How to Keep Fighting and Pressing Forward When the Going Gets Tough

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A lot of people like to think that there is some secret formula to achieving extraordinary levels of success and breaking free from mediocrity, but there really isn’t.

The one and only secret to crushing your goals and experiencing the success that you always dreamed of is to take relentless, persistent and massive action every single day of your life. Every peak performer knows the importance of this truth. The reason why the majority neglect it is because of the ridiculous amount of work required of them. What’s more, there is absolutely nothing exciting and sexy about that workload.

Persistence may not always be the “fun” thing to do, but it always will be the right thing to do when you are in pursuit of greatness, when you’re looking to maximize business success or achieve a game-changing goal. Being persistent requires you to get out of your comfort zone most of the time and force yourself to take action, even when you may not feel like it.

The following icons certainly understood this:

  • Henry Ford massively failed and went broke five times before he finally got his major breakthrough.
  • Beethoven was ridiculed for how he handled the violin, and his teacher told him that he was hopeless as a composer.
  • Walt Disney was once fired by a newspaper editor for an alleged lack of ideas. He also went bankrupt multiple times before he built Disneyland.
  • Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching.” Wrote Darwin in his autobiography: “I was considered by my father a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.”

More such stories? Albert Einstein did not speak until he was 4 years old and didn’t read until he was 7. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” He was eventually expelled and refused admittance to Zurich Polytechnic School. The University of Bern declined his Ph.D. dissertation as irrelevant and fanciful.

The script for Star Wars was rejected by every movie studio in Hollywood before 20th Century Fox finally produced it. It went on to be one of the largest grossing movies in film history.

When former University of Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker wanted to play football in junior high, but the coach told him he was too small and recommended track instead. Never one to quit, Walker ignored the coach’s advice and began an intensive training program to build himself up. Only a few years later, he won the prestigious Heisman trophy.

These are just a few examples of all the wildly successful people who failed before succeeding to such heights that they could rewrite the history books. Remember, we all fail at one time or another. That’s life. And no matter whether our failures are large or small, we have to persist and keep fighting. We’re all a “work in progress.” Even the geniuses.

Here are two actionable ideas to help you keep fighting and pressing forward when the going gets tough.

1. Study the greats. 

I am an avid reader. I read a new book every single week, but one of my favorite types of books is autobiographies. I enjoy reading about the incredibly successful who went on to change the world with how they lived their lives.

When you pick up an autobiography of one of the greats, you quickly realize the amount of persistence and fight they possesed, even in the face of extreme uncertainty and hardship. When I find myself going through a difficult time, one of the first things I do is pick up an autobiography of a world-class achiever.

Reading that individual’s story reminds me of the power of never giving up, and passionately always fighting for what you believe in and desire. The next time you find yourself going through a difficult period in your life, pick up an autobiography, watch a documentary or find some way to study the greats. Success leaves clues.

2. Never lose sight of your major goals. 

One of the first things that happens when people gets knocked down and come face to face with adversity is that they lose sight of the original goal or vision.

Instead, these individuals let the negativity they are currently experiencing come to the forefront of their minds, which prevents them from taking action and moving forward. I myself carry a notecard with me everywhere I go that has all of my major goals written on it. When I get knocked down, experience a negative curveball thrown my way or just lack the inspiration to keep fighting, I look over this notecard and am immediately connected to the grand vision I have that keeps me going.

Do the same thing: Put your major goals into your phone, on the front of your computer screen and in your purse or wallet. All throughout the day, especially when the going gets tough, read over those major goals and remind yourself of the great vision that you have for your life. When you make it a priority to never lose sight of your major goals, there is nothing that can permanently hold you back.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

4 Actions to Help You Recover From a Crushed Dream

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My one and only NFL game may as well have been my own personal Super Bowl. I remember that evening in August 2010 at Qualcomm Stadium in California, playing the San Diego Chargers as though it was yesterday: the fresh smell of the wet dirt and the long grass. The taste of iron and salt in my mouth . . .

. . . And, off in the distance, the din of our fans screaming, cheering us on.

This was where I belonged: as an NFL player playing for the Chicago Bears, in a pre-season matchup against the Chargers out in beautiful San Diego, California. I was playing well. I had missed a sack opportunity on the quarterback, but I had also recorded three tackles, including one for loss. I was pumped, elated to be doing what I had always dreamed of doing: what four years of Indiana University football and endless workouts had prepared me to do.

But, something was terribly wrong. Late in the second quarter, with four minutes left before halftime, a big Chargers offensive lineman was thrown by one of my teammates smack into my left ankle. His 280-pound bulk came down hard across my leg, and my ankle became badly tangled up under this mountain of a man.

I attempted to stand — and realized that what had seemed like a routine play was not routine at all: A sharp pain stabbed through my entire leg. I felt sick to my stomach as the searing pain worsened progressively every second. The pain was so intense, I thought I might faint.

Still, I toughed it out, finishing the game with six tackles and a tackle for loss. But, that day, my performance was not uppermost in my mind; All I could think about was that excruciating pain — and the all-too-real possibility that my promising football career had just ended before it began. My first game would be my last.

Crushed dreams

While I waited to see the specialist back in Chicago, I had an extremely hard time sleeping and focusing at team meetings. I was consumed with anxiety and fear and slid into the deepest depths of darkness. My life was shattering; my dreams and goals were falling like shards of glass. I had no Plan B in place. It had been my experience that most athletes are ill prepared, if not completely clueless, about the emotional and psychological impact of sustaining an injury, then trying to recover from it.

Now I was one of those athletes.

In fact, my traumatic injury signaled the end of my career, my dreams and my goals. I completely tore a bone off my left ankle and was going to be out for a lengthy period of time. The Bears reached an injury settlement with me, and just like that, my whole world came crashing down on me. My dreams were crushed.

What to do when this happens to you

Any highly successful person along the way has more than likely experienced adversity. The people at the top, the game-changers, have all had a lot of unsuccessful years before any of their major successes became known to the public.

The feelings rendered by crushed dreams don’t happen just to athletes forced out of a professional sport they’ve worked their whole life for. They happen to men and women from all different walks of life: business, politics, education, even parenting.

What did I learned from my own crushed dream? Plenty. Here are four things to help you recover should it happen to you:

1. Face the facts. 

If something has crushed your dream, do you find yourself in denial? My own experience was that I didn’t even think there was life after the NFL, so I hadn’t even reached denial yet. What I was in was a kind of death spiral.

I believed that if I couldn’t play football, then life as I knew it was over. If you yourself are in denial about a crushed dream, or you’re succumbing to the “death” feeling, where demons roam and nothing in life matters anymore, you need to face the facts. We all have to look at those facts objectively and analyze our next move, no matter how painful it is.

What helped me to face the facts was to seek out mentors of mine that I fully trusted as well as my support system of close friends and family members. By talking to them, I was able to get out of the denial trap and finally free myself from the internal pain robbing me of my peace.

Facing the facts can mean different things to different people. But a good place to start is mentors and loved ones that you completely trust. Their words and support in extremely difficult times can make a world of a difference. 

2. Don’t overanalyze.

When something happens to crush your dream, you’ll more than likely start to overanalyze. You might worry yourself sick, wondering what to do next. Or you might question your self-worth. You might tell yourself that you’re in a nightmare, and tomorrow you’ll wake up and things will be okay.

The worst thing you can do when you come face to face with adversity is to overthink things. Give yourself time to absorb the reality of the situation, and don’t rush to “fix” things. The first thing that I had to do was realize that I was creating false scenarios in my mind.

I eventually got to the point where I was telling myself that, yes, I had been injured in an NFL game, but this was not the end of the world. No matter how bad I felt about losing my dream, I was not going to die. 

3. Surrender. 

You can’t change what has happened, but you can change how you react to it. In the Beatles song “Tomorrow Never Knows,” there’s a line that says: “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream . . . that you may see the meaning of within.” This is perfect advice: Since you can’t change the situation, you may as well turn off your mind and surrender to it.

Only then will the solutions surface. Just as long walks and meditation can give you peace of mind and answers to questions that bother you, so can your surrender to pain. Of course, this is easier said than done, and I certainly struggled at first, myself; but the benefits far outweighed anything else.

Surrendering for me was all about feeling the fear and negative energy while moving forward anyway. Before that, I had been rejecting every fear and negative emotion, which actually made things a lot worse. When you welcome the fear and negative energy but continue to move forward, you feel a tremendous sense of gratification and heavy burden lifted off your shoulders. 

4. Accept. 

Surrendering to the situation means accepting it.  And, mind you, this was one of the hardest things for me to do right away. It took me a few weeks to accept myself as well as the situation. I kept asking myself over and over, What if I had tackled differently on that play? What if I had just played for a different team? I realize now more than ever that acceptance is crucial to forgiving yourself and moving on.

So, leave the what-ifs behind. I had to get rid of them before I could ever move forward. That meant taking action and not letting my injury paralyze me from going on to do something remarkable with my life.

This injury, which was one of the lowest events of my life, actually ended up giving birth to my career as a writer and keynote speaker. One of the most important things that you can do when you get knocked down by adversity is to just move forward.

And while the pain of a crushed dream can be excruciating for quite a while, these four steps little by little helped me get back on the right track and start the process of rebuilding my life. It is my hope that they can do the same for you.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

How to Turn Negative Experiences Around and Thrive

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This column is an excerpt from Matt Mayberry’s book, Winning Plays, out now.

When we experience failure, tragedy, or hardship, I believe we all struggle with envisioning the absolute worst outcome. When I got injured in my very first game in the NFL, I was completely broken and defeated in that moment, but I made it even worse because I chose to feel sorry for myself and refused to take the initiative to improve anything.

In times of despair it’s imperative that we constantly remember to see ourselves beyond our current circumstances. Just like clouds in the sky can temporarily block the sun, the clouds in your life should only be passing through.

I struggled desperately to see my life beyond the football field. I wallowed in disappointment and self-pity over things I could not change at the time. It was my own doing. And it was eye-opening and life-changing when I finally realized this.

I’m sure you must feel this way at times. Do you feel that you struggle with the negative experiences in your life? Can you see yourself beyond them? Do you just want to give up and have part of you die like I did? Or wallow in self-pity? Do you feel ashamed? Angry?

The negative experience could be anything — small or big. Maybe you were fired from your job. Maybe you failed at achieving an important goal. Maybe you’re battling depression over losing a loved one. Maybe you were rejected by a company or a friend. Maybe something has happened in your personal life that’s been difficult for you to come to grips with. Whatever it is, take it from me: there is hope beyond your current state of mind. You just have to think beyond yourself.

If there is one thing that completely derails aspiring business owners, athletes or anyone for that matter, it is the inability to turn failure into a gift and thrive despite negative experiences. It takes a lot of work and practice, and I don’t think that it ever becomes an easy thing to do, but once you learn how to stop overanalyzing and beating yourself up over something that didn’t go as planned, the better off you will be. It’s important to put yourself in a position to grow from that negative experience instead of surrendering to it and remaining stagnant.

Here are two ways to help you come alive again after getting knocked down and turn negative experiences into positive ones.

1. Create your own opportunities.

Create your own opportunities instead of waiting for someone to hand them to you. If something happens where you feel broken, but you know there’s a dream out there waiting for you, then know this: you can create your own opportunities. It’s up to you. If you’re passionate about a goal or anything you want to do, create and design the opportunity in the best way you can.

For example, if you’re interested in a new career but aren’t sure what the culture looks like from a workplace environment, offer to work as a free intern so you can get some hands-on experience. The people who wait for the door of opportunity to swing wide open so they can waltz through will likely be waiting a lifetime. Sometimes you have to walk right up to that locked door and break it down.

2. Power through like a champion.

Champions experience rough times like everyone else. But you know what? They simply power through them. I hadn’t learned how to be a champion yet when I felt broken and desolate about losing my dream as a professional athlete. Since then I’ve learned that champions develop alternate winning plays that will put them on top. Absolutely nothing stops them.

They grow stronger through the challenges. If life is easy for you, then you’re not going to grow. It’s the difficulties that present the opportunities for growth. One of the biggest mistakes most people make when confronted with failure or a negative experience is they don’t look for the “positive” in the negative. There’s value in every experience no matter if it’s a positive or a negative one, and it’s up to you to analyze the situation and create an opportunity to turn that negativity into a gift.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

4 Things You Can Do to Stay Positive In Trying Times

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Everyone will agree that the current presidential campaign is turning out to be one of colossal angst, controversy and mudslinging. Friends, families and businesses are fighting with one another over which candidate is best.

The thing is, if we keep our minds on the controversies, disharmonies, and fighting, we stand a very good chance at losing hold in our businesses and in life. And we can’t let that happen.

What we can do is be of service to others. As Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Take a look at yourself. You can strive to make a difference in your customers’ lives, in your friends’ and families’ lives and in your own business and world. A good way to counteract all the disharmony that’s taking place in our country and the world right now is to focus on the service we provide to others. Whether it’s through our business or through our relationships, we can give more, listen more, and understand more. We can glean much understanding of others by giving of our time to those in need. It was Mother Teresa who said, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”

This may sound so cliché and simple, but it’s a truth. So, in this time of political angst, here are some things you can do to stay more balanced in your business and life.

1. Teach humanitarian service and love.

Volunteers of all ages build houses for the homeless. They traipse to other countries to build homes and provide aid to those in need. Not only that, but they collect shoes for the homeless, they pick vegetables and fruit on farmers’ fields for the homeless. They donate leftover food to the homeless from restaurants and social events. They ring kettle bells for those less fortunate. They read stories to children and play games and do arts and crafts with the elderly in hospitals and nursing homes. There are a million kind acts that people do for others. When you offer yourself to be of service to others in some small way, the love will come back to you a thousand-fold, and this will benefit your business and life.

2. Giving and mentoring: A gift that lasts a lifetime.

I know a friend who tutors and mentors at-risk youth to help prepare them for exams. His students come from all ethnicities, religions and backgrounds. He has told stories about how he helped gang members get out of their gangs and focus on their studies so they could earn good grades and attend college.

Other people I know serve as volunteer lifestyle coaches in halfway houses to help people who have been to drug and alcohol rehab. Those recovering people need ongoing help and support, and the volunteers serve as a guide to those in need. Many times these lifestyle coaches will save lives because of their gifts of service. This kind of “gift” and service is everlasting.

You can even give your time to your nieces and nephews. This is more valuable than any gift you could ever purchase for them.

Giving of yourself to others in any way will help you learn more about people and in turn, this will help you achieve more in your business.

3. Join a group like Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a wonderful organization that allows you to be of service to others by volunteering your time to guide and mentor a child so he or she can fulfill their life’s potential. It gives you the opportunity to help shape that child’s future by playing sports together, reading books together, or simply going out for pizza. Some children need a big brother or big sister because they have no one else.

4. Teach by example and be a role model.

One of the best ways to serve others is to teach by example and to be the best role model you can be. Again, this sounds so simple, but it’s not. The way you carry yourself, your actions, your conversations, your thoughts, your demeanor — all write the story of who you are. People respond to that. If you’re negative or angry all the time, that’s how people will perceive you. And there will be some who will copy you because they think if you can get away with it, so can they.

You can start slowly. Maybe even just block out one or two hours a week to give some time of service to an organization or someone. You can come up with your own creative way of volunteering. It can be at a church, a hospital, a school, a nursing home, a pet shelter or your local gym.

It’s very important to display your best at all times. Be your best. Teach your best. There’s always someone out there who needs guidance or mentoring. When you are kind to others and offer your service, it acts like a boomerang. The kindness will bounce back to you.

Stephen Covey said, “Seek to understand before being understood.” In these times of political turmoil, it’s important to stay balanced in your business and life more than ever before. We desperately need more understanding. Stop and look inward through meditation, silence, and prayer to better understand your own self.

To stay balanced and productive in your business and life, which includes a sense of empowerment and unity as a country and people, it starts with you and with love in the home and service outside.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Will You Be Stubborn and Break, or Adaptable and Succeed?

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People often experience an inability to adapt, and instead will come to the conclusion that they will always fail and may as well stop trying altogether. They will settle for where they are and become stagnant in life — never moving forward, and may even move backwards.

Take Jack for example. He was a young man in Ohio who wanted to play music professionally. All through high school, he played the guitar and wrote songs. His teachers, friends and family loved his music and told him he was very talented. Finally, he entered a talent contest and came in third. It depressed him so much that he decided to quit music and go to college to obtain a business degree.

This was what his father wanted all along, and the young man just surrendered his dream. He gave up. He let this tiny failure derail him. Instead of recognizing that it was a major accomplishment to win third place, and that if he applied himself and continued to hone his craft he could actually win the contest the next year, he just gave up. That young man will more than likely go to his grave with many, many regrets.

Jack was not in a “variable” state. He was rigid and negative. It’s essential for the health of complex systems, and Jack, like you, are a complex physiological system. If you’re “variable,” then you’re going to see your failure as an opportunity — as a gift to unwrap and use for success.

I remember once talking to a taxi driver in Los Angeles. He explained that when the city experienced earthquakes, the super highways would actually bend and curve with the wind and rolling grounds. I thought this was strange and tried to imagine how solid objects could be fluid.

But when you think about it, everything is made up of atoms and atoms are movable. After some research, I discovered that when architects design bridges, buildings and highways in California and other parts of the world, they create designs with the right amount of variability so the buildings and roads will bend with the earthquakes or with high winds.

Too much variability or flexibility and the roads and buildings will be unstable and crumble. Too little variability and the buildings and roads will be too rigid and brittle and the first serious earthquake will destroy it.

The same is true in sports or business, and really in all of life. If a business leader, teacher or coach is stubborn and refuses to make changes despite evidence that what they’re doing is not successful, then their efforts will eventually end in failure. If an athletic coach never changes the way he designs plays, then the opponents will quickly learn the team’s game and conquer them.

The coach, the leader and you must know how to attain a state of variability. If Jack had been able to attain this variability, he would have more than likely gone on to win music contests and eventually obtain a recording contract. We’ll never know.

Keep this in mind: Variability is not only important in sports and business, but in all areas of life. When you fail in life at whatever it is you’re trying to do, you have to demonstrate flexibility and stick to it to help you achieve the success you desire.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Everything That Happens in Your Life Is a Gift — Even Failure

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Many people call it the “F-word.” No, I’m not talking about “fun” or that egregious four-letter word that’s so prominent in today’s culture. I’m talking about failure — Big, Fat Failure. And you know what? It’s a gift. A Big, Fat Gift. Everything that happens in your life is a gift. Even that big event that starts with an F.

Here’s what one highly successful woman had to say about the “F-word:”

“Eventually, we all must come to a decision, for ourselves, about what represents failure. However, the world is very keen to put failure on a schedule, and give you a set of decisive factors, if you allow it. A meager seven years following my graduation, failure had hit me on a grand scale. A fleeting marriage was dissolved, I had no job, [I was] a single parent and as destitute as anyone could possibly be without living on the streets. My parents’ fears for me, and those I had for myself, had finally transpired, and according to the book of failure, I was the biggest.”

The above paragraph is a summation of a speech given by J.K. Rowling at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

The whole purpose of using J.K. Rowling as an example about the importance of failure is to emphasize the point that failure is not unusual. In fact, it is very ordinary and has been misunderstood throughout time.

First, understand that success means something different to different people. However, there is something everyone has in common who has succeeded at what they set out to do: They have failed at one time or another. There is no way to live life without failing from time to time. The only way you won’t fail is if you live so guardedly that you are barely living at all, wherein, you fail by default.

Failure drives us to change. Without it, where would we be today? Thomas Edison produced tons of light bulbs that did not work. If he had not tried again and again, we’d still be using oil lamps and candles for lights.

Winston Churchill once stated, “Success is based on going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

Of course, some individuals are sardonic. These types of people never pick themselves up from failure because they did not grow. Failure courses through everyone’s lives. The SBA states that more than half of small businesses fail during their first five years. However, failed entrepreneurial pursuits are as vital as successful ones.

One specific industry that thrives on failure is technology. There’s hardly anyone over the age of 25 who is not familiar with the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. He was the perfect example of someone who found the “gift” in failure. In his first attempt at a mobile gadget, it failed. It failed badly and he was thrown out of the company. Nonetheless, he has one of the greatest comeback stories of all time.

In your world, what represents failure? Ask yourself that question and really take some time to answer truthfully. Just as Rowling said, we all must come to the decision about what failure and adversity represents in our lives. Our answers to that very important question greatly determines our levels of achievement and what’s in store for us in the future.

The greats, the champions, the best to ever do it view failure and adversity as their friend and something to help them grow and ignite their creativity and desire to be the absolute best.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com