Winning ideas

We’re often driven to compete to define who we are – yet that same impulse can hold us back.

Champion Thinking, by British sports broadcaster Simon Mundie, begins with the familiar feel of an anthology of insights harvested from a successful podcast. Yet while that accurately reflects the book’s origins, it proves to be something rather more subtle, philosophical, and profound.

Drawing on the extraordinary achievements and insights of his interviewees – from English rugby hero Johnny Wilkinson to Caitlyn Jenner – Mundie’s focus is on how we perceive ourselves. He explores the notion of our ‘self concept’, the “cluster of thoughts” we hold about ourselves – but observes that “thoughts aren’t facts”. Yet so often we treat them as if they are, narrowing our options and limiting the outcomes we might attain. In the end, it might be the ability to let go of our self concept that enables outstanding performance, Mundie suggests – in sport and in life.

The book is undeniably Brit-centric, shaped by Mundie’s professional experience and sporting passions, but the interviews are accessible and relatable even when unfamiliar. Some are jaw-dropping – like the story of John McAvoy, the convicted armed robber who only discovered his athletic potential in prison, going on to become an Iron Man triathlete with a Nike endorsement. Yet it is the book’s deeper questions that will have the longest-lasting resonance for leaders reflecting on their place in the world. What is our yardstick for success and self-worth? Money? A title? Mundie also debates growth-mindset thinking, declaring that there is nothing “fixed” about us – only our awareness, the very core of who we are.

We may not be vying for championship titles ourselves, but Champion Thinking offers thought-provoking ideas for any leader interested in how to spark – and sustain – success.

Patrick Woodman is editor of Dialogue.