"Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking."
Former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback and US congressman JC Watts once said that, and I think it applies nicely to something Mariano recently showed me about his competitive spirit.
Two weeks ago, I called up Mariano a few days before his final game, to check in, and he sounded a little upset.
"Are you okay?" I asked. "Is it because you're retiring?"
"No," he said. "It's because we're losing."
"I'm bummed we didn't play well in Toronto," he continued. "I'm not bummed about my career ending. I chose that. But I hate losing."
I thought that was amazing.
Here, Mo was at the end of his storied, Hall of Fame career, and he wasn't thinking of his own glory; he was still just thinking about the team winning some basically "meaningless" regular season games in Toronto.
But that's Mo. It doesn't matter if it's the World Series, or a spring training game in Tampa - he brought his full competitive spirit.
That's how people who want to be the best are. They put pride and character into everything they do, no matter how big or small.
Their competitive spirit is less a skill than who they are. It's not a switch they flip. It's always on.
Do you take pride in every little thing you do? From the smallest, most mindless task to the biggest, "most important" project?
At the end of the day, if you want to be a success, you have to treat them both the same.
You have to put your all into everything, even - no, especially - "when no one is watching."
It's not something you have to do. It's someone you have to be.