Episode 214 – The Language of Those Who Win

Steve Shallenberger: To all of our Becoming Your Best listeners and those that are getting ready to just crush it this year and into the new decade, it’s always nice to have some really great tools to help lead you through that, and the Becoming Your Best Planner is ready to go, if you don’t have one already. It’ll help lead you through with your vision, setting clearly actionable goals in the different areas of your life, which will help bring balance. It’s a process that helps you stay focused, day in and day out, on the things that matter most, while still bringing balance and vitality. So, if you don’t have one yet, you can just go to To get 25% off on your planner, just put in the promo code “20planner25”. And here is to a fabulous new year!  


Thomas Blackwell: Hello there, to our Becoming Your Best listeners all throughout the world! This is Thomas Blackwell – Master Trainer and International Speaker for Becoming Your Best Global Leadership. I hope you’re doing incredible, wherever you might be, and thank you for joining me just for a little bit here.  


It’s 2020 – the year of perfect vision. If you think about that, Leading with a Vision is one of our core principles in the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. And doesn’t it just make sense that 2020, the year of perfect vision, is your most incredible year ever? Well, I’m honored to be with you for a few minutes, and I want to talk about The Language of Those Who Win – that’s a chapter in my book, “The Liberty of Our Language Revealed: We Bring About What We Talk About”. It really is an honor and a privilege to now have that book as part of the Becoming Your Best Library, and as part of the workshops and keynotes and trainings that we do to help people all over the world, lead by design and become their best. So, let’s get into it!  


A very important facet for one to change their language in order to change their result, is adopting and incorporating this language of those who win. So, among those I’ve learned that consistently win in their lives, there resides this certain dialect of conviction, of confidence that whatever they set out to do is going to result in a victory. They figured out the power of self-mastery and they’re champions of mental toughness. So, they approach any feat with an I-can-do-it-and-I-will-do-it attitude. They speak in terms of Never Giving Up – another core principle of the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders – and they’re always putting in the necessary effort, and are always, always rising after they fall.  


I’ve learned that winners are clear that one word separates amateurs from professionals in any industry – athletic competition or one’s life’s roles, whatever that might be. The word is “focus”. The professional obtains the discipline to focus a little longer in the moment of battle or preparing for the battle, and that makes all the difference. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to coach a division-one tennis team at a university. One of my favorite things to do was what we call, “wall sits”, as a workout. This is where the players would sit against the wall and support themselves in the chair position – it’s a great leg workout – and my players really didn’t like it, though. So, one day when they were especially not enthusiastic to do wall sits, I decided to conduct an experiment. I told my players that we were going to sit for two minutes, and the whole time I focused on the time. I told them every 30 seconds when the time had passed. With each declaration of the time, more painful groans and complaints came from my players. It was great!  


Then, I told the team we’re going to do it again, but this time, I told them to close their eyes and imagine, as I described them playing the perfect tennis match. I started my timer. Once their eyes were closed, and I talked to them through each shot, and I had them envision crushing the ball against their imaginary opponents, I noticed my players were getting into it, really, and some even started making manly tennis noises. And after a while, I told them, when we were done, they can open their eyes and get off the wall, and I asked them which one was easier – the first one, with their eyes open, focusing on the time, or the second one with their eyes closed focused on playing the perfect match. Of course, as you already probably guessed, they all said the second one. Then, I asked them how much time they thought they were sitting on the wall the second time if it was easier. They all thought it was the same two minutes. But, listen to this! They were shocked when I revealed it was actually five minutes. So, what was the difference? Their focus! Both what they chose to focus on and their ability to focus a little longer. Also, the lesson was, winners focus on winning and the victory, which allows them to perform at a much longer and at a higher level. Now, amateurs focus on the pain and the non-productive things, and oftentimes, that’s what causes them to give up early. So, winners know how to focus on the prize and not the obstacles.  


I love what Zig Ziglar said – he put it best perhaps, when he said, “Obstacles are those things we see when we take our eyes off the goal.” Interestingly enough, there was no complaining of pain from my players the second time they did the wall sit with their eyes closed, and it was more than double the time. This is obviously a sports example, but it can certainly be applied to any endeavor. Whatever we focus on expands, and winners have figured out how to focus on productive things, or the prize. Now, I’ve got to tell you, truth be told, my team was the last in our division. Other universities had a much larger recruiting budget than we did, so they were able to bring in top talent. We lost every match. But does that mean we were not winners? Absolutely not! In fact, after every single match, in our team meeting, every player had to go around and identify where they won that day. And then, we celebrated it. The lesson is this. Can you identify and celebrate the victories, regardless of the score? I’ve learned that this is a very important muscle to develop, to win in life, business, relationships, whatever the case might be. So, again, if you’re focusing on the score or whether you won or not, you might think you lost, you might think you’re a loser. But, win regardless, by identifying and celebrating the victories, regardless of the score.  


Since I’m talking about it, and the tennis team is on my mind, I’ll share another example. On one occasion, for practice, instead of working out, we watched the motivational sports movie called, “Rudy”. I felt like our team could relate to being kind of a Rudy type of team. What they didn’t know is that I personally know Rudy, and that he and I have shared many stages, speaking to different groups and organizations. So, I had a surprise for the team. I actually called my friend Rudy and asked him if he would come and speak to the team in an upcoming tournament, close by where Rudy lived. In between matches, we were having a team discussion, and I asked a guy and said, “Hey, what did you learn from the movie this week?” Meanwhile, unknown to them, I had the actual Rudy standing right behind me. One player asked, “Did this particular scene really happen?” to which I responded, “You know, I’m not sure! Let me ask!” I turned around and said, “Rudy, is this the way it was?” You should have seen their faces! Here was a guy who knew how to win, and he began to pour into my team and I was so grateful that he, then, was willing to do it.  


He started off by saying, “Look, guys, if you’ve seen the movie, I made a tackle and they made a movie out of it, it’s no big deal.” – a really humble approach. I would say it’s kind of a big deal, though. It’s the #1 sports motivational movie in the world. As I’ve learned, four different US Presidents have personally invited him to watch the movie in the White House theater. His main message was this, “Do more doing than thinking.” I thought that was interesting coming from someone who knows the language of those who win, he said, “Do more doing than thinking.” And then, he elaborated on it, and he said, “Had I thought of everything I was going to have to do to get accepted into the prestigious College of Notre Dame, I would have never done it. I just thought I want to go to Notre Dame. So, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get in. Then, once I got in, after four attempts, I had this incredible notion that I wanted to play on the football team for the Fighting Irish. I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t strong enough, nor was I athletic enough. Nonetheless, I wanted to be on the team. So, I just went out and went for it and did it. Now, had I thought of all the reasons why I couldn’t do it, or the mere fact that I might realistically get killed, I would have never done it.” I remember being raised now and getting more excited as he continued to explain the story. He said, “So, boys, the point is this: always do more doing than thinking. Many people think themselves right out of what they really want, instead of getting started and plunging forward.” 


Look, it’s 2020 – the year of perfect vision, putting one step in front of the other, knowing that it’s going to work out, especially when you’re clear on the direction you’re going. Well, Rudy, he continued – and I thought it was interesting – he said, “I’ll tell you that the making of the movie was a whole other Rudy story in and of itself. If I had thought of everything that it was going to take to make a movie, I certainly would have never done it. I thought it was a good inspirational story, but nobody else seemed to think so.” For 10 years, no producers would entertain that Rudy story. Then one day, the same Hollywood producer who produced the famous sports movie called, “Hoosiers” said he’d take a look at it. And so, he told him to meet Rudy at a cafe in Hollywood, and they would discuss it. So, he flew out to California on a limited budget and showed up to the cafe, but the producer never showed up. So, here was another one of those moments to do more doing than thinking. Rudy started asking people in the restaurant if they knew the producer. Then, finally, he met a guy who said he did. So, he asked if he knew where the producer lived. The guy said he did. And so, he asked if he’d be willing to take Rudy to his house, and the guy takes him to his house. Of course, he went, he knocked on the producer’s door and the producer wasn’t there. So, what was he going to do? He decided he was going to sit on that doorstep until the producer showed up. He stayed there quite a long time, longer than most would be willing to stay there. Then, finally, the producer shows up and Rudy walks right up to him, extends his hand and says, “I’m Rudy, and you’re late.” The producer was apologetic, of course, and was impressed that he found out where he lived and wouldn’t move from his doorstep until he came home. And the producer said to Rudy, “You know, you’re the real deal, aren’t you? This isn’t just some story, is it? You live this way! I’m going to take a good hard look at your script.” And there you have it, he produced the movie. And Rudy goes on to say, that, “Had I not gone to that extreme, there may have never been a Rudy movie.”  


So there you have it! And there’s so many other stories in the making of the movie that almost shut the whole thing down, but fortunately, he just kept moving forward. So, that’s the whole premise of that do more doing than thinking. Put one foot in front of the other, and speak in the tone, the language of champions, the language of those who win, that YOU CAN DO IT. It was, really, a neat opportunity because Rudy stayed and watched the boys play their next matches there, at that tournament. I seriously have never seen my guys playing so hard. Rudy really riled them up with the language of those that win. So, again, I want to emphasize the point that winning doesn’t always have a direct correlation with the score. You must be able to identify and celebrate the victories, regardless of the score. Focus on what you did right, or what you did great. Listen, it might be that you just got back up after being knocked down. Perhaps it’s that you recognized a mistake and you learned from it. Or maybe you decided to make another phone call after a top prospect told you, “No”. Whatever it is, look for the victory and celebrate it. 


Look, I certainly can relate to Rudy about doing more doing than thinking on multiple occasions, and perhaps, you can too, in your life. I remember, as a freshman tennis player in high school, I had an experience where I did more doing than thinking. My doubles partner, who was a junior in high school, a few years older than me, had never been to what we call The State Tournament. All we had to do is get to the finals of the Regional Tournament to be selected to go to State. Without knowing any different, I told my doubles partner, I said, “Look, we’re going to State. We just have to win the next match and the semi-finals, and we’re in!” I could sense his hesitation, though, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. We got in the zone and played our best tennis. We won the first set – if you know tennis – with 6-4, and then, something interesting happened. People started gathering around and taking interest in our match, and one of the opposing players was so distraught at losing the first set, he took his racket and just busted it against the net pole there. It’s a good thing the referee didn’t see that or he would have been disqualified. But, we went back and forth in the second set and ended up pulling it off, and winning 6-4, 6-4. There was a lot of cheering from people that I didn’t even know, which is not a typical thing in our high school matches. We shook our opponents’ hands, and then, I turned to my doubles partner who was now visibly emotional about the whole thing and I said, “Hey, partner! It’s no big deal, we’re just going to the State Tournament.” And when he finally gathered his composure, he said, “No, you don’t understand. Not only are we going to The State Tournament, but we just beat the defending State Champions. We’ve knocked them completely out of the State Tournament.” Now, it took me a moment to take it all in what he just told me, and it made sense now, why the other team was getting so heated and why the spectators were getting excited. Somehow, I missed the memo that we were playing the defending State Champions. I mean, maybe somebody told me, but I just blocked it out and just focused on getting to State regardless of who or what was in our path. Essentially, I did more doing than thinking because I could have easily out-thought myself in that situation.  


I think of that circumstance and how often do we out-think ourselves, we don’t even get started because we think of what might happen or worry about a potential result, and we don’t even take the first steps to make it happen. I’m here to tell you that the language of those who win – those who win in their life, those who become their best – they go for it. They go for it, regardless of knowing all the details. You plan, of course, you have a vision, you manage with a plan, pre-week plan, you do all those things, but you have to get going. I love what also Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” The language of those that win, leaves no room for doubt or hesitation. They are never out of the game, regardless of the score.  


Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to associate with many champions in life, business and sports. And one of them that has had a huge impact on me with his winning mentality, is a gentleman named Dan Gable. Now, you may or may not have heard of Dan Gable – this particular setting was an intimate setting at a special conference that one had to qualify for in business, and I was qualified to be there at the time, and Dan, he let us have it. I mean, in case you might be wondering who Dan Gable is, I’ll give you a few of the highlights. He’s a legend in the Wrestling World. As a competitor, Dan Gable was a three-time Iowa High School State Champion, he was a three-time Big Eight Champion at Iowa State University, a three-time all-Americans, and his college prep record was 182 wins and one loss. In 1971, he was the world champion – he won the gold medal in the Munich 1972 Olympic games, without even surrendering a single point, which is nearly impossible, but he did it. He’s been named one of the top 100 Olympians of all time. As a coach – he went on to coach at the University of Iowa – he led the Hawkeye Wrestling Team to 15 national titles, nine of which were consecutive. It’s amazing! 21 Big Ten titles, seven perfect seasons, he’s produced 45 individual national champions. Anyway, it goes on and on – many Olympians, Olympic head coach – and I don’t think I’ve ever written so many notes in my life as I wanted to take home when I was meeting with him there – everything he said; everything this champions said.  


So, here are a few highlights of what Dan told us that day. It would be to your great benefit, as the listener, to write a few of these down. Here it goes. Dan said, “Failure is not something you want to get used to. You have to have a will to succeed, a will to win, not a wish to win.” And he said, “I have a simple philosophy on the wrestling mat. I shoot – I score. You shoot – I score. Either way, I score – and I’d rather not have you score at all.” That’s a great philosophy! Now, can you apply this in life? Think about this: The economy is good – I win. The economy is bad – I win. Either way, I win. I’m reading some of Dan’s notes here. He said, “When I was younger in high school, practice would begin at 7 AM, but I wanted to start practicing at 5:30 AM, and none of the coaches were willing to show up that early. So I asked them to just give me the key to the gym. And my classmates would often ask, walking by and they would wonder, they’d see me early in the gym and say things like, ‘I wonder what he’s doing. Or why is he doing that?’ I think they know now.” Pretty soon, what happened is, other teammates started joining Dan at 5:30 AM, while the coaches would still show up at 7 AM. So, he raised the standard of work ethic, and as a result, he raised their ability to win. That’s a key lesson right there. So, Dan said he started hanging out and around people who didn’t entertain the option of losing. And, he said, “If you were going to hang out with me, you’d better step up your game.” And he said, “I’d always visualize myself winning. Always!” Always visualizing yourself winning. He said, “It’s never too late to win or go after a dream. The goals and dreams you have are typically stuff you’ve read in books, and from the environment around you. The best coaches in sports or business or life, are those who know their players well.” 


When you think about that, do you know your team? Do you know your organization? Do you know your family members well? They know what gets them excited and what buttons to push to keep them going. They care about their players and people in their life, personally. Dan said he had one loss in college and he decided it was going to change his life for the better. He cut out a picture of the guy that beat him and he carried around with him in his wallet for years to remind him to always stay focused – there’s that word again – focused long enough to get the job done. He said that one loss was contributed to a lack of focus on his part and that’s what happens to us when we lose our focus. The guy that beat him struggled big time after that, because he didn’t have any other goals or dreams after a big victory. So, Dan says, “Sure, celebrate the victories in your life, then set out to achieve some more. Life does not determine a champion; a champion determines life.”  


So, during Dan’s talk, it was interesting, he would shift his weight from side to side like he was ready to take someone down at any time and he carried this old worn-out paperback book, rolled up like a gym towel in his right hand, that he would point out in our direction on occasion. Then he said, “People are always asking me, how do I think the way I do? Where do I get all these ideas or notions to become a champion?” And then, he said, “One day I realized that it was the things I put in my head, it was these books of winners that I read. The book in my hand I always have with me” he said, because it was his favorite and it helped him develop his winning mentality. The book was called, “The Heart of a Champion” by Bob Richards – and Bob has become a friend of Dan’s now, and he was the first athlete to be on the front of a Wheaties box.  


Think about that! The 10th principle in the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders is, “Apply the Power of Knowledge”. And when we’re talking about that with organizations and people, we’re saying, “Look, greatness in, greatness out!” We challenge people to read a book a month, to invest in themselves. And here, it just contributes to the language of those who win, are constantly putting great things in their mind, especially through good books. 


For me, I’m grateful because somewhere early in life I, too, learned that when you do things others aren’t willing to do, you’ll achieve things that others won’t. And the language of those that win involves so much more than just the will. One must speak it, think it and act in terms of winning. Unfortunately, on occasion one can have the desire and the talent but if their language is not congruent, it is highly unlikely that the victory will come to pass. Remember – and here’s the key, my friends – winners simply say they can and losers say they can’t. I mean, imagine lining up at the starting blocks next to the famous Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps. What do you think Michael’s language is when compared to those that are competing to knock him off his throne? I’m sure his language is full of words such as, “I got this! I own this! Stay focused!” He gets in the winning zone and adheres to no other distractions. Meanwhile, those competing against him are thinking perhaps the same thing, but with an undertone of doubt, such as, “I hope to win. I hope to do my best! I’ll try to win. I think I can win.” Obviously, the results don’t lie, because we see that Michael Phelps was definitely more certain that he was going to win, than others.  


So, our environment and our belief system play enormous roles in our ability to win. If our surroundings are not conducive to winning all that is desired, that environment can be changed with a decision and a shift in our language. Implementing the language of those that win is simple. It’s just saying daily affirmations, commanding your day, “Today is a great day. Great things are always happening to me. Everything always works out for my good.” We also talk about this when we’re training, speaking to companies about Principle number 11, Living in Peace and Balance, but this is what champions do. They don’t let their day blow in the wind. They live a day by design, and a life by design, instead of by default.  


Well, it’s been a pleasure to be with you! I certainly wish you blessings in your efforts to speak and act like a winner. Just so you know, you can get my book in our library – the Becoming Your Best Library – by going to and get The Liberty of Our Language Revealed. The Language of Those That Win is just one chapter in there, and so many other chapters to help you change your language, change your results, change your environment, and change your life. Friends, this is Thomas Blackwell, and I’m truly excited for all of us to create the best year! It’s 2020 – the year of perfect vision! 


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