From Bambinos to Billy Goats, Martha Stewart to Rush Limbaugh, Kobe Bryant to Cardinal Law, 2003 was a banner year for choke artists

In the last 12 months, we've seen the most unbelievable chokes from politicians to authors, sports heroes to media moguls.

You and I can learn a lot from celebrities who choke in the spotlight -- about what NOT to do.

From breaches of ethics to sheer hypocrisy to plain old lousy judgement, a choke artist differs from your run-of-the-mill failure in that they had everything in place to win, yet somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

So our first annual Heimlich Award "winners" (and I use the term loosely) by category are:

- Most Unfathomable Fall from Grace:
Cardinal Bernard Law. Last year: Leader of one of America's most powerful archdiocese. The Choke: Boston clergy sex scandal. Today: Serving as confessor to Benedictine nuns in Maryland!

- Most Flagrant Breaches of Ethics:
* Martha Stewart. Last year: All-powerful media mogul. The Choke: IMClone scandal. Today: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia net income down 86% (last reported quarter).

* Kobe Bryant. Last year: NBA savior, sports hero. The Choke: Adultery with a Colorado hotel employee. Today: Next in line after O.J. for endorsement deals.

* Mike Price. Last year: Incoming head football coach, University of Alabama. The Choke: A date with Destiny (a dancer at a local strip club). Today: Allegedly interviewing for coaching jobs at local soccer games.

- The Heights of Hypocrisy:
* Rush Limbaugh. Last year: Telling millions of people "what's right." The Choke: Drug addiction. Today: Poster child for "Don't do what I do, do what I say."

* William J. Bennett. Last year: Bestselling author, The Book of Virtues. The Choke: Gambling addiction. Today: Rumored to be working on next book, "The Book of Slots."

- Plain Ol' Lousy Judgement:
* Grady Little. Last year: Boston Red Sox manager beloved by players, media and fans. The Choke: ALCS 8th inning (with everyone in America shouting, "Take him out of there!" Today: Allegedly interviewing for managerial jobs at Domino's.

* Steve Chase. Last year: Chairman, AOL Time Warner. The Choke: Near $100-billion loss in 2002, the largest annual loss in US corporate history. Today: He ain't chairman, that's for sure.

* Trent Lott. Last year: Incoming Senate majority leader. The Choke: Mentioned that Sen. Strom Thurmond's views on segregation might be a neat idea. Today: Looks longingly at Bill Frist.

No one wants to admit it, but there's a little self-destruction in each of us. The key is to do all we can to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.

Bestselling author Noah St. John teaches people around the world how to get rid of the hidden blocks to success. Visit The Success Clinic Web site: to read book excerpts, see the All-Time Self-Sabotage Hall of Shame, and subscribe to Noah's no-cost electronic newsletter.

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