Do You Have the Mindset of a Champion? - Common Sense Living Newsletter
Common Sense Living India

Do You Have the Mindset of a Champion?

May 08, 2015


Are you able to look at your career challenges and feel certain you can overcome them? Do you feel, like Mohammed Ali and Michael Jordan must have felt, that you have greatness in your soul?

If your answer is "no," don't worry. I don't have that mindset either.

I never did. I never felt like a natural-born winner. I never had the confidence that the people I admired seemed to have.

I doubted I could ever fully understand anything about business when I started writing about it in 1976. Just back from a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, teaching literature to students in Chad, I got a job with a newsletter called "African Business & Trade." I remember looking at that name on the door my first day and thinking, "What is the difference between business and trade?" I learned fast.

My next business-related position was as editorial director for a fledgling publisher in Florida. I had a half dozen freelance writers reporting to me. My job was to edit and polish their work. But I could barely understand what they were talking about: robotics and professional practice management and agribusiness, etc. How could I presume to tell them what to do? Again, I learned fast.

When I set out to create and market my own investment newsletter, I was nearly paralyzed with fear. I was not just worried about failing. I was sure I would. But my doubtfulness was proven wrong once again. That publication earned millions of dollars in its first year. Today, it has mushroomed into a $70 million investment publishing franchise.

When I first retired at 39 and spent my days writing poetry and fiction, I didn't imagine for a moment that I'd get any of it published. But in the 12 to 14 months that I did that writing, about a dozen of my stories and six poems were published in literary magazines. Three of them won prizes.

In 1992, Bill Bonner asked me to help him grow his publishing business. I took the job because he made me an irresistible offer. A year later, sales had jumped to $24 million and he asked me if I thought we could eventually be a $100 million business. I remember telling him, "I'd be thrilled if we can keep sales as high as they are. My best guess is that we will get smaller next year, not bigger." But we did get bigger. And when we hit that $100 million target, I said, "Let's just be happy with this." Ten years later, our revenues topped $500 million and our profit margins had doubled too.

When I returned from Africa in 1977, I had a $400 car and about $300 in savings. Today, my wife and I own two multimillion-dollar mansions, have tens of millions of dollars in the bank and brokerage accounts, and interests in businesses with a combined value of well more than $20 million.

So I know that you can be successful in life without thinking like a champion. I know it's possible to accomplish amazing things.

I'm telling you this in case you, too, are full of doubt and fear. I want you to know that you don't necessarily have to change your "attitude" to be a winner.

I tried to change. I read the books and studied the tapes. I shouted mantras while driving and yelled at myself in the mirror. I did it all, but it didn't change the way I felt. If I'd had to wait till my attitude changed, I'd still be waiting.

Instead, I found something different. I call it the Secret Path for the Timid. It is a low-key, back-door strategy that I believe will work for anyone who has a humble heart and a doubtful mind.

The success I have had comes from two very simple ideas.

  1. If I didn't have an abundance of natural talent, I could make up for it by working harder to acquire the skills and knowledge I needed.

  2. If I didn't have the natural genius to come up with great ideas, I could find out what rich and successful people were doing and imitate exactly what they did.

When I took that job with "African Business & Trade," for example, I spent hours every evening in the National Library, studying the subjects I was writing about. I never told my boss I was doing that extra work because I didn't want him to know how ignorant I was. I simply worked twice as many hours as the other writers. And slowly but surely, I began to know what I was talking about. Eventually, I was as good as any writer on the team.

When I started writing my first sales letter, I hadn't the faintest notion of how to do it. So I spent several weeknights and weekends reading every successful sales letter I could get my hands on. I copied lines that caught my eye. I made notes about how the sales pitches were structured. I studied how the offers were designed – the pricing and premiums and guarantees that made those great sales letters so effective.

Gradually, I learned what I needed to know. The mysteries that had befuddled me as a beginner in business and marketing slowly became clear.

With each small success, my confidence grew. But it was not confidence in myself. It was confidence in the process of working hard and emulating success.

Don't wish it were easier. Wish you were better. – Jim Rohn
Source: Iliana Mihaleva / Shutterstock

Years later, after I had built many businesses and acquired wealth, people began treating me like a champion. They assumed I had natural born talents they lacked.

Part of this was my fault. To motivate the people who worked for me, I put on the mask of a champion. I pretended to be undeterred by any problems and happy to take on any challenge.

I now believe I was wrong to do that. In an effort to motivate them, I was doing the opposite - I was unwittingly suggesting that to accomplish what I had accomplished they had to have my confidence and courage.

I should have told them the truth: that my accomplishments came slowly and painstakingly. The reality was that I was a natural born entrepreneurial dimwit. I should have admitted that and explained that my success was the result of mule-like hard work and monkey-like imitation.

I've got a few important things to say - things I have purposefully or unconsciously omitted in the past. What I'm telling you today is one of those things.

The point of today's message is that I don't believe you need the mind of a champion to be successful in business. You need to do only two things: Work harder than those who are competing with you and imitate the actions of successful people you admire.

If you do that long enough you will have the success you yearn for. And as a bonus you will have acquired courage and confidence too.

The courage and confidence I have today was not achieved by mantras or meditation or self-imaging. It was all achieved by the persistent application of hard work and imitation. If you work hard and smart at anything long enough, you will know success. And with each small success, your mind and heart will grow incrementally braver and more confident. Eventually, you will wear the mask of a champion. But when that happens, remember to take it off in front of those you love and care about.


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19 Responses to "Do You Have the Mindset of a Champion?"

Ambika KApoor

22 May, 2015

Absolutely well taken for. Thank you Mr Ford for being so earnest. This article reminds me of my own realization that in this prevailing cacophony around world for being the best in the rat race without knowing what exactly we are aiming for in business as well in personal lives we are just heading to be the best to others or let us say for the sake others. Your article bring back my focus that in personal lives bringing change from the complexes of being caught up in fiercely competitive struggle for wealth or power (personal gains), to take more profound and simple approach towards achieving your aims step by step by being instrument of service and leading without title (contributor) .

Hemanth P.S.

13 May, 2015

This piece gives hope and inspiration for the majority of us who do not possess the great self-confidence that all champions seem to have. I have also heard in interviews of a great actor and a great cricketer that even after all these years, for the first few minutes that they enter the stage or the field, they feel quite nervous and shaky; after a while, their skills come into the flow.


13 May, 2015

Hi Mark , Iam a fan of Michael Jordan, he made the World believe he could Fly . Guess what we dont often get to see is the relentless efforts and the path that makes a Michael Jordan or a Mohammed Ali. Thanks for sharing your story and reminding that there is no substitute for Hard Work and Staying Humble.Will take a leaf out of this column.

Like (1)


12 May, 2015

Thank you for a honest piece. That's something I can do


11 May, 2015

Thanks for sharing about your life. It touched my heart because its looks like I am similar phase of life

Thomas Thinakaran

10 May, 2015

Making of a Champion through life experience is teaching-learning for those who want to learn. Hard working to become a Champion becomes crucial to excel, Thanks

Sanjay Malik

10 May, 2015

I really agree the hard work pays and gives you confidence and make to lead as Champion.

tejinder singh

09 May, 2015

well said in very few words -be a mule and a monkey and you will gain courage and confidence .ultimately become a champion

Mandadi Pardha Saradhi

09 May, 2015

Very sage advice. If you count pennies, pounds accumulate. As Bhagavadgeeta says performing nishkama karma is pertinent than worrying about results. Well said that persistent application of hard work,application of heart and soul in the work on hand, and enjoying small bits of success paves the way for meaning full way of life. The technique of saying simple things directly to touch the heart of readers is praise worthy. Great article.

Like (1)

vivek sakharkar

09 May, 2015

nice article.. Mr. Ford.. really inspiring

vivek sakharkar

09 May, 2015

nice article.. Mr. Ford.. really inspiring

vivek sakharkar

09 May, 2015

nice article.. Mr. Ford.. really inspiring

kuldeep singh

09 May, 2015

Nice article..Perfect example of practical thinking!!

vijay kaushika

09 May, 2015

No, I don,t have the mindset of a champion. But i posses the simplicity of following my heart and soul,enjoy my work,keep myself happy and make every effort to make my colleagues,subordinates,seniors and friends cheerful. This is an excellent article and an honest revealing, sure a guide for millions of people.


08 May, 2015

That's a wonderful motivating story.just when I need it the most.thanks for sharing.


08 May, 2015

I wish it is actually so easy! I also work hard and yes harder than my competitors. I guess I am reasonably intelligent too. But still success is not there. What I think is missing in this write-up, is that one also needs the right break in life.


08 May, 2015

Very true! But my experience says you need to have that 5% luck also with 95% hard work and following leaders.The most difficult task for any person is to come out of the comfort zone and take risks in life,more so if you have a family to support.Further I understand this is the age of specialization in one field,being multi skilled does not really help

Ashok Kumar Singh

08 May, 2015

Very revealing narration.These are the GOLDEN words of WISDOM.


08 May, 2015

Fantastic! I have seldom read a piece that is so astoundingly humble and to the point but that conveys so much of depth and creates understanding. Awesome post!


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