2010-01-25_1148I nor­mally don’t do moti­va­tional pieces — unless I’m talk­ing about moti­vat­ing the cus­tomer to buy ;)

I don’t do them because they’re not my forte and because my read­ers would nor­mally find bet­ter moti­va­tional con­tent over at the blogs of Steven Press­field and Tim Miles and Shawn Phillips.

But I was recently reminded of my high school swim­ming days and felt com­pelled to re-read the title essay from Dr. Keith F. Bell’s book on swim­ming psy­chol­ogy: Win­ning Isn’t Nor­mal.  It was worth order­ing the book again, just for that essay, although the rest of the book car­ries every bit as much impact.  I 100% guar­an­tee rel­e­vance for writ­ers, entre­pre­neurs, small busi­ness own­ers, etc and have excerpted the essay from the book, with the kind per­mis­sion of the author:*

Win­ning isn’t nor­mal.  That doesn’t mean there’s any­thing wrong with win­ning. It just isn’t the norm.  It is highly unusual.

Every race only has one win­ner.  No mat­ter how many peo­ple are entered (not to men­tion all those who tried and failed to make the cuts), only one per­son (or one relay) wins each event.

Win­ning is unusual.  And as such, it requires unusual action.

In order to win, you must do extra­or­di­nary things.  You can’t just be one of the crowd.  The crowd doesn’t win.  You have to be will­ing to stand out and act differently.

Your actions need to reflect unusual val­ues and pri­or­i­ties.  You have to value suc­cess more than oth­ers do.  You have to want it more. (Now take note! Want­ing it more is a deci­sion you make and act upon — not some inher­ent qual­ity or burn­ing inner drive or inspi­ra­tion!)  And you have to make that value a priority.

You can’t train like every­one else. You have to train more and train better.

You can’t talk like every­one else. You can’t think like every­one else. You can’t be too will­ing to join the crowd, to do what is expected, to act in a socially accepted man­ner, to do what’s “in.”  You need to be will­ing to stand out in the crowd and con­sis­tently take excep­tional action. If you want to win, you need to accept the risks and per­haps the lone­li­ness… because win­ning isn’t normal!”

P.S. I think this applies to copy­writ­ing with­out any spe­cial effort made to “trans­late” it, but this Mon­day Morn­ing Memo from Roy Williams cer­tainly takes the sub­ject of this essay in a more writing/messaging-specific direction.

* As you might imag­ine, this is an extremely pop­u­lar essay and so has been fre­quently excerpted and posted on the web with­out per­mis­sion from the author and even with­out proper attri­bu­tion.  If you’d like to use this essay or pass it on, please con­tact the author to arrange for per­mis­sion.


  1. dirt on 01.26.2010

    The WINNER per­formed by Bobby Bare writ­ten by Shel Silverstein

    The hulk of a man with a beer in his hand he looked like a drunk old fool
    And I knew if I hit him right why I could knock him off of that stool
    But every­body they said watch out hey that’s the Tiger Man McCool
    He’s had the whole lotta fights and he’s always come out win­ner yeah he’s a winner

    But I had myself about five too many and I walked up tall and proud
    I faced his back and I faced the fact that he had never stooped or bowed
    I said Tiger Man you’re a pussy­cat and a hush fell on the crowd
    I said let’s you and me go out­side and see who’s the win­ner
    Well he gripped the bar with one big hairy hand then he braced against the wall

    He slowly looked up from his beer my God that man was tall
    He said boy I see you’re a scrap­per so just before you fall
    I’m gonna tell you just a lit­tle bout what it means to be a win­ner
    He said now you see these bright white smilin’ teeth you know they ain’t my own

    Mine rolled away like Chick­lets down the street in San Antone
    But I left that per­son cursin’ nursin’ seven bro­ken bones
    And he only broke ah three of mine that makes me the win­ner
    He said now behind this grin I got a steel pin that holds my jaw in place
    A tro­phy of my most suc­cess­ful motor­cy­cle race
    And each morn­ing when I wake and touch this scar across my face
    It reminds me of all I got by bein’ a win­ner
    Now this bro­ken back was the dyin’ act of a hand­some Harry Clay
    That sticky Cincin­nati night I stole his wife away
    But that woman she gets uglier and she gets meaner every day
    But I got her boy that’s what makes me a win­ner
    He said you gotta speak loud when you chal­lenge me son cause it’s hard for me to hear
    With this twisted neck and these migraine pains and this big ole cau­li­flower ear
    And if it wadn’t for this glass eye of mine why I’d shed a happy tear
    To think of all that you gonna get by bein’ a win­ner
    I got arthritic elbows boy I got dis­lo­cated knees
    From pickin’ fights with thun­der­storms and char­gin’ into trees
    And my nose been broke so often I might lose if I sneeze
    And son you say you still wanna be a win­ner
    Now you remind me a lotta my younger days with your knuck­les a clenchin’ white
    But boy I’m gonna sit right here and sip this beer all night
    And if there’s some­thin’ that you gotta gain to prove by win­nin’ some silly fight
    Well okay I quit I lose you’re the win­ner
    So I stum­bled from that bar­room not so tall and not so proud
    And behind me I still hear the hoots of laugh­ter of the crowd
    But my eyes still see and my nose still works and my teeth’re still in my mouth
    And you know I guess that makes me the winner

  2. Jeff on 01.29.2010


    Keep in mind that Shel Silverstein’s poem speaks of the same thing that Dr. Bell’s essay does:

    Con­sciously decide on what you want. Real­ize the cost. And if you do want what you say you want, then com­mit to tak­ing the actions and pay­ing the price for the what it is you want. That’s Win­ning and, as Dr. Keith says, Win­ning Isn’t Normal.

    In Silverstein’s poem, you have the oppo­site case, where the guy hadn’t thought too much about what he really wanted and had NEVER counted the costs or really com­mit­ted to pay­ing the price.

    - Jeff
    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..Win­ning Isn’t Nor­mal =-.

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