Six Attributes of Success

Nicholas wins againIn my last post, I passed on a blog article about 9 Ways a Theater Degree Trumps a Business Degree. Next in line is five Characteristics of a Successful Wrestling Mindset from Gene Zannetti, a sports psychology expert.

I have always said that the lessons learned in ______ [fill in the blank] translate to success in life. If a person learns to translate the lessons learned in childhood play to adulthood endeavors, and indeed “life” itself, that person will be successful. If that transition is not made, the richness of those experiences is lost and they become only faded memories.

Wrestling is a particularly lesson rich field. I learned two of the most profound (for me at least at the time) lessons through wrestling: 1) once you start something, you must finish it; and 2) do not be afraid to fail. I think I have somewhat successfully instilled those attributes in my children. The memories of past triumphs (and unfortunately past failures) really fade in comparison with the life lessons that were learned through blood, sweat and tears and which I carry with me, as part of who I am, today.

Just two days ago, Jordan Borroughs won his 65th senior (Olympic) level match and with it his third consequetive world or Olympic title. He has never lost in senior level competition. Unknown to anyone but his coaches, Jordan severely injured his ankle in practice on August 22nd. He had surgey the next day. Two plates and five screws were implanted into his ankle, and he could not wrestle until the day he stopped out on the mat for the World Tournament on September 18th. The traits that make Jordan Burroughs a success come shining through in the interview with Flowrestling right after he came off the mat.

Jordan Burroughs describes in that Flowrestling interview the “five characteristics of a successful wrestler mindset” – now translate that to a successful person mindset.

Passion for what you do. To be successful at anything, you must be passionate about what you are doing! If you are not passionate about what you are doing, find something you can be passionate about and do that. We all have done mindless, menial work in our lives, and sometimes (or perhaps, most of the time) the work we do are is mindless and menial, even the work that goes into our passions. Passion needs to be the undercurrent, the driver, the sustainer, even in the middle of the mindless, menial movement toward our goals.

Courage to “lay it all out there”. No person ever failed for trying. The failure comes in not trying or not trying hard enough, not giving all you have and being afraid to fail. That was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. I was a good wrestler, but I became afraid to fail. It ate me up. Fear brings pressure. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the freedom to pursue success relentlessly inspite of the possibility of failure.

Vision. Vision creates pespective. It spurs on hope. It keeps your head up when trudging in the trenches. Modern athletes spend time visualizing themselves succeeding (actually seeing their success in their minds). When you visualize something you begin to believe it. Without a vision the people perish (to paraphrase Proverbs). If you cannot see yourself succeeding, no one else will, and you probably will not succeed at whatever you are doing.

Resilience is maybe the place where more people fall down, and do get back up, then anything else. No person succeeds 100% of the time. There are set backs. Some of them, like a broken ankle less than a month away from the World Tournament, are more difficult than others. Sometimes, it is not the big setbacks, but the little nagging ones that take the most toll. A successful person is someone who gets back up, and gets back up, and keeps getting back up and pushing forward. Successful people will say that the failures only made them stronger. that worn statement is no plattitude. Resilience is a must have characteristic of success and can only be learned by resistance that gets in the way. Like lifting weights, those setbacks do make us stronger.

Confidence, All successful people have confidence. Confidence comes from working hard, doing things right and and frm the successes we have along the way. Confidence even sometimes comes from failures and learning from mistakes. When the reasons for failure are known, steps can be taken to avoid those mistakes, and confidence results from knowing that you can avoid those mistakes. Confidence, alone, is not sufficient, and false confidence is just delusional, but no success is possible without confidence.

My son was a small 103 pounder his sophomore year in high school. He would weigh in holding his lunch (just a little friendly dig at his starving teammates). Going into the Sectional tournament to qualify for the State tournament, his weight class was filled with a who’s who of good wrestlers, including the undefeated phenom who was favored to win the State tournament who was probably dropping about 20 pounds to make weight.

Nicholas told me he was going to wrestle him and beat him. I admired his confidence, but I did not give him much chance. My son drew the would be champ in the second round. No one believed he could do it, including me. After only the first period, the match was not even close. Nicholas was losing 9-2, and those two points were only scored because the other wrestler let him to take him down again. At one point, Nicholas had to fight off his back to keep from being pinned. You could see, however, that he had confidence in his eyes when period ended, and he was still in the match. Not long into the second period the tide turned. I happened to have it on video. At about the 3:30 mark, the unthinkable happened. You will have to watch it here if you want to know the rest of the story. A picture (or a video) is worth a thousand words.

Faith. I would add that faith in God is also a key ingredient. That is not to say that people who do not beileve in God cannot be confident and cannot be successful. There is often, however, little separation between successful people and other people with similar abilities. The differences can be intangible. I believe that one of those intangibles is faith and a relationship with the Creator who gives us those abilities.

There are many parallels between wrestling and life, theater and life, or whatever it is that you gave yourself to as a child or young adult. Not everyone stands on top of the podium or gets the lead part, but the takeaways are there. If you apply them to your life, you will be successful. If you do not apply those lessons to be learned, you are missing out of the richness those experiences that will hold you in good stead in your life

Explore posts in the same categories: Faith, Olympics, Sports, Wrestling

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3 Comments on “Six Attributes of Success”

  1. Hans Hauptmann Says:

    Great. Wrestling’s greatest lesson to me is what you called number 1. Once you start you have to see it through to the end win or lose but always fighting. – Hans Hauptmann


    • That was the first lesson for me and maybe tho most significant one; though fear of failure may have prevented me from venturing forth. Success is not won in holding back; success requires some abandonment and daring. Then there is no turning back.


  2. […] Six Attributes of Success This piece was inspired by Jordan Burroughs winning the world wrestling championships with metal plates and screws in his ankle, six weeks after the devastating injury. It stands on its own and draws from my own experience and my own children. This piece garnered the most comments of any article for the year. It covers almost every category – faith, currents events, sports/wrestling, my own faith journey, even apologetics in the sense that faith inspires, and has inspired, many great people who accomplished great things. […]


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