I recently had a chance to speak at my high school summer sports awards as the guest speaker. I decided to share what I’ve learned from interviewing 50+ guests for my weekly podcast on how to become the champion of your life.
As you may or may not know, I keep something I call a Life List, containing things I’d love to achieve at some point during my life.
One of the items on the list was to be a motivational speaker at an event, and I was recently able to do that by being invited back to my high school as the guest speaker for their annual Summer Sports Awards.
But more than just crossing an item off a list, I was excited to be able to share some of the best things I’ve learned from hosting a weekly podcast with a young audience about to go out into the “real world”.
Being a sports awards evening, I decided to frame these lessons from the point of becoming a champion of your life.
I also shared the talk as a solo episode of The Quarter Life Comeback podcast, which you can listen to here.
THE 10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A CHAMPION
10 years ago, I was sitting in the same position as the students seated before me. I was about to leave school, and I had no idea what I wanted to do next.Coming from a big family of 4 sons, I decided to follow in the footsteps of one of my older brothers and became a Civil Engineer.
Coming from a big family of 4 sons, I decided to follow in the footsteps of one of my older brothers and became a Civil Engineer. I did really well at University and worked as an Engineer for 2.5 years.
And then I quit.
Over the three years since, I’ve become fascinated by what separates the successful people from everyone else. What separates the good from the great. And what separates the challengers from the champions.
And after interviewing over 50 guests for my weekly podcast, I’ve identified what I believe are the 10 characteristics of a champion.
All champions have a bigger picture vision for what they want to create. It might be winning an Olympic gold, claiming the world cup trophy or setting a new world record.
No matter what the vision is, all champions have something bigger that they are working towards. Because the bottom line is:
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’re never going to get there.”
Now I know some of you are freaking out about needing to have the rest of your life planned, but the vision will change over time, so don’t panic. What’s important is that you have something you are working towards.
So start asking yourself what it is that YOU want to create. And then start taking small steps to make it happen.
Then the question becomes “How?”. That leads us to number 2.
Once they have a vision, champions turn that vision into achievable goals. There seems to be a common misperception about goals, whereby people think that if they miss them, they’ve failed.
But I want you to think of goals as milestones/landmarks to assess your progress towards your vision.
The other important thing about goals is that it’s not so much about the goal itself, but WHO that goal forces you to become in order to achieve it. Small but important distinction.
3. FOCUS ON THE PROCESS/PRESENCE
Once they’ve set goals, champions focus on the process. All of us have to go home tonight from wherever it is we are, but the headlights on out car don’t need to be able to shine all the way to our front door. We simply need to see far enough in front of us in order to make the next move.
So what’s the next TINY step you can take towards your goals? If you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed or intimidated, your next step is too big and you need to go smaller.
Another reason focusing on the process is so important is that if you’re always just thinking about your long-term vision and goals, you’re going to miss out on the amazing opportunities you could never have imagined that already right in front of you.
This is how the vision changes; we work towards one thing, but are open to new possibilities as they emerge.
4. HABITS & RITUALS
I’m sure you’ve seen Rafael Nadal about to serve or Dan Biggar about to kick for goal. They have these somewhat comical routines before every shot.
But they’re not doing these things to make people laugh. In fact, they wouldn’t even be able to hear people laughing at all. This is because champions adobt habits and rituals to get themselves in flow/the zone.
Because when we create habits, the most important actions for achieving our goals become automatic.
The two most important rituals for anyone to adopt are a morning ritual and an evening ritual.
During the day, things are going to get chaotic, people are going to demand our attention and things won’t go as planned. But if you can bookend your days with the first and last two hours of the day with things that set you up for success, you’ll be far ahead of everyone else. (P.S. checking email and social media don’t count).
After I quit my job and went backpacking through South-East Asia, I became a certified personal trainer. But you don’t need to go quite this far to learn how to take care of your health.
The three most important areas are eat, move and sleep.
Eat: stick to things that came out the ground or had a mom, not things that came out a box or bag.
Move: shift from thinking about exercise as 1 or 2 hours in the gym per day followed by sitting, to thinking of exercise as continual movement throughout the day (and no, you don’t need to workout every day of the week).
Sleep: sleep is the most underestimated, neglected and important area of health. Rather than something you do when aren’t doing aything else, sleep is a crucial time where your body heals itself and makes new connections in your brain.
All these things are great, but if you can connect your vision to a bigger purpose, you will go further.
The most common question I get nowadays is “How do I find my passion?”
But as Tom Asacker shared in our interview together, you don’t find your passion. Because your passion isn’t out there, it’s in here (pointing to my heart/chest).
What he means is that you can sit and try “figure out” your passion all you want, but you only discover it by DOING things; by experimentng with things you’re interested in.
And when you can find the intersection of what you’re interested in, what you’re good at and what others need, THAT’S when you’ve found your sweet spot.
So my advice is to get really good at something, and then use that skill to create the lifestyle you desire (and it doesn’t take as long as you think).
Speaking of getting good at something…
7. FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
All champions focus on their strengths. Usain Bolt (one of my favorite athletes) isn’t trying to be the best at every sport. He identified (probably at a young age) that he was really good at sprinting, and then went all in on that one thing.
It reminds me of the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 principle, which says that 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the results.
So what’s your 20%? What 20% of the things you do make everything else easier or unnecessary? Find those things, and then go all in.
In order to help in this process, I created an ebook containing 5 exercises for self-awareness which you can access here.
8. TAKE RISKS
When I quit my job back in 2014, I had no plan B. And I’d love to be able to say it was all smooth sailing, but the truth is there were a lot of challenges.
There were weeks I didn’t know how I would buy groceries and months I couldn’t pay rent. But it reminds me of one my favorite sayings:”ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for”
“A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for”
All champions take risks and face setbacks, but what matters most is how long you can you stick with it. How far are you willing to go to make your goals and dreams a reality?
9. SUPPORT TEAM
Champions all have a strong team around them. This doesn’t mean they play a team sport, but they surround themselves with people who are going to move them forward.
There are three parts to this.
The first is a mentor or coach. This doesn’t need to be someone who’s done what you want to do, but simply someone who is able to guide you and bring out your greatness (I am stoked to be able to help others in this way via my work as a coach).
Because the thing is, no great champion ever got there on his own. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak or not good enough as you are. In fact, it’s much the opposite. It shows that you are serious about achieving your goals.
The next component of a team is your peers or environment. Jim Rohn said
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
If you spend your time with people who just want to smoke, drink, party and go out every weekend, you’re going to be dragged down into that. But if you want to really achieve success, you need to spend time with people who inspire you to be better. Never be the smartest person in the room.
The final component of a winning team is also the 10th characteristic of a champion.
10. YOURSELF (BELIEF)
The final component of a team is a characteristic of its own, and that is YOU.
If you want to be a champion, need to have a deep inner KNOWING that it’s all going to work out. This won’t always be how we might have imagined, but you need to trust that there’s something even better waiting for you.
If you do all these things, together with a strong BELIEF, will become unstoppable. I truly believe that (see what I did there?).
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
But here’s the thing, guys. These characteristics aren’t reserved for the likes of Usain Bolt, Lewis Hamilton or Roger Federer.
The truth is, you are all champions in your own right. We can all be champions of our own lives. You just need to decide if you are going to settle for good or if you’ll choose to be great; if you’re you happy being a competitor, or if will you rise and become a champion.
OVER TO YOU…
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