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"It is important to develop the potential that you have. At least you have a chance of becoming what you want to become by doing that. That potential might be good enough to be a world champion – or an Olympic gold medallist."
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Think Like a Winner
We review the new book by Winning consultant, Yehuda Shinar. Prepare to change your life...


Yehuda Shinar is the exclaimed coaching consultant, most famous for helping England win the rugby world cup in 2003. Sir Clive Woodward, the winning coach, puts a great deal of store in Shinar’s scientific work which helped his squad get into the winning frame of mind. Today Shinar’s company, Winning Enterprises, is much sought-after around the globe for its insights, and, more recently, Shinar himself has been working with Winning Scotland Foundation.

Shinar is very brave indeed. He has encapsulated his thinking in a very important book, distilling the essence of how to change an individual’s – or even a national – mindset. Think Like a Winner is an ambitious and valuable contribution to the plethora of sporting revelations which dominate the sports sections in the bookshops. This book offers a genuine hypothesis, based on Shinar’s 18 years of research in Israel, which can be applied to almost any sport – and to the way we live our lives generally. Shinar is brave because he appears to be giving away his crown jewels for just over a tenner.

The book blurb says: “Yehuda shows how to transform your thought patterns so that whoever you are and whatever your want to achieve, you’ll be one of life’s winners.”

This is a powerful claim, and it mirrors the ethos of Winning Scotland Foundation. So what exactly is Yehuda Shinar saying?

He starts with a very simple premise: that a winner has to learn what they are doing when they are winning. A winner needs to be able to recognise the bits that work – so they can then work on the bits that don’t work.

He says: “The more I work with creating winners and helping winners win more often, the more I discover that the vast majority of people have no idea what they are doing when they succeed.”

Shinar says that people who are made aware of their behaviours can enjoy success more frequently. “If you catch a fish by fluke, you won’t know how to catch one again. If you learn why you caught the fish, you will know how to catch more, and your chances of doing so will increase hugely as a result.”

In setting up his theories, Shinar uses a pyramid to talk about the phases of winning. First, along the bottom, there is the noble warrior – familiar to many in Scotland, because this is often a part of our national psyche in rugby and football – followed above by the correct thinker, and then, at the top, the skill refiner. Here we visualise highly-accomplished athletes going out to practice their skills even more, doing extra after normal training. Chris Paterson’s brilliant kicking comes to mind here.

The crux of Yehuda Shinar’s model of winning behaviour is his famous T-CUP analysis, a rather neat, easy-to-remember acronym. T-CUP is Thinking Correctly Under Pressure and this becomes the essence of Shinar’s successful work.

 T-CUP is now a very familiar coaching term. It was even described to millions of television viewers during ITV’s coverage of the rugby world cup in 2007.  While Shinar talks about his pyramid with the warrior, the thinker and the skill refiner, he adds what he terms the “continuous debriefer”. He believes strongly that winners do this all the time. Not simply the sessions where individuals and teams examine their performances on video, and identify what went right as well as what went wrong, but actually during a game or a match. This is about correcting and evaluating your actions in real-time.

Shinar’s book is perhaps a little inclined to muster too many sporting clichés: such as fail to prepare and prepare to fail, but he does make very vivid and clear points. He goes on to help the reader appreciate the building blocks of a winning mindset. He writes, at the beginning of Chapter Two: “When I was given the rather strange commission to work with Winning Scotland Foundation to help change the stereotypically negative attitude of Scottish athletes, I wondered where to begin. How can you go about changing the mindset of a nation?”

He admits it is not an easy task – but he says that the mindset is the place to begin. The way we think is very important in how we develop a winning culture. So he sets us a small test and tries to find out if we are optimistic or pessimistic. Here there are some great questions for Scottish people. His conclusions are worth considering in detail.

Loser’s Mindset Language:                       Winner’s Mindset Language

That’s the way we’ve always done it.    Is there a better, newer way?

Know your place.                               Create opportunities.
I’m not cut our for this.                      I can do this.

That’ll do.                                        How can I improve?

Be realistic: don’t waste your time.     Be realistic, but give it a go.

No chance.                                      It’s worth a try.

Why?                                             Why not?

Recognise some of this? Unfortunately, too many Scots appear to be in the left hand column and not enough in the right hand one.

Now, many books have been written about the “Power of Positive Thinking”, so what Shinar says is not particularly new, and he admits this, but it is his unique way of presenting this case which make Think Like a Winner a worthwhile tome.
And for Scots there is nothing more important that improving our self-belief, a crippling issues that has held many Scots back on the sports field. He tackles self-respect, confidence and overcoming the fear of failure. He also encourages us as winners to “live in the now – to be able to enjoy your achievements, you’ve got to be aware of them to begin with. So you need to give yourself credit when you succeed.” But he cautions that winners “don’t live only in the past – either by dwelling on past failures or harping back to the good old times too much,”

So perhaps we can start moving on from Wembley 1967 when Scotland beat England 3-2 at football. He also implores us to resist sarcasm and cynicism – which is almost a national state of mind in parts of Scotland.

Shinar also talks about how to create your own luck: which is an essential part of competitive sport and life. Here he reveals one of his nuggets: winners are hard-working.  Now that might be blindingly obvious, but it isn’t.

“Far from being superheroes with a magic touch, they are actually very pragmatic, hard-working people. They develop their skills through courageous and continuous debriefing so that they are constantly improving. But they are also able to make the most of those skills and maximise their full potential because they know how to simplify every task they face,” says Shinar.

How to Handle Pressure is one of the most illuminating chapters and talking more extensively about T-CUP, Shinar says: “Thinking is often perceived as a time-consumer, so people tend to forget it when the pressure is on. Wrong!  … Intuition and instinct are not as reliable as rational thought. They can help inform rational thought, but they should not be a substitute for it.”

Shinar says that winners know when they are under severe pressure and that this is the time to think about what they are doing. He says this can take no more than a split second, provided you have done your T-CUP homework, refocusing on relevant rules.

Think Like a Winner is a well-presented and easy-to-use self-help book that will inspire many – and spark further debate with others.  Confronting some of the raw messages will hit home with Scots – but the book also has the merit of being able to help with exam pressure, job interviews and other lifestyle pressures beyond sport.

Many of the examples of winning are transferable into living in the wider world. Shinar says: “a winner’s primary motivation is one thing and one thing only: success. For that reason, winners will not do anything that might jeopardise that success.” But it’s not all about Wimbledon titles or Olympic gold – although that’s a significant part of it. It’s about giving individuals a better, more positive outlook on life – and the ability to understand and enjoy their success.  That’s something we wholeheartedly agree with at Winning Scotland Foundation.


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