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The Winning Spirit

Sixteen Timeless Principles That Drive Performance Excellence

The Winning Spirit by Joe Montana
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Widely considered the best NFL quarterback of all time, Joe Montana personifies performance excellence and personal integrity both on and off the field. Yet the word most closely associated with him is not “winner”–it’s “leader.” Since his retirement a decade ago, he has become a popular motivational speaker sought out by corporations nationwide, speaking to capacity audiences as large as twenty thousand.

Now making his message available to a broader audience, Montana teams up with performance coach Tom Mitchell to extend to all areas of life the truths of success on the field. The Winning Spirit shows that ultimately performance excellence is fueled by personal integrity. This is the key to winning the inner game, which is about accountability and attitude, as well as desire, enthusiasm, effort, and appreciation. For example:

• Know What You Want: First, identify goals, then turn clarity into action.
• Strive for Excellence: Surpass expectations and reach new heights
• Fail Fast and Move On: Take chances, learn from mistakes, and keep pressing forward–don’t let fear or regret take you out of the game.
• Remember the “I” in Team: Make yourself the priority–because intense preparation is the individual responsibility of each member of the team.
• Welcome Pressure: Want to be the best? Work with or compete against the best!
• Walk Like a Champ: Your life is not just about achieving success, but also about having a purpose and creating significance.

With great stories and practical strategies, Joe Montana and Tom Mitchell give us hard-won advice based on years of success. This timely and timeless message is nothing less than a contemporary motivational classic.

From the Hardcover edition.
Random House Publishing Group; Read online
Title: The Winning Spirit
Author: Joe Montana; Tom Mitchell; Bruce Henderson
Individual Preparation

individuals prepare in different ways. what works for one per- son doesn’t necessarily work for another. Some wait until the last minute. Some require a degree of fear as motivation. Others want to eliminate all distractions, have complete silence, and shut themselves off from the rest of the world. Others prepare with music in the background or in the company of other people. Some need to rehearse over and over until they feel confident. Whatever the method, the goal of good preparation is the same: to ready ourselves for optimal performance, to play or work at our best.

Ideal preparation is more than a physical rehearsal. It should include the mind and heart as well as the body, so that we are prepared on many levels—balanced, centered, and confident.

The six principles set forth in this section reinforce the importance of preparation. We give examples of what works for some individuals, while emphasizing throughout that everyone must find his or her own unique way to prepare.

We do strongly believe and teach that repetition is king in the world of preparation. Whether in sports, running the same drills over and over, or in business, practicing a sales pitch or refining a presentation, we gain through repetition a sense of mastery and self-confidence that can be taken into the real game.

Repetition can be a physical endeavor on the court or in the field. It can also be mental repetitions done silently at any place or time. Lying in bed, standing in the shower, sitting in a quiet place, thinking about and rehearsing what we want to make happen. However it is accomplished, repetition is about connecting the mind with the body to achieve peak performance.

While we all tend to rely on preparation techniques we have used successfully for years, we invite each individual to push himself or herself and try some of the different types of preparation in this section.

To be prepared, it’s necessary to check in regularly with our individual process and progress. Are we getting enough sleep? Are we eating properly and getting the necessary nutrients? Are we satisfied with our performance? Do we need to make changes? This we know: Excellent performance does not happen on its own. Preparation is required.

We also need to make some personal choices about how we are going to spend our time and energy. How well-rounded do we want to be? Do we want to be an inch wide and a mile deep? Are we ready to put all our effort at excelling in one area, while falling short in others? One thing is certain: It’s up to each of us to choose and walk a unique path and, in the process, to design a road map to performance excellence.

principle #1 Know What You Want it’s been said that clarity is power. that’s true, but clarity put into action is ultimate power. It is impossible to strive for something until we know what it is we are pursuing. You have to know what you want.

Clarity offers a road map as well as the freedom to go after what we most desire. Clarity also provides a built-in filter to reduce the distractions that would interfere with our doing what needs to get done.

To identify what it is we really want requires time and concentration. It can be helpful to write down everything we want to become and accomplish. Even making a simple list may help. We routinely rely on shopping lists; writing down what we want in life can serve as a reminder in the same way.

Getting clear is mandatory. It offers direction and motivation and helps prioritize energy. Whether or not we are conscious of it, most of us want more of something in our lives: more love, more friendship, more meaning, more achievement, more wealth, more health. “More” is seldom achieved without hard work. Having more, or getting more, almost always requires giving more—of yourself.

Not knowing what we want leaves us rudderless in life, unable to muster the direction, drive, discipline, or imagination to go for it. To deny or be numb to our wants is to ignore our deepest desires, perhaps to miss out on our truest calling and our greatest joy. Courageously declaring and affirming what we want in life are the best ways to get unstuck—to start generating motion in the direction we wish to head.

Does the importance of knowing what we want seem obvious? If it is so simple, we wonder, then why do so many people stare blankly, become silent, or give a vague response when asked, “What do you really want from life?” and “What is your passion in life?” Asking these questions of ourselves can take more brainpower than some of us are willing to put forth at the end of a hectic day. It may seem too difficult. Or it may seem a luxury rather than an essential act in the course of daily life. To understand our heart’s desires takes work, time, and effort. Yet this work is vital for achieving personal satisfaction and professional success.

Questions like “Do I really enjoy what I am doing?” and “What do I do really well?” often have the same answer. Does it come as a surprise that what we like, we are usually pretty good at? And what we are good at, we usually like? Ask yourself. The answers should tell you something important about yourself.

Sometimes the desire for a bigger and better job is actually tied to the desire for one’s voice to be heard: more authority, more recognition for our contributions. It is really about designing a great set of questions and answering them honestly.

When we get clear on what we want to achieve, contribute, and possess, our own clarity will guide us like a laser beam directly to the target. We gain confidence through new directions and focus, which convert into enthusiasm, energy, and momentum.

Another gift that comes from clarity is the desire to pursue. When we have a destination, when we see what we want to have, when we feel what we want to experience, a burning passion arises. Clarity unleashes a powerful driving force that is not easily extinguished.

We can all conjure up favorite heroes, in sports or elsewhere. They all have something in common, and in abundance. These heroes are doing exactly what they want to be doing. A long time ago, they had clarity about their chosen fields, and with that clarity came the desire, focus, and energy to practice and excel.

This first principle, knowing what we want, is the beginning of achieving performance excellence. Some may say, “I’ve already gone through this process, and I know what I want.” This is a great place to be. But do not overlook the importance of repetition and review. We should all regularly revisit our goals and dreams, which not only reinforces our desire but also inspires us to keep doing the work that we need to do. Can you imagine a Carnegie Hall pianist saying, “I’ve already practiced those keys,” or an NBA player saying, “I practiced shooting free throws yesterday. Why should I practice them today?” Such statements are inconceivable because true competitors know that repetition is crucial to improvement and success.

Even if we are clear on our goals today, we should expect curves in the road ahead. Ambitions and desires are given to shifts and changes. Perhaps we have pursued something we realize we won’t attain, even though we’ve given it our best shot. Not every college baseball player will play in the big leagues, and not every business major will run a company. Hitting an occasional wall happens in life, so we need to make regular adjustments and additions to our personal “want list.”

practice: Make a wish list of everything you want in life, including both work and personal wishes. Dream big.

Answering a few important questions can be a springboard to finding out what you desire most in life. Ask yourself these questions:

“What do I really want?”

“What are things I want to do, accomplish, and experience?”

Look over your list and choose the one desire that is most important to you at this time. Write down this desire on several three-by-five cards, keeping it simple by using as few words as possible. Put each card in a private place where you’ll see it every day, such as a medicine cabinet, a glove box, a wallet, or under a pillow.

Each time you see the card, it will be a reminder of what you really want to achieve and become. It will give you extra motivation and help you stay focused.

This simple exercise will help you become clearer about what you most want. You will soon recognize that the clarity, determination, and drive you are putting forth are bringing you closer to your most cherished goal. Montana Recently, after I delivered a speech, someone in the audience asked me how old I was when I won my first Super Bowl.

“Twelve years old, and I’ve won a thousand of them since.” All but four of them, I explained, took place in our backyard in my hometown of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a few miles down the road from Pittsburgh.

The year I turned twelve, another Pennsylvania boy also won his first Super Bowl. Joe Namath. But Namath wasn’t my idol. When my buddy and I played football in my backyard with my mother’s clothesline as the out-of-bounds line, I sometimes pretended to be Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers, even though I never went to a Steelers game. In fact, I never saw a live pro football game until I played in one, ten years later. And yet I kept winning the Super Bowl regularly in my backyard.

My relationship with my dad was all about sports. It was always fun and spontaneous. Sports allowed us to communicate. There was a little shed between our house and the neighbor’s. Dad would get his catcher’s mitt and lean against the shed, and I’d pitch to him for hours on end. Or we would play basketball, using a hoop that Dad put up over the garage door. We would also go to the nearby basketball court and play one-on-one, or if there was a pickup game going, we would join in. If there wasn’t room for my dad in the game, he’d stay and watch, giving me pointers. There was no organized basketball program in town until Dad started one, putting up his own money and running the practices.

Dad got me into organized football at age eight with the local Pop Warner team, which he helped coach. After two years, I was thinking of quitting football and joining the Cub Scouts, like my cousins. I told my dad, and he said it was okay to give up the game if I wanted, but I couldn’t quit in midseason. “I don’t want you to quit something you’ve started,” he said. By the end of that season, I’d thrown some TD passes and forgotten all about Cub Scouts.

Not long after came that first Super Bowl victory in my backyard. In my heart, I knew early on that sports were what I wanted to do. Though I worked hard at school, I had an intense desire to succeed in sports—and to exceed everyone’s expectations. Mitchell In coaching people of various ages and occupations, I often work with individuals who are not clear about what they want most in life. Sometimes this lack of clarity can cause an emotional numbness and a state of mental fogginess that is difficult to shake. I hear how a person feels he or she is going through the motions— perhaps earning good money and having the outward trappings of a successful life—but to what end? They feel empty and stuck.

I can say “Know what you want” again and again, but how do people grasp that truth from a numbed state? It is at this point that I like to take them back to their core emotions. Thinking about something is one thing; feeling it is an entirely different matter. “What is it you really love to do?” I ask.

I’ve taught junior college athletes who didn’t really love the sport they were playing. They may have been naturally athletic, had the right body, or maybe they had huge success in high school. Maybe they were hoping for a scholarship or their coaches and parents were pushing them to play. Regardless, it was not their true passion. Inevitably, that caught up with them, often presenting itself as a kind of cloudiness, a lack of drive and motivation. It didn’t make them bad or inept; they were just trying to do something they did not want to do.

Whenever I saw a young athlete struggling in this way, my advice was always the same: “Don’t play this game if it isn’t what you want with all your heart.” It is challenging enough to compete at the collegiate level when you want it and love it, but to do so for other reasons makes the practice regimen a grind and the rewards meaningless.

Outside of sports, many successful people I have known give the same career advice to young people: “Find something you want to do, and success, as well as money, will follow.” But what about someone who isn’t just starting out and has a family, a mortgage, and other obligations? I have worked with individuals who tell me they would like to change careers but don’t know how they will pay the bills. They feel they don’t have the luxury to experiment. First I try to find out if they know what they don’t like about their current job. Usually, they are surprisingly clear about where they don’t want to be. Maybe they have an office job and would rather work outside. Or they have good communication skills but are stuck in a job that doesn’t utilize that strength. Or it could be that they don’t believe in the product they are selling or the company they are working for. Okay, I say, that’s a starting point. One good way to find out what you want is to know what you don’t want. Life is sometimes more about elimination than addition. We eliminate those things that aren’t working for us, then see what’s left. Now we can begin focusing on those about which we feel more positive.

I don’t mean to suggest that tolerance is an unnecessary virtue in life. There are things we do have to tolerate, and we all have occasional bad days at work and at home. The test is whether we are tolerating chronic situations that cause us to be unfulfilled and unhappy. If so, it may be time to draw a line in the sand. “I am not doing that anymore. I don’t know quite what it is that I want to do yet, but I know I don’t want to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. If this is true, let’s make the time and spend the energy to engage our imaginations and begin to see what it is we want to do and where we want to go. Let’s not allow our own limited thinking (or anyone else’s, for that matter) to put us in a box or place a ceiling above us. Let’s utilize the power of clear thinking, as well as imagination, to help us successfully accomplish our greatest dreams.

Knowing what we want and starting on the path to achieving it will reward us with boundless energy, hope, confidence, and direction.

Clarity put into action is power.

From the Hardcover edition.
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