Mental toughness is finding the good in everything

It’s well-documented that those who make it through Navy Seal BUD/S training are not the biggest, baddest, strongest, or fittest. The SEAL who makes it through is the one who has already made it in their mind.

Much of what the media shows us, and our education taught us, paints a picture of mental toughness that is synonymous with physical strength, fitness, and hard work. It is common to see coaches attempting to cultivate “mental toughness” with physical challenges. If implemented responsibly, these challenges can be fun and inspiring every once in a while. But more often than not we see them used as punishment, sometimes leading to puking, rhabdo, serious injury, and even death. That’s when we’ve gone too far and have lost site of what mental toughness actually is and how it’s cultivated.

I believe mental toughness is more of a state of mind created by 3 things: Reframing, Preparation, and Consistency.


Reframing gives us the power to maintain and grow mental toughness over time. What does reframing sound like?

  • I showed up to the airport for a flight that left 24 hours ago. To rebook the same flight today cost me $1200. Good! A $1200 lesson. I’ll pay more attention the next time I book a flight and enter it into my calendar immediately. (True story)
  • I broke my leg snow boarding. Good! I can use the time I’m healing to reconnect with other things in my life, focus more on school, and train my weak points to come back stronger than before.
  • I didn’t get the job I REALLY wanted. Good! I’ll learn from this experience, sharpen my skills and be more prepared for the next opportunity.
  • I failed my last exam. Good! Now I can go back and see where I went wrong and how I can study better. This is also a good time to go and talk to my teacher about the difficulties I’m having and how I can better prepare.

Is reframing easy? Hell no. Do I do this with everything I perceive as bad? Eventually, yes. The initial shock of things usually leaves me paralyzed with emotion. Reframing is a skill. It’s something that gets easier with practice. I’m now able to reframe within minutes, hours or days, as opposed to weeks, months or years.

2. Preparation

Preparation gives us a greater chance of success when performing under pressure. And wouldn’t we say that mental toughness is the ability to perform successfully under pressure? Or even just perform under pressure? When we’re adequately prepared, we can then allow the majority of our energy and focus to be on overcoming the mental stressors of the situation or environment. Preparation is a great way to take power away from meaningless ‘worries’, and put it back into the mental battle that’s in front of you – which is usually the toughest of all.  

(Doug Kechijian explains all of this in more detail in these two posts: The Myth of Mental Toughness Training Part 1 and Part 2)

3. Consistency

The discipline of consistency itself can build mental toughness. Trying to improve on something day in and day out, over a period of years, is incredibly difficult. It cannot be done without mental toughness. Why? Because it’s too easy to quit when things get boring and mundane. When everything in your body tells you to stop or say no, it’s mental toughness that makes you say yes.

Want to help yourself and others build mental toughness? Start reframing what’s ‘bad’ in your life, prepare for the things you can control, and be consistent in your words and actions, even when the going gets tough. It has to start with you before others will follow.


Rethinking our ties to productivity: Is it worth it?

If my one word this year wasn’t ‘Sharing’, it was going to be ‘No Lists’. At any one time I have more than 5 To Do lists going. I’ve come to realize that a lot of my self-worth is tied to these lists and how much I can check off. I wear the number of projects and things I can take on as a badge of honor – more work must mean I’m more valuable. But if I don’t get enough of my To Do list done, I feel like a failure. When I let the lists define me, it snowballs into a constant subtle anxiety, always thinking about what’s next on the damn list. How exhausting.

Lists aren’t the problem. We need them to operate successfully in life. Without calendars and post-it notes, how would we remember when our next dentist appointment is, when we need to submit that project to our boss, or to schedule that call with Kevin. But when our sense of self is directly influenced by how much we cross off our lists, they become dangerous. When we start to believe that falling behind on our lists means we’re not enough as a parent, employee, or human being, it’s time to reevaluate.

In The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn Schiraldi, Henri J.M. Nouwen says,

  “I do not want to suggest that productivity is wrong or needs to be despised. On the contrary, productivity and success can greatly enhance our lives. But when our value as human beings depends on what we make with our hands and minds, we become victims of the fear tactics of our worlds. When productivity is our main way overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression. Productivity can never give the deep sense of belonging we crave. The more we produce, the more we realize that success and results cannot give us the experience of “at homeness”. In fact, our productivity often reveals to us that we are driven by fear. In this sense, sterility and productivity are the same: both can be signs that we doubt our ability to live fruitful lives.”

To disassociate myself from the lists, I’ve started to put them away and instead use a single sheet of paper to write my calendar and daily to dos. But again, an unhealthy relationship with lists is just a symptom of a larger problem. That problem being how we frame our self-esteem in relation to our perceived productivity.

“Your worth is not measured by your productivity”

Are there things outside of your SELF that you tie your self-esteem to?


No One’s Heard YOU Say It

I’ve been asked many times by up-and-coming coaches, trainers, and others in our industry what advice I have on advancing their careers and elevating their reputation. The question always humbles me. Why? Because I often feel like an imposter. Thinking, ‘I’m too young and inexperienced to share anything of (new) value.’ ‘Who would want to read what I write?’ ‘Why should I be standing on a stage speaking?’ These self-imposed narratives are ones I’m challenged with constantly. And maybe you experience these narratives too.

Let’s reframe these narratives. In reality, everything has been said before. Few stones have gone unturned. Not much has been unsaid. But what the world hasn’t experienced is how YOU say it. Your unique experience and perception of the world give each thought new meaning. Different dots are connected.

A lot of what I’ve been sharing in my posts is common knowledge, but you haven’t heard MY take on them. My perspective is new. And because you change moment to moment, your experience of the information is also new.

“You can never step into the same book twice, because you are different each time you read it.” – John Barton

When do you experience imposter syndrome? When you know you’re in it, what do you do about it?


Show Me Where to Look, But Not What To See.

We can all benefit from having a mentor. And not just one. Like a snake sheds its skin, we shed our mentors when it’s time. And although your mentor will change throughout your career, the fact that you need one never will.

Over my career I’ve had some incredible mentors. I truly stand on the shoulders of giants. At 16, I was introduced to Ken Mattson who took me under his wing and taught me how to lift. In college it was my chance meeting of @Kev_in_carr and all the information I consumed on T-Nation and EliteFTS, from Mike Boyle, Dan John, Mike Robertson, Eric Cressey, Jim Wendler, Dave Tate, and many others. Post-college, it was multiple internships then a job at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning where I learned in dog years. I am forever grateful to Coach @michael_boyle1959 and the many amazing coaches I got to work with when I was there. Coach @coachdanjohn came shortly after, and continues to be a mentor. Now 10 years into my career, my mentors have become the people who attend our CFSC courses – because when “one teaches, two learn.”

Mentors can come in many forms and from unlikely sources – coworkers, communities, clients, children, hobbies, articles, books. For me, mentors have to meet the following criteria:

(1) Shares knowledge (willingly) – They are doing what you want to be doing; so you watch, listen, and learn.

(2) Keeps you accountable – They’re a neutral party with a birds-eye view. They don’t tell you want you want to hear, they tell you what you need to hear.

(3) It’s a relationship, not a dictatorship – It is clear that the person, place, or thing cares about you and your success. This factor of mentorship is MORE important than knowledge. The root of the word relationship is – relate. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care – THEN they’ll care how much you know.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb

Your turn…

Who are, or have been, your mentors?

How did you meet and what have they done for you?

What do YOU look for in a mentor?

What requirements do you have for your mentors?


My Top 10 Read’s of 2018

Below are my top 10 favorite reads of 2018. There were a lot of great books that didn’t make my “books of the year” for one reason or another. (See the full book list below). I also read a lot of BAD books. I always finish the books I don’t like because I want to know WHY I don’t like them, and if I ever write a book I want to be sure to not do THAT, whatever “that” is.

If you have any questions about a book or want a recommendation please leave a comment. And if you read any game-changing books in 2018 please share! (Read 2017’s top 10 here and 2016’s top 10 here)

Cheers to fulfilling books, good health, and great workouts in 2019!

Top 10 of 2018

  1. Boss Life by Paul Downs
  2. Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday
  3. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  4. Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger
  5. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
  6. Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens
  7. 12 Rules of Life by Jordan B. Peterson
  8. Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
  9. Where We Should Begin by Esther Perel
  10. Spaceman by Michael J. Massimino

Notable Mentions: Lone Survivor, Radical Candor, Dare to Lead, Bad Blood, The Four Agreements, What Doesn’t Kill Us, Power of Full Engagement, Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln

All of 2018’s Reads:

  • Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business by Paul Downs
  • TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson and Tom Rielly
  • ALL GAIN, NO PAIN: The Over-40 Man’s Comeback Guide to Rebuild Your Body After Pain, Injury, or Physical Therapy by Bill Hartman and Zac Cupples
  • How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen and James Allworth
  • The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz
  • The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins
  • The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King by Robertson Dean and Rich Cohen
  • What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength by Scott Carney and Inc Foxtopus
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  • Do Less, Be More: The Power of Living Fully Engaged by John Busacker
  • The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom and Paul Stanley
  • The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery by don Miguel Ruiz
  • The Autobiography of Charles Darwin: 1809-1882 by Charles Darwin and Nora Barlow
  • An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back by Elisabeth Rosenthal and Nancy Linari
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Kathe Mazur and Susan Cain
  • Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths
  • Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz and Tim Andres Pabon
  • Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain – for Life by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg
  • The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People & Teams That Win Consistently by Tony Dungy
  • Gift of Injury by Stuart McGill and Brian Carroll
  • Joy: The Happiness That Comes from Within by Osho
  • Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin
  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
  • Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders and Katy Sobey
  • You Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason and Grover Gardner
  • Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
  • The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
  • The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
  • How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes
  • Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson
  • Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals by Michael Hyatt
  • The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley and Simon Prebble
  • Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino
  • Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards
  • Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Every Shot Must Have a Purpose: How GOLF54 Can Make You a Better Player by Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott
  • Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
  • From Childhood to Champion Athlete by Tudor Bompa
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  • Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care – and Why We’re Usually Wrong by Robert Pearl and Jaime Renell
  • Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience by The Great Courses and Professor Indre Viskontas Ph.D.
  • Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger III
  • Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind by V.S. Ramachandran and Neil Shah
  • CEO Strength Coach by Ron McKeefery
  • The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose
  • Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Victor Bevine and Steven Pinker
  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
  • The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker and Raymond Todd
  • The Book on Rental Property Investing: How to Create Wealth and Passive Income Through Smart Buy & Hold Real Estate Investing by Brandon Turner
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker and Arthur Morey
  • The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle and Will Damron
  • How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Speak So Your Audience Will Listen: 7 Steps to Confident and Authentic Public Speaking by Robin Kermode
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
  • Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words by Kevin Hall and Patrick Lawlor
  • On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy by Carl R. Rogers and Peter D. Kramer MD
  • Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too by Gary Vaynerchuk and Rich Roll
  • The Mask of Masculinity: How Men Can Embrace Vulnerability, Create Strong Relationships, and Live Their Fullest Lives by Lewis Howes
  • Wooden: A Coach’s Life by Seth Davis and Stephen McLaughlin
  • The Truth by Neil Strauss and Ione Skye
  • Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
  • The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh, Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh
  • Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty
  • Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
  • Measure What Matters by John Doerr
  • Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday
  • Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
  • Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex by Aubrey Marcus
  • The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
  • Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker
  • Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark and Jim Meskimen
  • Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
  • A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink
  • Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Paul Mason and Randi Kreger
  • Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling: Master the Art of Persuasion, Influence, and Success by Jordan Belfort
  • Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
  • For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women by Shaunti Feldhahn and Jeff Feldhahn
  • I Need Your Love, Is That True? By Byron Katie
  • Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist and Zondervan
  • The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul by Danielle LaPorte
  • Never Lose a Customer Again by Joey Coleman
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari and Derek Perkins
  • Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life.And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven and Hachette Audio
  • The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques for a Healthier, Slimmer, Faster, and Fitter You by Patrick McKeown and Alan Smyth
  • Attention and Motor Skill Learning by Gabriele Wulf
  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown and Lauren Fortgang
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig and Michael Kramer
  • Getting to Us: How Great Coaches Make Great Teams by Seth Davis and Mark Deakins
  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou and Will Damron
  • Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein and Graham Winton
  • Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman
  • It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by D. Michael Abrashoff
  • The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin and Tim Ferriss
  • Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement by Frank Forencich
  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown
  • Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers by James C. Humes and Norman Dietz
  • American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White and Arthur Morey
  • Where Should We Begin? The Arc of Love by Esther Perel
  • Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear
  • Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals by Robert M. Pirsig
  • Awake at Work: 35 Practical Buddhist Principles for Discovering Clarity and Balance in the Midst of Work’s Chaos by Michael Carroll
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie by Andrew Carnegie, Antony Ferguson, et al.
  • Not Another Fitness Book: A Memoir. A Manual. A Message for 49 Million Baby Boomers by Steven Head CSCS
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller and Christopher Lane
  • A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold and Mike Chamberlain
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and Philip Franklin
  • Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik
  • Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and Emily Woo Zeller

How you do anything is how you do everything.

We all have pet peeves. Mine is people who don’t put their shopping carts back in the stall. It seems ridiculous, but how you do anything is how you do everything. Of course there are extenuating circumstances, but if you can get it to your car, you can put it away. How we do the little things is how we’ll do the big things. Don’t cut corners.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” – Will Durant

True story. There was once an executive board meeting to meet the new CEO. Just before the meeting, one of the board members passed by the new CEO on his way out of the bathroom. The CEO did not know this was one of the board members. On his way out, the CEO threw away his paper towel, but missed the trash can and it ended up on the floor. The CEO paused, looked at the paper towel on the floor, and made the decision not to pick up and put it in the garbage. He left it on the floor. The board member saw all of this.

When the board member made his way back to the conference room, he told one of the other board members that he didn’t think this new CEO would last very long. Why? Because he didn’t clean up after himself. Within 6 months, the CEO was out for negligence.

Personally, I want the leader who’s willing to do the dirty work. The teammate who doesn’t expect others to clean up after them. Someone who is responsible for their own actions, their own cart, and their own trash. I want the coworker who is willing to weather the storm, and not just when it’s convenient. It starts at the individual level. If you treat yourself well, you’ll treat your family, friends, co-workers and organizations well.

The next time you’re going to pass on something you know you should do, remember this: “the difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” – Charles Swindell.

Do what is right, not what is easy. Be GREAT!

(Dak Prescott is the kind of leader I want leading my team)

The ‘shopping cart’ has become an analogy in my life for when I decide not to do what is right, but instead what’s easy. It’s using the HOV lane when I shouldn’t because I’m running late. It’s seeing someone who needs help but deciding I’m too short on time to offer it. It’s saying “no” to my daughter without an explanation why. It’s….

What’s your ‘shopping cart’?