Winners don’t think.

I was standing in line at one of a chain of gas station/convenience stores.
Inching forward to pay for a cup of coffee.
Suddenly, a disgruntled customer burst in.
“Excuse me,” he interrupted. “The car wash shut down and left soap all over my car.”
The stoic cashier paused and glanced out the window.
At the customer’s soap-covered car.
He then turned and walked away from the register to make a phone call.
Since he was the only employee on duty, the rest of us simply watched and waited.
And waited and waited for his climactic response.
“You’ll have to come back on Monday and speak to the manager.”
The customer was frozen with disbelief.
Had he heard correctly?
He was supposed to drive away with soap all over his car (for which he spent $10).
Figure out how to rinse it all off.
And then go out of his way a few days later and return to “speak to the manager?”
How could a scene so ridiculously wrong be allowed to arise?
Especially in today’s hyper-competitive, customer-connected marketplace?
The notorious boxer Mike Tyson once quipped.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
In my mind, Tyson was trying to convey the character of failure.
Especially in an involved, fast-moving environment.
(Truth be told, one is never quite sure what Iron Mike is thinking or saying).
In the boardroom, on the battlefield, in the ring, or behind a register.
When losers get hit with the unexpected, they flinch.
Instead of confidently working their well-designed plan, they start thinking.
“What should I do?”
And, like the aloof cashier, that’s precisely when they blow it.
Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy made it clear.
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things.
They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking.
Too fast for the other team to react.
They just follow the habits they’ve learned.”
Winners plan.
Winners detail the precise activities required to achieve their desired goals.
Winners train obsessively to instill the requisite habits.
Winners prepare for the unexpected.
And when times get tough, winners follow through on those concrete plans.
Losers, on the other hand, wing it.
Losers do their thinking in the heat of the performance.
Losers convene endless meetings.
Losers let their minds paralyze them with free-flowing information and a plethora of options.
Losers wander into the ring to get punched in the mouth.
After making this view clear during a presentation, a business owner challenged me.
“Are you suggesting that we develop a response for every possible scenario?”
Yes. Yes I am.
You, and your people, should know precisely what to say and what to do when the curtain opens.
Sure, make adjustments when necessary and learn to improvise on the fly.
But always know what role you play in the scene and why.
Winners don’t think when the pressure is on.
They use their mind to plan their work.
Then shut it down and work their plan.