Leadership / Competition / Winning / Motivation

Leadership Moment — 31 Oct 23

The Will to Win . . .

Mark McMillion
3 min readOct 31, 2023

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Erik Drost from United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped by author from original photo.

Where does the will to win come from? Perhaps more to my point, the will to achieve excellence? I have two teenage sons. Both make pretty good grades, both play football and wrestle. Both are devastatingly handsome like their father . . .

I have one burning the midnight oil, sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning doing homework. He could get more sleep if he were okay with just B’s or C’s but he’s developed a drive to do better. It doesn’t come easy for him. He struggles with time management and he struggles to stay on task sometimes. Of course both of those lead to longer study times. We’re working on it . . .

My other son burns for football. His grades are pretty good, 3.2–3.5ish but his raison d’ être is football. He has his sights set on playing in the NFL. I don’t tell him no. I don’t tell him that’s unlikely. I try to help him understand how steep the hill is and the sacrifice it will take.

It’s kind of sinking in with him. His team is 2–7 with one game remaining. He’s learning about losing. His response? He’s getting up at 5 a.m. to lift before school. Coach told him his endurance is lacking. He goes for 4–5 mile runs on Sundays. By the way, he’s the player that never leaves the field except for halftime. Offense, defense, kickoffs, kickoff return, punts — he’s in there for all of them. Playing with vigor. And the coach tells him he has a problem with endurance. Don’t get me started on high school coaching . . .

Both the boys have some serious drive. The first one has his sights set on going to a military academy. Okay, let’s not pull punches here. THE United States Military Academy. At West Point. You know, the varsity. Nothing wrong with junior varsity academies like Navy or Air Force but . . .

The second one has his sights set on the NFL. Both external goals, external payoffs. I don’t know if they’ll make either one. I’m pretty confident they’re going to do some pretty cool things in life, regardless.

But reflecting on my sons got me thinking about motivation and drive. I’ve read the books. I’m familiar with most of the psychological theories. Keyword: theories. They aren’t…

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Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.