Denis Waitley: The Psychology of Winning Book Summary





The term ‘Winning’ may sound phony to you. Too materialistic. Too full of A’s, or luck, or odds, or muscle-bound athletes. True winning, however, is no more than one’s own personal pursuit of individual excellence. You don’t have to knock other people down or gain at the expense of others. ‘Winning’ is taking the talent and potential you were born with, and have since developed, and using it fully toward a goal or purpose that makes you happy.

Winners and Losers are not in Competition

As you can clearly see from the quote above “winners” and “losers” are not about competition. There is not a line separating the 1% as “winners” from the rest of us.

Winning is not about materialism, or simply about sport. It is about finding your success in life, whatever that may be. It may be about finding happiness. I may be about achieving a peaceful mind. It is about being a success in the life you desire and working to achieve all your goals.

Waitley puts the emphasis on habits. One clear distinction Waitley makes between life’s winners and losers is that winners build good habits that help them succeed while losers retain all their bad habits and are content to live a life with fear and regret.


Winning, according to Waitley is not about a fist-bumping bromance. It is not about demolishing your competition. It is simply about developing a positive, growth mindset and building those wining habits.

For most of the book Waitley talks about the ten qualities that make the “Winner” something special.

Let’s take a look at these 10 winner qualities one at a time…


  1. Self-Projection

Self projection is simply the act of having a very clear and distinct picture of what you want to achieve.
It is about knowing your end goal, but it is more than that. Rather than just having an end goal make a movie in your head that shows you achieving that goal.

For example. If your goal for your hard work is to spend time with your family. Visualize the vacation you are working toward. Having concrete goals like this gives you something to work for that is more exciting than simply completing the annual TPS report.

Self projection can include mantra’s and affirmations to help keep the idea of your future success firmly in mind.

  1. Make Clearly Defined Goals

Self projection is great. But by itself, you are just daydreaming. To achieve anything of substance you will want goals that are clearly defined. I prefer SMART Goals and have even written a short book covering this topic.

Learn how to turn your goals into habits: S.M.A.R.T Goals Made Simple

SMART goal setting creates goals that hit all the important metrics.

A SMART goal is:​

Specific – target a specific area for improvement

Measurable – the goal can be quantified, or measured in some way. If a goal is not measurable, you need to break it down further until it can be measured

Assignable – specifies who will do the task

Realistic – ensures the goals are achievable within the timeframe and all other parameters of the goal

Time-bound – ensures there is a specific time of completion. In the case of long goals, these may be milestones tied to completion dates


  1. Focus on the positive side of all actions

People who fail are always worried. What if I miss this shot? What if the boss doesn’t like my project? What if I fail to reach my goals?

This worry and fear does nothing good for you, All it does is increase your stress and make it more likely that you miss the shot, mess up your project or fail to reach your goals.

It is far better to stay optimistic and positive about the outcomes. See yourself making that shot as your take it. Know that you are doing the best you can on the project, and the boss will love it. See yourself reaching your goals, plan to avoid obstacles and visualize your success.


  1. Use your power of self determination

You need to feel invested in the things you do. It is not about doing that project at work, because the “boss needs it”. Own the project. Make it your own.

When you put your “stamp” on things and take ownership of them, you are taking things out of the hands of fate and putting them into your own hands. Success or failure is all on you. Not on the will or whim of others.

“Let’s see what happens” is the anti-thesis of this ideal. The self determined person will make it happen. They will have contingency plans and work to ensure that nothing blindsides them and keeps them from their goals. The losers just scrape by with the minimum and “let things happen”.


  1. Self–awareness

No one is perfect. We all have our flaws. Being a winner is not about being perfect and always succeeding regardless of the odds.

It is about knowing your weaknesses and planning for them. To be a winner you may need to outsource or delegate tasks that are difficult for you. Focusing on your core genius. You may need to delegate a lot of extra time for tasks that others can do quickly. It is all about this understanding of yourself.

Being self-aware is also about empathy. If you understand how those around you feel, and can feel their situations and pain, it gives you a broad base of understanding.

This understanding can even lead to being more adaptable and ready for change. When you increase your adaptability, the odd things that always “pop up” that might cause the goals of others to fail will never derail you from success. Being adaptable means you will roll with the punches and simply recalibrate your plans to include the new changed situation.

  1. Self-Esteem/Self-Image

It is important to have a high self-esteem and self-confidence to be a winner.

  1. Self-Discipline

No one likes to hear that success is going to take a lot of work. Many people want easy answers and “hacks” these days. They want the shortcuts that will get them around the hard messy, “work” part of the equation.

Sorry to say, there are no success hacks. To achieve your goals you will need to build the hard habits. You will need the self-discipline to keep them going… and the self-discipline to start them once again if you happen to fail the first time

  1. Self-talk

One difference between Waitley’s winners and losers is self-talk. The winners will have self talk that helps them strengthen their self-image and self-disciple. The losers are the ones who too listen too frequently to negative self talks.

I think of these as the little “angel” and “devil” sitting on someone’s shoulders like you might see in classic cartoons.

We all have a little bit of both; the id and the super-ego of or minds. (or the angel and the devil if you prefer).

Sometimes the devil will win. The important part is keeping those wins to a minimum and having the resilience to bounce back and start over when you do fail.


  1. Complete person

Hopefully you see by now that Waitley’s, “winner” is not defined by the guy who drives the biggest car or who has the biggest bank account. The winner is about much more than that.

While work, drive and creating a wonderful future from your hard work and toil is a big part of the equation, it is only part of it. A winner should be part of the community. They should be spiritual and believe in something greater than themselves, regardless of what shape that belief takes. They should take equal effort to enjoying time with their family as they do diving into projects at work.

Everything matters. Putting everything together may not make you the richest person you know in monetary wealth. Mr. Scrooge was wealthy until he had some bad figgy-pudding and turned his life around.

Material wealth means little compared to the wealth of a loving family and admiring friends, neighbours and co-workers


Another part of being a complete person is working with others.

According to Waitley, winners do business with others, trying to make them into winners too. They strive for mutual success, not domination. They prefer to work with people to attain that mutual success rather than fighting over small details to ensure they absolutely got the best of any situation.

While Waitley’s, “losers” are worried that they are being exploited or spending time and effort trying to exploit others. While Waitley’s “winners” strongly believe in the maxim, a rising tide lifts all boats.

  1. Live in the present

Waitley’s definition of winners shows that they understand the value of time.

They will not worry about the past. That is dead and gone. The only thing the past is good for is to learn from mistakes, and the fond memories of those we love.

They will not worry about the future, once they have set realistic and achievable goals. The good future is what all winners hope to achieve, but too much time spent daydreaming of future success can keep you from taking the action you need to take TODAY to achieve that success.

Winners, therefore, need to take action immediately. They need to learn how to maximize their productivity while still taking time to spend with their friends, family, and loved ones.

They enjoy their time NOW. They savour life and all it has to offer.






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