Mental Toughness

Are you mentally tough? How do you know?

This question came to mind recently when I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon at the University of South Alabama where the main speaker was Joey Jones, head football coach.

He is familiar with the public work of the Navy SEALs, a U.S. Navy special operations unit. Getting permission from the president of the University, Coach Jones organizes an experience for the football team with the SEALs. In the several days of challenging jobs, it is now the day of the “rocks task.”

The job is to pick up rocks from one area of the University and carry these stones as a team to another location, approximately 2.5 miles. What?! Are you kidding me?! Some rocks are very heavy while others are light, and then some in-between. The task is to function as a team. Failure in this event would be judged as any rock that ever came to rest on the ground – it could rest on a knee or in the joint hands of the team, but not on the ground. As I hear this story, I imagine how I might think as a player. I have some interesting thoughts, as Coach describes, in painful terms, the whole endeavor. (Players probably do not say out loud every thought they think). There are many smart players on the USA football team.

As expected, the guys who had the lighter rocks get to the finish line sooner than those carrying the heavier rocks. I guess they could now rest, and claim achievement of their individual task. But, they are a team – no one wins if anyone loses. As coach vividly describes these moments – and they are painful even to the listening audience – you find yourself on the team, going back to do what you must do. Coach is a great storyteller and you live the event with the other players. (Okay, I didn’t carry any rocks, but I sure felt like I was carrying them)!

A lot of laughing and joking, as one might expect on a football team, is presented by the guys who finish first to the guys still carrying the heavy rocks. But, they are a team. They now go back and pitch in, helping the others to carry the load. As Coach describes it, some of the progress in the end is inch-by-inch. It gets extremely tough. I am expecting any minute for a rock to fall, but it does not happen. They are victorious!

Physical toughness is important in life. For a football team, it is high on the list of significance.

Mental toughness is important in life. For most of the challenges we face, being mentally tough makes a huge difference.

Teamwork is more than significant in life. It is essential as well as consequential. It is the cornerstone of every successful person. When anyone receives an award, what does he always say? “I want to thank . . .” That’s another learned lesson from teamwork: the spirit of gratitude.

A great team, inspired by a great leader, will improve every individual aspect of our lives. If you want to do more and do better throughout your life, connect yourself with a team. Find a team with a great leader, like Coach Jones. Find more than one team. It may be a social team, a work team, or even a church team.

Find a great team with an influential leader. Do not be surprised at your success.