What Makes a Winner? 13 Telling Traits

Sept. 28, 2009
Winners Require Dreams, Preparation, Focus, Passion, Hard Work, Responsibility, Goals, Perseverance and More

"At the end of the day, I don't care what field you're in; it's all about winning," said Pat Williams, senior vice president of the National Basketball Assn.'s Orlando Magic and author of 38 books on a variety of people and topics. Williams spoke to open the 2009 Emerson Global Users Exchange in Orlando, Fla. "In my business, the wins and losses are in the headlines every day. But in process engineering, it's about the wins and losses too. I'm in the winning business. I've been in professional athletics almost 50 years."

Williams shared the 13 traits he's documented as the qualities of winners.

"The first quality of winners is they have a dream," he said. "Without a dream, we tend to drift. We can dream forever. We can have the greatest dream ever. But if we don't put it into action, nothing is going to happen."

Williams explained that he knew when he was seven years old what he wanted to do. "We lived in Wilmington, Del., and my dad drove me to see the Philadelphia Athletics play the Cleveland Indians in a doubleheader," he said. "I woke up the next morning overwhelmed and knew what I wanted to do with my life. The first ingredient of the winners is to have a dream and put it into action."

The second quality is preparation. "When preparation is in place, it breeds confidence," said Williams. "Where does confidence come from? It comes from preparation. The second key to being a winner is preparation, which leads to confidence."

The third quality is that winners have is the unique ability to focus on what's going on right now, he explained. "It's as if they're in the Kentucky Derby and have blinders on, so they'll be zeroed in on what's going on right now," said Williams. "The ability to focus is a hallmark, an earmark, of the winners. If I look a week or a month out from now, it almost terrifies me. But if I look just at today, I can handle that."

Passion for what they do is the fourth quality of winners. "They are filled with zeal and zest," said Williams. "They are imbued with passion. They are excited about what they do. I encourage you to let your passion, your energy, flow. Where does passion come from? You've got to love what you do."

"When preparation is in place, it breeds confidence." From perseverance to preparation, the Orlando Magic’s Pat Williams explored the varied facets of what it takes to be a winner.Hard work is the fifth quality of winners. "They understand you've got to put shoe leather to the pavement every day," said Williams, who referenced examples such as Michael Jordan lifting weights at 2:30 a.m. in Phoenix after a game, or Tiger Woods out for a run in 95° heat in Isleworth, Fla.

The sixth quality of winners is they take responsibility, said Williams. "We're living in an age of deflected responsibility. In today's business climate, if the decision does not work out, people seem to have a case of instant amnesia," he said. "At the end of the day, the winner understands there's a consequence for every decision."

Specificity in goal-setting also is a quality of a winner. "A clear-cut, definite goal is a powerful motivating force," he said. "I would recommend having short-term, mid-range and long-term goals. The most important ingredient in being a good goalsetter is discipline, more specifically, self-discipline. We can have all of the goals in the world, but these goals need a written deadline. With self-discipline, we can make these goals become reality."

The eighth quality of a winner is perseverance. "The winners hang in there," said Williams. "They may get weary. They may get discouraged. But they don't quit. You can't let go of the vine, no matter how bad things are."

Closely related to perseverance, dealing with adversity is the ninth quality of winners. "We're always in one of three positions: We've just come out of a storm; we're in a storm; or we're headed into a storm," explained Williams. "What are we going to do in the middle of our storm? Crash and burn, or crash and learn? The struggles are the best things that have happened to me."

The 10th quality of a winner is a positive attitude. "The winners in life have a positive attitude," he said. "The glass is always half-filled or totally filled. Every day, I get to pick my attitude. It's the only thing I have control over. At the end of the day, that's all I can control. Every moment of every day, you get to pick your attitude. Pick a good one."

The 11th quality of winners is they pay attention to the little things. "The challenge is to take care of the little things," explained Williams. "On the first day of UCLA basketball practice every year, Coach John Wooden would show his players how to properly put on their shoes and socks for an hour." Wooden, said Williams, didn't want to lose a game or a championship because of a blister on the foot of a player who put on his shoes and socks incorrectly. "He was taking care of the details."

The 12th quality of winners is that they strive for perfection. "They are working to the highest level of quality," said Williams. "When you head out to Disney properties, they're all expecting Walt to show up. Striving for and attempting to get to the highest level of quality is something we never should sacrifice."

The final quality is that winners thrive on competition. "They love it," he said. "They take it as a personal challenge. What do you do about the competition? You do not firebomb their buildings or put arsenic in their water supply. That leaves us with one option: Welcome the competition."