Vail Daily column: Great champions overcome |

Vail Daily column: Great champions overcome

High achievers in life and sport are mentally tough, goal-oriented people. Dr. Rick Snyder, professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, has demonstrated this through his academic work. But what separates high achievers from true champions of the highest level? What specifically gets in the way of reaching our best? What lessons can we learn from the distractions in life that negatively impact our physical fitness?

Last week, I discussed the significance of goal orientation and mental toughness for high achievers. However, the separating difference between mere high achievers and champions is focus and relentless passion! That’s it. The recipe for highest achievement is having specific goal orientation, mental toughness, focus and passion. In other words, high achievers are all talented, gifted and hard working. But those who are more focused and have a higher degree of excitement for the endeavor will come out on top every time.


I’ve formerly discussed the problems that interfere with our ability to reach high achievement. The chaos in our lives that garner too much of our attention. Interfering negative conditions can hinder our ability to be our best every day. Specifically, Dr. David Cook identified these five barriers: contentment, circumstances, consequences, expectations and minutia.

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Contentment: I am not talking about the great contentment that should be present in our marriage, workplace, with our car, house and other variables with which we ought to be content. I am talking about people living in the past who are unwilling to change as time progresses throughout their life. For example, the car that won the 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500 was a Maserati 8CTF. This beautiful relic had a maximum output of 366 horsepower. A magnificent car of its time, it was retired in 1954 after failing to qualify for Indy; a few have been preserved in private hands and one is displayed at the Indy Speedway Museum. Imagine how that car would fare today against the Dallara chassis, 650 horsepower cars that tick along at around 220 mph? Imagine if the engineers representing these great car manufacturers lived in the past and continued to use carburetors instead of electronic fuel injection. Champions aren’t content living in the past; they strive to move forward in life.

Circumstances: Circumstances are largely unavoidable. Cook said, “Always set an extra plate at the dinner table, so when destiny comes knocking at the door, you open it and invite him in just as though you’ve been expecting him.” The highest achievers don’t blame others and don’t make excuses. They set the table expecting good and bad company in life, and they live accordingly.

Consequences: For those who are afraid of failure, self-worth is equal to performance plus the opinions of others. In Robert McGee’s book “The Search for Significance,” he claims that when we do something well in life, we are more accepted, so we go after things we are good at. We therefore live for external gratitude that can be taken too far. Consequently, life becomes a fear of failure and these individuals can imprison themselves into a narrow focused life; their identity gets wrapped up into successes and failures. On the other hand, champions aren’t defined by successes and failures because their roots run deeper. Their identity is often associated with their family, character, values and faith. Some of fiercest competitors are those who have no fear of failure, and their identity isn’t associated with the opinions of others.

Expectations: Furthermore, weaker performers can live in the opposite trap that’s associated with a fear of success. It’s easier living as No. 2 because the expectations aren’t as high for this individual. Expectations to be the best is an interfering factor that can hinder performance. Winston Churchill said that “success and failure come with great interference.”

Minutia: Finally, champions are risk takers that don’t get involved with the minutiae. Perfectionism limits what you’re willing to try because mistakes and failures are part of stretching oneself to reach the bigger picture. When you experience the sense of failure or the stress on perfecting the details, you start to look at the big goals and say, “I’m not going to even try!” The more agonizing imperfection is for you, the less likely you will be to attempt anything where success can’t be reasonably expected.


How does all of this affect your fitness? First, continue to move forward with your goals. Don’t settle for good enough.

We all have fitness holes that need to be filled. What worked for you in college probably isn’t going to work now that you’re 50.

Don’t forget, it’s never too late either. We get complacent or otherwise feel hopeless because we have let ourselves go to long. Seriously, it’s never too late.

Consider setbacks as well. Not every day you’re going to be your best in the gym. You will have peaks and valleys. Train hard when you’re feeling great. Dial it back otherwise.


Try new movements. How many people come into the gym and only perform the exercises they’re good at or already know? Often these people don’t try the new stuff. The reality is, the exercises we dislike are the one’s we need the most.

And finally, forget the confusion and details. It’s just exercise. The simplest most straightforward programs are often the best. Stay encouraged!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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