Just like you can train your body to improve its physical fitness, you can train your mind to improve your mental fitness, your emotional fitness, your mental toughness.
If you don’t know who Dan Gable was, he was probably the best athlete coach combo of all time. He went undefeated in high school and in college he was undefeated up until his very last match, the NCAA finals, which was the only loss of his career which agonizes him to this day. But as revenge, most people would crumble after that and he was distraught after that, but he mustered up the willpower to become an even better wrestler. And he didn’t let up a point in the Olympics while winning six straight matches. That will probably never be done again. In coaching, his coaching career, he won fifteen NCAA titles out of twenty one years coaching. That is unheard of.
Anyway, his training was unprecedented and allowed him to carry this mentality over into his good coaching career; that’s why he was so successful. According to his logs he hit the outlier’s mastery-which is Malcom Gladwell’s ten thousand hour theory-when he was a freshman in high school. He would run to class with ankle weights on his ankles, and he would have a rope in his hand and during class he would do isometrics. And he did this every day, not just once. He would train seven hours a day seven days a week. He would push himself to the point where he would cry because of the pain, and his teammates said that they had to carry him out of the wrestling room. He used to consider his team practices as sort of his warmups – that he would make the coaches and heavyweight wrestlers stay after.
Lou Banach, who was one of his wrestlers when he was coaching, who was a national champion, said the toughest part of his collegiate career was waking up at six a.m. to wrestle Dan Gable – and this was when he was coaching, he wasn’t even competing at this point. And Banach, who is a gold medalist in his own right, tells a story that in preparation for the 1984 Olympics, Gable, who weighed sixty pounds less than him, would get on top of him, because he would say that take downs were too hard Gable would win every time, so he was like, “get on top of me, I have got to try and escape.” And Gable would turn him for forty-five minutes straight without letting him up once. This was years after he was done competing. His mental toughness, his drive, was just on a whole other level. He wouldn’t lose.
See the mind is at the forefront of how our body reacts to being physically exhausted, physically tired. The mind is our feedback system, so it makes perfect sense that we need to train our mind and get it used to experiencing this fatigue, being tired, and then it will be able to adapt; so you can control the mind. It’s kind of like the Navy Seal’s training when they are submerged under cold water. They make them lie down on the freezing cold beach until the water just passes over them for hours, to a point where normally most people get hypothermia. But they want them to get used to this feeling so that they don’t panic. And so they make them control the reaction instead of letting the reaction control them.
So Gable now-he’s a motivational speaker now-often tells this story during his speeches about why certain people succeed and why others don’t. And it’s the concept that you’re going to give your mind to a cause regardless of how much pain you will endure. So he says that he was reading the newspaper, and this was like in the 80s/90s, and he said that he was reading about track and field and it talked about a four minute mile. And this well after Bannister broke the four minute mile, but anyway, when he was training in high school in the 60s he said that there were three high school athletes that were running the mile in under four minutes. So he said by this point there had to be hundreds of athletes that have run the four minute mile in the last like thirty years or so. So he is reading this article and it says “no high school athlete in the last thirty-one years has run the four minute mile.” And he got appalled by that. He says, “I’ve been in this wrestling room and putting out champions and so on and so forth, and I’ve been telling them all these things about opportunity. And I’ve been training them and making sure they took advantage of the situation and what’s going on.” And he’s like, “I couldn’t figure it out.” And then he said it started clicking and that “not everybody has been on the same wavelength as me, not everybody was willing to push themselves to this level mentally, not everybody was taking advantage of the opportunities that are put in front of them.”
And so he kept reading the article and it kept talking about this year’s national championship in high school. And it talked about the leader of the race and it had some quotes in there. And it said that the kid was running and he only had about two hundred yards to go, halfway in the last lap, and he could see a big clock that showed his time, and it showed the four minute mile time, and he was two seconds ahead of the four minute mile time. And all of the sudden the quote said, “I looked over my left shoulder, I saw no one. I looked over my right shoulder, and I saw no one. And I knew I could win the race. I knew that I was on the four minute mile track time as well but I said, ‘You know, I am hurting, I could win the race and slow down, or I could win the race and keep the same pace and break the four minute mile.’” And he says, “I think I’ll slow down,” and he ran it in about 4:01 or 4:02.
And Gable says, “When I read that I was so bothered, because again, all my life with the opportunity that was in front of me-based on everybody that I’d been associated with-I took advantage of that opportunity. All my life, in the wrestling room and the University of Iowa, and the Olympic Arenas, I’ve told my athletes and the people that have been associated with me that if there is an opportunity in front of you, you take it.”
This is one of the best examples I’ve heard about the mentality that comes with the very elite. They will endure the pain necessary to become great, to become idolized. Would you beat that four minute mile time? Or are you going to slow down because it hurts? Even if you slow down you might win this race, but are you more prepared for the next one? Did you create your legacy? Did you maximize your potential? Did you seize that opportunity that was in front of you?
See these are just limiting beliefs. I want you go outside and go run right now. I want you to run five miles as fast as you can. And if you don’t think you can do it, do this: run two and a half miles away from your house without a cellphone or money, you will have no choice but to make it back.
And when you run you are going to hear a little voice inside you that tells you to quit, especially when you’re running really fast. It will tell you to stop running because you’ve had enough and you have nothing out there that you need to do this to; you’re not being chased be a lion, you don’t need to hunt. But I want you to fight as hard as you can to shut that voice off. You may be uncomfortable at times but you are not at failure, your body can handle so much more than you ever think. Your mind will try to rationalize why you shouldn’t do it, but your body is so resilient. But you must control your mind and you must learn to shut off that voice to pass the pain barriers if you want to be successful.
Because this voice-like when you are running-will play a huge part in your life forever moving forward. When you’re doing your school work, when you’re working on the computer, when you’re cleaning dishes, we always get a voice that comes in and says, “stop and take a break, we’ve had enough.” When we learn to shut that voice of doubt off when we run or lift weights we can learn to shut that voice off during any activity. Next time when you’re righting your essay you won’t have to take a break after the first page, you’ll knock everything out in one sitting. Because you will be able to shut off that voice that is telling you to quit. See there is two voices that come on; there is one that says “quit, quit, quit,” like we can’t handle this anymore or we need to take a break. And there is another voice that’s really tiny, that says “I can do it, I can do it, I am capable of more.” But it’s smaller.
But imagine two nobs, like volume nobs, on each one. And I want you take this big voice with these fears and doubts and I want you to turn them all the way down. And then this little voice that says you can, turn it all the way up – because you can do it. And the more you practice this, the better you will become at it, till you’re on a level of Dan Gable. If you keep doing it every single day, and you keep shutting down this voice, the easier it will be to fight through those pain barriers. And you will improve your threshold for tolerating pain like those Navy Seals. Things that used to seem hard for you will be a cake walk if keep pushing and you keep suppressing that voice that tells you to quit.
You can handle it. You are more than capable.
Transcript created from a video by Muscle Prodigy: