10 Things I Want Athletes to Understand about Success

word success in tag

What do you picture when you think about success in sports?

Crossing the finish line?

Standing on top of the podium?

Holding the championship trophy?

Success, especially in sports, is a word that evokes images of awards, prestige and recognition.  And yet, few would argue that at the heart of it success is not just winning.  It’s a complicated concept and yet one of the major objectives of youth sports is to teach kids how to be successful.

So here is what I want JAG athletes to understand about success:

Success is an idea.  It is not something you can touch.  Therefore it is not a medal, trophy, letter of admittance to a prestigious college or even a diploma.  Because success is an idea, you  define it for yourself and tweak that definition along the way as your life changes.  There are many ways people talk about success from making lots of money or going to the Olympics to being a kind person or making a positive difference in the world.  And while it is perfectly fine to have definitions of success that involve financial freedom or reaching the highest level of your sport, to me if its far more important that you develop those definitions that relate to being a good person.
Success is a process not a result.  While there are little victories here and there along the way, there is no magical moment when suddenly you are “successful.”  It’s the accumulation of lots of little habits like showing up, on time, ready to work, with a great attitude.  It’s learning to take feedback and incorporate it into your practice.  Said another way, success is a journey not a destination.

Success is different than achievement.  As I just said, success is a process.  Achievement is a result.  For instance, success is the discipline of saving money weekly leading to the achievement of buying your first car.  Another way of thinking of it is that success is the feeling you have inside of you that makes you proud of your effort and achievement is the result that demonstrates to others that you are successful.  Achievement is like the cherry on top of the sundae.  Success is the sundae.

Success is pursuing your own goals, not surpassing the goals of another person.  Look to compete with yourself, forget about worrying what others are doing.  You can only control what you are doing so spending time trying to beat Jenny is just a waste of your energy.  Look to out-do yourself.  You are on your own journey, not someone else’s.
Success happens when you are willing to do the things no one else wants to do.  Recently I read a definition of success that I love: successful people do the work that unsuccessful people don’t want to do.   It reminds me of another great quote: The harder I work, the luckier I get.  So then, how do you spell success?  W.O.R.K.
Success is becoming a person who preserves in the face of failure.  It’s easy to think someone is successful when things come easily to them. But that isn’t what determines success.  Ask anyone who you think is successful how often they failed—the answer will be lots and lots!  What will determine success is the ability to navigate those times when things are hard.  So, the best way to practice being a successful person is to do hard things.
Success is found in gratitude.  As part of an athletes’ mindset, we are conditioned to keep looking toward the next skill or next season.  Yet research shows that people perform better in the present moment when they are grateful for their current progress and for those helped them along the way.  So while setting goals is always a worthy activity, remember to reflect and be thankful for what you have in the moment as well.
Success has little to do with talent and much to do with your belief in your ability to learn.  To me, talent is like getting a little head start in a race.  Yes, it makes it a bit easier to finish first, but if the people behind you run faster and harder, it is irrelevant.  Often those with talent rest on their heels thinking that this head start will sail them to the finish line.  It won’t.  And sometimes those who are less naturally gifted see those few steps of the head start as something they cannot overcome so they don’t even try.  Wishing you had more talent is like wishing you were taller—there is nothing you can do about it.  My advice: forget about this elusive thing called “talent,” believe in your ability to learn and get to work!
Success is about managing your fears.  I am not just talking about your fears of doing big and scary looking gymnastics.  What I am really talking about is your willingness to manage the fear that you might not succeed, that you might look foolish in you attempt to try, that people will laugh at you or be disappointed if you don’t achieve your goals or that you will be disappointed in yourself.   You have to be willing to take on these risks to be a successful person.
Success is a bumpy ride.  The road of success is filled with all sorts of twists and turns.  It is not a straight and smooth highway!  So buckle up, know that the twists and turns are totally normal and enjoy the ride.
Becoming successful is not easy, but not much in life worth having is!