The most successful businesspeople I have come across in conducting research for my books are truly competitive souls—sometimes to a fault. Their competitive spirit drives the way they think, the way they act and certainly the way they react. To others, these people appear to possess a high level of passion for winning.

The most powerful characteristic I’ve noticed about the super-competitive is that they think longer and harder about the challenges they face. They are hyper-focused on what it takes to get the win and care less about what they consider to be irrelevant details. And that focus may be precisely why they win more often.

If you ask them, most competitive souls will say that they are not reaching their full potential—even if they’ve reached goals that others can only dream of. Someone who is not driven by winning may feel satisfied with what they have accomplished. Competitive people can usually point to someone who is doing more, helping more or winning more than they are.

Competitiveness does not come from your boss telling you to work harder or try harder to win. Competitiveness is something self-imposed, powered by the comparison to others and the desire to be the best. In some cases, people are born with this spirit; in others, it’s developed over time.

My son, since he was a little boy, has had a deep desire to win. When he was young, he had to win at the board game Candyland, had to be the first in line for the bus each day, had to lead on our bike rides. Any normal situation is an opportunity for him to be first or to win. Today he’s a teenage hockey player and his desire to win fuels his efforts on the ice.

So does competitiveness determine success? Not always, of course, but I would say competitiveness often determines success. Where is your competitive spirit? Are you passionate? Do you want to be number one in your firm or industry?

Some people have given up on the dream. Some never thought they could achieve it. Some are burnt out. Some are still working and fighting, fueled by their competitive spirit. Where do you fall on the scale of competitiveness?

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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to www.redzonemarketing.com.