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Lessons on Winning from Maurice Greene, Rocky III, and Bieber-stein

Maurice Greene

Maurice Greene

Maurice Greene, for those of you that do not know him, is one of the fastest men in the world. He has won numerous gold medals and has proven himself to be the best time and again. Preparing for an Olympic track and field event is no walk in the park. It takes years of dedication, training and perseverance. Maurice Greene said the following, now famous, words in regards to his focus on winning:

To be number one, you must train like you are number two.

Let me back up. I was sitting in church on Sunday looking around. My people-watching illness got the best of me, and I noticed this teenage boy who looked like he was barely old enough to have a driver’s permit. His hair looked like a mix between early Justin Bieber and Bride of Frankenstein. He was wearing plaid shorts and a wrinkled t-shirt. The traditionalist in me was disgusted because of his lack of respect for church, then I noticed what the shirt said. It had this quote from Greene.

As I am reading this quote for the first time, I thought it was just a little motivation for a school football team or something. Then I read it again. And again. And again. Soon enough I could not stop thinking about this quote. This is a key to winning in any business.

If you are truly great and find your giant pumpkin (thanks Michalowicz!), you can make it to number one. Once you hit number one you have a couple problems that did not exist before:

  1. Maintaining your number one status
  2. Minimizing your arrogance

Once you are number one, you are now that target of many more companies or people than you even realized were competitors. They will constantly be biting at your heals waiting for you to fall. Minimizing arrogance and keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive is highly important. Brands in all eras of history have made it to the top and simply started thinking they could not be touched. Some say, this is happening to Apple right now. Companies need to stay hungry to stay in the fight. Number one is great, but you need to treat yourself and your business as if you are number two to keep moving forward.

My best example of this concept comes from Rocky III with Sly Stallone. No, it is not a joke. “Rock” made it to the top. At the start he was hungry. He punched a lot of meat. He trained day and night. Nobody thought the “Italian Stallion” could beat Apollo Creed, but he did. In the movies that followed, Rocky began to enjoy his wealth and get comfortable as the champ. Enter, Mr. T as up-and-comer Clubber Lang. It was a new era, and he was hungry too, just like Rocky was when he first started. Mick, played by Burgess Meredith, realized this and came to Rocky to try to talk some sense into him. Rocky does not listen. Lang defeats Rocky and kills his longtime trainer, Mick. Rocky was devastated, and had forgotten what it was like to be hungry. Re-enter Apollo Creed. Soon, Rocky was training hard again and re-igniting that hunger. At the end of Rocky III, the Italian Stallion became champ again and the status quo was restored.


Rocky’s story in the third installment of the classic movie series is a great one. However, it is unlikely many times for large number one giants of industry to regain the old momentum.  Do you remember the Kodak moment? It is now an iPhone moment. I have to thank Bieber-stein for that very wise lesson in church (Sorry Father) and my Dad for the thousands of times we watched Rocky together over the years. It is amazing where you learn very specific lessons.

What will you do to keep the hunger alive in your business pursuits?

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