As a massive sports fan, I love all the strategy and excitement of the “physical” game, but it’s the “mental” game that really inspires and captivates me. Because it’s the mental strength and determination that helps the greatest athletes overcome incredible obstacles, failures, and pain to reach the highest levels of humankind.
After years of studying games, interviews, documentaries, and more, I've learned several powerful lessons that helped me beat my own obstacles in life and make the most of my potential. Here are the 7 best ones that helped me outperform in my life, and if you learn these, I’m confident they can help you too:
1. Talent is nothing without work ethic
“Most talented players don’t always succeed. Some don’t even make the team. It’s more what’s inside.”
— Brett Favre
The greatest players in the game, regardless of sport, always work the hardest and spend the most time training and practicing. In fact, many weren’t even blessed with natural talent. (Tom Brady comes to mind as an example.)
And in my life, I wasn’t naturally talented in — well — most things. I wasn’t physically gifted. (I was the shortest and skinniest kid in my school until college.) I was a shitty writer until my early 20s. (I used to fail, cheat, and get detention.) Yet somehow, in just a few years, I was able to transform into a fitness coach for professional athletes and a writer for Esquire and GQ with my “negative” background.
My recipe was simple: Try to outwork and outsmart everyone else. Because while other people may have had more innate talent and gifts, I was going to make the very most of everything I had and work harder than the rest.
The truth is a lot of athletes get by on their genetic gifts, but the legends always go above and beyond. Talent, after all, will only get you so far; but when you apply it with an incredible work ethic, there’s no limit.
2. Take action, even when you don’t feel like it
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’”
— Muhammad Ali
When times were tough in my life, I always reminded myself of a lesson from the best athletes: It’s not how you perform when things are ideal; it’s how you perform when things are not ideal that separates you from the pack.
After all, there were plenty of times I didn’t want to do my work projects or exercise. But I knew I had to stay consistent—even when I didn’t feel like it—to become successful.
Ultimately, what separates elite athletes from mediocre ones is the elite always find a way to give their best effort, even when they exhausted, hurt, or struggling—they consistently show up, tough times and all.
“People hear about when you break something or something major happens, but they don’t hear about the every day grind that goes into playing that much. You maybe feel healthy for 20 per cent of your season, and the other 80 per cent you’re grinding and trying to find a way to make it through the game or make it into the game.”
To succeed, I couldn’t just wait until I “felt motivated” or the timing was right—it would’ve never happened. Instead, I took action, stuck with it, and eventually achieved the things I wanted.
3. Every day matters so make the most of them
“Make each day your masterpiece.”
— John Wooden
The biggest thing I’ve noticed from elite athletes versus mediocre ones is elite athletes are so intentional with their days. Almost everything they do has one purpose: To improve and become their best. They spend several hours daily training and practicing, and they eat and sleep with a strong purpose.
But years ago, when I was struggling, I wasn't taking that same approach. Sure, I wanted to improve my life, but my daily actions didn’t always align with what I “wanted.” And it made me realize how much more seriously I needed to take every single day—to use each one to move me toward my goals and to make the most of every moment because I don’t get them back.
And it made a huge difference in my life.
4. Transform your adversity into your strength
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
— Mike Tyson
Like most people, I’ve had low points in life. Yet for motivation, I always looked up to the greatest athletes who overcame worse. Some of them failed repeatedly, were doubted constantly, and even overcame poverty, health issues, and difficult upbringings (not to mention the challenge of opposing fans and players).
Cultivating a similar mental strength helped fuel me during my obstacles. Am I going to hide and feel hurt from setbacks? Or am I going to stand up and overcome them?
I could’ve run away from my problems, but instead, I realized hardship, criticism, and failure are all part of the journey. And I used each moment as a stepping stone to keep going.
5. Redefine what success means
“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
— John Wooden
A lot of elite athletes (but not all) have learned how to be successful without wrapping their entire existence in a win or a loss. After all, there are so many factors outside of their control — the way the ball bounces, the referees, etc.
In my life, I’ve learned that success is an unwavering determination and peace of mind I do only for myself — and nothing more. Because rather than it being some flashy achievement (something I can show off on Instagram or some trophy I can put on the shelf), success is something no one can or will ever see.
Because even if I never achieve any of my goals, if I can wake up every single morning and give my greatest effort — despite all the craziness, turmoil, and pain in the world — that is true success.
That is the only thing I can control.
That is the only thing I can be proud of.
6. Why you should never accept the status quo
“You should never stay at the same level. Always push yourself to the next.”
— Marnelli Dimzon
In July 2019, I sold everything, threw my possessions into a bag, and took a one-way flight to Europe, saying goodbye to the city, friends, and life I loved.
So why the hell did I leave if I enjoyed it that much?
Simple. I believe life is about constant growth. To me, it’s about reaching my highest potential and making the most of my existence. And while there might be certain things or benchmarks I want to achieve along the way, life is more about all the experiences that happen from now until then that matter.
The best athletes also aren’t afraid to risk everything and reinvent themselves, even after they reach the top. They always learn and grow. (For example, Tiger Woods switched coaches and changed this swing several times, even after winning championships.)
Many people, however, get comfortable. After they get some success, they just try to maintain it, but eventually lose the drive that got them success in the first place.
In life, I felt most alive when I was learning and challenging myself. That’s why I had to leave—and I’ve never regretted my decision once.
7. Develop a crazy confidence in yourself
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”
― Michael Jordan
People have doubted me since I was born (ha). Being the shortest and skinniest kid in my school, I was always picked on and teased. And it didn’t help that my parents doubted me too, especially when I chose an unconventional career path.
But even in those moments with literally zero support, encouragement, or mentors, I always knew I was destined for something bigger. Why?
Because why not?
A common thing about the greatest athletes in any sport is they have a damn-near delusional belief in themselves. Even when no one believes them, even when they’re not the most athletic, and even when the odds are against them, they still believe they can succeed.
It might seem unrealistic to have that level of optimism and confidence, but that’s what actually makes them successful.
Over the years, I’ve had to learn that, as much as life is about what happens around me, the key is what happens in my mind. And by controlling how I think, I unlocked things other people would’ve never thought was possible.
Success, ultimately, begins in the mind. Start seeing things in life that no one else can see from their current perspective. And don’t wildly overestimate the competition: They’re human too.
Believe in yourself and be willing to bet on yourself, and great things can happen.
Ready to upgrade your success? I’ve created 5 free life hacks that will boost your results. If you use them, your life could change very quickly.