Learning from Success is NOT Easy

This excerpt from our book Traveling The Inner State illustrates the way real peak performers think and set goals. Regardless of the outcome, they are constantly trying to improve whether they win or not. 

Real winners know that even though they won on the scorecard today that they “got away with a few hits that were just luck." And they immediately make plans to go and train on their weakness and train them into their strength. That is what separates them from the rest.


There is a benefit of setting your own performance goals, especially learning. It challenges you to grow even if all the outside measurements ring you in as the biggest success since the Pet Rock. 

Even if your internal measurements give you the nod of success, in our experience, it takes much more awareness and effort to learn from achievement than from failure. On this subject, sublime sailor Brad Alford has the perfect educational anecdote.

“There was a point in my sailing career when our crew was pretty tough to beat locally, but there’s a complacency thing that works in here,” Brad said. “You may be one of the best sailors or shooters in your local club. But if you go to a state shoot or some national tournament, you get your head handed to you because you are facing harder targets. You’re in intense competition and the whole thing is different.

 “You could get to where you could win every race locally and then go to a national championship and be in the middle of the pack at best. You’d sit there and go, 'Why? What’s going on?'

"Well, there’s a guy named Buddy Melges, who won Rolex Yachtsman of the Year three times. He won in the Olympics and all this. Buddy was a guy who I never got formal training from, but I learned a lot from him by just being around him and looking up to him as a role model. 

He said something that has stuck with me for a very long time: 'You never learn anything when you win a sailboat race. You know? We won, we kicked everybody’s butt, but that’s it. I didn’t learn anything. I’m not getting better.”

“So I did something about that. We were doing this training locally to go compete in Key West, and it was about a two-year project. We had finished a local sailboat race that we won by a long shot, and it was time to get out the beer and champagne, time to start thinking about where we’re going to dinner and girlfriends waiting on the dock. 

Nope, I was sitting on the ice chest, saying 'nobody’s getting into this thing until the boat is put up and we’re going to talk about everything that we did wrong and everything that we could have done better.' 

And the guys hated me for it. 'Man, it's Miller Time. We want to party,' they said. But the beer wasn’t coming out until we did this. They were on my case a lot about that, but then we went to Key West and nobody has ever done what we did that year. And after that, I never got anybody to complain about anything I wanted to do, post-race, debrief. 

There is a discipline involved even when you’re doing well. If you’re not always learning, you’re not making progress and you will fall back.”

It's hard for us to admit that Brad could have possibly been so smart before he had the immense pleasure of working with us, but it’s obviously true. He was not content to sit back fat and happy if his own internal measurements and performance goals hadn’t been met. And we believe this is something he shares with all great performers. 

Great performers constantly challenge themselves to make more progress, even when they have succeeded. They know that this is when the real work begins. They know that as the accolades and awards get bigger and louder, it also becomes exponentially harder to learn something!