The One Truth That Builds Mental Toughness

You won't win them all.

Let’s talk stock. If you own any publicly traded stock, let me tell you what’s going to happen to the price of your shares. Here’s the insider information: the price will go up and down.

You will have highs and lows. You will, over the long haul, grow at least slightly, or you’ll go out of business. You’ll be bankrupt, consolidated, downsized or gobbled up by a bigger company or investment group. Then they will cut you up and sell off the parts.

It happens to Politicians.
Take Presidents, for example. From Reagan to both Bushes, to Clinton to Obama now, they have all had times when their popularity soared. Incredible-record approval ratings meant everybody loved them. Then things shifted. The economy, or something, changed, and then everybody hated them – what an idiot, what a liar, what a nincompoop. Now there are historic low approval ratings in the polls – for the same guy they loved 15 minutes ago.

Want to be President? Better have a thick skin.

It happens to sports teams.

Take the Dallas Cowboys, for instance. They’re America’s favorite football team. In the 90’s they won the Super Bowl 3 out of 4 years – a DYNASTY! They were the only NFL team to have 20 consecutive winning seasons. Then they followed that up by only making the playoffs a couple of times since. Now it’s been 20 years since they’ve done anything impressive.

The next closest thing to a dynasty in the NFL has been the Pittsburgh Steelers with a record 6 Super Bowl Championships, 8 Conference Championships, 20 Division Championships and 27 playoff appearances.

But what’s happening to them now? As I’m writing this, they just lost again, to begin the season with a league-worst 0-4 record: their worst start since 1968.

You won’t always be the golden boy – Let’s talk your career.
You won’t always be fast-tracking to the top; rapidly picking up pay raises and promotions. You won’t always be the golden one that can’t do anything wrong. There will be times you can’t do anything right, doing one dumb thing after another. No one has a 40-year career path that’s straight up, with bigger income, bigger titles, and bigger achievements.

Steve Jobs didn’t – Bill Gates didn’t (although he came close) – Oprah didn’t (ever hear of the Oxygen network? That’s Oprah’s barely-surviving network) – Tiger woods didn’t – Michael Jordan didn’t (baseball anyone?). I sure didn’t and neither will you.

I’m not saying it’s going to be all your fault. It’s just that you are operating, like all of us, in an unstable world. I was a star in the Atlanta home-building market in the mid-1970s. Our houses sold as soon as we poured the foundations. Then Jimmy Carter gave us an oil embargo, canceled the Olympics (that killed many Olympians’ one chance to compete, which was no fault of theirs) and shut down the economy. People wanted our houses but couldn’t get the financing from the banks. Sound familiar? Industries develop and change, companies grow, then stagnate, and shrink.

“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.” —Bill Russell

This is the world in which we operate.
So, don’t slit your throat if you find yourself suddenly out of a job, or demoted, or taking a pay cut. It happened to me on December 23, 1974. I went from being one of the highest paid graduates in my class out of Georgia Tech to 9 months on $75 a week in unemployment checks and food stamps.

I’m certainly not the most prominent person in the world to go through it.

I came out ok, though, and it actually turned out to be a very good thing – eventually.

It would have been a big mistake for me to panic, and blow my brains out, and the same goes for you. Hang in there, keep working, and a better day will come.

That’s the way it works.
It’s just not always a smooth ride. There’s absolutely no reason why things can’t come up roses for you if you keep working.

Steve Jobs came back from exile, took back control of Apple, and built it into the number one company in the world – spawning iPods, iPhones, and iPads in the process.

Oprah even has the O network on the way back to solvency.

Hey, even Martha Stewart seems to have recovered nicely after going to prison. That was quite a big bump in her road.

Now if you’re a true criminal, like Bernie Madoff, I don’t have any encouraging words for you.

But Bill Gates seems to be happy in his new career as the world’s greatest philanthropist.

Michael Jordan came back, won 3 more Championships for a record 6 total. And now he even owns his own team, the Charlotte Bobcats.

Tiger Woods hasn’t won any more Majors, but he did win a record 5 tournaments this year, made $10 million in prize money, and was named PGA Player of the Year.

Hey, it even looks like the Cowboys might have a real good team this year – it’s a miracle. So here’s the point:

Everyone has bumps and you will too – it’s how life works. So if it happens, say “So what, big deal,” and keep working hard.


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