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Sprinkles are for Winners

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

Whether in training or in life, winning is something worth recognizing and celebrating. If you're like me and just finished up "The Last Dance" documentary about the Chicago Bulls, we were fortunate to see winning at a high level. Not just from a sport or championship stand point, but in the daily processes that lead to the end goal of a team and The Goat himself, Michael Jordan. No matter who you are or what you are working towards, it's those small wins day in and day out that add up to accomplish that larger goal.

We could all rattle off multiple clichés about accomplishing goals, or how the journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and we'd all be right, clichés are clichés for a reason. Without the follow though they're just fluff and make us feel warm and fuzzy while reading them. While there is nothing wrong with that, motivational quotes off Instagram only get us so far, so we need to start compiling progress through wins.

All Wins Matter.

Wins come in all forms and all shapes and sizes. They can be as small as waking up on time to get what we want done for the day, to remembering the name of that one friend of a friend the first time we were introduced. No matter what size of the win, they matter. Wins allow us to develop routines, to build relationships and establish consistency, and after all, consistency is king. If we go back to "The Last Dance" and watch how the Bulls practiced and competed against each other, it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone the level of success they achieved. When you combine competition, work ethic and talent in the manner they did, winning becomes the result of the work they put in.

If we look at our own training or practice, specifically for competition, we will fall to our level of training. It becomes just like any other habit, "muscle memory" takes over and we do what we know. Establishing daily wins builds this "memory" and we start to do things without thinking and before you know it, "it" just happens. The example of this would be the 4 stages of competence. In the athletic world, this is usually related to a specific skill, sport or movement, however, it can absolutely be applied to winning as a whole. Those habits, those routines we establish, all add up to form the skill of winning or accomplishing our goal.

The first of stage is unconscious incompetence. Here we are unaware of the skill at all and lack the proficiency in it. So not only do we not know how to win we might not even be aware of what success looks like. Next we transition in to conscious competence. We are now aware of the skill or task but still lack the proficiency. So at this point, we now know what winning looks like but we don't yet have the skill set to accomplish these wins. The third stage is having conscious competence. In other words we are able to perform the skill or accomplish tasks but it takes dedicated effort and focus. Finally, we transition into unconscious competence. This means performing the skill or task just becomes automatic. In other words, not only do we win but due to our habits, time, work and everything put in day in and day out, winning becomes automatic. Transitioning from one stage to the next takes work and consistency and just like anything else, the higher the level, the more work it takes. The wins that we build each day, make a BIG difference in accomplishing what ever goal we are set out to achieve and become the difference between success and failure.

Not only do these wins need to be recognized and celebrated but we need to get them anywhere we can. So the day in and day out tasks that some how seem insignificant, matter. This does not mean however, that we lose sight on the bigger picture. So how do we balance out these wins without handing out participation trophies every time a task has been accomplished. In separate post-game press conferences during different NBA Finals, after winning games and their teams leading in their respective series, both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan reference that the job isn't done and there's nothing to celebrate, yet. That doesn't mean they weren't happy about accomplishing these wins but they kept the perspective as far as what was the purpose and process to accomplish them. Focus on the task at hand and live in the moment but don't lose sight of what these habits add up to. What can you accomplish right now? That is literally all you can control and where your focus needs to be.

Authenticity matters.

When I came into the military community from the civilian world, I was, and still am an outsider. None the less, we had a job to do, which was to train these men in special operations and to physically prepare them for the tasks they'd need to accomplish. I was never in the military, I hadn't gone through the training that got them there nor could ever truly fathom situations they've been in. I had no intent to even to act like I had, nor will I ever. So how does an outsider in any situation build rapport? First you have to care, nothing else matters if you don't because your effort will reflect that and people will see through it. From there, you need wins any way you can. Knowing names, learning culture, getting your hands dirty to become part of whatever you are trying to join. Those wins, although small and sometimes not even noticeable, add up. All of a sudden what goes from a conscious effort on either side to work as a team, just starts to happen but it happens through those little things day in and day out. If the end goal is being able to coach someone to the best of your ability, there is a lot more that goes into that than just understanding periodization.

The Bulls won because of the wins that took place before the game even started. They knew how to get wins each and every day. Wins look very different to different people. If you were to compare the members of that team and what daily winning looked like to them, it varied drastically. Your job as a coach, athlete or just a person in general, needs to facilitate and understand that.

Reflect on what matters to you. What end goal are you trying to achieve? What can you do right now or today to take one step closer to that goal? The decisions you make result in the that actions that take place and those are the wins that you get.

So let the clichés rain. Brick by brick, baby stepping our way to what ever dream or goal we may have. Earn those wins every day because they do add up. Be honest with yourself when you don't get done what you want or fall short. We are all going to have those moments, those days or those losing streaks. What matters though is how we bounce back. How do we get a win right now to turn the tables to get momentum back on our side to start winning again because after all, only sprinkles are for winners.


The story of the cover picture is that of winning.

A few years ago upon completing a training program I was coaching, appropriately named "Sprinkles are for Winners," the idea of bringing in donuts the last day of training was suggested.

I stopped at the local mom and pop donut shop close to home to get a quote and place the order. Now, I had been here before as this place made a fine donut and it was one of those hole in the wall places only locals knew about it. I don't know about you but when you walk into a donut shop and see the plethora of choices, it can be overwhelming, because let's be honest, where do you begin? This place was special because not only did they make tasty treats, the gentleman who ran the place always met you with a smile and appreciated you coming to his shop. Once you took everything in and started to make decisions, the man behind the case always responded with excitement and encouragement. "Excellent choice!" "Smart decision!" You would walk out of the shop, donuts in hand, feeling 10 feet tall.

So, I knew going in that day I had two options, either pick up the night before or hope I could pick up at 4:45 am the day of. Upon talking to the owner, he insisted upon the day of to ensure the quality of his product and so our guys wouldn't have to eat day old donuts. What this meant was that the day of, he went to work before 3:00 am to fill the order of 6 dozen donuts, in addition to his normal workload. Upon my arrival at a little after 4:30 am, he met me at the door, with a cup of coffee and a fresh old-fashioned donut for my drive to work since I had to get up so early. Meanwhile he, had been the one up for hours. The quality of this person and the pride he took day in and day out always brought joy to my heart.

Needless to say the donuts were a hit and brought a lighter side to training and work that day. This resulted in bringing all of us who partook in a sprinkled covered treat a little closer together and enjoyed life a little bit more.

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