Culture: The Difference Between Winning and Losing

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Dirty Dishes

Touched off by a former NFL executive who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite sports columnists, a few words on the importance of culture.

“A winning culture for all successful sports teams is grounded in a recognized mission and shared team goals. It places the good of the team above all else?—?winning matters more than personal goals or making money, and no one is bigger than the team. Everyone works toward one common purpose, guided by a leader with great knowledge.”

Go read the entire piece. You don’t need to be a sports fan to appreciate the message. As a general rule, sports commentary is fabricated from well-worn cliches and specious narratives, so it’s refreshing to find substantive work infused with insider knowledge.

“Culture” is the value hierarchy that dictates your choices. It’s a summary of how you interact with the people and situations that populate your existence. When there’s a struggle to settle on one of the thousands of decisions you need to make each day, culture determines your most frequent response.

If your senses are the prism through which you view the world, your culture is the invisible man directing traffic.

It’s not just a formal credo that keep us in line in public, but the internal directives we give ourselves.

When the alarm clock blares, do you roll out of bed without arranging it? Do you leave dishes in the sink for days on end, telling yourself you’ll wash them later?

Are you downing SPAM and Kraft Mac & Cheese every night or are you sticking to culinary choices your future self will thank you for? 

Is it ok for you to skip the gym any time you’re feeling tired or do you hold yourself to a more exacting standard? 

Is walking your dog is a once-a-month chore that you squeeze in if you have time on a sunny Saturday afternoon or do you do right by your pup?

What you tolerate, you encourage.

Can’t be ruled by your impulses. There has to be an anchor (see: culture) mooring you to a solid foundation. The decay from a lack of discipline seeps into everything you do. Left unchecked, it will rot you from the inside out.

Train to finish first or finish last. The choice is yours and yours alone.

On a macro level, a group’s culture can be a hindrance, distracting members from more productive, team-friendly tasks. If leaders foster a dog-eat-dog environment where collaborators are pitted against each other, unity suffers. Many organizations do this unwittingly by implementing cost-cutting measures with incentives focused on solo performance at the expense of the team.

People with a losing mentality will always lose.

Winners are willing to delay gratification to create results they love. Not content to roll over and laze down stream, they resolve to meet iniquities head on. Also-rans and members of the “I-would’ve-won-if-only…” crew are prisoners of the moment, subject to the whims of immediate desires.

Winners do what everyone else won’t and that starts with the way they think.

The mind is the gatekeeper, delivering the sights, sounds, and words that create our existence. That’s the key to crafting the outcomes you’re striving for: fixating on the achievements you want while ignoring the detours you don’t.

Instilling the right culture in any space you call home is the first step to besting recurring challenges. Willpower and emotion are not enough to get the job done, not when we’re living in an environment engineered to instill feelings of learned helplessness and reduced personal responsibility.

The mind charts the path the body will follow.

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