Fundamental Traits of a Winner – Lessons Learned From Mike Singletary

Mike Singletary

Successful people leave clues as to what are successful traits. I recently watched a documentary on the ex-football player, Mike Singletary. Mike played for the Baylor Bears and went on to become a Hall of Fame linebacker with the Chicago Bears. I love to read biographies and watch documentaries of successful people. I find that so many successful people have a lot of common threads. This was true of Mike Singletary as well and he has left a lot of clues for success in his life.

The first trait Mike Singletary displayed is resiliency. In the social media world of today, it is easy for one to believe everyone is amazingly successful with incredibly perfect lives and their trajectory of success is up, up and straight up. The documentary of Mike’s life showed once again that this is never true.

A Broken Road

Mike Singletary overcame a difficult childhood. He was not a highly valued football recruit coming out of high school and was offered a scholarship by only one major university, Baylor. Mike eventually was drafted by the Chicago Bears and upon his arrival, Buddy Ryan the defensive coordinator said, “You are just a short, fat guy” Although the Chicago Bears eventually won a Super Bowl while Mike was a player, it was not an easy or straight path. As with most things in life, the path after the Super Bowl was not easy as well. Success does not guarantee more success forever.

Mike Singletary went on to become a coach and eventually was named the head coach of the San Francisco ‘49ers. The team was not performing well and had some losing seasons. The owners felt like there was a lack of discipline and Mike was the answer. Early on, the discipline was tested. A star player made a bad mistake with an emotional outburst that cost the team and Singletary laid into him. He eventually told him to leave the field and go to the locker room.

This was a defining moment, as the team knew right then and there the ship was at a turning point, demonstrating there would be accountability going forward. The ‘49ers began to do better immediately. You would think that this would be a live happily ever after story, but it’s not. The team did not continue to improve and eventually Mike Singletary was fired. Ex Baltimore Ravens coach, Brian Billick said of Mike’s firing, “What they hire you for, they eventually fire you for.” Some of the players pushed back on Mike Singletary’s discipline and he was fired.

How Can I Be Better?

In the documentary, the thing that impressed me so much was that after his firing, Mike Singletary had to pick up the pieces and take a look at him himself and say, “What can I learn and how can I get better?”. Mike Singletary began to massively self-educate himself about football. He began to get an education from some of the master coaches on unfamiliar areas. His self-education regimen as a fired coach matched his regimen as a player. So, the second trait of success was that of massive self-education along with the resiliency to keep moving when your world falls apart.

The third and fourth traits of success were discipline and passion. All of the people interviewed talked glowingly about his passion for the game of football, his family and life. All of the people recounted his work ethic but also his discipline to do what others would not do in order to be successful.

I once heard ex-Navy Seal Jock Willink, when asked what was more important motivation or discipline replied, “Discipline.” He said it was discipline, learned through training to keep moving to complete the mission. Motivation, he said, wanes quickly. This theory of training and disciple was evident in Mike Singletary. His discipline in work and preparation through watching game films allowed him to know what the other team would do before they did it. Mike Singletary was exceptionally disciplined.

Unbridled Passion

As you watched the documentary, you saw unbridled passion in every single thing Mike Singletary did. His kids were interviewed and laughed about how their dad would show them in great detail and incredible passion how to do household chores such as doing dishes or cleaning. Although his kids were laughing at the memories of those things, they also stated how it has affected them in their lives. Passion is contagious. The root of the word “enthusiasm” is, “enthos.” Loosely translated, it means, “The Breath of God.” If someone has, the “Breath of God,” it can be shared. It can be become contagious. Mike Singletary has that “Breath of God.”

One of the things I noticed is that no matter the job, business or industry, it takes the same critical traits to be successful. Those traits carry over into all areas of your life. I invite you to watch the documentary on Mike Singletary and take the lesson learned and incorporate them into your life.

Many of these lessons seem simple. The lesson in that is that it’s often simple things that have the greatest impact. “Big doors swing on small hinges.” Don’t look past the small things for one big magic bullet that does not exist. Learn the fundamentals of all success and apply them everyday and you too can be the Mike Singletary of your profession.