Mike Forde Performance

“Winning after Winning” – The Psychology of Ongoing Success

It has been said that anyone can get lucky enough to win big once. Under-performance by the competition at a critical moment; an unsustainable high performance spike by a key player in a team; a poor decision by a referee giving an unfair advantage. The list goes on. What defines champion athletes and great teams is their ability to not just win once but to continue to win time and time again.

I remember a moment in my career that really provided an incredible insight into the mind of the high achiever and more importantly how they compute and rationalize success. It came in the European Champions League Final 2012 between Chelsea and Bayern Munich in front of 160 million live TV viewers across 200 countries. The game had gone to extra time and penalties. Bastian Schweinsteiger – the legendary German player – stepped up to take the final penalty. Petr Cech (the Chelsea goalkeeper) got a touch to the ball and pushed it onto the post leaving Didier Drogba the opportunity to step up and score the final penalty to deliver Chelsea their first Champions League trophy in over 100 years. After the celebrations and excitement on the pitch the team retired to the dressing room to continue savoring this historical moment. As I stood looking at this memorial scene I noticed to the side of me a very somber, slightly detached Drogba slumped in his seat. I turned to him and asked him how he felt. I expected “delighted” or ‘excited” but no, the word he used was “relief”. Confused I asked, “why relieved?” and he turned to me and said “relief because the thought of being here on this occasion and after everything we have been through and NOT winning would be too much to handle”. Incredible.

The best talent are not always motivated by winning, most often they have a real fear of not losing. They understand the commitment needed to reach and stay at the top and the reward of winning is just the quiet satisfaction that they got pay back for all the sacrifices and dedication they put in. Financial rewards and media attention in that moment of great success is often the furthest thing from their mind. This ‘no finish line mentality’ and being ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable’ is the real DNA of the high achieving mind and is the first step in creating the environment for a ‘winning after winning’ culture.

Here are three key action-focused mindsets to adopt in yourself and your team to breed this ‘winning after winning’ mentality:

1. Appraise the winning performance, not the winning result

Be brutally honest with yourself why you won this time around. Did you outperform the competition or were they desperately poor in the big moments? Most individuals and teams overestimate their personal contribution to winning and underestimate their role in failure. Study the metrics and data that you know over time deliver success. Appraise the performance (and the KPI’s) and ask if you repeated these numbers what would the probability of success be in the future? Be brutally honest with yourself and others around you. Your biggest competition know your weaknesses so save time by drilling down and understand why you won.

2. Change your thinking

The biggest mistake that people make when they win for the first time is the belief that the same mental model and approach will bring the same success again in the future. Success changes everything. Invariably people want more fame, money and recognition. Individuals overestimate their role in the success performance model. Outside the competition can often get hungrier and more focused around the gaps they have to close to achieve success. Change your thinking. View yourself as the challenger brand; as number two or three in the rankings and this will tackle the fear of complacency very quickly. Success is only ever loaned to you, you don’t own it forever.

3. Recalibrate your goals

An Olympic goal medal winner in any time related sport won’t profile the gold medal time in four years time to be the same as what won it this year. They will profile a time quicker than the one that brought success today. It’s human nature to look over the hill; to be curious to see what is needed for success in the future. Bring this focus to the fore and enjoy today’s success but quickly recalibrate your thinking and goals and prepare yourself to go again. Practice the mentality of ‘firing yourself on Friday and re-employing yourself on Monday’ to help foster this mental model of continuous improvement.

Very few individuals and teams ever achieve the ‘winning after winning’ level of high performance. Success changes people in so many ways – both positively and negatively – and the reality is the full extent is never truly known until success happens for the first time. It’s hard to predict this change in status, financial rewards, etc, but one can certainly safeguard themselves and the people around them to stay on track for future success. This shift in thinking starts with you however. See this moment of great success as one chapter in a comprehensive bible of high performance living and you will quickly move onto writing the next and probably more impressive next stage of the exciting evolution as a person and a team. As the great French 1998 World Cup winning player Youri Djorkaeff said, “Success and Finals are the real opium of Champions”. Winning is a habit and a hard addiction to kick once it sets in. That’s the real prize to aim for.