Champion Thinking: How to Find Success Without Losing Yourself

Champion Thinking: How to Find Success Without Losing Yourself
Many people equate ‘success’ with happiness. It’s the well trodden ‘I’ll be happy when X happens’ phenomenon, whether that X be a relationship, a promotion, a big house or retirement. But in sport, this phenomenon is particularly exaggerated. Consider what the elite are aiming for: Olympic Gold medals. World Cup trophies. Wimbledon titles. Superhuman success.

And yet, the number of elite athletes who reach the top of their proverbial Everest only to feel a sense of underwhelm and even emptiness is eye-wateringly large. When Jonny Wilkinson was a boy, he set two goals: to be the best rugby player on the planet, and to win a World Cup. At the age of 24, he ticked both off after famously kicking a drop goal to secure England the biggest trophy in international rugby. The day after achieving the biggest accomplishments his mind could conceive of, he felt as low as he ever had.

We therefore can definitively say success, as it tends to be defined, is not synonymous with happiness and lasting fulfilment. But the experience of flow, in which time distorts and our sense of self disappears, is intrinsically enjoyable. That is highly revealing.

Jonny Wilkinson told me, speaking about that famous 2003 drop-goal, “it wasn’t me kicking it, it was a knowing of it.” When recalling the most memorable moment of his career, jockey Frankie Dettori said, “it was like I was there, but I wasn’t there.” And Emma Raducanu, reflecting on her 2022 US Open triumph, spoke of being “so in the moment, it was insane. I wasn’t even thinking – my body was just moving.” All experiences of flow, all with the same ‘self-less’ characteristics.

It can be seductive to think of flow as the be all and end all, but its implications are where the real gold is to be found. When we ‘lose ourself’, whether through sport or any other number of ‘portals into presence’, we love it. When the separate self dissolves, joy and creativity shine. By understanding and embodying this recognition, we can start to free ourselves from clutches of the ego.

And so, returning to success, I argue in Champion Thinking that we have it the wrong way round. People chase success in the belief, unwitting or not, that it will make them ‘a somebody’. But the real treasure is in discovering that we are, in fact, nobody.

Champion Thinking: How to Find Success Without Losing Yourself, published by Bloomsbury, uses sport to explore the non-dual understanding. Drawing on interviews with the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Caitlyn Jenner and Rupert Spira, Simon Mundie aims to flip what he calls ‘success evangelism’ on its head.




Simon Mundie is the host of the podcast A New Way of Being, author of Champion Thinking: How to Find Success Without Losing Yourself, a BBC TV and Radio broadcaster, journalist, host and speaker. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters. You may see him pop up next on your television screens at Wimbledon, which he describes as his ‘spiritual home’.
A New Way of Being – Podcast



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