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Grit, Grind and Mind: The Path of a Champion

06/23/2015 09:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

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What makes a champion? Is it heart, talent, preparation or a combination of all of these? Why do some break through to astonishing levels of athletic success and performance while others seem to have to fight to just get a glimpse of it?

Dustin Johnson's heartbreaking three-putt on the final hole of the U.S. Open to lose the championship to Jordan Spieth and finish second illustrates this exact point. He was over 96 percent successful in making putts inside of five feet before that fatal moment. Clearly him missing his four-footer for birdie and a tie had nothing to with physical ability or talent. He's made hundreds of these. What this grand moment really revealed was a deeper issue or limit coming to the surface. Hopefully for him a great learning experience for success yet to come. On the other hand, Jordan Spieth finished with a needed birdie that gave him a one-shot lead. There are simply some athletes or teams who rise to the moment and embrace it, and some, no matter how bad they want it, who simply aren't ready yet for a certain level of success.

The search for a formula to consistent winning has been a quest for many athletes and teams around the globe for years. What is the magic to putting it all together? Even the greats in sports have trouble explaining what it is that makes them great. Using lines like, "I just work harder" or "I believe in myself in a very big way." Well you know, so do a lot of other athletes that don't have anywhere near the performance that these particular champions or legendary teams consistently demonstrate. It has to be something else. Some other seemingly hidden or obscure element or factor seems to be in play for the best of the best.

In writing, teaching and speaking about the true nature of peak performance, and in coaching hundreds of athletes at all levels of about peak performance and what it takes to be a champion, the answer has never been clearer. There is something different at work in the minds of those that achieve their dreams and reach elite level performance and results than those that don't. This is an element that is often overlooked when people talk about athletic success as they mostly focus on skill and determination. However, for the future of sports and really for any aspect of life, this understanding is a must for any individual, coach or team that is looking to reach their highest potential and compete at a championship level.

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." - John Wooden

The following are three of the absolute key states of mind or demonstrated actions that are paramount to becoming a champion. Each characteristic an integral part of what it takes to reach the top and to stay there.

GRIT: Grit is defined as courage, resolve or strength of character. To have grit is to be relentless in your will to be the best. This grit shows up in all of your actions as it relates to your goal. From the time you get up, to the time you go to sleep this grit in you to be the best is demonstrated in your unwavering fortitude and intention to make sure you are the most prepared you can be for every situation you will face as a competitor in your sport. Grit emanates from a desire so strong that you feel that absolutely nothing will stop you from reaching your dream. You are full of energy and ready to learn all you need to learn. You are ready to do anything it takes to succeed. In the heart of a competitive battle it is your grit that has you push through that one play or one shot with an effort that is just stronger than your competitor that can make all the difference in the outcome. It is grit that can wear the best of competitors down. You've got to want it more than anything or anyone else.

"A champion is someone who gets up when he can't." - Jack Dempsey

GRIND: This is the grind in the day in and day out commitment to practice, preparation and the sacrifice that it takes to accomplish the dream. It is the work that separates those that rise to the top from those that don't. When an athlete, team or coach has the grit and desire to achieve a goal, no amount of grind becomes monotonous or tiring. The grind is embraced as a necessary and even exciting part of the journey. Toughness, dedication, and the expression of how bad one wants it, is on display through endless preparation and dedicated commitment to being the best and going through the extremely necessary process to get there.

"The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion when no one else is watching." - Anson Dorrance

MIND: Mind is the power of the belief in ultimate successful outcome. It is a state of energy that flows from a mindset that is focused on only one intention, winning it all. Without the power of belief of mind or "mindfulness" it doesn't matter how much grit you have within or how much grind you go through. An unwavering belief must lead the way or else all the other efforts will be futile. There must be no doubt in your capabilities or the intention and capabilities of the team as a whole. When you are operating from this ultimate state there is no fear, only faith. This is a faith that allows you to look at yourself honestly. No ego protects you from the truth of what you need to do or areas you need to improve on to become the best you can be. This humility is exactly what allows the next level of awareness and results.

"You have got to believe in yourself every time you go out there and race. If you have no faith in your ability all that training has been a waste of time." - Maurice Green

This type of athlete, coach or team simply knows who they are, believes them self to be worthy, and trusts the process that will get them there. This is the energy that carries them through the critical moments along the journey that will test them. Rising to the occasion and truly being prepared comes from an indomitable will where the grit, grind and belief of mind come together in a level of preparation and readiness for any situation and any moment that unfolds. The beauty of life is that it can only grace you with what you are ready to receive because you have passed the tests and proven yourself by meeting the challenges, demonstrating your strength of character through your humility, and honoring who you believe yourself to be again and again. This opportunity is given to you in the great victories you experience and most importantly in your reaction to any defeats.

To become a champion and be able to call yourself one for the rest of your life, it means claiming stake to a single space that so many want that is reserved for only one person or one team. Only ONE. In this quest there can be no room for doubt. There can be no room for not giving it everything you have. You have to outlast them all in preparation, persistence and in a mindset that knows you deserve it, that you have earned it, and that you are willing to do everything it takes in every opportunity to claim it. That's when that last effort to tip the ball in the net results in the game winner. That's when the extra effort to throw a great pitch gets the last out. That's when that powerful push on the last snap the football stops them short of a touchdown. That's when, as pressure filled as the situation can seem, a four-foot putt to tie for a major title becomes virtually automatic.

More about my work with athletes and executives can be found at www.HowardFalco.com