The 9 Requirements of Success: You Won’t Win Without Them

One of my most retweeted posts basically stated the following:

100% say they want to be successful
10% understand what it takes
1% fully commit daily to do what is necessary

Almost everyone says they want to be successful, yet so few understand exactly what it takes. Even fewer are willing to put in the many grueling hours of training to make it happen. Thus, as coaches and athletic administrators, if we want our athletes and teams to be successful in sport, school, and life, we must invest the time to teach them the skills it really takes to be successful.

Being privileged to work with thousands of championship athletes and coaches over the last two decades and seeing these strategies being used on a daily basis, these 9 Requirements of Success are essential and apply whether you are an athlete trying to improve your game, a student trying to do well in school, or a coach trying to build a winning program.

As you read through each one, I encourage you to rate yourself on a 1 to 10 scale as to how well you have built the principle into your mindset and training. If you are currently not achieving the level of success you would like, odds you are falling short on one or more of these 9 Requirements of Success – and can adjust accordingly.


1. Success requires Purpose

First and foremost, success requires an inspiring purpose. There must be some valid and meaningful reason for putting in all the work required for success. Put simply: No Meaning = No Motivation.

Invest the time to discover, identify, tap into, and get motivated by your Purpose. Find the deeper WHY that drives you toward success. Your particular Purpose, or WHY, might be to achieve something that has never been done before, to be the very best in your school, conference, state, nation or world, to earn people’s recognition and respect, to honor someone special, to serve others, to prove someone wrong, etc.

If you don’t have a specific, compelling Purpose that drives you and provides you with the energy and will power to go after your goals and dreams, then you are like a car without any fuel in your tank and will end up going nowhere.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out WHY.” Mark Twain

What is your PURPOSE?

2. Success requires Passion

Your purpose and passion are often intertwined. The people who are the most successful absolutely LOVE what they do. They enjoy their sport, happily work on it in their free time without someone watching over them, and would play it whether or not they made the team or had a college scholarship for it.

Honestly ask yourself if you LOVE the sport or endeavor you are trying to be successful in. The more you enjoy what you do the easier it will be to put in the time necessary to succeed at it. If you do not really LOVE IT, you will have a hard time achieving any significant success in it. If you don’t LOVE IT, perhaps you should LEAVE IT. Your life is too short to go through the motions doing something you really don’t want to do. Find something you are passionate about and pursue that – it will fuel your fire within and ignite your success.

“To truly become an elite athlete you have to love the ball and love the game. Because if you don’t love the ball and love the game, you are not going to spend the extra time necessary. You will never develop enough if you are just going to practice. I want everyone in my culture to love the ball and love the game.” Anson Dorrance, North Carolina Women’s Soccer Coach

What is your PASSION?

3. Success requires Perspiration

Plain and simple – success requires HARD WORK - and lots of it. There are no shortcuts. Success requires a serious, strong, and sustained investment of time and energy.

  • Success requires high intensity workouts.
  • Success requires drills, drills, and more drills to train your skills.
  • Success requires taxing your muscles so they can become even stronger.
  • Success requires expanding your heart, lungs, and mind so they all are top condition.
  • Success requires putting yourself in uncomfortable situations so you become more comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • Success requires gallons of sweat, likely some liters of blood, and several tissues full of tears.


So before you even start, realize that success requires a significant investment of your time, focus, and energy. If you aren’t willing to put in the long and grueling hours that success demands, especially at the higher levels, then you are fooling yourself and setting yourself up for failure.

“Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do.”

Are you willing to put in the hard work and PERSPIRATION?

4. Success requires a Plan

Rather than just working for the sake of working and sweating for the sake of sweating, to be successful you must devise an intelligent training plan. Identify the key areas that contribute most to your success and laser focus your time, training, and attention on mastering them. Make sure your ladder to success is up against the right wall before you begin climbing. Too many athletes waste their workouts by not targeting the areas they need to improve, not pushing themselves out of their comfort zones, or spending too much time on skills they have already mastered. Work with your coach to devise a smart and strategic training and practice plan that improves your weaknesses and maximizes your chances of success.

In creating your Success Plan, break down your journey into manageable short-term steps that you can take on a daily and weekly basis. Set realistic goals and benchmarks for yourself over time and celebrate your successes along the way.

“Plan your work and work your plan.” John Wooden, Legendary UCLA Men’s Basketball Coach

What is your PLAN?

5. Success requires Patience

Unfortunately, no matter what the media might try to sell us, there is no such thing as an overnight success. You must be patient and diligently work the process.

Skills take time to master.
Muscles take time to build.
Fitness takes time to develop.
Tactics take time to crystallize in your mind.
Good habits take time to form and become second nature.
The process of being successful is not a sprint but a marathon – so pace yourself accordingly.

You may have heard of the 10,000 Hour Rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. The 10,000 Hour Rule says to be truly elite, it will take you roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become the “Best of the Best.” So to be highly successful, you must patiently commit to be in it for long haul. That is why purpose and passion are so critical to sustain your motivation long-term.

Realize too that you will very likely hit some plateaus in your training; times when it seems like you make very little progress. This is normal and natural. Trust your Success Plan and embrace the process of success. Two additional books I highly recommend are Mastery by George Leonard and The Dip by Seth Godin. Both reinforce the importance of working through the inevitable plateaus of training.

“Success isn’t overnight. It’s when everyday you get a little better than the day before. It all adds up.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

How will you remind yourself to be PATIENT?

6. Success requires Persistence

Unfortunately, the road to success is not flat, smooth, well-paved, or traffic-free. It is littered with bumps, potholes, obstacles, detours, stalled cars, road-kill, and “Road Closed” signs. You’ll experience flat tires, breakdowns, and rude, road-raging drivers who want to cut you off and beat you to the destination. It certainly won’t be easy or stress-free. Your persistence will be tested early and often. So be ready for the challenges, hassles, stresses, and adversity to come your way BIG TIME. Expect it to be difficult.


But rather than letting it all get to you and make you want to pull off the road and turn off your engine, invest the time to identify the likely obstacles you’ll face and devise a plan to refocus and persist through them. This Persistence Plan can help you stay calm and composed when the inevitable adversity strikes, stay focused on the things you can control, and help you go over, around, or sometimes even through the obstacles you will face.

“Obstacles are those frightful things when you take your eyes off your goals.” Henry Ford

How will you PERSIST?

7. Success requires People

There is no such thing as a singular success. As good as you are, you can’t succeed all by yourself. You need other people to assist you along the way. If you are in a team sport, you certainly need your teammates’ hard work, unselfishness, and help to be successful. Although you might be your team’s best athlete, you still need teammates to pass/throw you the ball, get you open, and play solid defense. Everyone plays important roles to help the entire team succeed. Even if you are in an individual sport, you still need others to train with, support you, and challenge you to be your best. You can’t succeed alone in a bubble.

Furthermore, success requires input from others to guide your journey. Your coaches are obviously people who can help take you to another level. They often provide you with a training plan throughout the year, expert coaching on your physical skills, strategies to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, a smart game plan to execute, adjustments to make within the competition, and candid and constructive feedback following your games to help you improve. All world-class athletes seek and value the help of coaches and you should too.

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” Mother Teresa

Who are the PEOPLE you need to succeed?

8. Success requires Principles

Don’t succumb to the temptation to win at all costs. It’s just not worth it in the long run as many coaches and athletes will tell you. Sadly, some have even tragically taken their lives because the torment of selling themselves out was too great that they couldn’t live with themselves any more.

The pride and self-respect of walking away with your held high, doing things the right way, and taking the high road, no matter what the outcome, is worth infinitely more than the shame and regret of selling your soul trying to cheat, backstab, and connive your way to the top. Strive for success - but do so with respect, honor, and loyalty.

“Know your principles because they will be tested.” Joe Gibbs, Former NFL Coah

What are your PRINCIPLES?

9. Success requires Perspective

Last but not least, success requires a strong sense of perspective. Of course winning is obviously important and will make up a significant part of your definition of success. However, you must also define success for yourself in a way that transcends wins and losses. True success is bigger and broader than what you may achieve in the sports world. When your season or career is over, you don’t want to have won a lot of trophies but have lost a lot of peers, professional relationships, and personal relationships along the way.

So look to expand your definition of success. In addition to winning, also evaluate success on the effort you put forth, competing to your full potential, and the growth you achieve over time – rather than just being obsessed about winning and losing.

Legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden’s definition of success was: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Further, broaden your definition of success to encompass your growth as a complete person and not just as an athlete. Don’t limit yourself to becoming successful just in your sport – but expand your quest to be successful in your whole life – fortunately the same 9 Success Principles still apply.

Finally, look to expand your definition of success in terms of the impact you make on others in your school and community. Young kids look up to you so consciously and graciously use this privilege and platform to mentor them and make a difference in their lives.

“Success is not about what you accomplish but what you inspire others to do!”

Do you have the proper PERSPECTIVE?

Ultimately, success is super special because it must be earned. The best way to earn your success is to abide by the 9 Requirements of Success listed above. Determine which principles you do well and look to shore up the others that need help. It certainly won’t be easy, but the process of pursuing success and all you will learn and become because of it will be worth it!


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