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What makes a champion?

One of the great myths of our time is that the world’s genuine achievers are born to be great. This line of thinking is reflected in phrases like “she’s a natural” and “he was always destined for greatness” but perhaps champions like Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Mandela and Muhammad Ali would take exception to the view that they were born into a life that was spiritually scripted for greatness.


Obviously these champions possessed some form of natural talent and aptitude for their chosen direction in life but talent alone doesn’t explain the lofty heights to which these amazing individuals attained.

In many ways life is like a game of poker where we’re dealt a deck of DNA cards at birth and our achievements are dictated not so much by the cards themselves but by the way we play those cards.

If we look closely at the real success stories in life we find that individuals who embrace and embody specific championship qualities will become almost universally successful in whatever discipline they pursue. These three key qualities are:


Few people are prepared to do whatever it takes to be the best.  Passion is the fuel that propels champions to greatness and keeps them pushing when the masses simply quit. It is also a pre-requisite for putting in the hard yards when the easy option is the road most travelled.

But unfortunately passion remains an elusive emotional state for so many people who feel a sense of “stuckness” in their lives. Genuine and enduring passion can only be truly experienced when our goals align with our values, beliefs and core purpose. For example, if we value interaction with others and feel a need to engage in physical combat, we’d probably feel more passion about participating in one of the football codes than we would taking up marathon running. The odds are that we’d be much more passionate about playing footy than we would be about doing laps on the local running track.

Sustained and focused effort…

Simply applying ourself and practicing for a short period of time will allow us to develop a certain amount of our raw talent but champions display the key qualities of patience and focus to their effort. In any given discipline in life people develop quickly at first and then the learning curve starts to flatten out. Inevitably the law of diminishing returns kicks in and most individuals find the lack of progress frustrating and laborious, but the real winners have a different mindset.

Champions don’t just go out and practice a skill repeatedly without seeking constant feedback to improve their performance. Unlike your average golfer who regularly goes to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls and then questions why his/her performance doesn’t improve all that much, professional  golfers have a much more powerful and effective approach to practice. The superstars set a goal for each shot and they seek feedback and make adjustments after every swing. The same approach to practice separates the also rans from the champions in all walks of life, from doctors to professional speakers and from business leaders to social workers. Put simply, champions don’t just want to get the task done, they want to do it better and better every time they do it, no matter how long the process take.


Is the ability to bounce back from the inevitable setbacks and potholes that are scattered across the road to success. By stepping outside our comfort zone and looking to extend ourself, we enter unknown territory and this brings with it the possibility, if not likelihood, that we’re going to make mistakes and experience setbacks.

Champions engage and conquer these challenges by nurturing and applying an optimistic mindset to their everyday life experiences. They have the ability to break down a seemingly complex situation into simple and manageable pieces which can then be addressed as part of the solution. In other words, pessimists will at problems in global terms such as “nothing went right” or “I never get the opportunity” whilst optimists will identify specific reasons for a setback.

All the while these high achievers remain focused on the bigger picture and the purpose of their journey in life. To them, the path to success will always be a non-linear progression with lots of ups and downs to be expected and experienced before they reach out and touch their goals.

The great news is that all three championship qualities listed above can be developed and fine-tuned by anyone with a deep seated desire to be the best they can be!


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