Yaeger Where does greatness come from? What separates a Michael Jordan, a Ted Williams, an Annika Sorenstam or a Tiger Woods from the rest of us weekend warriors?

OK, besides natural ability? I'll never compare to Michael Jordan because (a) I'm 5-foot-8, and (b) I stink at basketball.

Greatness, though, is about more than physical ability. There is something inside that would have made them great even if they weren't superior athletes.

Don Yaeger thinks he knows what it is.

Yaeger, a former Sports Illustrated reporter, has co-authored a series of books with some of the most iconic sports figures of our time, including John Wooden and Walter Payton. Along the way, he has learned a thing or two about how they approached their respective games. There are lessons there for everyone.

“Greatness,” Yaeger told a crowd at the 2011 Northeast CPE Conference, “is available to all of us — if you are willing to do common things uncommonly well.”

And what are those things? Yaeger has made a list. It includes these 16 gems:

  1. They hate to lose more than they love to win.
  2. They understand the value of association. As John Wooden told Yaeger, “Show me your friends, and I'll show you your future.”
  3. They have faith in a higher power.
  4. They are positive thinkers.
  5. They prepare for all possibilities before they step on the field.
  6. They are always working toward the next game.
  7. They visualize victory before the game begins.
  8. They use adversity as fuel.
  9. They are risk-takers and don't fear making a mistake.
  10. They know how and when to adjust their game plan.
  11. They will assume whatever role is necessary for the team to win.
  12. They don't play just for the money.
  13. They know character is defined by how they treat those who cannot help them.
  14. They live their life with integrity.
  15. They embrace the idea of being a role model.
  16. They are well-rounded.

How many of those traits do you see in yourself? While you're thinking, listen to Yaeger elaborate on these points in this brief interview.

It's kind of cool, isn't it — the idea that we don't have to be a world-class athlete to be great?

We just need to think like them.

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