Mental Toughness

What does it mean to be mentality tough? Is it really that important? Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage someone to be loving or caring or peaceful etc?

Those attributes are all great, but mental toughness is about endurance. Its about going the distance and lasting till the end. Its about dealing with adversity, and knowing who you are and being comfortable in your own skin. You can be the most loving person in the world but if you aren’t mentally tough you’ll most likely self destruct when the haters show up. And they always do.


I was not raised to be mentally tough. That’s no criticism of my parents its just that while most students were involved in sports (where mental toughness is more often a focus) I was drawing or playing music or working in my laboratory in the basement. There were never any discussions about ‘drop and give me another twenty pushups!’ Or ‘finish what you started’. It was, oh man, I’m all out of crimson red to finish the sky in my painting so I think I’ll go cry. Or, someone said something really critical of me and my codependency issues and wanting them to like me made me want to find a corner somewhere and cry. Starting to see a pattern here?

It wasn’t until recently when I discovered some great books and teaching on mental toughness. I can see now how so much pain in my life was caused by not being able to mentally handle tough things.

Being overly sensitive to criticism. Lack of discipline or follow through. Plagued with thoughts of fear. Lack of focus.

All of these issues arise from a lack of mental toughness. People who are strong mentally are able to handle the pressure, rejection, criticism, etc because they’ve conditioned their mind to handle it. Its not like things don’t impact them but they know how to stand when the fight comes at them.

Being in shape isn’t about lifting weights in the gym, its about lifting weights in the gym so you’re in shape when you leave. You have to put the work in so you’re ready when adversity and stress comes whether mentally or physically.


Years ago I was employed by a company where I asked tasked with leading someone who didn’t want to be led. She had been at the company for decades and I was just another new guy hired to oversee her. She had seen guys like me come and go so there was no interest on her part in doing things the way I needed her to do them. We clashed from almost day one. I tried everything but I was immature as a leader and unable to bridge the divide.

Eventually, we were both called into a leadership meeting with the board who wanted to help find a workable solution. About five minutes into the discussion I began to cry. Not ‘Gilmore Girls reunion movie’  tears, but like ‘death in the family’ tears. Everyone was stunned. They all gathered round and tried to calm me down.

I eventually left and went into my office to pull myself together and I sat under my desk and wept like a baby. The pressure of all that conflict between myself and this person had been building up over time and I finally let it out. In a very public way.

I lacked mental toughness. I also lacked emotional health and the ability to understand my inner dialogue, or lack thereof. I’ve since learned how to recognize the signs so that I don’t let things build up like that.

Mental toughness is key to managing complicated relationships. You have to know who you are, who the other person sees when they look at you, and not let their false impression become your identity.
Mental toughness is also key to success because it will help you embrace challenges and problems others would run to avoid.



I’m a firm believer that unless you are intentional its hard to make anything a permanent habit or life change. There are countless books and videos that discuss the topic of mental toughness. There are great coaches and teachers discussing this issue all over the internet. Watch them. Every day. Make it a goal to listen to something about this topic several times a week for a year. You’ll be amazed at how, in a very short time, you view the world and handle conflict.


Just like any muscle in your body, mental toughness takes deliberate daily work. You have to look back at situations you have been through and reevaluate them through this new lens you’ve acquired. How could you have handled things different? What situations are you in now where you feel anxiety and fear? How should you respond? Instead of worrying about where you are and how far you have to go take it a day at a time. Learn to rest in the daily decisions and choices you make and look for opportunities to practice your new skills.


As silly as this sounds a huge part of implementing this into your life is to simply address situations with “I got this” or “I’m a little freaked out right now but I’m going to do it.” When a coworker says something that riles you up, telling yourself, “okay, no problem, I’ll work through this” has a dramatic impact on your life. I can’t explain how important it is. I think it must rewire the brain or something because when you actually talk to yourself and say things like “I’ll get through this” or “this isn’t that big of a deal, I can do it”, you start believing it. When you start believing it you start living it. There’s tremendous power in our words and when we talk to ourselves in this way we start to realize just what we are capable. Problems, tough relationships, difficult jobs, are no longer things we run from but challenges we know we can handle.


As you can see, being mentally tough takes practice and consistency. Its a muscle that needs worked on. Deliberate focused attention will reap incredible rewards as you find yourself running towards your problems instead of away from them and handling all the chaos that life has to offer.


Ep. 11 “Do I Have To Choose One Thing To Do With My Life?” – Part 1

We live in a world that is constantly telling us that we need to specialize and focus on one thing in order to achieve success. This is great advice for most people but for lots of artists and polymaths this is very stifling. Is it true and should we simply follow traditional wisdom and pick one thing and get really good at it? Or is there a way to be true to ourselves and enjoy the wide variety of our interests and passions and redefine success from being about money and influence to being about creativity and doing what we love?


The Future of Work Is Laboratory Thinking Not A Factory Mindset

One of my first jobs out of high school was working in an aluminum factory for two weeks as a temp worker. It was a good job but definitely not for me. Now, I’m sure Mike Rowe will want to smack me in the head because there’s nothing wrong with a job like that but my temperament and personality are not well suited for working in a factory. I’m an entrepreneur. I would rather work for myself and go bankrupt than stay in the same place for forty years. Lucky me, I’ve done just that. I’m a go-getter you know.
Factories were the primary way the industrial age built America. They served a purpose. It raised up a generation of workers to perform like robots until the technology could catch up and actually replace people with machines. Those jobs are never coming back. Yes there are lots of jobs that have gone overseas for cheaper labor but just wait until those jobs disappear with affordable robots. No labor law violation. No one will complain about Apple building an iPhone in China when China uses robots and a new iPhone costs $200 instead of $1,000. We love our stuff. No president can bring those jobs back to America. If they show up, robots will replace humans from working there. Necessity is the mother of invention. You don’t have to like it but get over it. There’s nothing you can do to change it.

College is nothing more than a place to brainwash people into becoming good employees. It doesn’t want people who think out of the box. The problem is that the people who will control the future are those who will blow the boxes to pieces.

In a customizable future why would I need to buy a yellow rubber duck from Indonesia, even if its cheap? I can just print one at home for pennies and make it the exact size and color I want.

Why would I need to work for a company as a robot, cranking out spreadsheets or designing products that no one needs? Machines will be able to do that and I’ll be out of a job anyway.

So how will people work in the future?

Its likely that more unemployment and layoffs will continue to happen as markets change and people lose jobs to cheaper production methods.

However, its likely the future will be created (not maintained) by those who work in laboratory settings. I don’t mean a literal laboratory but the laboratory mentality.

What’s the difference between a laboratory and a factory way of thinking? Both are focused on output. Both want results. The difference is that factories are designed to turn employees into robots who simply crank out more product as efficiently as possible. Whereas laboratories are empowered to employ scientists and scientists try new things. They are willing to fail. They customize their resources to produce the results they need.

What is interesting to me is that if you go back to the beginning stages of the Industrial Revolution and look at the geniuses who founded these industries they almost always started in a laboratory. The products and inventions that kicked off great advances in different fields were started by tinkerers who had an idea for a light bulb or telephone or automobile.

The creation of these new industries didn’t come from factories but from laboratories. Factories came about as a way to develop the invention on mass scale but creativity didn’t come from the assembly line. It didn’t come from a 9-5 manager sitting in a corner office. It came from someone who was playing. Who had the freedom to explore and try things.

As artists and makers of things we should be finding ways to bring the laboratory mentality back into our work. This is the future.

Uncertainty. Unpredictability. Home based businesses where people create their own products and services to sell. Working with split schedules or all nighters and then sleeping the next day. Whatever it takes to make great stuff. The exciting thing that Edison, Ford and others never had is the ability to scale their ideas to a global market. They were stuck with the resources and methods of their day. We have the ability to sell to everyone.

Laboratories are messy. Explosions happen. Its a place of experimentation. It isn’t structured and orderly. Its unpredictable and a little crazy. You need to learn to thrive in the unpredictable and crazy. If you can allow life to take on the traits of a laboratory and a place where there are no rules or expectations you’ll be able to invent your own future. You need to have a hypothesis about something (life, career etc) and chase it down and experiment. If what you do doesn’t work it doesn’t mean you’re a failure it means your experiment failed. The conditions or whatever weren’t right. So, regroup and try again.

Those who create the future are those who think and live this way. The factory mindset is for robots who have no idea what life is all about. There will be people who will not be able to drop that way of thinking. They will eventually find themselves unemployed. Don’t fall into that trap thinking and working that way.

Develop a life that runs like a laboratory and watch a new and exciting future emerge where you least expect.

Ep.10 How To Identify People’s Talents

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If you are a manager or leader it’s inevitable that at some point, you’ll need to evaluate and assess people’s skills and talents. What is the best way to do that? Is it about aptitude? Is it about intelligence or resumes? In this episode Jennifer and I discuss one of the easiest ways to spot and identify a person’s talents so you can help them function in a place where they thrive.



The Difference Between Craft and Art

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. – Picasso


Art is about making an emotional connection with people. Craft, like Picasso said, is about being a pro. Its about meeting a need. 

Anyone can make art. Not everyone is a craftsman. 

I remember when I was growing up and studying music composition a lot of the elitists would decry film composer John Williams as not being a true artist in the same vein as composers like Stravinsky or Schoenberg. 

Later, I read something in which Williams himself stated that he didn’t see himself as an artist when it came to his film work. The artist is the director and his role as a film composer is a craftsman who’s services are utilized by the director to help achieve his vision. In his mind, the film composer is no different from the visual effects team or model makers or green screen technicians. A film brings together all of the best craftsman they can to help the artist (director) achieve their vision. Each craftsman sets aside their own artistic ambition, if needed, to serve the film. 

Developing mastery of a craft takes years of dedicated work to achieve. The reason anyone can make art is that its possible to not have very good skill and still provoke or make an emotional connection with people. 

Now, when you combine a high level of craft, and the ability to connect with people emotionally, that’s when you create a Picasso. That’s when you become a master. That’s when you leave a legacy. 

The clockmaker who toils away for years honing and refining his craft doesn’t often worry about whether her work is making an emotional connection with people. What she creates might, but usually the goal is to create something of high quality that serves a function, telling time. 

Whereas the artist, may not have the mastery of clockmaking skills that the craftsman does, but he has a way of building that clock so interestingly that it provokes or challenges people when they see it.   

Picasso was famous for mastering traditional art methods when he was younger and then began looking for other ways to express himself. When he began inventing new styles and methods for his art was when he really pushed the boundaries of what was expected.  He became Picasso not because he painted naked women in weird shapes but because he was a master painter who saw the world in a new way. 

Art is about purpose. Craft is about skill. When you can combine the two at their highest level that’s when you make history. 

Art vs. Commerce

Have you ever noticed how so many artists hate talking about money or business? Why is that? Where did the mindset come from that the two are mutually exclusive? Why does someone who loves art need to hate the entrepreneurial tasks of making a living?


Now, some will say its a right brain/left brain thing. That creative people don’t always enjoy the mundane number crunching of business. But that seems short sighted to me. Business is as much an art as painting is. You don’t have to enjoy numbers to be a business person. I know plenty of entrepreneurs who are terrible with money. They just love to create and businesses are their canvas.

 Art is about ideas. About challenging the status quo. Its about connecting with people at an emotional level. Businesses and brands do that all the time. Its storytelling at its finest.

Perhaps you find yourself as an artist being forced to deal with numbers or facts and figures and things that don’t interest you. Find the story in it. Find the emotional hook. Its possible to become as interested in building a business as you are any story you create in your mind whether that’s expressed through painting, music or film.

When that business is you, the emotional hook is knowing how to protect your creations and make money so you can continue to create for years to come.

Realize that art and commerce aren’t mutually exclusive. They are two sides of the same coin. You are expressing yourself through something you create, and at the end of the day, that’s what’s important, right?