A Winning Culture: Embracing the Heart of a Champion

Silhouettes of a teamResilient. Hardworking. Dreamer. Proactive. Driven. What makes up the heart of a champion? Characteristics can be defined in simple platitudes, but character is what separates the haves from the have-nots. Character is what creates a champion.

In the 1995 NBA Finals, future Hall-of-Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and the sixth-seeded Houston Rockets overcame a lackluster season and a rocky start to the playoffs to dominate future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. After winning four games to zero, Houston head coach Rudy Tomjanovich addressed the crowd and the television audience with one defining statement:

“…we had non-believers all along the way. I have one thing to say to those non-believers—don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.”

The difference between a middle-of-the-road organization and a championship team is heart. It’s the gumption to dream loftily, the drive to make those dreams reality, the resiliency to overcome obstacles and failures, and the responsibility to bring others along to enjoy the success. Embracing the heart of a champion will take your team from the plateau to unimaginable heights—and it all begins with a championship mindset.

Be a Dreamer and a Doer

Most success stories start out with a seemingly unattainable dream—an idea that sparks a mission. Whether it’s to go back to school to continue your education or to invest in a business idea to become an entrepreneur, every action starts with a non-action, an idea. The most debilitating problem some people have is they are either a dreamer or a doer. But in many instances in life, you must be both to experience true success and fulfillment. Champions start with a dream, and then they map out what it will take—the work, practice, time, money, and energy—to achieve that dream. Then, they go out and make it happen. There’s a disconnect between what people dream and what they do. Bentley University surveyed the largest generation since Baby Boomers, and found that 66% of Millennials want to start their own business, 37% want to work for themselves, and 25% want to own their own company—yet a study by the Small Business Administration found less than 2% of Millennials were self employed. To embrace the heart of a champion, you have to dream big and do bigger.

Be Resilient and Carry On

One of the key facets of a champion is the ability to overcome setbacks and effectively navigate obstacles. This integral characteristic has been defined in many ways—having thick skin, being resilient, keeping the noise out, elasticity, etc. But, the point is clear; to reach a goal, you have to be able to bounce back physically, emotionally, and financially. As prime minister of England during World War II, Winston Churchill knew a thing or two about resiliency. He once said that “success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Moreover, he offered this important outlook about the cyclical nature of success: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Resiliency is imperative to not just achieve, but to live your dream. Most failure is experienced when people give up despite success being just around the corner. A champion has a never-quit mindset that drives him or her to the finish line.

Take Responsibility and Hold Others Accountable

If you storm the beach and move past the initial string of failures, your next obligation is to your team. Regardless of the size of your organization, no one can achieve success on their own. To be a true champion, you must understand the importance of stepping up, taking responsibility for specific actions, and holding your team accountable for their goals. This is where some businesses fail. Steve Jobs created Apple in his 20s and built it into an empire. But by the time he was 30, he was fired from the very company he dreamed up, created, and lead to initial success. Once you have conquered one mountain top, it’s important to never stop dreaming about and pursing the next peak. And it’s impossible to do this without surrounding yourself with a team of individuals who have bought into your vision. To lead a team like this, you must be transparent and vulnerable, yet strong-willed and driven. Resting on past laurels leads to a prideful, unimaginative leader. Stay humble, encourage your team to be the best they can be, take responsibility, and hold your employees accountable for their own actions.

Embrace the Heart of a Champion Today

The 26th President of the United States was not only a success in politics, but also was driven to achieve success in all aspects of his life. President Theodore Roosevelt once pontificated on the characteristics of apathy he saw in his fellow man:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

If the great leaders in history allowed fear of failure to keep them from stepping out and pursuing a dream, our society would look immeasurably different. Without dreams and failures, we wouldn’t have the shoulders of those who came before us to stand upon. Dream, do, overcome, continue, and be humble. Embrace the heart of a champion today and experience true lasting success tomorrow.

What has helped you succeed in your career? How have you overcome failure to achieve a dream? Let us know in the comments section below!

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