08 Mar 6 Winning Habits from My Friend Who Won 100 Races

Recently, as I approached a treadmill for a three-mile lunchtime run, I overheard my friends Sean Daley and Tommy Brauneis chatting. Seconds later, Sean glanced at me while pointing at Tommy and said, “Did you know that Tommy won 100 races in his lifetime?” To put actually winning 100 races into perspective, only 0.5% of the US population have even participated in a marathon. With my mouth opened in awe, I blurted out  “What?!? That’s incredible! Tommy, let’s grab coffee this week.”

The “Fun” Didn’t Start Until Age 55

A couple of days later, we met for coffee. I learned that Tommy didn’t get hooked on fitness until 1994, when he was 55 years old. While chatting at a bar in Elm Grove, his fit friend asked if he’d be interested in doing a triathlon with him. Tommy accepted the challenge and rest is history. Since that day 24 years ago, Tommy has participated in about 150 races, anywhere from “short” 8K’s, to sprint triathlons, to full marathons. Half marathons were his favorite races and where he had the most fun (not Netflix marathons mind you), because he could run the race and still recover in two days. At one point, he was winning 10 races per year. Heck, even Trek Bicycle Corporation noticed his accomplishments and asked Tommy to represent them in their commercial during the year of Lance Armstrong’s last Tour de France.

6 Winning Habits from My Friend Who Won 100 Races

During our interview, it became very clear to me that Tommy’s main focus was never about trophies and medals. Instead, he committed to seemingly easy habits that are not actually easy to execute.

Winning Habit #1: Associate MORE with positive people. When I asked Tommy what his success habits were, he quickly responded, “Associate with positive people and eliminate negativity.” In fact, his daughter Kim and he have both hung a sign in their homes that says, “Negativity Is Not Allowed Here.” I then asked Tommy who the most positive person in his life had been. His eyes welled with tears and left him speechless as he pointed to the name Hubie Krawczyk on his page of handwritten notes. Hubie was Tommy’s longtime coach and started every session with positive vibes by saying, “We’re gonna rock it today!” Where can you spend more time with positive people that will help you rock it?

Winning Habit #2: Spread MORE kindness and happiness to others. When I asked Tommy, “What does success mean to you?”, he answered, “I want to pass along happiness. This was the way that my two sisters and I were raised.” In a world where you can be anything, Tommy describes himself as “happy.” When I asked our mutual friend, Maggie Koeneke, about Tommy, she said, “Tommy creates happiness and chooses to be nice no matter what, to make someone else’s day better. His infectious laugh and unsquashable zest for life is nothing short of contagious. At the gym, we all laugh and forget about the sweat that’s dripping off of our noses because we are having fun.” Over the last year, I can’t tell you how many times Tommy has personally said to me and emailed me, “Be nice. Life is so much better when people like you.” Who needs your kindness and happiness to help lift him or her up?

Winning Habit #3: Spend MORE time preparing. A few months ago, Tommy stopped by my office and asked, “Did you watch the Joe Buck and Bobby Knight interview last night?” I told him that unfortunately, I had not, and asked him what I missed. He told me that, “Everyone has the desire to win; however, those who prepare to win will succeed in all facets of life.” Tommy learned this the hard way during his first race at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1994. He vividly remembers sprinting the first 50 yards, gasping for air, watching everyone pass him, and finishing the five-miler in the bottom 10 percent. Since that day, Tommy prepares for everything… every workout with a warm up, every coffee meeting with a page of notes. According to his niece, Monica Goebel, “UT (Uncle Tom) invests in the right equipment, learns about the fine details, and puts in dedicated practice with enthusiasm.” How can you be more prepared in work and life?

Winning Habit #4: Be MORE focused during tough times. Tommy spent 35 years of his career as an air conditioning technician at Johnson Controls. The majority of his calls were at hospitals when the A/C would go down and the rooms would be over 90 degrees. I asked Tommy, “How did you push through the tough times?” He answered, “I focused and eliminated everything else around me, including the doctors complaining.” Today, one of Tommy’s tough  challenges is a recent achilles tendon injury. To get through it, Tommy was focused on his rest and recovery and didn’t give up. Today, at 78 years old, he is still focused on working out for five days per week. Where and when do you need to be more laser-focused?

Winning Habit #5: Invest MORE time volunteering. Tommy is a giver. According to his nephew, Eric Klug, “When people ask me about my uncle, I don’t mention running and biking. I talk about his volunteer work.” In the past, he provided seminars about safe cycling for bike shops, gifted bike helmets for children lacking funds, and started a lobbying campaign for bike lanes. For the majority of his 150 races, there was a children’s half-mile race before the starter pistol would fire. Tommy developed a love for kids after spending so much time with them before the races. Today, he continues to invest his time with the youth by regularly volunteering at Children’s Hospital. Additionally, Tommy volunteers as a traveler’s aid at the Milwaukee Airport, because he loves meeting people, minimizing their frustrations, and making them smile. If Tommy could go back 20 years, he would’ve volunteered even more. Who could benefit from some of the gifts that you’ve been given?

Winning Habit #6: Give MORE effort every day. This week, I asked a few of Tommy’s friends and family members, “How has Tommy inspired you?” In one way or another, all of them answered with something like, “He always challenges me to give the extra one percent.” One of his cycle instructors, Jules Philippi, told me that Tommy wrote the words “1% More” on the back of her business card and she’s kept it on her bulletin board as a reminder. We all know that runner who runs up and down the same street three to four times to get in that last quarter of a mile in for training… that’s Tommy. After winning his first twenty races, his competitors would say to him before races, “You’re here again? What’s the point of racing? You always win.” When Tommy would hear this, he would think to himself, “You are capable of giving the extra one percent in your training, too.” Tommy trained himself to get used to the extra one percent. Over time, he saw a compound effect… the one percent became two percent, the two percent became three percent. How can you give an extra one percent every day to achieve constant steady progress over time?

Click to Tweet: Winning Habits! Associate MORE with positive people. Spread MORE kindness and happiness to others. Spend MORE time preparing. Be MORE focused during tough times. Invest MORE time volunteering. Give MORE effort every day. #MoveToGrow #Leadership

“That Was a Great Way to Start My Day!”

Because I didn’t want Tommy to be late for or miss his cycling class, we had time for just one more question. I asked him, “What do you want your legacy to be?” Tommy responded, “Humble and sharing.” That same evening, I received an email from him that said, “That was a great way to start my day! I made a donation to Children’s Hospital in your family’s name.” You see, life is NOT about winning… life IS about giving and making a positive difference in other people’s lives.

Click to Tweet: Life is NOT about winning… life IS about giving and making a positive difference in other people’s lives. @DerekDeprey #MoveToGrow #Leadership

ACTION: Start your day in a great way! What winning habit will you apply today?

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