• I Know You Got Talent – It’s the Other Thing I Wonder About

    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 […]

  • Balls to the Wall, Man

    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 […]

  • You Gotta WANT It

    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 […]

  • Mental Toughness In a Head-On Collison

    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 […]

  • Power Naps of the Champions

    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 […]

  • Loosen Up, Stop Thinking, and Perform

    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 […]

  • Yoda’s School for Mental Toughness Jedi

    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 […]

  • LSD and Mental Toughness and No-Hitters…Oh My…

    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 […]

Widget Area

This section is widgetized. To add widgets here, go to the Widgets panel in your WordPress admin, and add the widgets you would like to the Homepage Top Right.

*This message will be overwritten after widgets have been added.

Mental Toughness Tips from a Roman Emperor

I love Marcus Aurelius, because he said things like this:

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.”

He was no armchair philosopher, either. He was in the fray, on the Northern border of the Roman Empire, fighting of horde after horde of German invaders.

I’m sure he had nothing against dancing, and neither do I. But let’s face it. In real sport, real competition, real life, there’ll always be someone or something trying to take you down.

Either you win or you don’t.

No draws.

Life, sport, training–whatever it is you dedicate yourself to–is never going to cease to be a struggle. The day it does is the day you die.

What I really love about Aurelius’ quote is that he says that the ART of living is like wrestling. He saw struggle as an art, conflict as an art.

It’s the art of battle, the art of forging who you are out of that struggle. Not passively letting yourself be defined by the circumstances around you.

It’s true in the struggle to protect the Empire, and it’s true for the struggle for Mental Toughness.

The struggle to defend the borders of your own mind against invading hordes of stress, anxiety, distraction, and nerves.

The struggle to keep your self-confidence, your focus, your dominance, your composure, no matter what’s going on around you.

NRW and the Tension Blaster Workout Series are about more than just building Mental Toughness. They’re about more than just winning.

They’re about forging your own Empire, your own individuality, in the heat of the struggle.

That’s the art of living.

And it ain’t a dance.

Become Again as a Child and Ye Shall Enter the Kingdom of Mental Toughness

Remember steal the bacon?

It was playground P.E. at its best.

The kids face each other in two lines. Each kid has a number. There’s a chalkboard eraser (the “bacon”) halfway between the two lines.

The P.E. teacher calls out a number, and that kid from each line runs out, tries to grab the bacon, and make it back to their own line without getting tagged.

It’s one of those games that’s so simple, there’s no reason it should be so fun.

But it is.

None of it mattered. In an hour, that eraser would be wiping spelling words off the chalk board. No one worried about strategy or game plan. No one was making it to steal the bacon nationals, or racking up steal the bacon stats.

We were thinking one thing, and one thing only:

Get the bacon.

That’s it.

We were all in the Zone.

Those were the good old days. But as you get older, competition gets more serious. There’s more on the line. You need to strategize and train. You start investing time, money, and emotional energy in your performance. It starts to really matter how well you do.

And it does matter. But when that pressure starts messing with your performance, it’s gone too far. Those cortisol levels start to spike, and you get launched out of the Zone and into a spiral of worry and negative thinking.

The key is to have the best of both worlds: The adult’s skill and mastery, and the kid’s carefree ability to play in the Zone.

That’s how you embrace the greatest paradox of excellence: to do your best, you have to not care how things turn out. You have to let go and be in the moment.

The second you start grasping for the victory, it starts to slip through your fingers.

Skill and mastery come from serious, dedicated training. But when it comes to competition, it’s time to let the inner kid take over. If you’ve trained well, everything you need is already programmed in. You’re as prepared as you’re ever going to be. Now it’s time to let go and trust your abilities.

Your game plan, your diet, your strength, your speed, your opponent, your career, your failures, your fears–think about all that stuff while you’re training. Think about it while there’s still time to do anything about it.

But on game day, if you want to benefit from all that training, there’s room for one thought, and one thought only:

Get the bacon.

Getting in the Zone with Mental Toughness

Okay, I can officially open my Sacred Cowburger stand.

In my recent interviews on mental toughness and the enemies of mental toughness, I flew in the face of some common wisdom about mental training in sports.

I didn’t do it just to be original. These are the hard-earned insights I’ve come to over years of training my body and brain with Neuromuscular Release Work

But now I’m probably going to get myself into some real trouble. Because when it comes to the holy grail of sports mental training—the zone—my thoughts don’t get any more conventional.

But I’m not concerned with conventional. I’m concerned with what’s real, and what works. 

And maybe most heretical of all, I believe serious athletes deserve not only honesty, but a technique for mental training that actually works

Here’s what I cover in my recent interview on the zone and its relationship to mental toughness:

  • How all of competition comes down to the mental game (and how to win by making your opponent flinch…)
  • The difference between anxiety, fear, and arousal
  • How to totally eliminate anxiety once and for all (by draining the chronic tensions in your body…)
  • Why being in the zone is actually your natural state (and how to get back to it…)
  • Why the zone only feels miraculous to tense and anxious people (i.e., pretty much everybody)
  • Why positive thinking, visualization, and affirmations are useless for getting in the zone 
  • What common methods of mental training have in common with obsessive compulsive disorder
  • How to let go of your thoughts and anxiety and trust the zone 
  • Why relaxation gives you more energy than aggressive, Incredible Hulk-style “toughness”
  • Why most common notions of toughness are a total fraud (and the total opposite of true mental toughness…)

Listen or download the audio interview here:

Download mp3 (Right-click & select Save Link As… to download)


CLICK HERE to download the PDF transcript


The Enemies of Mental Toughness

A while back I gave an interview about my definition of mental toughness

I killed enough sacred cows, I considered opening a Sacred Cowburger stand. 

Not that I meant to. It’s just that my vision of mental toughness, which comes from years of work with NRW, has given me a perspective very different from the common received wisdom. 

Since the NRW message might be a little different from what your used to, I thought I’d elaborate a bit and talk about the enemies of mental toughness.

After all, you don’t really what something is until you know what it’s up against. 

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • The factors most likely to sabotage your mental toughness (and why the root cause is always the same…)
  • How your mental toughness is like a glass of water (and how to keep it from overflowing…)
  • Why simply understanding your mental game problems won’t help you (and can actually make things worse…)
  • How to expand your capacity for pressure (and separate your self-image from your mistakes…)
  • Why people probably are judging your performance (and why it doesn’t matter…)
  • Why James Bond may have been a secret NRW master
  • Why not caring about success is the best way to succeed
  • What sports performance has in common with your performance in bed
  • How handling pressure is a totally different skill set than the rest of your training
  • How to develop real mental toughness that sticks with you while the battle is waging
  • Why proper breathing is essential for mental toughness (and why almost no one does it…)

Listen or download the audio interview here:

Download mp3 (Right-click & select Save Link As… to download)


CLICK HERE to download the PDF transcript


What Is NRW?

Whatever your sport or skill level, Neuromuscular Release Work (NRW) can improve your game and life dramatically by blasting your tensions and releasing the primal energies within. If you're looking to improve your mental toughness, competition readiness, focus, motivation, and turn your nerves into confidence, NRW can help.


Riley Holland

8954 N Portsmouth Ave.

Portland, OR 97203-5976

Who Is Riley Holland?

footerRiley Holland is the world’s leading expert in Neuromuscular Release Work (NRW), and is recognized as an authority on the mental game by athletes and sports psychologists alike. He has studied a wide variety of methods, both ancient and modern, for relieving stress and tension and increasing mental toughness. Now he coaches and teaches NRW, which he has found to be the ultimate method of mental training. Read More...