How to Think and Act Like a Winner: 13 Lessons from No Easy Day

I always like military-related things, perhaps because I like the high standard that the military demands. It uses the best technologies and expects excellent performance from its people. Yes, there are many things that could go wrong with the military, but in many cases I find it inspiring.

That was the case when I read No Easy Day, a book about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. The story itself was interesting, but the important thing for me was that it inspired me to think and act like a winner.

The book talks about the author’s experiences in an elite unit called DEVGRU. DEVGRU is more than an elite unit actually; it’s an elite within an elite. To become a member of DEVGRU, you must already become a member of the Navy SEAL which is an elite unit. But then only the best SEALs can make it to DEVGRU. That’s why I call it an elite within an elite.

From the stories in the book, I learned about how the members of such a unit think and act. I can’t give you the background story of each lesson (since it will take too much space), but I hope I describe the lessons clear enough so that you can apply them in your life.

Here are 13 lessons I learned on how to think and act like a winner.

1. Don’t make excuses

Sometimes you might find yourself in the midst of an unfair situation. In such a situation, it’s easy to make excuses and most people do. But winners are different. They don’t make excuses or blame the situation. Instead, they focus on what they can do to get the most out of it.

2. Be comfortable being uncomfortable

Like it or not, growing in life often means moving out of your comfort zone. Why? Because in order to grow you need to expand your personal capacity and that requires you to take on new challenges. For that reason, you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Only then can you do the things that are necessary for your personal growth.

3. Have a strong desire to perform and excel

For the winners, simply meeting the standard is not enough. Their goal is exceptional performance. That’s why they often become their own worst critic. Whatever it is you are doing, strive to become the best that you can be.

4. Focus; one step at a time

To get things done, you need focus. But it’s difficult to do that if you look at the whole thing. So you should instead focus on just the current small step that you are in. In the author’s case, when going through a very difficult training, he simply focused on getting to the next meal. By focusing on doing that, he eventually overcame the big challenge.

5. Don’t dwell on past mistakes

Winners make mistakes just like other people, but what makes them different is their attitude toward mistakes. They don’t dwell on them nor let them hinder their actions. Instead, they learn their lessons, block the negative thoughts, and move on.

6. Know your window of opportunity

Whatever it is you are trying to accomplish, you should be aware of its window of opportunity. Something that looks promising today might become worthless a few months from now. By knowing the window of opportunity, you can use your resources wisely.

7. Adapt

The world is changing and changing fast. So if you want to thrive, you must be able to adapt. Some people insist on doing things the old way, but winners know that they need to change. They are willing to adopt a new way of doing things.

8. Make simple plans

Related to the point before, there is no point in making complicated plans. Why? Because they may become obsolete before you can execute them. So just create simple plans and go from there. This way you can react more quickly to new developments.

9. Be humble

Many people want to take credit for themselves, but winners know that they can’t achieve things by themselves. They also realize that there are others out there who can do what they do. So instead of bragging about their achievements, they stay humble.

10. Master throttle control

Winners know when to wait and when to act. When they need to wait, they wait patiently. When they need to act, they act decisively. They know how to read the situation.

11. Prepare for contingencies

Winners prepare themselves for bad situations. They know that things could go wrong so they prepare themselves beforehand. Do you have a plan B for your career? Have you built an emergency fund? Good preparation helps you recover quickly when things go wrong.

12. Be a team player

Winners know that they work best by being in a solid team, so they become good team players. They work with teammates with whom trust and responsibility are the norm. Working in a solid team will multiply your effectiveness.

13. Stack the odds in your favor

Though they work hard to improve their skills, winners know that luck still plays a role. That’s why they do what they can to stack the odds in their favor. Sometimes it means waiting until the time is right before taking action. Sometimes it means building a support system. Whatever it is, you need to learn how to maximize your chances.


Interesting lessons, aren’t they? It will take time to learn to apply them, but I believe we can all think and act like winners.

Photo by The U.S. Army


  1. Great list, but most people don’t need to use them all because they won’t do number 2 and get out of their comfort zone.
    I’m going to take the list today and look at my own life closely. It should be interesting to note where I need improvements.
    Dan @ ZenPresence

    • I totally agree, most people find it foolish to deal with the uncomfortable while they can just content themselves with the comfortable. They don’t realize what they’re missing out on while doing so. That’s why I love this kind of article to widen our perspectives!

    • I agree with the number two man. That is the hardest one for people yet it’s the best way for self growth.

    • Yes, number two especially, is easier said than done. Taking on new challenges that are just a little out of your comfort zone may be a good way to learn to do it.

  2. This is a great post!! The thing I see threaded in many of the list were determination. I like that. You don’t lose to you give up. All the info above suggest that you fight through in a way to make it to the end. I love number 10 hahaha. It’s true though. Good job!

  3. Such a great post! I especially liked “They also realize that there are others out there who can do what they do. So instead of bragging about their achievements, they stay humble”. Thank you Donald!

  4. I’d add stay true to your values. When it’s tough it’s easy to get knocked off course. Determination can only work if it pushes in the direction of our values. We have to believe in what we do and know that it accords with who we truly are.

  5. Another awesome post. I enjoyed all the 13 items in the list. However, the one with heading, “Be comfortable being uncomfortable” is my favorite.
    There is no short cut to success and if there is any, it is about having a great work ethic, willing to risk, waiting to fail forward and keep on keeping on.
    Thank you for this very insightful article.

  6. Love this. As a former Marine and veteran of the war in Iraq, I can totally relate to this. To add to this awesome list, you must be able to thrive in adversity, and always know your outcome. You define your world, not the other way around. In Iraq, our first objective, no matter where we were was to take control of the situation, and many times that meant giving others the perception of control. Great work!

  7. When listed like that it seems pretty simple. 🙂
    Number 6 is my favortie, timing is so important but often overlooked. I also think that when considered correctly timing can be developed. It’s all in kknowing and internalizing your stuff.

  8. I always like reading posts and articles about combining two sciences or principles from different industries. Such as here, we are adopting military principles to business growth or personal growth depending on how you look at it.

  9. It is a nice article and other articles from Donald are excellent.
    Thanks to Donald

  10. […] potential of himself and others. His background in IT shows in his ways of optimizing also life. Thinking and acting like a winner is the name of the […]

  11. Donald, You have compiled a wonderful practical list of what makes a successful winner.
    You have also managed to cover most angles from mental preparation right through to humble attitude upon achieving success.
    But the part which struck a chord with me, among a few others is the ability to be adaptable.I had to struggle the hardest with this particular point. But I’m getting there!

  12. It is a lovely post. A person can become successful only when behaves like one. Its a voice that drives you form within and no one else can control that but you. The biggest roadblock in your journey to become a winner is you, your fears, your self-doubts, they make you weak and give up on things. You have be confident about yourself and your ability and only then can you truly be a winner.

  13. It is easier to act your way into a new way of feeling then to feel your way into a new way of acting. Take action. Any action

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