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Winner’s Mindset—Transforming Pain into Progress

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Christopher H. McKinney Sr.
September 12, 2022

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. ― Vince Lombardi

Life on planet earth is problematic. Being in a leadership position makes life more complicated. Leaders must deal with our life challenges and the challenges presented by our role in the organization. It doesn’t matter how good it may look from the outside; EVERYONE is going through something. We are either in a fire, coming out of a fire or going into a fire. Winners lean into the uncomfortable and do what’s necessary to win regardless of the pain of their situation. The pain may emanate from a less-than-stellar quarterly earnings report, the resignation of a key team member or a significant setback on a capital project. Regardless of the source of the pain, they harness it and press through on their way to better.

Winners have learned to transform pain into progress. But what does transforming pain into progress mean?

Transforming pain into progress, first and foremost, means growing despite the stickiness of pain. This stickiness causes many good people to get stuck, meaning they stop moving forward. Stickiness causes us to place blame on others. Stickiness makes us susceptible to a “woe is me mentality,” which is counterintuitive to transformation.

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” ― Napoleon Hill

To start the transformation process, we must glean the lesson with the right attitude. The right attitude allows us to look inward and facilitates growth. It is virtually impossible to learn the entire lesson with the wrong attitude. In fact, without the right attitude, we may not see that there is a lesson to learn. A wrong attitude will make us inclined to point the finger, avoid ownership and fail to evaluate.

Additionally, it means we must have grit. What is grit? In the article “What Is Grit and Do You Have It,” Psychology Today defines it as “… an old term for a relatively new personality construct. It is a personality trait that suggests that someone possessing grit has perseverance and passion and will work hard to achieve long-term goals. It is related to other personality traits such as resilience and hardiness.”

Now truth be told, individuals with grit do not always feel like being disciplined. In fact, they too want to be lazy at times. Many often would rather avoid those difficult conversations as the average person prefers peace over conflict. Also, many people with grit procrastinate on things they prefer not to do. Grit enables a person to focus on the objective and press past the pain of the situation. Grit provides the mental toughness to stay focused and do the necessary. I did not say “like” doing the necessary.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” ― Maya Angelou

Third, we must learn to play through the pain, which dovetails with grit. Upfront, I am not suggesting that you should play through the pain if you have a major medical issue or mental health concern. Serious concerns require immediate attention. 

I am talking about the ability to show up to work as a leader and give your best, even while dealing with something that has impacted you significantly. As a leader, that could be something in your personal or professional life that simultaneously knocks the wind out of you. It could be an unexpected breakup. It could be a nasty false rumor leaked to the press about you. It could be that you just found out that a loved one is terminally ill. Whatever “it” is, there are days that we do not feel like getting out of bed because of the pain. But we play injured and care for our people as we execute our responsibilities. Winners show up and give their best.

Note that I did NOT say show up and give 100 percent. Why? There will be days when we do not have 100 percent to give. On those days, share what you have, so if that is 50 percent, provide the full 50 percent. We may not be operating on a full battery, and that is okay—none of us are invincible superheroes.

The bottom line is that winners consistently do things others are unwilling to do. This is a winner’s mindset.


Author: Christopher McKinney Sr. is the founder/CEO of 10X Leadership Consulting (10XLC)  10XLC is a premier consulting company that identifies and diagnoses issues that impede the development and growth of businesses. He also served as the CEO of a Planning District (COG) supporting four rural South Carolina counties. Prior to service at the COG, he retired from the USAF after 30 years as a Command Chief Master Sergeant. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @10XLC; Facebook: @10XLC; www.10XLC.consulting

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