What Secret do Tiger Woods, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Mister Miyagi have in common?

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” — Anonymous

Boulder, CO

Tiger Woods, Friedrich Nietzsche and Mister Miyagi all understand that to be great, to perform great deeds, to fly, we must first learn to stand, then walk, then run. To learn to do these things doesn’t take any special skill or innate talent. We all have learned to do them. What it does take is a strong mind.

I watch in amazement as my son learns to do these things. He doesn’t get discouraged because he can’t do them. He keeps trying, over and over again. With each effort he gets a little better. Sometimes it seems like he is actually getting worse rather than better. Then one day, he does something he’s never done before.

My son doesn’t think about having a strong mind, he just has one. We all did when we were his age. Somewhere along the way we lost it. Now we are afraid to fail, whereas my son has no concept of failure. He just somehow understands that to get better, he must keep trying.

On Memorial Day 2012, Tiger Woods holed a green side chip shot on hole #16 that helped propel him to victory. It was his 73 tour win and brought him into a tie with Jack Nicklaus for PGA Tour victories. Jack Nicklaus, the founder and host of the Memorial Tournament, said it could have been the most difficult shot he’d seen in the thirty-six year history of the tournament, which he founded in 1976.

In the movie The Karate Kid, Daniel asks Mister Miyagi to teach him karate. What does Mister Miyagi do? He has Daniel-san paint his fence, paint his house and wax his car — wax on, wax off. “What does that have to do with learning karate,” Daniel asked?

Friedrich Nietzsche knew something about it. He wrote,

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”

To execute the shot that Tiger holed, or to beat Johnny from the Kobra Kai as Daniel-san did, or to fly, it is necessary to first learn to stand, then walk, then run. More than that, we must believe that we can do these things. Belief provides the inspiration to get up and try again. This belief is governed by the same forces that propel my son to keep getting up after he falls down. These forces are often referred to as a Growth Mindset and a Mastery Orientation. They are key components to a strong mind.

Individuals with a Growth Mindset believe that they can get better. They believe that with hard work, determination and sometimes a little luck (for good measure) that they can continually improve. They are not afraid of failure. In fact they see failure as a right of passage to the shores of success. It is the Japanese idea of Kaizen – daily, incremental steps to improvement. Or what Anthony Robbins calls CANI — Constant And Never-ending Improvement. To get better, to improve ourselves, we must first believe that we can get better.

Individuals with a Mastery Orientation participate in an activity for the sake of the activity itself and the enjoyment of trying to improve. They “have as their primary incentive a desire to learn, improve, and excel,” writes Dr. Gio Valiante, the author of Fearless Golf.

“To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself.”
Mastery – The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment
by George Leonard

This is of course where many of us find ourselves off the path and in the weeds. We want the rewards without the effort. Or we don’t believe in ourselves; we doubt our ability to achieve that which we desire. We lack a Growth Mindset and a Mastery Orientation.

Tiger Woods holed his shot, Daniel beat Johnny and we all have learned to walk because because of our strong minds. Unfortunately, some of us now find ourselves in the weeds. Luckily, it is easy to find our way clear of them. If we adopt a Growth Mindset and a Mastery Orientation, which are both learnable skills, we can invigorate our strong minds once again. Apply this thinking to your parenting, to your career, to your relationships and you will reap the rewards.

Michael Jordan said, “Do the work. The rewards will follow.”

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Tiger Woods Does It Again

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