The One Thing That Pushes People to Succeed

The One Thing That Pushes People to Succeed

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Image credit: Jay Mantri
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Back in my days as a college coach, I looked for one thing in a prospect. It wasn’t size, speed or strength. It wasn’t even talent, for that matter. The first thing I looked for was hunger. Without this intangible none of the aforementioned tangibles mattered.

I wanted players who had chips on their shoulders. The right kind of chip, not a negative attitude, but rather the feeling that they have something to prove. They had to be hungry to prove other coaches wrong who told them you’re too small, too slow, not athletic or strong enough. Their hunger drove them. It also engendered an incredible level of loyalty in the one person who saw something in them.

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It’s the same thing I look for today in the clients, coaches and athletes I work with. Why? Because they’re my kind of people. Quite simply, I relate well to them because I see a little bit of myself in them. I was the athlete who was told he didn’t have what it took and I was the student who was told he wasn’t smart enough.

Most people are going to go one of two ways with that information. They will either listen to that feedback and it will become self-fulfilling or it will drive them because they’re hungry -- hungry to succeed and prove the naysayers wrong in the process.

Case in point: I have two former college players who have pursued careers in comedy. They’re the same age and began doing stand-up at the same time. "Brad" is wildly successful and is considered one of the hot, young comics and actors in America. "Jason" had his career plateau early and has struggled to make a name for himself outside of his local market. Brad graduated and moved out to LA with no backup plan in place if he didn’t “make it.” Jason took a corporate 9-to-5 job and worked his comedy craft evenings and weekends.

When Jason called me for advice on taking his game to the next level, I told him, “Stop treating your dream like a hobby, quit your day job and pursue comedy with everything you have.” 

After a few seconds of awkward silence, his response was, “But it’s hard to be funny when you’re hungry.” I replied, “It’s hard to be successful when you’re not.”

Fast forward a couple years, Brad is a mega-entrepreneur. Meanwhile, Jason remains a “wantrepreneur” stuck at the same plateau he was when we last spoke. Some might say he was afraid to commit, I’d say he just wasn’t hungry enough. The bottom line is that you can’t teach hunger. People either have it or they don’t.

Being hungry does five key things.

1. Hunger eliminates failure as an option.

When you’re hungry you go all in and push all your chips to the center of the table. There is no plan B.

Related: The Incredible Power of Believing in Yourself

2. Hunger drives improvement.

When you’re hungry, “good enough” isn’t. When you’re not, good enough always is.

3. Hunger fuels solutions.

When you’re hungry enough, you’ll either find a way or make one. When you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.

4. Hunger is a driver.

You don’t have to micromanage the hungry. They’re so self-motivated they’ll push themselves harder than you could push them.

5. Hunger opens eyes.

The hungry have their eyes open to identify a small window of opportunity and turn it into a gaping hole.

I speak from experience on all five of these. In 2004 I was fired from my coaching job for not winning a national championship. I had a mortgage, a wife and newborn to try to support. Fired coaches are pretty much radioactive for at least a year or two and no one is going to hire them. I also came to the realization I didn’t want someone else controlling my destiny ever again. Suffice it to say, I was hungry.

That was the day I officially became an entrepreneur. I had to find a solution and create my own opportunity because failure wasn’t an option. Had I had a comfortable day job, I wouldn’t have been driven enough to take the massive action necessary.

Hunger is a game changer. Leaders, do yourself a favor recruit and hire for hunger. If you don’t hire people hungry to get to the next level, then who is going to push your team or company to its next level? Entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs, the best thing you can do is go all in and bet on yourself. If you don’t, nobody else will.

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