How Champions Think

I want to share some of the insights I have received from leaders in the sports world and the business world. I have had some amazing guests on The Athletics of Business podcast, and I’d like to distill some of that valuable information today as I tell you about how champions think. 

Understanding the difference between the best versus my best is a key concept, and whatever your niche, from basketball to sales, you need to get them straight in your mind. How can you be at your best as a teammate? Because you have to be at your best so that I can be at my best — which matters when you’re part of a team. 

How champions think is a significant subject, but I hope you find some insights to help you on your leadership journey in this blog post.

Preparation is Your Separation

One of the challenges today is the confusion wrapped around intentions versus intentional. In its simplest form, success lies in simplicity, but chaos lives in sophistication. To simplify things, what I mean by that is that many people have good intentions. Intentions are the things that we want to do; they are the things that we write down on our paper, the things we read, the things that we’re going to do at some point. 

And that’s the killer — at some point

By contrast, intentionality is figuring out the things that I need to do and actually doing them. For example, maybe my intentionality each day is to read for a minimum of one hour every day or to find some alone time to take a pause and reflect on what’s going on. Intentionally is having goals, desires, and standards and choosing the behaviors that are in the service of attaining the goal.  

Champions in the Business World

To relate the world of business to the world of sports, I want to tell a story that Kevin Eastman told me about Ray Allen that illustrates that the brilliance was in his preparation. If you’re a fan of the NBA, you might remember the shot that Ray made in the San Antonio series, but if you didn’t let me paint you a picture — LeBron takes the three and misses it, Chris Bosh gets the rebound, and Ray had the presence of mind to know they were down. Ray backpedals to behind the three in the right corner; he doesn’t look down because he knows he’s in the right place. So Chris throws in the pass, Ray shoots it, and he makes it. 

Wow — he’s so lucky to make that shot, right?

Wrong. It wasn’t luck at all. Ray actually did a drill where he started in the middle of the lane, he would backpedal to some point behind the three, and the coach would throw on the ball, and he’d shoot it. Ray had been there 1000s of times before that shot took place in the game. That’s preparation. 

Preparation is Key in How Champions Think

Champions are prepared; they know that whatever it is that you’re about to do, if it’s something that might even be a little daunting, might add a little pressure to you, then preparation trump’s pressure every time. If you’re prepared, then you have the opportunity to go into a situation feeling the best that you can. For Ray Allen, preparation became his separation, it’s how he felt he got better, and there is no reason why it can’t be yours too. 

When I talk to sales teams, I often talk about the importance of preparation —  because if there is one thing that links elite sports teams and elite teams in business, it’s hard work. For Steph Curry working on his shot every day is the single most important thing that he does.

So why aren’t you working on your sales presentation every day?

When you put the time and the effort in to hone your skills and get better and better and better, then you are equipping yourself for success. Achieving your best is what you have control over for yourself and for your team. Top-flight athletes and top-class leaders in business understand that when you are prepared when you have worked hard to be at the top of your game, you are serving your teammates in a way that enables you to be great together. 

For more golden nuggets on how champions think or if you’re interested in developing your leadership skills further, check out the rest of the blog series, or tune in to The Athletics of Business podcast, where I discuss all aspects of leadership with a variety of inspiring leaders from the world of sports and business. 


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