The Will To Win
What separates winners and losers
If there is one thing that I believe separates winners and losers, it’s the “will to win”. This is the prerequisite to the philosophy of “do stuff”.
When I talk about the will to win, I don’t mean desire. I mean decision. I don’t mean want, I mean will.
What’s the difference?
Well, it’s sort of like the difference between like and love. When I was a teenager, there were girls that I liked. I was interested in them. I would have liked to get to know them better, date them, etc. I didn’t love them. I wasn’t enamored with them. I don’t often think of the girls I used to like. It doesn’t feel important.
Compare that to falling in love with my wife. We would talk for hours and still want to talk for hours more. I drove hundreds of miles every weekend just to spend time with her. It cost me thousands of dollars to date her before we got married and it was worth every penny. I never really thought about how much cost, effort, or time I was spending.
I love her, so what does it matter? Of course I will do everything I can for her. Nearly two decades later, I still feel the same way.
That’s the difference between like and love, right?
The difference between desire vs. decision, or want vs. will is parallel in nature to like vs. love.
Some people desire to do something or be something or win something. It would be nice to be a champion, ya know? And desire has a quality that is a bit like fashion. It comes and it goes. It’s not constant.
How many commit themselves to something? How many decide to win and refuse to stop until they are the champion?
In fact, you can usually name them in most fields. If you work somewhere, you know who they are. Here is how you identify winners…
Over and over again. In tons of different areas. You point them at something and they figure out how to win at that thing (for whatever winning means in that context). It’s not just that they are more talented at their particular game, it’s that they understand the mindset of winning and they apply it to everything.
Most of the time it looks like obsession, but I believe obsession is a byproduct of the will to win.
This is why as a coach or leader or manager or whatever role I happen to be in, I look for the will to win in people. I rarely find it.
Again, it’s not the “want” to win. It’s the will to win. That means engaging the power of the human spirit - your will. It’s a committed decision to go after something and not stop until victory is achieved.
Some would call it the “killer instinct” and I would agree with that assessment. Making brutally hard choices when you’d rather rest or take it easy is part of it.
It’s like hunting or fishing. Not everyone is willing to kill the animal, even fewer want to skin it, gut it, process the meat, and cook it. Most just want to eat nice looking food on their plate at dinner and not think about how it got there.
Those with the will to win are willing to do the whole thing, end to end. Even the dirty, gross parts. Even if they bleed. Even if they hurt. Even if they are depressed. Even if they vomit. Even if they pass out from exhaustion.
The power of the human will pushes them forward no matter what.
That is the will to win.
It’s both extraordinary and terrible. It’s something we tend to elevate in culture because it’s so impressive. But that kind of desire isn’t free. The costs are high. The rewards don’t often match the cost.
Most people are happier not having that level of will driving them. It’s more of a burden than most can bear.
Again, it’s a bit like love.
The commitment of winners is much the same as a couple who gets married and stays married for over 50 years. It’s no longer just a strong desire for the other person. That hormonal, chemical thing fades after a few years. A marriage that lasts a lifetime is built on commitment to your spouse no matter what.
In fact, that’s the entire purpose of making wedding vows. Two people make a life altering commitment in front of God, family, and friends to love and cherish the other person for the rest of their lives. It’s about commitment and accountability.
As humans, we know that there is a gigantic difference between people who make that kind of commitment in a huge public way, and those who don’t. For thousands of years, many cultures, tribes, religions figured out that there is a big difference. That’s why we make such distinctions as “married” in our culture.
Marriage is hard. Raising a family is hard. Long term relationships are hard.
It only works if you have the will to win in those areas. When you are willing to sacrifice for your wife, your kids, your grandkids, etc. no matter what comes your way, and they have the same will in return… that is what makes families work for decades and generations.
Which leads to I guess one final point and paradox to the whole winners thing.
For as much of a struggle and pain goes with being a winner in anything, not having the will to win is even more difficult. Yes, there is something worse than blood, sweat, and tears.
Specifically, giving your life energy to something without the will to win leads to losing. When you never commit to winning, you don’t get the benefits of that will to win. You don’t have that extra bit of energy to push through.
On some level you go through the motions, but never get ahead. It’s a treadmill. You never go anywhere. Eventually, others pass you by. That’s not a great feeling if on some level you want to win, but you aren’t committed to it.
The will to win is a great simplifier. It’s one decision that makes many decisions. It makes many things easier because you get focus and clarity about what is important to you.
The hardest thing I found in coaching is to help people figure out what they want. In fact, it’s never about what we want. It’s a question of what we are willing to commit ourselves to.
Committing yourself to the cost of winning is the only path to winning.
I should probably end this train of thought with an interesting thing I learned when I was training to be a hypnotist.
Hypnosis is most often requested for weight loss or make people stop smoking. It’s also useful for dealing with anxiety, trauma, or pain management. But really, most people just want help with their weight or smoking problems.
So, here is something funny about people who smoke cigarettes. They like smoking. They want to keep smoking. It feels good. They like the nicotine or the social aspect, or the memories of when smoking was cool.
As a hypnotist, I can’t make anyone stop smoking. Hypnosis isn’t mind control. I can’t waive a magic wand and force someone to stop smoking.
In fact, if someone came to me and said, “My wife made me come here because she wants me to stop smoking.” I would turn them away because they don’t want to stop smoking. No amount of intervention on my part would help that person.
The way people stop smoking is they commit to stop smoking. They decide and commit at such a deep level that they stop. In that situation, a hypnotist can help a person enhance and strengthen their commitment to not smoke. But, if the person isn’t at that decision point where they say for themselves, “something has to change and it has to be me and it has to be now”, nothing works.
It’s the same with weight loss or any other thing. A person has to decide at some deep level to change. It has to be a real commitment, not just a desire or whim.
No matter what kind of fascinating trance inductions or techniques a hypnotist, therapist, or anything else tries it always comes down to the same thing…
Not desire, decision. Not want, will.
When someone makes an unwavering commitment to win, they become a winner and are on the path to winning. It doesn’t matter the game you are playing. It doesn’t matter how you keep score. The foundational difference between those who win and those who lose at any game is the same.
It’s the will to win.