4 Traits of Winners

A timeless recipe for success

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4 Traits of Winners

What makes someone a “winner”?

In business, athletics, life in general.

I’ve been thinking about that question lately.

We can debate what “winner” means, but for our purposes here, I’ll define it as someone who excels.

  • They do things “right”

  • They have themselves in order

  • They lead by example in their lives

  • They do well at whatever they choose to do

By default, they’re a winning person. You want them on your side.

It’s not about outcomes. It’s more about character traits.

Today, I want to share four qualities of winners that have come up consistently as I’ve studied this topic.

Put these together, and you could think of this as a timeless recipe for success.

Note: This list isn’t comprehensive. There are many more traits we could add.

(1) Show up daily

Ten years ago, on an internet message board, a Reddit user named Ryan wrote a lengthy response to someone who was struggling.

He offered some advice on how to make progress in life.

“Rule numero uno — there are no more zero days,” Ryan wrote.

His response went viral, and the phrase “No Zero Days” was born.

It’s been adopted and popularized by author James Clear (and many others):

The lesson in it is simple:

Most people are inconsistent.

They show up some days and not others. When they're motivated, they have bursts of intensity. When they're not, they struggle to make progress.

Winning people prioritize consistency over intensity.

They know their effort compounds every day. They don’t expect every day to be perfect, but they show up anyway. They do what they can to push the rock forward.

(2) Focus on improving

Carol Dweck — author of the best-selling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success — has a quote I love:

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are when you could be getting better?”

It’s an idea worth deeply considering.

In a world where so many are externally focused, the advantage lies with those who are intrinsically motivated.

But this isn’t human nature.

It's not normal to continuously learn.

We reach a certain level of competence or success and feel we've figured it out. We believe if we keep doing the same things, we'll be good.

But this is a lie.

The highest performers have insatiable appetites for learning and improving. They're relentless about growth.

As my friend, and former Head of Mental Performance for the Tampa Bay Rays, Justin Su’a says: “You’re never too good to get better.”

(3) Commit to the work

On Nick Saban’s radio show, a young basketball player asked the Alabama football coach for advice on how to excel in his sport.

Saban’s response:

“Well, I think for any athlete, it's the same thing. What's your goal? What's your aspiration? What do you want to accomplish and what you want to do? That's the first thing.

“Second thing is define what it takes to do it. What does it entail for you to be the kind of basketball player that you want to be?

“Then you got to make the decision. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to go work every day and do the things you need to do and take 500 shots a day like Kobe Bryant did or whatever, so that you can be the kind of player that you want to be?

“And then do you have enough discipline to make yourself do it every day? Whether you feel like it or not.

“You got to choose to get up. You got to choose to study. You got to choose to go make the shots. You got to choose to work out. People that can do that, they can reach their full potential.

“I think if you choose to make that kind of commitment to it, you can do the same thing, but it's not going to just come to you. It's not going to come easy.

“And you're going to have to probably overcome a lot of adversity to be able to persevere and sustain it, to get where you want to go.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban

It’s a beautiful response.

The lesson I take from it:

Improvement is a lifelong process.

There's no way to cheat it. Everyone starts at the beginning and endures a journey. There's no "end." If you want to become your best, commit to the work.

(4) Embrace “hard”

Duke women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson gave a talk to her team once.

The theme: Handle Hard Better

“We wait for stuff to get easier,” Lawson told her players. “Most people think it’s going to get easier. Life is going to get easier. Basketball is going to get easier. School is going to easier.

“It never gets easier. What happens is you become someone that handles hard stuff better. That’s a mental shift that has to occur in each of your brains.”

I strongly encourage you to take three minutes and watch the full clip, then share it with your kids or someone you love.

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed, it’s that life is challenging.

Along our journey of improvement will be mistakes, failures and hardship. Nobody is immune.

Learn to embrace “hard.”

Welcome challenges like old friends.

When things do get hard — and they will — go back to steps 1-3 above. Take quitting off the table, and you can't lose.


A quick recap of the 4 traits of winners we covered:

  1. Show up daily

  2. Focus on improving

  3. Commit to the work

  4. Embrace “hard”

Not a bad starting point for getting better.

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See you next Sunday.