#1732 How Champions Think

They Create Their Own Reality

I have a stack of a dozen or so of my all-time favorite Philosopher’s Notes PDFs printed out on my desk.

There are a handful of Notes that I have read DOZENS of times.

Those include my Notes on Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, An Iron Will by Orison Swett Marden, and Spiritual Economics by Eric Butterworth.

The wisdom in those Notes blows me away EVERY TIME I read them.

I also have Notes on Bob Rotella’s How Champions Think in that stack of most re-read Notes. Rotella is one of the all-time great mental toughness/peak performance coaches. He’s worked with LeBron James, Rory McIlroy and a TON of champions.

My Notes on his classic book is always one of the first Notes I share when I connect 1-on-1 with a super-elite performer—whether they’re a world-class coach or a GM of a professional sports team.


I was thinking about Rotella and his wisdom as I was thinking about Emerson’s chess journey and reflecting on some conversations I’ve had with parents at the tournaments.

To get right to the point…

One of the things that always shocks me is how few of these kids (and their parents) see themselves as future Chess Grandmasters.


It’s INCREDIBLY HARD to achieve that level of success in chess—just as it’s INCREDIBLY HARD to achieve greatness in ANY endeavor.


If you don’t even allow yourself to dream of doing it, how will you ever achieve it?

I often think of this passage from How Champions Think as I contemplate how quickly we all discount our chances of achieving extraordinary success.

Rotella tells us: “One of the concepts I struggle with when I work with people both inside and outside of sport is reality. ... My job with such people is to get them to understand and believe that exceptional people create their own reality. The average person won’t set a goal unless he thinks, and people close to him think, that he has at least a fifty-fifty chance of reaching it. That’s what the average person considers a realistic goal. The average person takes account of all the information that’s out there saying he can’t do something. If, let’s say, he thinks about committing himself to becoming the best basketball player he can be and getting a college scholarship, he’ll be aware of the fact that maybe one high school player in thirty gets a college scholarship. Since that seems to make the odds a lot worse than fifty-fifty, the average person is likely to give up on that goal before he even commits to trying to reach it, settling for mediocrity in high school and giving up the game thereafter.”

He continues by saying: “The exceptional person, the person who does great things, doesn’t see things that way. The exceptional person has a vision—of great performances, of a great career, of a great something— and doesn’t care about what others might say or think. He ignores information that suggests his dream is unrealistic. He just sets about making that vision a reality. He sees things before others see them. He creates his own reality. Afterward, other people may say to him, ‘We knew you could do it. We always sensed you were going to be one of the great ones.’ But that’s probably not what he heard in the beginning. In the beginning, he probably heard, ‘You have to be crazy to think you can do that.’”

That’s Today’s +1.


As Rotella says: Average people are “realistic.”

Exceptional people CREATE their reality.

Which begs the question…

What reality will YOU create for yourself and your kids and your team?

Think about that.

And think like a Champion.


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