The champion without the championship mindset

Last night I was watching Australian open, the match between my favorite player and arguably the best tennis player of all times Roger Federer taking on the Serbian Novak Djokovic who doesn’t even have half the number of trophies Roger has.


The game started on equal grounds but a few games into the first set Novak started to dominate with his aggressive game. You could tell this guy is not going to give in and roll over just because he is playing the champion and it was this mindset that helped Noak to win the first set.


A few games into the second set and Roger really stepped up his game. Up until this point whoever was serving was also winning that game but Roger managed to win a few games regardless of who was serving. He changed tactics from his soft, defensive back-hand/drop shots into aggressive, close to the net, forehand with the addition of his powerfull serves. He got ahead two games and the 6’ 2 Serbian was stunned running around the court like a headless chicken. Roger was performing magic when he played his A game.


But then something very interesting happened. For some unknown reason, perhaps because he lost a mere one point, Roger reverted back to his old self. He had gone back to his comfort zone and refused to continue playing like the confident champion. He refused to continue doing what worked. His aggressive game gave way to defensive once more and he played exactly how the Serbian wanted him to play. It was as if Novak was the world’s best tennis player of all times and Roger was Novak. Needless to say Roger Federer, the world champion was humiliated when he lost 3 sets in a row and was eliminated and it wasn’t even Nadal that was eliminating him.


From this I managed to learn something new. That even the world champion, the one that eats and breaths Tennis, can lose if he doesn’t enter the game like a champion. Federer had lost the mental game long before he lost the physical game. Federer may have had the best serves, higher firepower, better tactics and endless physical endurance but he forgot to bring the most important weapon with him and that was his belief that HE is the champion not Novak.


In our field, sales professionals spend a lot of time on objection handling, immaculate and flashy presentations, great tactics, spin selling methodology and the list goes on. At times however we forget the most important thing. We forget that it is our mindset that will make or break us. We refuse to believe that we are the ones that help companies gain competitive advantage and candidates to get better jobs. We allow ourselves to be undermined by economic news or a mere article written by someone who thinks job advertising boards and Linked in are suddenly going to replace us. We refuse to step outside our comfort zone and to step up our game, change tactics and try new things and instead we allow the outside world to dictate itself onto us. Being a champion is not about how many trophies you have, it is about your mindset when you enter the battlefield.

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Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 28, 2011 at 4:21am




Your comment about, “Being a champion is not about how many trophies you have, it is about your mindset when you enter the battlefield,” is misleading.  Being a champion suggests you have actually achieved something significant in order to be considered a champion.  Now having the “championship mindset” as you put it, may have played a role in one’s success, nevertheless, you’re not a champion based on wanting to be one regardless of how powerful your championship mindset is.  You’re a champion based on accomplishments, some of which are rewarded with trophies, medals, promotions, etc., essentially recognition of high achievement, particularly at the championship level.


While I understand the point you’re trying to make about having the right “championship mindset” to come out on the winning side—what I don’t understand is your insensitivity to a true high achiever in Federer who simply didn’t win on the day you happened to be in your spectator seat making flip comments about him being humiliated and his valueless trophies.  You seem fairly dismissive of high achievement and somehow feel all champions can rally all the time, but when they don’t they must have lost their “championship mindset”.  My guess is the Federer’s championship mindset was kicked into higher gear as he began to lose, but it turned out not to be his day.  Sh#t happens…even Federer can lose.   


So I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that athletes or business professionals are somehow lacking a championship mindset if they don’t pull off the win at a certain place or time.  Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go where it was intended to go regardless of where your mindset is—and there is always tomorrow for another go at the competition.  And if it were just a matter of WILL well the way you talk you should be king of the world by now.  While WILL/attitude does have value it must have hard WORK and preparedness behind it to make your next best effort.  Who knows how jet lag, bad cheese, no sleep or a combination of these and other factors didn’t undermine Federer that day.


Where am I coming from?  I’ve won and lost national and world competitions by inches in Masters and Senior Olympic Track & Field competitions.  When I’ve lost, I was not humiliated in the least because I know I gave it my best shot.  I simply didn’t win that day.  And when I did/do win I get a medal or a trophy because I was/am the best at that particular place in time and that has value for me…competing and earning little and big victories.  Or in business, getting little, big or multiple job placements as a recruiter.  And as for having a championship mindset, I have that all the time—as I suspect most athletes and working professionals do as well--win or lose…and I have the wins, trophies, medals, promotions, bonuses and scar tissue to prove it as do most competitors.


So, Navid—being a champion says a lot about past achievement.  And how many wins, trophies, medals, promotions, bonuses, or simple “thank yous” actually do matter because it says something about results and appreciation for those results.  And all of that does wonders for one’s mindset.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on January 28, 2011 at 4:22am
...Oh, and the trick is not to rest on your laurels.
Comment by Navid Sabetian on January 28, 2011 at 5:33pm

It may help if I elaborate a little.


Firstly and foremost I don't think Federer's trophies and achievements are worthless. He still is my favourite player of all times. Even within the game vs Novak, as I mentioned, he figured out how to win when he stepped outside his comfort zone but he refused to keep doing what worked and instead reverted back to what he was doing in the first set which ultimately led to his loss. He did not believe that he can beat this guy. Otherwise physically he was beating him in the second set.


Secondly he was not playing an exceptional player such as Rafa. Yes Novak is good but nowhere as good as Federer and during the game it was evident that Federer was mentally beaten.


What I have mentioned above is a metaphor. In the field of sales, obviously we dont play tennis to win trophies but rather make sales, make placements, help companies to meet their goals and help people to find their dream job all of which is an achievement in itself.


We may not be a champion in the way Federer is but the concept is that to be good at something and always be on top of your game you need to believe that you are better. Similar to Tennis tactics are important but they play a much smaller part as compared to the mindset of the person that is playing the game.


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