Greatness is Learned:

Messi by Guillem Balagué

*don’t just read for the sake of reading. read so you can apply, read so you can grow.

Lionel Messi is often hailed as the greatest football player of all time. With his mesmerising dribbling technique, ability to change games at his whim and insane goal scoring record – not many can deny that Leo truly is the GOAT.

That’s 8 league titles, 4 champions leagues, 6 Supercopa de Españas, 3 UEFA Supercups, 3 FIFA Club World Cups and 1 Olympic Gold Medal… Then there’s the personal achievements: Top La Liga Scorer Ever, 5 Ballon d’Ors and more…

So what lessons can we learn from Messi? How can we too be great in our area of competence? P.S. Don’t you ever forget, greatness is learned.


He had extraordinary talent. When Leo was young, he was able to do kick ups with anything, an orange, a tennis ball and even a ping pong ball.

  • Leo had an advantage over you: he spent all day, every day, with the ball. Between James, during the game, at home, in the school yard. Every blessed day.”

The philosophy of his father George Messi: concentrate on the struggle and the desire to get better all the time, only then will be inspired to be the best they can be, even if you have faced defeat.

  • Messi had a mentor, his father, who was teaching him stoic virtues that have stocked with him ever since.


“He has played many times with his ankle fucked. I know this because many times Juanjo Brau says that it’s impossible, and then Leo goes and plays.” – Pique

  • Messi is almost immune to pain on the football field. From a young age he has been used to being kicked hard as hell by his opponents but it doesn’t seem to affect his game he is tough.

“He doesn’t throw in the towel, there are some for whom life becomes faulty and they can’t see the way forward, there are others who find themselves in the middle of the hailstorms and still come through it.”

  • Unfortunately, most of us are soft and revert back to comfort and stability as soon as things get a little rough. It’s not like 500 years ago when you either toughened up or died. And if you’re reading this, it’s unlikely you live in a 3rd world country where you either be phenomenal and get yourself out of the village, or live in poverty like almost everyone else. For most of us, if push comes to shove we can distract ourselves with the Internet (maybe even drugs) and let it all fade away. Being able to power through tough times is so much easier said than done. But if you’re able to do it, you have a great advantage over almost everyone else.

“When he was younger playing Street football he be kicked to bits by boys much older than him. It’s like how Tiger Woods would deliberately hits his ball into the stand sand to make his training more demanding.”

  • These are just examples of ‘how’ you can toughen up. Once again, being tough is underrated but I promise, you it’ll take you far. The way I toughen up is by mediating in freezing cold shower water.

Never Good Enough

“I never played well for my old man. As a youngster I’d score 4 goals, but, for him, it was never good enough he always had some criticism that mean you want to succeed more and more every time in the hope that he’d say “you played well “.

  • This became instinctual to Messi. His whole footballing career he has been his biggest critic. Almost like there’s a voice in his head telling him he’s not good enough. 20th century billionaire John D. Rockefeller had this same trait. Even when he was one of the richest men in America, every night he’d tell himself that he’s not a big shot, that he needs to realise that he has a long way to go.

“We live trying to improve all of our ambitions and was football I am no exception. My objective is to grow, not to remain with what I have. I always say it. I have to get better in everything” – Lionel Messi (After winning his 4th Ballon d’Or)

He Knows Himself

Knowing what your strengths and weaknesses is a key component of your success. It’s what allows you to consistently perform well. From a young age she was always good at taking the ball and dribbling past multiple players. When he arrived at the Barcelona Academy he did the same thing. EVEN though he was told to abide by La Masia rules – quick passing and high possession. He didn’t do it. But by him doing his own thing they were winning games! Of course, nowadays he’s adapted his game and passes a lot more – for the sake of the team. But the moral of the story, is stick to what works, double down on what works, you can even quadruple down on what works.


When he was young, Barcelona knew he loved to win, and they wanted to channel this drive. So on weekends, they’d put him in the teams they expected to lose. And because Messi was there, they would win. They ended up creating a competitive monster. Because of this competitive drive, Messi is often seen crying after matches. Because he EXPECTS to win. Not because he’s cocky but because he has faith in his practiced ability.


“I admire has capacity to keep on learning. I don’t know any one who produces so many solutions to so many problems in something as variable as football – Andonni Zubizarretta. When it comes to listening to people, make sure you’re listening to the right people. People with top experience and competence. That’s why mentors and coaches are so important. Just don’t listen to idiots, and if you do, let them teach you what NOT to do.”


“Leo used to say with confidence that he wanted to be the best”… Having clear and precise aims can take you very far. Arnold Scwarzzeneger said having clear aims is actually liberating. I’ve personally found they help you stay on track and prevent you from overthinking.

*****Consistent ***** Training

Men like Lionel Messi have practised so much that their abilities have become instinctive reaction and the practice of them easy.

Matthew Syed rejects words like genius, prodigy, or natural talents when referring to Leo Messi because he believes that excellence is due principally to continual and deliberate practice. This opinion challenges the cultural belief that a genius is born and not made.

Syed agrees with Malcolm Gladwell’s. book ‘Outliers’. That it takes 10,000 hours to reach sporting excellence. That is the equivalent of training for 2.7 hours a day for 10 years. So it’s not just a matter of quantity but also of quality (quality is provided by good mentors).

  • “Mozart had 3500 hours of practice by the age of six and was studying music for 18 years before writing his first great work. Tiger Woods started swinging golf balls when he was two years old. Serena Williams started her tennis career when she was three. At the age of three Messi began kicking a ball that was almost bigger than him.”

In Syed’s book, ‘Bounce’, he talks about the Time Paradox in which elite performers like Messi seem to have all the time in the world. This is simply the consequence of deliberate practice and constant competition. Scientific studies on Ronaldo, Maradona, and Messi show that when they play football it’s almost like they are in The Matrix. Because they can pick up more information in a single look than almost anyone else.

What keeps men like Messi motivated?

Matthew Syed thinks he’s found the answer… “All of us have experienced a climax but it is the incredible the speed at which the best players come down to earth after winning a big title: almost as if they were distancing themselves from a particular goal that they may have spent years trying to achieve. When they empty out, they have to you fill up as quickly as possible by getting the next title , and the one after, and on and on…”

  • It’s self-explanatory, don’t get proud and keep hustling.

Keep going,


One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.