End-Of-The-Bench Mentality

In Mental Toughness
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I was lucky in that I chose a profession (basketball) in which I wasn’t very good to begin with.

In sports, the elite performers are identified early.

They’re the ones who get individualized coaching, training and mentoring. They get encouraged to keep playing; they’re the ones who are told about all the possibilities for success that lay ahead of them.

In time, and because of this nurturing of their talents, the gap between the early-elites and everyone else grows and grows, until most of the non-elites simply drop out of the race and stop trying to make it in that sport.

Who ends up making it:

  1. The elites who are so good that their talent alone carries them to a certain level. These are the players who frustrate fans: they’re obviously gifted, but just don’t seem to want it and coast by on natural ability. These are you underachievers who have the ability, but not much of the mentality. I’ve met too many of these in sports.
  2. The elites who may or may not be the most talented, but add a heavy dose of personal drive and tenacity to that talent package. These are your superstars, who have both the ability and the mentality in abundance.
  3. The handful of non-elites whose determination and late-blooming talent get them “in the room” as late additions. In sports, I put myself in this group. These are your surprises: not as rich in ability as the elites, they have just enough to compete — and make up for the rest with their Mental Game.

Here’s why I was lucky: rarely was I ever so good to feel like I could relax.

There were a few times when I was that good, relative to my peers; every time that happened and I relaxed, my results suffered. All my best work occurred when I wasn’t looked at as one of the best, and I knew where I stood amongst the others.

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I heard Michael Jordan say many times that he came into the NBA believing that he was at the bottom of the totem pole of the Chicago Bulls’ roster. His aim at his first training camp was to impress, and to prove that the Bulls has made a good decision in drafting him. Anything he was going to get from his NBA career, he would have to earn, and he was willing to earn it.

I thought of that when watching this interview of Puff Daddy when he spoke with Andre Harrell about Puff’s first job in the music business.

The first job Andre gave Puff was to drop off some tapes at an office ten blocks away. Puff physically ran to that other office and ran back.

His reasoning? “I wanted to impress you.”

We would later find out that Puff was a visionary star with a ton of untapped talent, but at the time he was nothing more than an unproven nobody working as an unpaid intern. Though he was costing the company literally nothing in salary, Puff was eager to prove that Andre had made a good decision in giving him a chance.

Puff later started his own company that was headlined by the late Notorious B.I.G. B.I.G. relayed that Puff always told him to treat his career as if it was his first day, as if he was still the unpaid intern even though he’d become a famous platinum-selling artist.

Easier said than done.

Today, anybody can become a star within the time it takes to post a couple of videos, edited photos or status updates. We can create our own niche fan bases and be celebrities within our bubbles. And, if we choose to, we can remain in those bubbles, dealing only with those fans of ours, and be the biggest stars in our own little (or big) worlds.

To become the superstar of our own lives, though, to have drank fully from the well of our own potential, we have to land in that second group: engaging our talent while still working as if there’s a lot left to prove. Otherwise we are guaranteed to leave money (in the form of whatever you desire from life— happiness, fulfillment, impact, attention, love, etc.) on the table.

How is it done?

Treat every success as a window into your future potential

Every achievement under your belt isn’t a reason to kick your feet up and bask in your personal glory. The fact that you won yesterday and woke up today means there is more and out there for you.

Life is about growth and advancement; anything that’s not busy growing is busy dying. As soon as you relax and stop aiming to advance, you’re going backwards.

Yesterday ended last night

Zig Ziglar was famous for saying this.

What it means for you: as soon as the last thing ends, you’re on a blank sheet of paper.

Chicago Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter said, you’re a champion only at the moment the clock hits all zeroes. As soon as you hoist the championship trophy to celebrate, you’re back at ground zero and have to do it all over again.

If you’re celebrating a victory, that means the victory is already over. And everyone who didn’t win is already plotting on how to beat you next time.

If you’re celebrating a victory, that means the victory is already over. And everyone who didn’t win is already plotting on how to beat you next time. Click To Tweet

If you happened to not win your last game, just like for the winner, that result is over as soon as the game ended. Today doesn’t carry yesterday’s baggage.

If you won yesterday, that won’t help you today.

If you lost yesterday, the scoreboard is reset to all zeroes again today.

Let history be just that: history. History books exist for future generations to read. You need to be authoring the next chapters.

Let history be just that: history. History books exist for future generations to read. You need to be authoring the next chapters. Click To Tweet

Get it all

Winning is fun. But unless you died at the moment of victory, you’re still alive for a reason: there’s more for you to get.

If all there was for you to accomplish was that win, why did you live to see another day? It must be so you can go win again.

Complacency should be added as an amendment to the seven deadly sins. Because it’s so easy for us to manufacture a reason to feel like we’ve won something these days.

Rare is the person who can accumulate real wins, and show up the next day as if that last win never even happened. You wouldn’t be around to reminisce on that last win if you weren’t destined to go get another win today.

I don’t claim any particular religion, but as far as I know, every religion out there decrees that their followers should live well and prosper — not succeed just once and then kick back to rest on their laurels.


Choose the game for which you’re best suited. Then, prepare for the game as if your spot is at the end of the bench.

And, when you get in the game, be so good that they can’t take you out.

#1136: To Follow Their Path, Live By Their Ways