How To Win More

35,840 hours from age three to 23 years old. That’s the amount of time I spent pursuing my dream of being a professional tennis player. As it turns out my dear Malcom Gladwell (whose glorious hair I lust for) it takes quite a bit more than 10,000 hours to become “world class.”

Impressed by numbers? Here are a few to consider:

One shining moment at University of Florida with my team. (on the left)

  • If you walk without stopping from Toronto to the Yucatan Peninsula it takes 43 days. Walk that route 34 times or four straight years without stopping and I’d still be practicing.

  • NASA takes 333 days to go from Earth to Mars. Elon Musk, about 88 days but I digress. Using NASA’s numbers you could go from Earth to Mars 4.5 times and I’d still be practicing.

  • Game of Thrones? You could watch seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 about 564 times and I would still be practicing.

During these years of running, lifting, studying, training, pushing myself to the limit I was committed to one concept: COMPETING. Engaging in head to head combat proved I was better than the competition but did not get me to #1 in the world. However I did make it to being ranked #1 in America for NCAA Division I tennis but this status is a bit short lived. As it turns out I spent 35,840 hours focusing on the wrong thing. 

Upon closer inspection, competition and winning have very little to do with each other.

Look closely at their definitions:

Competition- “striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same.”

Winning- “to be successful.”

Essentially, competition has everything to do with establishing dominance. When you compete you are seeking to be better than another. Whereas winning is not dependent on competing. Winning is about success it has nothing to do with anyone else. Winning is done by you rather than something done to someone else.

“All we do is win.” -DJ Khaled

Over the last ten years as a coach of high performing athletes, executives, and business owners I’ve heard the phrase “my competition” thrown around more than a presidential tweet.

When I hear this phrase it sends up a red flag typically expressed in a raised eyebrow. 

Here are three signs to know if you are competing rather than winning:

With my father beginning the tradition.

With my father beginning the tradition.

1. Worried about the “Competition” 

This concern immediately communicates the mentality that there is not enough to go around. Not enough investors, or customers, or clients, as though they are all scrapping to get the same dollar from the same ten people. When someone is continually worried about the competition it is worth wondering if they are confident in their product? Do they really know the potential of their market? Perhaps even more alarming, do they want to defeat someone else rather than expanding what they have to offer?

True: Competition breads excellence.

False: Competition is the only motivator. 

Look at the greats of every sport, in the end of their careers they are not working to beat everyone else they are chasing history. The focus is on winning the tournament or the title not on who they are beating in the process. While it can be argued that they are competing with themselves, an equally valid counter is that success is an accomplishment independent of competition.

2. Fear of Failing

In Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” she presents two prominent mentalities: Fixed and Growth. A large indicator of a fixed mindset is when you believe that a failure means that you are a failure. In other words, your identity is your performance. When this is the case competition is an opportunity to continually prove yourself and your relevancy.

True: Failure means you lost.

False: Failure means you are a loser.

“You aren’t a failure until you start to blame.”-John Wooden

While I’m not advocating for participation medals I do believe that the definition of winning includes showing up and giving 100% regardless of the result. This is always thrilling to watch in sports and is even more fulfilling to experience first hand.

3. Commitment to Perfection

In my video “How to Get What You Want” I outline the danger of valuing status over results. Appearing to be continually winning, perfect, or flawed is a form of status and an indicator that you may be a perfectionist. Perfectionists refuse to accept any standard short of their ideal. Often this is a form of competition. Here are a few questions to see if you are falling prey to this trap:

  • Is your way usually the right way?

  • Do you change shirts/clothing more than once before going to a meeting or event?

  • Are tasks best done when you do them?

True: Many successful people are perfectionists.

False: There is a perfect way to be successful.

Consider spending more time on actual results, activities that are revenue generating or that improve your health. Become committed to adopting the old adage “perfect is the enemy of good” by completing work and walking away from it. End the paralysis of perfection by taking small imperfect steps to accept a portion of average in one area of life.

If you choose to compete, know that you can win but keep in mind that winning can occur without competing. Winning, unlike the game of tennis, is not an all or nothing scenario. Winning is not always a zero-sum game.

Jennifer Magley is a former professional athlete, speaker, author, and High Performance Coach. More information can be found at and videos on YouTube.