The Quality That Separates the Achievers from the Average

Pat SummittAccording to Pat Summitt, the legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach who won 1,098 games and eight National Championships, there is one important quality that separates achievers from everyone else.

In sports, in business, and in life, this is the quality that separates those who rise to the top from those who are content with being average…


Competitiveness is not always compatible with good manners. It’s not the most sociable quality you can possess. People won’t always like you for it.

But competitiveness is what separates achievers from the average.

Only by learning to compete can you discover just how much you are capable of achieving. Trust me, you have more within you than you realize. Competition is one of the great tools for exploring yourself, and surprising yourself.

Too many people elect to be average, out of timidity. As I look around, I see scores of underachievers. The world is full of them.

The reason so many people underachieve, instead of overachieve, is simply because they are afraid to make a mistake, or to fail, or to be wrong. They’re afraid to find out what’s inside of them.

Competitiveness is the opposite of complacency. It’s disquieting and uncomfortable. It requires commitment, and risk, and soul-searching.

When you choose to compete, you take a huge gamble. You might just lose. You might just have to admit, “That’s the best I can do.”

When you choose to compete, you make the conscious decision to find out what your real limits are, not just what you think they are.

Competition trains you to accept risk and to endure setbacks. By embracing it, you can enhance your life.

Ask yourself, are you a competitor? Are you selecting weak competition, or strong? Are you settling for less, or reaching for more?

When you compete, refuse to limit yourself. Elect to overachieve instead of underachieve. Believe me, you will surprise yourself.


— Pat Summitt, from her book (with Sally Jenkins) Reach for the Summit

Pat Summitt built one of the all-time greatest sports dynasties on the foundation of relentless competition. Pete Carroll has done the same thing with his football programs.

Notice that both Coach Summitt and Coach Carroll believe strongly that competition should not only be the foundation for a sports program, but it should be the foundation for your life!

A competitive spirit is the key to improving yourself and seeing what you’re really capable of. Simply trying to push yourself further—even if you fall short of your goals—makes you a better, more confident person.

Yet, most people are afraid to compete. They seek complacency. They seek to maintain their status instead of improve it. They seek to survive instead of thrive.

Whenever you find yourself in a rut—lacking passion and enthusiasm—it’s time to ask yourself the questions Coach Summitt lists above. Are you seeking out tougher competition or are you padding your schedule with weaker opponents? Are you pushing yourself further than you did yesterday or are you maintaining the status quo?

While maintaining may seem like the safer option, it actually sets you up for failure and disappointment. As Mike Ditka once said, “Show me somebody who is satisfied and I’ll show you somebody who is not going to win anymore.”

Be competitive. Take new risks. Tackle new challenges regardless of what you’ve achieved in the past. Put yourself on the line and see what you’ve got. That’s the only path to true victory (regardless of what the final score may say).

There are two types of people in this world: those who are competitive and those who are complacent. Choose to be competitive.