In the mentoring and presenting work that I do I talk about the difference between winning and succeeding, something that applies not just in sport, but in all areas of life.
In a documentary on an Ironman World Champion, he talked about his thought process when he crossed the line. The first thought wasn't that he'd just won; it was that he was in the middle of getting a divorce. I believe that if you finish last but have shared your journey in a way that has enriched your relationships, you have succeeded far more than someone who has won but crosses the line alone.
John Wooden, previous Head Coach of the UCLA Basketball team, talked about the three differences between winning and succeeding:
1. Never try to be better or compare yourself to someone else
Key for me, as a professional athlete, has been not judging my success or failure on how those around me are performing. I know that come race day there are two factors in my control, my effort and my attitude.
I have no control over who turns up on the day, how they race, or what training they have done. All that I can do is execute the best race possible based on my own training and ensure my attitude stays positive in the face of adversity. The best athletes know that their biggest competition is themselves.
2. Always learn from others
The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop being competitive. Instead of looking at everyone around you as competition you should instead see them as a great resource for learning how to be the best you can be.
I hate being beaten but I also know that the negative energy of frustration serves no purpose. By making it a positive learning experience then significant performance improvements can be achieved.
In a work environment, position title, or years of service, should never constrain what people can continue to learn. I recently worked with someone on improving their presentation skills. One of the ways we did this was having them recognise who in their workplace is consistently good at presenting, then approach them to help mentor and support.
3. Never cease trying to be the best you can be
For me, the biggest learning from being a professional athlete has been that the 'best I can be' is not defined in the physical sense of being faster than everyone around me. It is about realising my potential and following my own journey. It's about measuring my success, not just through race results, but how I go about living my life. Being patient with the process and not distracted by those around me.
So figure out what success means to you, make sure that it isn't based on those around you and that it is entirely in your control. Then it's up to you to put in the effort to get there.