A Champion’s Secret Weapon

A Champion’s Secret Weapon

Mar. 8, 2019

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When we analyze extraordinary performers, we find they’re not really extraordinary at all.

As Bruce Lee once said, “The successful warrior is the average person, with laser-like focus.”

That’s what was so exciting about the 10,000 hours revolution.

When Anders Ericsson pioneered the concept and then Malcolm Gladwell made it famous, it was pardigm-shifting.

The idea that the path to world-class expertise was 10,000 hours of focused practice opened the doors to everyone. Greatness became an option for all of us.

It wasn’t the mythical construct of “talent” that made others superior, it was the fact that they’ve done more work than us.

Everyone has a chance if we want it. We were free from all limiting shackles.


There is one thing that separates the amazing from the ordinary. There’s one weapon the great ones have that most people don’t have.

And the best example of this weapon comes in a story about Jack Nicklaus (the Roger Federer of golf).

It’s one of my favorites and it goes like this:

During a speech to the Georgia Tech golf team, talking about his career, Jack stated that he had never three-putted on the 72nd green of a tournament. After the speech, Jack took questions from the audience. A man stood up.

“Mr. Nicklaus, with all due respect, you have three-putted on the last green of a tournament,” the man said. “I remember seeing…”He was about to go on and give an example. And in fact, the man was right. But Jack cut him off.

“Sir, you’re mistaken,” Jack said. “I have never three-putted the last hole of a tournament or missed inside of three feet.” And that was the end of that. 

-from How Champions Think, by Dr. Bob Rotella


In the face of obvious (and accurate) contrary evidence, the greatest golfer of all time had simply denied it ever happened.

Was he being deceitful? Absolutely not.

There was just no reason for Jack to keep bad memories in his memory bank. What good would it do? How would re-living a failure give him confidence the next time he was in that situation?

To be the best, and continue being the best, a warrior savors the positive and erases anything negative. An accurate memory is totally unimportant.

By only remembering the successes, supreme confidence is easily achieved and maintained.

So, yes, hard, focused work is a path toward the top.

But to be the best, a champion needs a short memory when it comes to failure.

Or, better yet, no memory at all.


My book is called The Inevitability of Becoming Rich, and you can find that here.