doggedly maintains his focus on the things he desires.

Booker T. Washington, a former slave and later a prominent educator, knew about that. He wrote, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.”

A few years later, the great inventor Thomas Edison echoed the same sentiment. He said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

I’ve been through many trials in life. But I’ve learned that success is not how high and fast you reach the top … but how high and fast you bounce back when you hit the bottom.

=> 6. A champion likes him/herself.

You see … championship status involves a lot more than getting some stuff. It’s also about becoming somebody you like.

The book, “Each Day A New Beginning” said it well. “The kind of person we become is just as important as what we accomplish in the world around us.” In other words, there’s no way you can consider yourself a champion if you don’t have inner peace and self-respect.

Lee Labrada talks about that. He says, “To be a champion, you must achieve something of value. But the world is full of men and women who have achieved fame and fortune, yet are bankrupt as human beings.”

How good is your self-esteem? If you made a list of your favorite people, would you on the list?

As novelist Doris Mortman asserts, “Until you make peace with who you are, you will never be content with what you have.”

Nicholas Kolovos learned how to do that from my TAKE CHARGE album. He writes, “Your CD album had an immediate impact on my life. I’m happier and more confident than ever before. And others have noticed the changes as well. Thank you again for making such a positive difference in my life!”

=> 7. A champion does it now.

George Sheehan commented on that. He noted, “There are those of us who are always about to live. We are waiting until things change, until there is more time, until we are less tired, until we get a promotion, until we settle down — until, until, until. It always seems as if there is some major event that must occur in our lives before we begin living.”

In reality, Sheehan gave a great description of a non-champion. Non-champions are afflicted with the “soon-as” disease. “Soon-as” certain things happen, they’ll get to work on their goals.

By contrast, champions do it now. They know some moments are better than others for action, but there is never a perfect moment. So they do it … NOW … if at all possible … and if at all sensible.

Mark Twain, the great American novelist, knew about the importance of doing it now. He said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

=> 8. A champion holds himself accountable.

When he wins, he gives himself credit for his successes. And when he loses, he takes responsibility for his failures.

The champion doesn’t blame others for his shortcomings, and he doesn’t make excuses for his setbacks. Instead, he looks inside himself for ways to improve … learning from his failures.

At Hearth and Home Technologies, one of my clients, they go so far as to include “Accountability” as one of the top ten characteristics of a professional salesperson. In their words, a champion salesperson “holds himself accountable for COMMITMENTS and RESULTS.”

Lee Labrada even takes it a step further … saying champions are accountable to the world, not just themselves. In no uncertain terms, Labrada declares, “A champion lives his life correctly, knowing that others will be watching and emulating him. The world is full of superstar athletes that live lives of debauchery and excess. They are not to be confused for champions. If it weren’t for their God-given talent, they would be losers.”

Being a champion has nothing to do with winning an athletic contest. Being a champion has everything to do with how you approach life and work. So I challenge you to become a champion … if you aren’t already. And if you are a champion, stay on the path, and keep on doing the 8 things I’ve covered today.

Action:  Rank order the 8 items from 1 to 8 … 1 being the item you are best at and 8 the one that needs the most improvement. And then make up a plan for what you will do this year to address number 8 on your list.