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One Way to WIN Today
WINning at life is simpler than you think.
Every coach is willing to do whatever is necessary to give their team the winning edge: new drills, psychological tips for their athletes, and incentives for effort. Of all the ideas available, the one often forgotten is the W.I.N. strategy—What’s Important Now.
W.I.N.-ing is a simple but effective concept that places the tasks or desired goals as the primary focus and aim of all your efforts and attention. Greg McKeown calls it Essentialism, which is also the title of his book. In Essentialism, McKeown categorizes two types of people: the essentialist and the nonessentialist.
The nonessentialist “Thinks it’s all [tasks,drills, reps, etc.] important…Reacts to what’s most pressing… Takes on too much…Feels overwhelmed and exhausted.”
The essentialist “Thinks less but better…Only a few things matter…Says ‘no’ to everything except the essential…Chooses carefully in order to do great work.”
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When I started coaching track and field—primarily sprints—I was a certified nonessentialist: our athletes did an insane amount of reps and drills, ran to utter exhaustion, and were seldom given time to recover. The kids were miserable, tired, and injured. I was wretched and felt like a failure because I couldn’t make them meet these unreachable sprinting standards. We needed a change.
Fortunately, after listening to and speaking with the polarizing (to some) track and field coach Tony Holler, I decided to put this concept of essentialism into practice for our athletes. We cut back on reps and drills. We emphasized sprinting (instead of the amount or length of running), fully recovering, and resting. We rarely—if ever—stayed after school during the off-season, and we sent the kids home as soon as possible after workouts.
The results for our athletes immediately improved—and not just for our sprinters. All of our athletes got faster and stronger. Kids were healthier, and injuries stopped piling up. They enjoyed the workouts and even started looking forward to them. Since then, their team has won one area and two district championships and has broken six school records.
As a coach, pulling back on the amount of work for our team was one of the most discomforting things I’d ever done. All my life, society preached “more, more, more" as a way to improve and get ahead in life. However, I've discovered that the W.I.N.-ing, “less is more,” strategy might be the more convincing model for improvement—not just for sports, but for life.
Contrary to popular belief, we're not obligated to give 100% of our effort and attention to what we do (work) 100% of the time. Any essentialist (coach, teacher, nurse, etc.) can discover, or rediscover, joy in their work by restricting the time they spend on and in their profession. This discovery joy is found by only focusing on tasks that are necessary to what you aim to accomplish.
When you limit your time working, you force yourself to focus on the tasks most paramount to getting the job done. Less time at or doing work provides you more time to experience all the other areas of life that equally matter.
At our funerals, no one will stand up and read our résumés. Most of us want to be defined by how much we loved our families, served our neighbors, and built relationships with our colleagues, students, and athletes—not by how much we worked.
Greg McKeown writes, “Yes, making the choice to eliminate something good can be painful. But eventually, every cut produces joy—maybe not in the moment but afterwards, when we realize that every additional moment we have gained can be spent on something better.”
The formula for W.I.N.-ing is simple but challenging. Taking on a “less is more” approach to our work is countercultural. You will feel guilty initially. But as you pull back the reigns on your “control” and focus on a few simple yet effective tasks, you will find time to engage your greater capacities to serve, love, and be loved.
Make a list of your top priorities/responsibilities. Then under those, list at least ten current essentials for each responsibility. Next, choose only five that are the most pressing to complete. Lastly, of those five, choose only two that are essential. How can you focus your time, attention, and energy to maximize those two essentials?
One last thing: Sam Jackson, one of my former colleagues and just an all-around great man, passed away a week ago from pancreatic cancer. He leaves behind a wife and 10 children. So if you can find it your heart to support their family, please consider leaving a donation via this Go Fund Me or Venmo.