Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Joe Montana was simply the best of the best. As an NFL quarterback he led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl Championships where he was named the Most Valuable Player three times. Championships were nothing new to Montana who also won the National Championship at the University of Notre Dame. What was impressive was how he won games. He did it with poise and through adversity, being known as the “Comeback Kid.” It was a worthy moniker for a player who engineered 31 fourth quarter comebacks. Needless to say, when Joe puts down on paper things he thinks are important for success, we need to take time to read them.

A few years back he wrote a book, "The Winning Spirit: 16 Timeless Principles That Drive Performance Excellence." The book was an easy read. The principles are solid and time-tested, but written in a format easy to understand. This is a great book for players to read. It was also fascinating to read the stories Montana used as examples that were based on his playing days. Here are some short samples from the 16 principles.

Principle #1: KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
It has been said that clarity is power. That’s true, but clarity put into action is ultimate power. It is impossible to strive for something until we know what it is we are pursuing. You have to know what you want.

Principle #2: LOVE WHAT YOUR DO
When you’re doing what you love, it’s not about how many points you put on the board one afternoon or how much money you can take to the bank at the end of the week. It’s about the pursuit itself.

What would a great practice look like for you? When preparing for anything meaningful in your life, what would be the most effective use of your time? In what ways can you put forth extra effort and exceed expectations?

Achieving excellence is about surpassing expectations—our own and those that others have for us—and reaching for new heights. To achieve these heights requires hard work, for which there is no substitute.

Confidence is trusting in our abilities, a feeling that our best effort will result in our intended goal. Success and confidence are symbolic: The more we have of one, the more we find of the other. The greater our trust in ourselves, the greater our ability to inspire others—co-workers, teammates, family members, friends.

Committing errors is how we learn to be better. Failure is an integral part of success...What one person defines as failure, another sees as an opportunity to improve. Successful people look at failure as temporary. They don’t give up; they keep trying. In contrast, people who don’t use setbacks as opportunities to learn tend to look at failure as permanent and personal. They become stuck.

“The heart of a team” became our saying one year on the 49ers. It was suggested by Ronnie Lott, one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs ever to play the game. Ronnie, who became the leader of our defense during our big years, kept saying we needed to embrace the attitude that we all had “only one heartbeat.” Some fifty guys were going after the same goal—to win the Super Bowl—which we could achieve only together, as a team...The mantra caught on in the locker room and on the field. Ronnie talked about it the whole year: “We all have one heartbeat,” he kept saying. “It’s not offense. It’s not defense. It’s not special teams. It’s not a coach or a bunch of coaches. It’s all of us together.

Principle #8: LEAD BY EXAMPLE
The single most potent tool for inspiring others to strive for excellence is leading by example: teaching by our actions, following our own advice, and doing whatever we would ask of others...Exceptional leadership requires integrity and respect. Effective leaders speak the truth.

Principle #9: REMEMBER THE "I" IN "TEAM"
Strong teams are composed of strong individuals...Excellent team performance is usually preceded by intense personal preparation, which is the responsibility of each individual member...I’ve heard people say, “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” To be successful they argue, it must be a team effort. There is, however, an “I” smack in the middle of “win.” And to win as a team, you need individuals.

The essence of this principle and how it relates to the team comes directly from Montana when he said, “I’ll never forget the response I received when I asked, ‘Coach, what was the one quality you looked for first and foremost when recruiting a player?’ I expected he might say something like mental toughness, competitive greatness, outstanding work ethic, unwavering dedication—all essential qualities for athletic success. But his answer surprised me. ‘Consideration for others. It is the essence of teamwork.’

Learning to perform in pressure situations is often the difference between winning and losing in sports and in business. Those who handle pressure best actually thrive on it when they perform. They view pressure situations as challenges and opportunities. Pressure performers have mastered the physical and mental skills needed to execute, thus avoiding panic or loss of confidence at crunch time, the definition of choking...Performing well under pressure can be learned. First it is necessary to recognize that the pressure is created not by the game situation or a time deadline as much as it is by how we think and feel about the particular situation. The difference between a football game in midseason versus the Super Bowl is not the game itself but the mental attitude and emotional intensity of the players, coaches, staff, media, and even the fans. It’s still two teams on a field trying to score the most points.

Chris Mullin, who is now vice president of the Golden State Warriors, told me that when he evaluates players, he looks not only at how their skills, athletic ability, and personality would fit on the team, but also their level of love for the game. “I want guys who would play even if they didn’t get paid for it.” “Don’t coach and teach too much about where you want to be,” Coach Wooden said. “Coach and teach about where you are as a team right now, and what you want to do right now in order to play your best.”

There are three crucial aspects to successful visualization: concentration, imagination, and repetition. By concentrating on the image or outcome we desire, we can step into an “as if” reality, experiencing something as if it is really happening...As we hold this image in our mind’s eye and imagine it as our reality, we have begun the process of what is called “creative manifestation.” When practiced properly, confidence and trust that our dream will come true increases. We set the energy in motion, and at least in our inner word, we have experienced it as real.

Without the accumulated knowledge imparted by coaches and mentors through simple, direct instructions, learning new skills or improving old ones can be difficult. It is also important that we communicate back to them. Expressing our emotions and letting a coach or mentor know what is going on inside our head is crucial. We cannot assume that they know what we are thinking or understand everything we are going through.

Principle #15: WALK LIKE A CHAMP
“Champions aren’t made in gyms,” Muhammad Ali once remarked. “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have late-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.

Principle #16: APPRECIATE
In the midst of striving for excellence, we don’t want to become so preoccupied with our goals and strategies that we neglect to develop a healthy spirit of appreciation for all that is good and right in our lives. Developing an attitude of gratitude is key to a happy and successful life.