The Power of Winning (and how to do more of it)

photo (1)“Step follows step,
Hope follows Courage,
Set your face towards danger,
Set your heart on victory.”

~ Gail Carson Levine


There is something powerful about victory. It pulls us. Consumes us. It drives us to do more than just show up and hold a place in the game; it inspires us to rise to the occasion a deliver our best stuff.

And there is some compelling science that seems to indicate that winning is pivotal to our evolution and survival as a species (more on that in a moment).

First, I want to talk about last Sunday. This past Sunday, February 2, 2014 was a special day for me. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and my Seattle Seahawks won their first world championship in their 38-year history, and they did it in convincing fashion, dominating the Denver Broncos 43-8.

To many, it was a ‘boring’ game. To me it was sheer excitement.

As a life-long, die-hard Seahawks fan, I’ve dreamt of the day Seattle would win it’s first Super Bowl. We made it to the big game in 2006,
but were denied. That loss was one of the hardest things an ardent fan can endure.

But last night was different. All those years of being ridiculed and even harassed for my loyalty were vanquished with victory.

It was amazing. It was glorious. It was everything I imagined it would be.

And there is something almost addictive about the feeling of winning on a big stage. Like the first time you fall in love, or the first real danger you got into…and felt alive afterward.

The reason I share this with you is because there is something very important that gets overlooked (and sadly diminished in today’s society) around the topic of winning.

In a previous post, I argued that we have marginalized success
; what I didn’t mention is that we do it to such a degree that everyone wants to claim victory for the most unwarranted things.

In the “everybody’s a winner” world we’ve created, we give trophies, medals and certificates to kids just for participating in a sport. Sometimes, no score is kept at all.

We sugarcoat the truth and avoid tough subjects to remain ‘politically correct’ and avoid confrontation in our careers and homes. Often, there is zero accountability when the ball gets dropped or values are compromised.

Ironically, through this whole process we’ve become a society that nit-picks every last detail of a major contest by pointing out how the winner “got a lucky break” or how the loser “sucked” and “didn’t play to their potential” rather than applauding the victor of a game well played.

What is scary about this is that we’ve lost sight of the true value of victory and what it takes to go beyond being just good.

There are some important aspects to winning that, once realized, tend to change the way we see the game we play—whether it be sports, business, art, or life—and ourselves as the ultimate players.

I recently read a great post by Maria Popova that discussed the science behind winning, and how one victory leads to further success. It seems victory begets victory, and it’s literally programmed into our physiology.

This got me thinking about how we can create the “snowball” effect of our own success. 

If winning propagates more winning, then how do we do it? How do we get that momentum built…and sustain it? Here are some ways to create a snowball effect of winning in your life:

Create small wins. A sure way to eat an elephant is one small bite at a time. So often, we want to win big on the first go around, yet get frustrated when we barely make it out of the starting gate. Sometimes just getting up to play the game is a victory. Do we deserve a ticker-tape parade for just showing up? Probably not; but acknowledging a victory preconditions your mind to create more and bigger wins as you progress forward. Try focusing on creating small, legitimate wins that train your brain to both recognize and recreate victory. What can you do now that sets you up for victory today? Something small, yet tangible; something that sends a message to your psyche that you have what it takes to win.

String small wins together.
Now that you’ve created small victories, strive to place them one after another. Stringing several small wins together leads to confidence and momentum. Before long, you not only mechanically take the actions to win, you internalize the feeling of what winning is like. It’s like muscle memory. It begins to become natural, more organic. Athletes call this “being in the flow”. This is that snowball starting to roll downhill, and it reinforces the result-producing actions and brain activity that leads to further success. This is where you begin to step into your power.

Approach it one game at time. It’s easy to look too far forward and get overwhelmed at the monumental task of winning the big game. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl by taking the 6-month season one game at a time; they won those games by taking one play at a time. This works in business and life (or any other major goal) as well. Whether your last action was a victory or a monumental defeat, focusing on what is next is key to staying grounded and focused. Take responsibility for victory and defeat, and practice staying present and focused on the next challenge in front of you. This is how you stay in your power.

Think ‘Why not me?’ “Okay, JT, I get it. Easy for you to say. But you’re not in my situation…” It’s an easy cop-out I hear occasionally. My question is, “Why not you?” Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson challenged his teammates with this same philosophy in a powerful speech he delivered the night before the Super Bowl, and they went out as a unified force and crushed Denver. The big question is, this is your dream (it is your dream, isn’t it?), so why not seize it? Not everyone wins in life, but dammit, somebody has to win, why not you? Start seeing yourself as the victor instead of the victim. Stop seeing the reflection in the mirror as an underdog and start seeing a Champion.


Legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, is famous for saying, “Winning isn’t everything, but making the effort to win is.” It would be a truly different world if each of us woke up everyday with the focus on making the effort to win in everything we do. Playing with intensity and integrity. Playing to with heart and soul. Playing for something bigger than ourselves. Playing to win.

Now go out and get that snowball rolling.

Fly High, Fly Fast, Flay Far.

2 Responses to The Power of Winning (and how to do more of it)

  1. I watched the Super Bowl and was captivated watching the Seahawks play all out. The enthusiasm, and “I will not be denied” attitude, was awesome to watch unfold. This was the most exciting game I ever watched. Witnessing greatness in the moment is surreal. It does not matter to me that others cannot see things this way. All that matters is I can see the forest through the trees.

    • JT DeBolt says:

      Michelle, you definitely got the big messages from the game. Where some saw a ‘boring’ game, you saw the excellence and the dominance. Sports can be a tremendous teacher, and Super Bowl XLVIII was brimming with great lessons.
      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who found the game exciting 😉