When I was growing up, it was my dream to play in the National Football League. By the time I was 25, the dream was over.
I had overcome the odds. Only 1 percent of high school football players ever sniff the pros. I made it to training camps with three different teams, and even caught a preseason touchdown at the home stadium of the Dallas Cowboys, just half an hour from where I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. But in the end it wasn’t enough.
When I was cut from the NFL for the third time, I could have pointed the finger, but I did not. I accepted that I lost friends in my life. I accepted that it was time to move on and take accountability for the rest of my life.
I had to create possibilities for myself when no one wanted to give me opportunity. I turned my pain into progress.
“It all starts with you,” I told myself. I have given my all to everything I have done since, understanding the discipline, the obstacles to be overcome and the mindset it would take. I had to work. I had to create possibilities for myself when no one wanted to give me opportunity. I turned my pain into progress.
Leading my life with this kind of motivation has allowed me to have a successful business that has changed millions of lives across the world for over a decade. Today I am called one of the most influential speakers in the world. I’m also a husband and a father.
I can say I’m every bit as proud of the last 10 years as I would have been looking back on a hall of fame NFL career. The key has been five traits of a championship mindset—five traits you can use to win in your own way.
The first key trait of a winning mindset is the ability to stay loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.
To stay committed, you have to have a reason of meaning. The reason I have been so consistent is that I made a promise to a close friend who took his own life. I promised him that from that day forward, I would be the “listening ear” the world needs. That reason, that promise, is so strong. Because that promise has a deeper meaning to me, I have stayed committed, no matter how hard it gets, and no matter what it takes.
What is your reason? It has to mean something to you. When you have a real reason, you will not give up.
Many people are more interested than they are committed. They are only interested in their dreams, their business, in what life may look like, and they operate with the simplicity of interest. Therefore, they are not committed to it. They made a promise to themselves with words, but a commitment is a promise to yourself with actions.
Commitment should not be just about setting a goal, but living by a standard. A goal is a something you reach. A standard is something you live by. I map my goals using what I call a 3D Roadmap: Destination, Direction, and Drive.
Destination: Set this by using the reason for your commitment. If you do not have clarity of that reason, you are going to live life aimlessly, and always find yourself back at struggling with commitment.
Direction: Most people have vision, but they do not know how to get where they want to go. You are trying to find somewhere without any known point. So find a mentor, study, read, whatever it takes to get direction to get there.
Drive: Most people do not get to where they want to be because they do not have drive. Champions have that drive and will push to reach their destination.
Staying committed means being willing to be uncomfortable. The truth is, in life you are going to be uncomfortable regardless. Outside your comfort zone is where change takes place, and that change leads to the next trait.
Get good at saying no to the things that do not move you toward your yes.
In a winning mindset, you will choose to give up some things that you are used to having. You will choose to do some things that you are not used to, because it is going to lead to something greater.
Champions are strategic in what they do as well as what they allow in their life and outside of it. Some of the strategies around discipline may be changing your environment, because it is vital in your success.
Who you surround yourself with is what you will become. Mindsets are contagious. Evaluate your circle of people. Do you want to catch the mindsets they have? Does your environment add value or deplete from your goals? Get around people who make you better. You have to put yourself in a growth environment.
How do you build your growth environment?
- Remove the bad seeds. In order to level up, you have to subtract your distractions, and you know what those are. Failure to remove the root issues and dig up those bad seeds will affect you negatively. It is like cancer. In sports we used to say that if you keep even the smallest cancer on the team—a person who is negative, a person who is always complaining—then that cancer is going to spread. It is the same thing for your life. Get the mindsets away from you that do not serve and help you. Remove the people from your life who do not add value to your life. Sometimes the best way to add to your life is to subtract from it.
- Plant new seeds. Become intentional about your life. Start putting yourself in the right environments. Develop better daily habits and routines.
- Lastly, water those seeds. Recruit the mindsets that make you better. I purposely put myself in environments where I know that I am the least accomplished. Because I know that if I am in an environment where I am the least accomplished, I will have no choice but to grow. If there is someone that is at a higher fitness level, I make sure to spend time around that person. If there is somebody better at business than me, I spend time around that person. If there is somebody who has built a family structure that I admire, I spend time around that person.
You have decided to commit yourself and build your growth environment; so now what? Now you have to apply these traits every day.
Anchor your actions in greatness so that on a daily basis you produce nothing less than your very best.
It is not enough to be committed and disciplined if you are not consistent. Think of a weight loss journey. You can be committed to your purpose of getting healthier, but still only work out sometimes. You can replace all the junk food in your pantry with healthy options, but still only eat right sometimes. Sometimes might be only when you are inspired or motivated. And sometimes is not going to get you results. Sometimes is not going to change your life. You have to show up regardless of how it feels.
I know that some people reading this think they are not a consistent person, but they try their best. The misconception is that you may think you have consistency problem when actually it is that you lack commitment.
You are probably very consistent. Think about everything you have been consistent about within your everyday life. You were consistent in going to school. You have been consistent in going to a job every day. You have been consistent taking care of your kids. The reason you have been consistent is that you understand the cost if you do not show up.
Every day I planted seeds. Every day I trusted the process. And every day I grew, even if I didn’t realize it.
The problem is not in being consistent; rather it is in being committed. You are consistent in those things that you have given a bigger reason. You are consistent when you know the cost of not doing what you need to do. So look back at commitment and re-evaluate your reason, your why.
I promise you this: When the consistency is great enough, the struggle will never be strong enough. You will find your way, because you understand what awaits on the other side. You will go through fear, because you understand the repercussions if you don’t show up. Somebody is depending on your story. Somebody is depending on you in your life. Realize you have to show up no matter how you feel.
Even with epic consistency, you will not achieve your biggest goals right away. And on the way to them, you will have setbacks. How do you keep your championship winning mindset?
Believe the odds are beatable even when the odds say it is impossible. Trust the process.
What you are working on is not going to change immediately. Yes, you have been going through the pain, putting in the work, and you keep doing it. But you don’t necessarily know when the winning moment will come.
A gardener has faith in the process of gardening. They know they need to plant the seed, take care of it and be patient. Have faith like the gardener and know that if you do the work necessary, stay committed and consistent, then at some point the results will show up.
At some point, everything will change. Nothing happens overnight, but everything can change overnight. Be ready.
In all the success I have, I am still me.
Champions understand that the process must be trusted. You cannot take shortcuts in the process. Some of us want to get there so fast. However, the definition of the gardener’s mindset is this: “You have to know growth is taking place even though you cannot see it.” You must trust that you are doing the right thing although you cannot physically see it. One day this work will all pay off.
When I started the journey that would grow into the writing and speaking career I have now, I sat in my room, creating videos every day from my heart. Every day I planted seeds. Every day I trusted the process. And every day I grew, even if I didn’t realize it. In the beginning, no one was asking me to be on stages to speak. Now, I have so many requests I have to turn some down. I did the work having faith in the process. Many people are not committed to that process. Many people will start something and within a month, they throw in the towel and give up, because the result is not instant and apparent.
I know that commitment, discipline, consistency and faith will create the winning mindset you need to reach your destination, whatever it may be. But I know that you need one more trait to hold them all together.
Find the strength to give more even when everything else in your mind is telling you that you have nothing left.
Heart is looking at life like a marathon. Those who win marathons use each one of these traits in the race. They were committed. They trained and eliminated distractions. They know they can’t sprint to an easy win, so they put faith in every step, until toward the very end they have to pull from everything they have to get through the finish line.
You will reach that point where you have done everything you can, your back is against the wall, and you feel like you have nothing left to give. This is the moment you break through, and create new limits you did not think possible. That is what heart is all about. It’s saying, “I am giving my all to this no matter what it is; no matter what it looks like, I’m going to keep pushing.”
Heart is also about staying true to yourself. When you go through all the ups and downs that you have and you finally reach success, it is easy to become hardened. In addition, many people reach success and start to live for those things that do not matter. Once you reach success, do not let the image of what success looks like for you, define you. Do not let success define you. Do not lose yourself and leave everything behind to get where you are.
I take pride in living in the moment. I take pride in coaching my son’s football team. I take pride in living offline. In all the success I have, I am still me.
Once you start to access your championship mindset and apply it to everything in life, you will notice a change. You will start to see a shift in who you become. You will see results.
When you start, you will wonder, “Can I do this? Can I really take this on?” Then once you have honed a winning mindset and use it, you will move on to the second shift: “I’m actually doing this and it’s working.”
People will take notice. You are starting to close the gap between vision and reality. Your vision is no longer just a thought in your mind, but it is taking form. You are continuing to make progress by watering the seed. You are staying consistent. So now, you reach the point at which you are doing more than you thought you could do.
Finally, instead of wondering if you could do it, you will wonder “What can’t I do?”
You will no longer see limits.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photos by ©Jason Suarez