Desire to Win: You aren’t going to win if you can live with a loss. You are not going to win if there isn’t something burning inside you. The burning desire is the starting point of winning. You have to want it like you want your next breath. You have to feel it, like a hunger, an unquenchable, insatiable need, one that isn’t easily going to be assuaged.
One or Both Opponents: You are also facing one or more opponents. You are facing a competitor who is trying to beat you, or you are meeting your most challenging competition, yourself. Much of the time, you are facing both opponents. If you are fueled by a burning desire to win, first you have to beat your apathy, your complacency, and your desire to seek comfort. Only then are you going to do the work necessary to win over your rival. Of the two, your opponent is the lesser threat.
Preparation: Winners prepare. They train. They rehearse. They practice. They plan. The do the work necessary to put them in a position to win. The winner’s willingness to work harder than most anyone else creates an asymmetric advantage, a strategic mismatch, as well as a difference in skill. Winners commit to the process.
Avoiding Unforced Errors: Winning requires avoiding losing because of unforced errors, those mistakes that could have been prevented or avoided. One of the most important ways to ensure you win is not to beat yourself.
Firing Every Weapon: Losing is often the result of half-hearted attempts and half-measures. It is the result of holding back something that would tilt the playing field steeply in your direction. Winning may take everything you have in your arsenal. You may have deploy more of your weapons to win, but when it is the difference between winning and losing, you cannot eliminate using whatever resources are necessary to win.
Exploiting Opportunities: One way to lose is to miss opportunities. You miss opportunities when you are so focused on what you’re trying to do that you don’t pay attention to the game. You win when you look for opportunities that provide you with a chance to create an advantage. You win when you recognize opportunities and are prepared to take advantage of them.
Leaving It All on the Field: Some give up too soon. Some quit on themselves. Some are easily discouraged, and they lose heart. Winning tough contests requires you play with everything you’ve got, leaving everything on the field.