In a recent post, Rory nailed the essence of Coach Bear Bryant's adage that "The Will To Win Compares Little To The Will To Prepare To Win.".
One of Rory's readers asked "why do some people have that will to prepare and others do not...". It's a really good question. I'm not sure I have a clear answer. I know that see the difference all the time; one of the perks of teaching and training at one of the premier Muay Thai/MMA schools in the area (if not the country) is that you get to see a lot of aspiring competitors. I've seen a lot of "future UFC champions" come through the doors. I've never seen one of them actually make it into the UFC. Hell, I haven't even seen most of them fight. The guys who succeed at fighting are usually the ones who come down saying "I just want to train", and stick it out long enough to make something of themselves.
Part of the issue, I think, is that the process of preparing to win requires a lot of hard, often tedious, work. It's the tediousness that breaks a lot of people, but particularly the "future champions." Tell them to glove up and get ready for sparring, and they are all energy and excitement. Tell them they need to go do 1000 jabs on the bag, and, they look at you like you just took away their birthday cake. But it's the 1000 jabs that change how you spar. There is no substitute for getting the reps in.
This applies to self-defense too; people want to see what Coach Blauer calls The Move(TM). They want to hear that if they learn this one magical secret, they'll never have to be afraid again. The truth is that violence is pretty complicated, and you can spend a whole lot of time studying it and still not have all of the answers. Yes, I can show someone how to defend themselves really quickly (if they can make a mindset shift, I can show them in about five seconds). But really understand violence? Having a complex skill set to fall back on in a crisis? That takes time.
That's the preparing to win part. The time. The reps. Doing something not just until you get it right, but until you consistently get it right. For some reason, people don't really want to hear that.
The people who do get it tend to be people those people who have had to work hard for themselves in other areas. Ironically, it's the working mothers and fathers, the guys who train while holding down a job and trying to raise a family that often train harder and more intelligently than the guys who have nothing to do but train all day. That's not always true, but there seems to be a pattern there. Those who have already learned what it means to work hard to earn something understand that it applies in the gym too. Those who haven't learned that lesson don't get it.
There are other factors too. Another of Rory's readers mentions perceived need--if you think you desperately need something, you'll work harder than if you don't need it at all. Combat athletes, in particular, are sometimes driven by strange demons. Some of them are the things you'd expect: bad parents, a history of being bullied, etc. Some of them aren't. It's hard to call.
If you train regularly, then whatever motivates you needs to last much longer than the fight. Otherwise, it's pretty worthless.