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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