Five Things a Real Competitor Never Says

It’s only one game.

It’s only the preseason.

It’s only practice.

It’s only a mistake.

It’s only an idea.

That small word–‘only’–changes everything. Same for the word ‘just’: It was just one donut, just one missed workout, just one drink. It’s just a job. To me it all translates into: This isn’t that important, and don’t hold me accountable if things don’t go right.

You want to see the difference that one word makes? Take out the ‘only’ or the ‘just’ and say again:

It’s one game. You’re not getting it back. It mattered.

It’s the preseason. The work you do now determines whether you’ll have a postseason.

It’s practice. If you can’t do it here, you won’t do it in a game.

It’s a mistake. Do the work to make sure you don’t repeat it.

It’s an idea. Everything starts with an idea. Don’t be afraid to develop and try new concepts.

I’ll give you a few more:

Good enough rarely is.

It’s fine.’ Two meanings:

  • When you hear this from your coach or boss, pay attention: It means “Thanks, I’ll get someone else to do it right.”

  • When you hear it from a teammate, pay attention: It means he can’t or won’t do better.

And my favorite:

Whatever.” I don’t really know what this means, but I hear it a lot from people who want to stop a conversation because they’re afraid to hear the truth.

Believe me, this isn’t a grammar lesson…it’s a mental toughness lesson. As soon as you minimize the importance of something, you minimize your chances of success.

How many things in your life would be different if you “only” studied harder or if they “just” gave you one more chance, if the effort you put in was great instead of “good enough,” or instead of saying “whatever” you went out and fixed whatever needed fixing.

Here’s where those words work: You have “just” one life, and “only” you can live it. It is “whatever” you make of it. Is that “good enough” for you? Are you “fine” with that?

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