A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to hear Boston Celtics’ President, Rick Gotham, give a presentation about the organization’s strategy and philosophy on winning.

Every professional sports team wants to win, ideally every year, even though they know that’s not realistic or possible.

One of the most interesting insights Gotham shared was that the Celtics realize that there is a certain amount of luck and timing involved with winning. To align with this, their stated goal is to “put themselves in a position to win each year.” This includes, among other factors, recruiting well, building the right team and managing salary caps (finances).

His perspectives got me thinking about how this principle of putting yourself in a position to win each year might look for an individual or an organization. Here are five fairly universal ones that I came up with.

1. Build the Right Team: Success for any organization or individual starts with surrounding yourself with the right people – people who share your values and/or vision and whom you trust. Conversely, people who bring you or your company down are energy vampires and have to go.

2. Practice More: Professional athletes practice at least 10X more than they actually play. This same approach applies to many aspects of business, such as giving a speech. I know from first-hand experience (and a lot of professional training) how much better a speech is when it’s practiced multiple times prior to it being delivered. For example, I practiced my recent TEDX talk over 100 times and even practiced on stage.

3. Maintain Flexibility & Discipline: In sports, there are situations where it’s easy to get impatient and just “go for it,” such as trading for or signing expensive players with long-term contracts. Such decisions can saddle the team with long-term obligations and cost them valuable future draft picks. Similarly, in business and in life, shiny new opportunities will come your way regularly. While exciting, the most disciplined decision might be to stay the course and not mortgage the future for the present so that you have the flexibility to act opportunistically. For example, if you constantly rack up credit card debt and spend more than you earn, you may not be able to buy your dream house when it becomes available at a great price. The key to lucky breaks is often more about being prepared and positioned well than kismet.

4. Stay Healthy: Imagine a basketball team made up of low energy, overweight, exhausted players. How exciting would that be to watch? The same goes for our life and business. To be an A-player, you must first take care of the vehicle that gets you through life: your body. Too many of us are eating poorly, not getting enough exercise, are short on sleep and far too stressed. The data clearly shows that we don’t make great decisions when we are tired and stressed. It’s hard to rise to the occasion in any personal or business situation when you are not feeling 100%.

5. Focus: A team needs to decide which direction it wants to go in their season. Is it rebuilding to win in the future or trying to win now? Similarly, people who spread their energy across a dozen different directions rarely find themselves winning in any one of them. Success or winning is not about being busy. It’s about defining what is most important and pointing 80% of your individual or company’s energy toward that direction. Big winners aren’t usually hedgers; they tend to be laser-focused on a given strategy or direction.

Like professional sports teams, we don’t always win in life or business, despite our best efforts. However, I would venture to guess that the people and companies you know who have the right teams, practice often, are financially responsible, focus on health and have a laser-like focus tend to win more than others.


Quote of The Week

“The key is not the will to win…everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”


-Bobby Knight