I was watching the movie The Devil’s Advocate, and was struck by a perfect description of Mental Toughness. Al Pacino is trying to seduce a small town lawyer from Florida to join his firm in New York. Here’s what Pacino says: “I know you got talent. It’s the other thing I wonder about. Pressure. Changes […]
Ever heard the phrase, “Balls to the Wall?” It always kinda confused me. You’re out on the field or on the court, and some guy’s yelling, “Balls to the Wall!” I never knew what the hell it meant. And I guess if I gave it any serious thought, it would have brought up some pretty […]
My old High School football coach had some memorable quotes. Some of em…not so positive. I remember him yelling at us in the locker room: “No matter how good you are, you’re all replaceable.” Or telling us, “The more negative energy you have, the better football player you’re gonna be.” He was like an alcoholic […]
The good word from a Tension Blaster member, Tyler: “I’ve just completed the 9 week Heavy Tension Blaster cycle and I have got to say that I’m impressed. My anxiety has lessened a lot. For example I was almost in a head on collision with another car. In the past when something like would have […]
There are plenty of reasons I look up to Royce Gracie. For one, he was the guy who cleaned up on all the early UFCs, proving to the world the unbelievable power of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. But what really amazes me is something I heard in an interview with him. He said he was so […]
Sometimes I get some flack for being so hard on the ‘positive thinking’ crowd. Truth is, I don’t really have anything against positive thinking. If I’m gonna have thoughts rattling around my skull, I figure they may as well be positive, goal-directed, achievement oriented, etc. That’s all good. It might even be helpful sometimes. But […]
I loved the original Star Wars when I was a kid. Especially the scenes where Yoda trains Luke to become a Jedi. Go figure. As it turns out, that Jedi stuff is pretty close to Mental Toughness training. So let’s see what we can learn from Master Yoda: “Unlearn what you have learned.” Whenever I […]
This is one of the craziest stories in sports history. On June 12, 1970, Dock Ellis, pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, took some LSD with his girlfriend. It was his day off. Well, he thought it was his day off. About an hour after they took the acid, Dock’s girlfriend opened the newspaper. “Dock,” she […]
Okay, confession time.
I’m not a natural at this stuff. Not in any sense of the word.
Everything I’ve learned, I had to learn the hard way. Painfully and slowly, until I finally managed to slam it through my skull.
Let me give you an example.
A few years ago I ran a half marathon. I’d never been much of a distance runner, but I like to change up my workout routine every now and then. Plus, I’d learned that a long run can be a great way to process the intense energies released after an NRW session, so I’d developed a taste for it.
I loved my training. I’d find a nice track, or trail in the woods, and run for six miles, eight miles, ten miles, just tuning into my body. Just me, the fresh, crisp air, and the joy of movement.
Oh yeah. And the blabbering, idiotic mental chatter bouncing around my brain like a gang of crack-smoking leprechauns.
Seriously. I mean, I knew my mind was like a wind-up toy, but this was ridiculous.
Here’s a re-enactment:
“I wonder what I’ll eat when I get home. Chicken’s pretty good. Oh, wait, did I lock the door? Yeah pretty sure I locked it. Maybe I should get renter’s insurance. Nah. Oh hey, a squirrel! I remember that one time, a squirrel bit me. Bastard. That was back when I was dating Maggie. Man, what went wrong between us? I really felt like we were meant for each other. But who can fathom the mysteries of the human heart? We didn’t yet know ourselves, and yet–Hey, there’s that squirrel again! Dogs like squirrels.”
I sometimes wonder what the legendary soldier Pheidippides thought about on his legendary run from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians. I don’t think it was that dumb, but it probably was.
This would go on until around mile six, when the famous runner’s high would kick in. It was like snapping out of a trance, and I’d find myself fully in my body.
Of course, you don’t want to have to run six miles to get to that place. Especially if your thoughts are not just dumb, but actively self-defeating, like “I’m not good enough,” “I’ll never make it,” or “maybe I should just quit.”
Here’s the trick that took me forever to learn: You don’t have to stop the mind chatter.
You don’t have to battle it or overcome it. The same goes for negative emotions. You don’t need to wrestle with them or “figure them out.” Those are both futile tasks, and they’ll do nothing but sap your energy and keep you stuck right where you are.
All you have to do is stop identifying with them. Observe them, and then let them go. Because ultimately, even the most intensely negative thoughts or emotions can’t stop your body from moving. Only you can do that.
In sports, you always want to focus on controlling the controllables. Weird as it may sound, your thoughts and emotions are not usually among the controllables.
Don’t believe me? Try not thinking for five minutes and see how it goes.
So screw it. Stop wasting your energy fighting your thoughts. Let the weight lift off of you. Just watch them come and go like the weather, and keep your focus on your body. That’s the only part of you that lives in the real, physical world anyway.
Easier said than done? Of course. But it can be done. And the more tension you dissolve, the more those negative thoughts and feelings start to look like faces in the mist.
They seem real until you walk right through them.
Coach Fox wasn’t your average offensive line coach.
Most high school coaches are forgettable, but I’ll always remember Coach Fox and his stories. Here’s one of my favorites:
Back when he played college ball in the 50’s, no one lifted weights. It just wasn’t done. A lot of people even thought it was bad for you.
That meant only naturally big guys played on the line. Problem was, Coach Fox wanted to be a lineman. And he wasn’t a big guy.
So he started lifting weights.
Keep in mind, this wasn’t like today, where you can just stroll into a 24 Hour Fitness. You couldn’t even buy a decent set of dumbbells.
So Coach Fox made his own weight set out of broomsticks and cement cans.
I’m going to repeat that: He made his own weight set out of broomsticks and cement cans.
And he lifted until he was so strong, the big guys didn’t know what hit ’em.
I always think of that story when I start coaching someone new to NRW, and watch them realize that champion-level Mental Toughness is within their reach. That it isn’t just for the naturals.
It’s like everything else. You just need the right tools, the right game plan, and to work at it.
It’s hard to imagine a day when football players didn’t lift. But hey, NFL players used to drink beer and smoke in the locker room. Don’t believe me? Check out some NFL films from the 70’s. Things change fast.
Maybe your grandkids won’t be able to imagine a day when athletes didn’t do NRW. Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is what YOU can do NOW to build your Mental Toughness. Are you going to let the naturals take all the glory? Or are you going to dig around and find solutions where your competitor isn’t looking?
If Coach Fox taught me anything, it’s this: If you want to improve any aspect of your game, you can.
Sometimes you just have to go off the beaten path to do it.
As usual, common wisdom is wrong.
I’m not talking about negative thinking. If you must think, you might as well make it positive.
I’m talking about so-called “negative” emotion.
A lot of the time you need to be positive. You need to loudly and passionately say Yes.Yes to your positive images of yourself. Yes to your true goals and dreams. Yes to your potential. You need to be the creator.
But other times you need to say No. And you need to mean it. Fiercely.
No to giving up. No to mediocrity. No to naysayers. No to your opponents, both inner and outer.
You need to be the destroyer.
And for that, you need to summon and channel your negativity with the strength and skill of a master.
I learned this accidentally, back in freshman football. It was two-a-day practices, and it was hard. A lot harder than I thought it would be. I was failing as a wide receiver, drowning in self-pity and frustration. I felt like quitting.
As we ran around the field one morning, warming up, that negativity grew until it became a burning anger.
When we got into tackling lines, that anger got so intense it exploded. I hit the guy with the bag so hard that everyone went silent.
That’s when the coach put my scrawny, 145-pound butt on the offensive line, where I could hit people all day.
That’s how I learned I could play football.
It’s easy to sell positivity and positive thinking. Everyone likes to feel good, and of course, positivity makes you feel…well, positive. For a while, anyway.
But when it comes to actually getting something done, actually performing–especially under pressure–you need a full deck of cards. You need to know how to use the power of negativity, too.
Don’t resist it. Don’t fight against it.
And don’t run from it. You can’t run from something within you. You can convince yourself it’s gone, but it’ll sneak up on you when you least expect it.
Instead, turn toward it. Make it your friend. Flow with it, and let that power be at your back.
Listen. You can’t get rid of negativity. It’s impossible. There’s no positive without negative. One will never beat the other. It’s yin and yang, light and dark.
The question is, can you use your negativity to your own benefit? Or are you going to let it tear you apart in a futile battle against it?
Are you going to ride the beast, or are you going to let the beast ride you?
NRW opens you up to ALL the energies coursing through your body and brain. All the energies that began with life on Earth. Even the ones you’re afraid of. And it shows you how to embrace them. Own them. And use them to win.
It takes work, but it can be done. All those resistances locked into your body tensions can be blasted out.
And then you can flow with what’s actually going on. Whether it’s positive or negative, yin or yang, you can turn it into power. You can turn it into a win.
Because in the end, “positive” and “negative” are just interpretations. They’re just in your head.
And outside of your head, in reality, emotion–any emotion–is just pure primal power.
Most people spend their whole lives afraid of their own power.
How much power do you have that you’re not using because you’re afraid of it?
Maybe a more important question: Are you willing to find out?
Think about it.
A couple years ago, my coaching client Quinn was training for his first MMA cage fight.
Quinn was, and is, a great martial artist. We used to train together, and he was always a few steps ahead of me. Now he teaches his own Jiu Jitsu classes, and sometimes I trade him an NRW session for a private lesson on the mats.
But despite his skill and preparation, he was nervous as hell about that fight.
Can you blame him? He was gonna go into a cage in front of a bunch of strangers and fight someone he’d never met. I’d be nervous too.
Here’s how he tells it:
“A couple years ago, I had an MMA cage fight. The way it works is, you train really hard for several weeks before your match, and then the week before, you train super light and basically relax and try to take it easy and not hurt yourself.
And I hadn’t been in too many street fights growing up, so I was super nervous, as anybody would be before a cage fight.
And I had all this free time on my hands, too, so I was having mini-anxiety attacks thinking about what could happen.
I’d do the NRW every time I’d have one of those little panic attacks. It really helped dissolve that anxious energy and completely calm me back down, and purge that uptight energy I had.
It was interesting, because I couldn’t just tell myself to calm down. But once I started going through the exercises, my nervous system would naturally just respond to that and calm down.
I feel like it kept me from going totally insane before that fight, and made it a lot easier. The NRW increased my sensitivity overall. It kind of took me out of my ego, and I was able to put it into a different perspective and not go into it with quite as much fear.
And preparing your mental state is just as important in any sport, not just martial arts.
And I like how NRW will access the physical and psychological pretty evenly, in my experience. It’s made me a lot more aware of my own body, which then has expanded my awareness of Jiu Jitsu and martial arts. I really think it’s the hidden component.”
Quinn rode NRW all the way to the fight, and won. He had the skill, he had the training, and now he had a method to beat the wildcard of stress and anxiety.
Years later, Quinn is still training the “hidden component” with me. In fact, he helped me demo the exercises in the Tension Blaster Workout Series.
Those are some of the same workouts he used to build his Mental Toughness in that nerve-rattling week before his fight.
And here’s the beautiful thing: you don’t need to wait until the nerves attack to start dealing with them. If you’re proactive, you can get them before they get you.
The sooner you get started, the further you’ll go.