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What’s Your Target?

Identify the target first

identify your target

Many times when I’m walking clients through the introspective process of gaining clarity, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to tell me what it is that they really want, (i.e. what their target is). It’s exponentially worse with corporate clients, and the as the size of the organization increases, so does the seeming difficulty in identifying a specific target.

Ask yourself this, “What do I really want (in life, in relationships, in business, etc.)? What does it look like? What about in 5 years? What do I want it to look like?”

Inevitably, the answers are centered on what the client doesn’t want – We don’t want to lose market share, we don’t want to do worse this year than last year, we don’t want to invest in more employees because of the uncertainty of the economy, we don’t want more problems, and on it goes.

A large part of what we do, is to teach business pros to use the same thinking tools that snipers utilize. Imagine being a tag-along on a mission with a sniper, perched high above a road through a mountain pass.
“Hey, what’s your target?” you ask.
“Well …hmmmm, see that big rock over there?”
“That’s not the target. And that tree, over there? That’s not the target either. Neither is that mountain in the distance, and it’s not that little enclave of shacks to the south, either.”
Meanwhile, the convoy of Taliban fighters, on their way to the Spring Offensive, drives straight down the mountain pass road, right under your noses. Ridiculous? Exactly!
For many of us, targets drive right under our noses, unnoticed, because we are too busy pointing out everything that is NOT a target. Focus on what you really want, paint that picture in great detail in your mind’s eye, and then write it down. Clearly identify your target – then deploy to the sniper’s perch. Going on the mission before clearly defining that mission is like trying to eat a soup sandwich.


Boo Yah!

Crossing The Threshold

“Men who know themselves are no longer fools. They stand on the threshold of the door of Wisdom.”

Havelock Ellis

 boy and wolf

Wisdom is the skill and ability to make good decisions, especially when it’s all on the line.  Like the decision to never give up, never give in, and leave it all on the field of battle…and when you have been tested and tried, and you know that you have that ability in you, you have crossed the threshold.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of watching someone cross that threshold.  It was a prolific moment, both for me and the young man who stepped across it.  I was at a high school wrestling tournament that was stocked with the best teams in the state.  Teams filled with competitors that would be competing at the collegiate level within a few months.

I watched a rookie competitor go up against the opposing team’s captain.  The expectations were a quick pinning of the rookie. What had actually happened was a 16-year old high school athlete walked onto the mat, and 6-minutes later, he walked off a man and a warrior, having crossed the threshold.  He lost the match on points, was in the position of disadvantage the entire eternity of those 6-minutes, on his back.  But he made the decision to not give up, not give in, and he literally left every ounce of his strength and energy on the mat.  He refused to be pinned.

He dug deeply within himself, as deeply any professional warrior I have ever served with, displaying toughness beyond his years.  He could barely stand to his feet when the buzzer sounded.  He could scarcely breathe, his wind pipe had been flattened out, as he was in a head lock for the last 45-seconds of the match. (The same hold that had choked 3 others into unconsciousness, that day).  Being pinned would mean giving up 6 points instead of 3, and in the end, his team won the overall match by 2.

I would have never crossed the threshold without the Marine Corps’ help, and here this guy crossed over his first year in the arena.  I have enormous respect and admiration for him.  Success in any area of life is now his for the taking.

Have you crossed the threshold?

Do you know yourself?

Do you have the mental and physical toughness to leave all on the field of whatever battle you are facing?

Boo yah!

Play Like A Gladiator

“When I’m on the court, I picture myself as like a gladiator.”

Tyson Chandler


In the past, I have had the privilege to coach several people with terminal or life threatening diseases (many of them with stage 4 cancer of one type or another).  Hands down, these folks have been the easiest to performers to coach.  Why? Because each was playing like a gladiator.  If a gladiator didn’t win his/her fight….well, you know.

Someone who is in a fight for their life has inherent motivation, although not always.  Medical Doctors call it the will to live.  The same holds true with professional warriors, we have an intrinsic emotional driver, beating death or dismemberment.

It’s much easier to be disciplined in carrying out the process of performance, when failure to do so means dying. For cancer patients, the process of performance can entail many things, including diet and nutrition, surgeries, radiation, chemo, and rest cycles.  It takes enormous amounts of Mental Toughness, focus and emotional control to fight a terminal illness.

Anecdotally, the terminally ill are much better performers than the middle class professionals, who hate their jobs and “want” to pursue their dream careers or businesses, but don’t play like gladiators.  Always keeping the safety net of their much maligned occupation, only willing to face the lions from inside the safety of a cage.  It’s very rare to win big in any arena of life, but nearly impossible if you don’t go all in, sell out, and fight like your life depends on it.

As a coach, it’s much more rewarding to work with a performer who plays like a gladiator.  The cancer patients I’ve worked with embody all the traits of the greatest champions of all time.  They know what they are fighting for, they know what outcome they want, they know it’s a difficult fight, but they work at the process of performance like there’s no tomorrow, because there might not be one.

Get clarity, and play like a gladiator, there’s no guarantee of a tomorrow for any one of us.

Boo Yah!!

Avoid The “Don’ts”

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.”

Peace Pilgrim

 avoid the don'ts

The past few weeks, I have really paid attention to how I phrase things.  I have found that more times than not, I phrase things negatively.  For example, on the firing range, I found myself saying, “Don’t miss this shot.”

I am making the effort of phrasing it positively, “Hit the target.”

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal.  However, negative phrasing has invaded my inner dialogue and self-talk. The way we speak to ourselves, the language and phrasing we use when we think our thoughts, has an enormous impact on our attitudes, behaviors, actions and choices we make.

Don’t think about a clown. What did you just think about? It’s like having a golf caddy tell you not to think about the sand traps, the water obstacles, and definitely, whatever you do, do not think about how you hooked the last two drives.  What do you automatically think about? The sand traps, water obstacles and hooking the ball. Instead, focus on the positive process of performance.  Visualize the fairway, focus on the fundamentals of your swing, and see yourself placing the shot exactly where you want it to be.  Avoid thinking about the “don’ts”, where you don’t want the ball to land, and how you don’t want to screw up the swing.

It seems like a subtle and simple shift, but it’s actually quite difficult to rephrase everything to avoid using the word “don’t”.  Try it for a day, or at least an hour.  Stop yourself whenever you catch a “don’t” coming out of your mouth and rephrase it.  Then work up to catching “don’t” in your thoughts.

Strike “Don’t trip,” for “Keep your balance.”

Strike “Don’t lose,” for “Let’s win.”

Strike “Don’t hurt yourself,” for “Stay safe.”

Strike “Don’t fail,” for “Learn and grow.”

Strike “Don’t get sick,” for “Stay healthy.”

Strike “Don’t be afraid,” for “Be courageous.”

Strike “Don’t be weak,” for “Be strong.”

And on and on…..

Boo Yah!

How Bad Do You Want It?

“You do not succeed because you do not know what you want, but because you don’t want it intensely enough.”

Frank Crane



Whether it’s in relationships, health and fitness, sports, or business/career, it all boils down to intensity.  Over the weekend, I attended a regional high school wrestling tournament.  There were over 20 teams in attendance, most of them were ranked in their respective states.

As a Mental Toughness Coach, I honed in on the coaches of the various teams.  I watched them over the course of the event, but immediately picked out two coaches whose intensity was unmatched by the other coaches.  Guess what? Those two teams finished first and second in the overall tournament.

The top two coaches weren’t out of control, ranting after a loss, or arguing with the refs. They were dialed in tight, to every one of their athletes’ matches.  While most other coaches, were standing with their arms crossed, discussing how many points were needed to win the match, and calculating the final tournament standings, these guys were completely and utterly concentrating on each individual’s performance, coaching every second of every match.

Intensity isn’t rage, it isn’t going berserk; it is a laser-focused energy, a channelling of fervency, speed and earnestness.  To illustrate the importance of intensity (and all the street cops said, “Amen”), I recall the first time a perpetrator tried to take my gun from me, after answering a domestic violence call.  The second you realize, “This guy is trying to kill me” is the second you become laser-focused, your training kicks in, and you go to work, knowing failure is not an option, there will be no rematch, no next time.

In this situation, remaining laid back, looking cool, or being anything other than the one who is going to win, is the day your life is over.  When the stakes are that high, it is much easier to operate with intensity, no question about it.  But I carry the principle of intensity into every area of my life.  Love me or hate me, I operate with intensity.

You can get good, and even great, at anything if you operate with intensity. How much intensity do you bring to having successful relationships? To your health and fitness? To your business/career?

If you are just going through the motions, why waste the time?

Boo yah!

Master ONE

“Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all of your energies on a limited set of targets.”

Nido Qubein

 master one

 We’ve all heard the idiom, “Jack of all trades.”  The middle class performer takes that as a compliment and answers humbly, “Master of none.”  This “renaissance man” philosophy is romanticized and celebrated by the masses, but this line of thinking is literally the kiss of mediocrity.  Being a “generalist” is no way to rise to the peak of your field.  To make it to the top tier, you must master the skills of your trade (i.e. you have to pick one) and rise to the level of “specialist”.

The Peak Performers, the world class, the champions, if you will, all have become adroit masters of their particular profession.  The average folks spread their energy and focus on too many things, never honing one specific skill set.  Multi-tasking is the bane of the middling, doing a lot of things at once but never being great at anything.

I have many friends that have a shotgun approach to their careers or businesses, and just like birdshot, the farther it travels – the more ineffective it is.  Go with the sniper’s approach of “aim small, miss small” micro-targeting.  Refine your sight picture to one very small point and concentrate all your fire power on that point.

Find your niche, and focus all your energy on becoming great at that one thing, before moving on.  Being a “jack of all trades and master of none” is a guaranteed ticket to being second tier at best, so at least master one.

Ask yourself, “If I were to focus all my energy, and concentrate on mastering one thing, what would it be? And do I have the discipline to stick to it?”

Boo yah!

Concentrate: It’s Not Just For Orange Juice

“Success in any endeavor requires single-minded attention to detail and total concentration.”

Willie Sutton


WOW! This flies in the face of the “multi-tasking” philosophy touted in the work place these days.  It’s a staple interview question, “Can you multi-task?”  It’s also a boiler plate resume bullet, “Results oriented multi-tasker.”  Multi-tasking is a not what peak performers do.  Peak performers do one thing at a time, and do that one thing really really well.  Mediocre performers multi-task and dilute their mental focus.

When the performer spreads his/her mental energy in several directions at once, none of it is effective.  Concentrate on the task at hand, focus your single-minded attention on it and finish it.  Shut out any and all distractions, and you will be surprised how much faster and more effectively you will complete the task versus trying to accomplish several things at once.

One of the greatest tools the Marine Corps put in my Mental Toughness Tool Kit, is triage.  Triage isn’t just for large scale disasters or mass casualty events.  Triage simply is a process in which things are ranked in terms of importance or priority.  The first thing on my triage list is to do daily triage.  I take an objective look at everything I need to accomplish each day, week, month, and yes, each year.  Then I do triage to each task, obligation, goal, and even rest or fun stuff.

In the Corps, we designated tasks as 5 meter targets, 10 meter targets, 100 meter targets, etc.    The 5 meter target (or really close in bad guy or threat), is obviously the first priority.  We were trained to concentrate our fire power on that top priority until it was neutralized.  (Oh, and by the way, we were taught “one shot – one kill”, concentrating fire power doesn’t mean using all of your ammo on the close in target.) 

Prioritize what to focus on, and then CONCENTRATE on it with single-minded attention. (HINT: Put down the phone, the frosty, the burger, or the Slurpee, and concentrate on driving the car.)

Boo yah!!

Never Focus on Your Results

Last night, I was coaching one of my coaches, which obviously is much more intense than coaching a client.  During the call, my high-school aged son overheard me say something to the coach.

 Sight view

As my son and I were saying good night to each other, he stopped me and said, “Hey Dad, that thing you said, it brought a flash of clarity.”

“What thing?”

“When you told the coach on the phone, ‘I never focus on the results, I only focus on doing everything I can do in the process.’”

“Hah, you heard that?”

“Yeah, and it was like something clicked on the inside.  I’m going to do that from now on.”

Wow! You just never know who is listening, and how far reaching your influence goes, positive and negative. (So watch how you carry yourself.)

The take away here is not to focus on results, focus solely on doing everything you need to do to get great results.  If you are trying to get down to a certain weight or clothing size, stop getting on the scale. Just do the diet and the training program.  If you are trying to make your sales numbers, stop looking at the number of sales you have made. Just do more calls, get more proficient with the sales model, polish and refine your delivery.  If you want a better relationship, stop trying to fix the other person.  Just fix you, and how you behave and respond.  If you want better grades in that MBA course you’re taking, stop looking at the grades.  Just do the work, and actually learn the stuff, not just cram for the exam.  If you want to shoot like a Spec Ops operator, stop focusing on the target.  Just focus on the front sight post, and do the mechanics of marksmanship. If you want to be a high school state wrestling champion, eavesdrop on your Mental Toughness Coaching Dad.

This principle can be applied to every area of your life.  I know we are all tempted to get sucked into focusing on the results.  The results are a byproduct of the work you do on the front end.  Focus on the work, and the results will take care of themselves.

Boo Yah!!