The Greatest Competitive Advantage Is How Hard You Work Before the Game Begins

Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski recently achieved his 1,000th win as a college basketball coach. Now the winningest coach in the history of NCAA Division I Basketball, “Coach K” made one point to Marty Fukuda during the onslaught of media interviews that followed. He referred to his coaching philosophy, sharing that the will to prepare is as important as the will to win.

All the glory surrounding business and leadership tends to fall around strategic decisions and execution thereafter, but as Krzyzewski points out, the real victory starts much sooner. It begins with having the will to prepare. Here are four ways to muster your will and get prepared for what’s to come:

1. Stay ready so there’s no getting ready.
If you work hard, remain consistent and maintain a great attitude, you will see opportunities present themselves. Still, they often appear when you least expect them – and not as soon as you wish. For this reason, it’s important to proactively prepare by anticipating the possibilities and consistently working to better yourself as a professional.

2. Create a self-development routine.
In business, preparing to win means extracurricular learning. It’s the secret weapon for many executives and entrepreneurs on the rise. The discipline to focus on improving yourself outside of “work” hours, be it reading leadership books or otherwise, will separate those who have the will to win because they have the will to prepare.

To ensure you’re on the right track, create a self-development routine. Decide what you will read, whom you will talk with and how much time you will commit to the process. Start by doing one thing daily, no matter how big or small, to prepare for any opportunity that comes your way.

3. Undergo a self-evaluation.
As a leader, how much more knowledgeable and effective are you today than you were one year ago? If the truth is brutal, the blame can likely be attributed to a lack of preparation. Realize that the only way to get a positive answer next year is to actively prepare now.

Consider where you want to be as a leader next year. Then brainstorm how to achieve this; keep in mind where you have fallen short in the past, and start making the necessary adjustments.

4. Seek a mentor or coach.
For nearly anything you want to accomplish, there’s someone out there who’s already achieved it. These individuals are valuable resources. Ask them to be a coach, sponsor or mentor to help you navigate your career. If and when they give you their time, make the most of it by asking prepared, insightful questions.

If you want to develop the will to win, make sure that you invest in winning now by developing the will to prepare before the game begins.

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