Winning: It’s more than just First Place

Winning: It’s more than just First Place

22/05/2017 - Rose Osemwengie
Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee’s selfless rescue of his brother shows a true Winning Attitude.

“Winning is not a destination, it’s a journey” – John Chandler

Rio 2016 Gold and Silver medallists Alistair and Jonny Brownlee hit the headlines once again this week following dramatic scenes in the final race of the ITU World Triathlon Series. In the closing metres of the race Jonny was leading but slowed rapidly, suffering from exhaustion in the 33C Mexican heat. Jonny was on the verge of collapse when his brother Alistair, who was in second place, ran up to him and supported Jonny to the finish line. In doing so they were both overtaken by South African Henri Schoeman, the eventual race winner.

On arrival at the finish line, rather than crossing it side by side with his brother, or crossing first and then leading his brother afterwards, Alistair pushed Johnny across for second position and then followed to come third.

This display of selfless generosity has captured the hearts of millions around the world, and reminded us of true sportsmanship. In their BBC interview after the race, a grateful Jonny said: “Sometimes in sport we talk about winning being the most important thing in the world. A lot of times it is, but maybe helping a brother out was more important.” As news outlets and social media capture the moment, we subtly forget that in fact neither of the Brownlee’s won the Gold medal, but the spotlight shone on them because of the mind-set and attributes they portrayed in their journey to winning.

A Winning Attitude

When we enter competitions, be it a friendly or a championship game, we aim to win, not for the prizes but for the pure satisfaction that winning brings. In this pursuit of the ‘winner’s title’ we often lose focus of what it means to truly win. Winning is a journey, a learning experience that involves our families, our team, our inner circle and our fellow competitors; the Gold medal is just the cherry on top.

“Taking a break has been my biggest challenge – raising my son and getting back to being my best. Winning would be the icing on the cake.” – Jessica Ennis-Hill The CEOs, Entrepreneurs, Sports and Media personalities who contributed to our Winning Attitudes research talked about their experiences and triggers that catapulted them to success. In their stories, they draw attention to the mind-set that enabled them harness their true potential, and this centred on their constant desire to learn from others and their willingness to receive feedback and continuously grow in their field.

They also discussed the external forces that played an invaluable part in their journey to success, namely their supportive network of teammates and family who showed as much dedication to their success as they did, and the losses and setbacks that stimulated their desire to work even harder.

From their experiences, we were able to draw key elements that comprise of a winner’s journey. Two of these were beautifully displayed by the Brownlee Brothers in the World Triathlon Series this week: Dogged Determination and Intrinsic Generosity.

Dogged Determination involves picking yourself up when things don’t go according to plan, having the mental resilience through adversity, and thriving under pressure.

Intrinsic Generosity involves putting others first, helping others achieve success and giving and receiving support and feedback.

Alistair Brownlee had the Intrinsic Generosity to put his brother before himself, and Jonny Brownlee had the Dogged Determination to carry on, even when every fibre in him must have wanted to give up, as he recalled thinking ‘Just leave me alone, let me fall to the floor and I’d get to rest’.

Mutual Respect

Another attribute we drew from the Winners interviewed for our Winning Attitudes research is Mutual Respect. This Winning Attribute entails persuasiveness, empathy and tolerance.

It relates to an individual’s ability to be a strong leader within a team, building strong relationships and bringing people along with them on the journey.

This Attribute is exhibited by the former American Airlines CEO, Tom Horton who sent out thank you cards to all his employees before exiting his position, recognising that it is the effort and support of his team that brought his vision and aspiration for the business to life.

This is also portrayed in the classic 1993 movie ‘Cool Runnings’, (I recommend a watch if you haven’t already), about four Jamaican bobsledders who dreamt of competing in the Winter Olympics as the first of such from their country, despite never having seen snow.

The movie which takes the viewer through an emotional journey of laughter, tears and anticipation, also displays the true value of a team. These four individuals, two of whom had never met before, sacrifice so much, materially, physically and emotionally, in order to secure a place in the competition at Calgary.

They trusted each other implicitly and supported one another through their journey, even when they faced discouragement from other top competitors. On the verge of breaking the bobsled record, their old rusty sled, (as they couldn’t afford a new one), fell apart, but determined to complete the race, the four teammates carry the sled with them across the finish line. They were recognised not because they won, but because of their team work, drive and determination, even when the odds were not in their favour.

It is important to recognise those who support us and contribute to our experiences and successes. Perhaps these thoughts were also going through Alistair Brownlee’s mind when he saw his brother in trouble – not only is Jonny his brother, but he is also his training partner.

We must make sure that we are never so caught up in our pursuit of the winner’s prize that we miss out on living the winner’s journey.

Written by Rose Osemwengie


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