Earlier this week I was listening to a few recorded interviews on the Jewell and Rightler Radio Show. During an interview with Marv Levy, 2001 Hall of Fame and former Buffalo Bills Head Coach, made a statement that has lingered in my mind ever since. When asked what advice he would give a young rookie he said, "Don't tell me you have the will to win. Do you have the will to prepare? Because if you lack the will to prepare, you really don't have the will to win." He went on to explain, "Just try to get incrementally better every day."
I think the reason his statement stayed with me is because I find it to be so true, not just in sports, but also in all we do in life. Sure, it's natural to want to "win", but that's not really where our focus should be. When we aim to improve ourselves and prepare for the task at hand, we will become a better person and in turn better at what we do. When we strive for improvement, one small step at a time, success will follow.
Just a few day after hearing Marv's advice I witnessed the power of his statement as I watched one of the closest finishes ever in the Boston Marathon women's division. Caroline Rotich of Kenya outkicked Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia over the last 500 feet of the 26.2-mile course, winning in 2 hours, 24 minutes, 55 seconds, just four seconds ahead of Dibaba. In an interview after the race, Rotich said, "I have been waiting for this and training and training. I feel like, ‘Yeah I want to do this and I can’t let it go.'”
It was her will to prepare for this moment, both physically and mentally, that enabled her to have the will to win in the final few seconds of a race that took well over 2 hours of fighting through the cold, the rain and wind to finish. It was her will to train hard day in and day out. Her will to push herself to be better even on the days she may not have felt like her best. Her will to lace up her shoes and complete her training runs when the weather was less than ideal and staying inside would be more comfortable. It was her will to prepare for any condition that ultimately enabled her to cross the finish line first and break the banner.
How many times has it been the hours of preparation that gave you the extra edge when it counted? Whether it was a sporting event or a big meeting at the office, preparation is what allows us to be ready to persevere through extreme conditions. So the next time you take on a task ask yourself, “Do I have the will to prepare?”