6 Habits for Success – The DNA of Winners

I’ve always been incredibly fascinated by athletes. By the beauty of sport, and the hard work they do.

Their mindsets carry the key to success, and we can apply it to our own life, where we define our own personal success and wins.

In the Danish book “DNA of a Winner” by Rasmus Ankersen, dubbed a high performance expert, share the 6 habits winners have in common, based on personal interviews with 24 of the best athletes in Denmark.

I had this book standing on my shelf forever, but recently my craving for books has come back (as you may have noticed from the influx of reading related posts). And as this book shares some interesting ideas, I wanted to share the main points and my interpretation of them.


The 6 mental habits that these amazing athletes share are:

  1. Think big
  2. Believe in yourself
  3. Dance with fear
  4. Take full responsibility
  5. Pay the price
  6. Make the journey the goal

Think big

Allow yourself to dream, and to dream big. If you limit the reach of your thoughts, the reach of your actions will be limited as well.

Now what success is, is up to your own definition. Not your friends, family or society as a whole. Impotent goals are goals based on other people’s standard of success. These wins feel hollow, and are often related to cultural status symbols, they seem perfect from the outside. But when you’re inside it, it doesn’t bring you value.

Hopefully it’s clear you’ll want to avoid this type of goal (though it isn’t always as clear if your goal is of this type).

Of course, with big goals come a real chance of failure. This is where habit 2 & 3 comes in.

Believe in yourself

This boils down to “You are what you believe”, and belief can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  1. The first victory is the most important. Then you’ll always be able to look back and regain confidence from that win
  2. If you want to be a winner, move like a winner. Body language matters, to you and others (you must have seen that power pose ted talk every body always mentions).
  3. You are what you think
  4. No detail is too small when it comes to preparation. If you’ve done everything you can to prepare yourself, you’ll be more confident.

Dance with fear

Everybody experiences fear. It’s part of being human, and you’ll never get rid of it.

However:

  1. The worst part is the run-up
  2. Failing is not as bad as you think it is. It’s not the end of the world, and you are capable of dealing with it when it happens.
  3. There’s only two ways to really fail
    • Not trying
    • Not learning from it
  4. You deserve success. Don’t self-sabotage just to stay in your comfort zone.

Take full responsibility

We’re all incredibly good at finding excuses, explaining away our situation. And even though they may carry some truth, this doesn’t help you move forward.

You can’t control everything, but you alway have a choice. Not acting is a choice as well, and all choices have consequences. Realising you always have choice stops you from being a victim of circumstances, and give you the freedom to create your future.

That means we have to face reality. We can spend our time and energy complaining about how bad the circumstances are and become helpless. Or we can look reality in the eyes, deal with it, then move on to new opportunities.

There will always be problems standing on our way, internally or externally. The only way to avoid obstacles is to have no goals, to stand still.

Every time we find a solution to a problem, it will create change, which creates new problems. The problem free life is an illusion. But if we take responsibility and look at problems as challenges to learn from, we can outgrow our potential.

Pay the price

Deciding you want success is easy. Deciding you’re willing to pay the price, then paying it is what stops many people. Talent is not nearly as important as the willingness to work hard long-term.

Will power is often compared to a muscle – because the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Procrastinating may help you avoid confrontation at the moment, but in the long run it causes you more pain.

Perfectionism, fear of failing (or succeeding), poor concentration, unwillingness to take responsibility can all keep you from working towards your goal. Whatever it is, you have to confront it, figure out how to deal with it (then do that) and remind yourself what motivated you in the first place.

To pay the price, you’ll have to understand these two principles

  1. Realise and accept that all your choices have consequences. Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying  no to something else. Successful people are clear about what their opting out from to. For a young athlete, saying yes to become a youth world champion typically means saying no to parties. But they’re willing to give that up to reach their goal.
  2. Do what it takes. Don’t just do your best, do what it takes. You may discover that you actually have an extra gear and are capable of so much more when facing resistance. If you’re really committed, you give it all you got, don’t hold back just so you have an excuse if you fail.

Make the journey the goal

It’s possible to have millions of dollars, the body of a model, a fantastic job and great friends, yet still feel l empty inside. This is what impotent goals do. Happiness is just around the corner, you just need that fancy car. Or that beautiful house. It’s always just around the corner.

You’ll never be fully satisfied if you only search for validation outside yourself. You have to find your passion and your values to live by. Real success is not about the goal you reach, but the person you become in the process.

Intrinsic motivation is the strongest form of motivation, and if you truly find personal meaning in what you do, motivation comes easy. If you love the process, you are on your way to amazing things!


Now, I do have a couple of critique points for the book

  • Not addressing outcome bias. Meaning it only looks at winners and what they do. There could be people who have these habits, but don’t succeed, and if they aren’t taken into account, the result is biased.
  • Not understanding the role of privilege and socioeconomic barriers that makes it more difficult (not impossible) to achieve success – it is as if laziness is the only reason people don’t succeed.
  • The use of DNA in the title. Like it’s meant to be read as “what winners are made of” because you know humans are made up of DNA. But our DNA is not something we can control, so if winning is in the DNA of some people, then rest of us are screwed no matter what. And the book’s message is that we are capable of creating our own success

When you look away from those points, there’s still a lot of interesting information to take with you.

Being a sports star is not the (only) way to happiness, but these habits and the mindset that comes with it is a way to foster personal growth and success. It’s something everyone can use on their own journey, no matter where they’re going.


Which habit do you especially want to incorporate into your life? Let me know in the comments!


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6 mental habits for success - this is what winners are made of
6 mental habits for success - this is what winners are made of
6 mental habits for success - this is what winners are made of

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