Are you listening to what you’re being told, or listening to what you feel?

Why successful people are thinking differently than you

As the high school basketball regular season is coming to a close and tournament is just a few weeks away, I have been talking to my son a lot about his mental state in his game. My son is a junior in high school and has been a starter for his high school basketball team since he was a sophomore. His mental toughness and drive to be one of the highest scorers on the team has been impressive to watch as a parent. I am not a dad-coach like most of the dads of the team helping them with their game physically, but rather, the dad-coaching work I do with my son, to make him the best, is done in the living room sitting and talking.

One of the other dad’s once asked me if I train my son to work that hard on the court. I thanked him for the complement but said “No, I just work with him mentally on his game.”

I have a theory, that no one will ever convince me otherwise, at least 85% of all success in any endeavor comes from the neck up. I just can’t see it any other way. I have witnessed on countless occasions when talent and physical giftedness were beaten down by someone who was smaller and less gifted but had extreme levels of mental toughness and insatiable drive for success. I have also see inhuman leveles of self-confidence be the ultimate driver for success. In my book, talent and in-born giftedness is a poison.

I ask my son, “Are you listening to what you’re told, what you see, what you hear, or… are you listening to what you feel?” That is a dynamically different question than what most 17- year-old kids are going to hear from a quasi-dad-coach. My son takes that question and builds a fire under himself and begins listening to his instincts over influence.

It’s really no different whether you’re working a job, running a business, raising a family, or working for a state championship. The concept is all the same. Are you listing to others, or are you listening to yourself? Because if you haven’t figured it out by now, everything you see in exceptional success always comes back to doing things the way you feel rather than what other people are telling you. This is not to say that you can’t listen to your coach and run the plays the way he wants them ran or how your boss or customer wants things done. But what I am saying is to do those things by your gut feel from all the experience you have gained.  

I use basketball a lot in my examples because it’s one of the most physically demanding sports there is and you as the player can control the initiative solely while still being on a team. Take the great Michael Jordan for example. He’s the GOAT and there will never be another like him. Kobe was the closest but they broke the mode after creating MJ. Most people do not know that Michael worked out incisively even on game days. Yes, that’s right, MJ would do his regular workout on the same day he was going to play. You may think that is crazy, why would you have an intense workout on the same day you were going to play? Believe me, you aren’t alone in thinking that and in fact, many of the Bulls trainers and the so-called experts told MJ not to do it. “It will mess up your shot and you’ll be tired before the big game” they all said.

However, after 6 championship rings and countless other records and accolades that earned him the GOAT status even today, I think you can see that MJ was listening to what he was feeling and not to what others were telling him. During the season, Michael would play 3 times a week, do a photo shoot for his shoes, and many other media events throughout the week. With a schedule like that, when are you going to find the time to workout and keep up the kind of conditioning that makes you the best ever if you are not working out every day?

Here’s the difference, just take a look at all of the people who are super exceptional at what they do from business, to work, to sports, or even raising a family. Most likely you will see the contrarian side of them that is not following the rules and not listening to what other people are telling them. They are not reading books or listening to the experts on how to do something, they are listening to their instincts and trusting their gut. They know they won’t always be right. When you’re working at such high levels, you’re going to fuck up at some point. But these people know that trusting what they feel and listening to what their natural impulses are telling them to do is going to serve them a lot better more often than not.

I’m not saying this is always a nice way of living your life. You will be subjected to criticism and blame and people will feel free to scrutinize your behavior. Being different from others is threatening to the tribe and the harmonic balance of a functioning society. We are given a template how we should be living our lives and once someone sees you stepping out of those lines, they will naturally call you out. Most people live their lives by these unspoken rules. Be nice, be friendly, be humble, and so many other contemporary passivity’s of apathy and indecision. Here’s the secret to how the most successful among us are handling the social pressure to be just like them- they have desensitized themselves from harsh criticism and blame.

Jeff Bezos once said,

“If you can’t afford to be misunderstood, don’t do anything innovative.”

He is so right. Our society gets so caught up in how you’re supposed to do it, when in reality, what you’re supposed to do is be great at what you do! If you’re just going to do what everyone else is doing and what everyone else is telling you to do, you’re only going to get what everyone else is getting. Why does anyone want to be a part of the heard? It’s always so funny to me that most people want to be a part of the group. People work tirelessly to be accepted into all kinds of groups of people but inevitably, these same people are the ones that admire the ones that are standing alone. They sit in awe of those that are the best at what they do never thinking about what it took to get there. They claim luck, good fortune, and connection got these people to the top of their game and that their special brand of boldness to do audacious things gives them the courage to risk more and do better than anyone else. They still believe in talent and giftedness in others which in turn, makes us feel better about our own deficiencies. It eases the psyche to think that we are just not talented enough to do larger-than-life things. People who think this, have no clue.

The one separator that the super successful have over most anyone else is this, if they can’t be the best, they probably don’t want anything to do with it. The highest achievers in our world never look at something and think, “I would like to try that someday and maybe I could be really good at it.” Really good at it? I don’t think so! The elite in any area of competition never wants to just be really good at it. They want to be the best. And not just the best, the best ever!

I’ll go back to my son for just a moment. His senior year is just around the corner. Will he go play college basketball? He’s certainly good enough to make a college team and his mental toughness and drive to committing to the hardest work to get there is inevitable. This is the time we need to be thinking about reaching out to schools and start sending stats and tape to them. We need to be inviting coaches and recruiters to the games. We are at the point in his basketball career where he needs to be on a college’s radar. But when I asked him if he was starting to think about college ball, he said, “Not really.” I asked why, why are you not thinking about this, it could be a huge opportunity for you. He smiled at me and said, “Dad, if I can’t be the best, I don’t want to put the time into it.”

That smile was him knowing he was using my own philosophy against me. You may be thinking right now this is a kid wasting his talents. Not using his gifts as a great player to go to college and seek greatness. That’s because you still believe in talent and in-born giftedness. By now you should know how I feel about talent. Talent isn’t what made my son one of the best players in his school. What made him the best was just what he said, “If I can’t be the best, I don’t want anything to do with it.” What made him the best was having the time in high school to be committed to the consistency that created his star power on the court at this point. You may also be thinking he sounds like a privileged spoiled brat, saying, “If I can’t be the best, I don’t want to play!” But what I see is a kid that knows the difference in knowing if he’s dabbling in something or if he’s ready to commit to putting in the relentless hard work to be the best. This is a choice all great people have to make.

Ask yourself, are you following what other people are telling you, are you listening to the influence, or are you listening to your instincts? Are you believing what you see and what you hear, or are you believing what you feel? There’s a big differenced there. I’m also going to tell you that the work to begin believing what you feel is going to be some of the hardest work you have ever done. It’s not easy to give up on the influential conditioning that has built up on you over a long period of time. But if you are ready to begin believing what you feel, I recommend getting my book that just released this year, How a King is Made. If you like this article, you’re going to love my book.       


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