An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance. Being at the top in other people’s eyes has nothing to do with your quality of life. Tap into your mind’s potential via complete immersion into one and all activities. Your growth has no barriers. Pure concentration doesn’t allow thoughts or false constructions to impede awareness. Love the study and training above all else. A good teacher is more of a guide than an authority. They lead a discussion rather than a lecture. They ask questions. They ask to explain their thought process. Are there other ways of doing things? Did you consider a different order of operations? They don’t patronize. Confidence is critical for a great competitor, but overconfidence is brittle. One of the problems with being too high is that there is a long way to fall. Little breaks from the competitive intensity of life are an integral part of success. All situations can be handled as long as presence of mind is maintained. If you lose your calm when crisis hits, there is no safety net to catch you. Follow your heart even when it leads you far away or to seemingly bizarre pursuits. Respond to heartbreak with hard work. Glory is a powerful incentive. Step by step, incrementally, the novice can become the master. Give feedback that is process-oriented rather than result-oriented. We can always evolve in our approaches to learning. The key to pursuing excellence is to embrace an organic, long-term learning process, and not to live in a shell of static, safe mediocrity. Growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety. Successful people shoot for the stars, put their hearts on the line in every battle, and ultimately discover that the lessons learned from the pursuit of excellence mean much more than the immediate trophies and glory. In the long run, painful losses may prove much more valuable than wins—those who are armed with a healthy attitude and are able to draw wisdom from every experience are the ones who make it down the road. They are also the ones who are happier along the way. The real challenge is to stay in range of this long-term perspective when you are under fire and hurting in the middle of the war. Revel in apparent chaos. Be a free-flowing performer, unblocked by psychological issues and hungering for creative leaps. One of the most critical strengths of a superior competitor in any discipline is the ability to dictate the tone of the battle. While a fixation on results is certainly unhealthy, short-term goals can be useful developmental tools if they are balanced within a nurturing long-term philosophy. The only way to learn how to swim is by getting in the water. There is nothing like a worthy opponent to show us our weaknesses and push us to our limit. Praise good concentration, a good day's work, a lesson learned. When we have worked hard and succeed at something, we should be allowed to smell the roses. The key is to recognize that the beauty of the roses lies in their transience. It is drifting away even as we inhale. We enjoy the win fully while taking a deep breath, then we exhale, note the lesson learned, and move on to the next adventure. With a loss, empathy is a good place to start, tell them you are proud of them, that it is okay to be sad. Disappointment is a part of the road to greatness. Introspective thinking about psychology can be a healthy coping mechanism. Did you lose your concentration? Did you fall into a downward spiral? Were you overconfident? Impatient? Tired? Every loss is an opportunity for growth. A heartfelt, empathetically present, incrementally inspiring mom or dad or coach can liberate an ambitious child to take the world by the horns. We need to put ourselves out there, give it our all, and reap the lesson, win or lose. There will be nothing learned from any challenge in which we don't try our hardest. Growth comes at the point of resistance. We learn by pushing ourselves and finding what really lies at the outer reaches of our abilities. You can't count on the world being silent, so your only option is to become at peace with the noise. Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously. When uncomfortable, your instinct should be not to avoid the discomfort but to become at peace with it. Seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them. It is important to regain presence and clarity of mind after making a serious error. The first mistake rarely proves disastrous, but the downward spiral of the second, third, and fourth error creates a devastating chain reaction. A life of ambition is like existing on a balance beam. As a child, there is no fear, no sense for the danger of falling. The beam feels wide and stable, and natural playfulness allows for creative leaps and fast learning. You can run around doing somersaults and flips, always testing yourself with a love for discovery and new challenges. If you happen to fall off—no problem, you just get back on. But then, as you get older, you become more aware of the risk of injury. The beam is narrow and you have to stay up there. Plunging off would be humiliating. While a child can make the beam a playground, high stress performers often transform the beam into a tightrope. Any slip becomes a crisis. A key component of high-level learning is cultivating a resilient awareness that is the older, conscious embodiment of a child's playful obliviousness. Create like a child under world championship pressure. One of the most critical factors in the transition to becoming a conscious high performer is the degree to which your relationship to your pursuit stays in harmony with your unique disposition. There will inevitably be times when we need to try new ideas, release our current knowledge to take in new information—but it is critical to integrate this new information in a manner than does not violate who we are. There is a careful balance of pushing yourself relentlessly, but not so hard that you melt down. Muscles and minds need to stretch to grow, but if stretched too thin, they will snap. A competitor needs to be process-oriented, always looking for stronger opponents to spur growth, but it is also important to keep on winning enough to maintain confidence. We have to release our current ideas to soak in new material, but not so much that we lose touch with our unique natural talents. Breathing should be a return to what was natural before we got stressed out by years of running around a hectic world and internalizing bad habits. There are times when the body needs to heal, but those are ripe opportunities to deepen the mental, technical, internal side of the game. When aiming for the top, your path requires an engaged, searching mind. You have to make obstacles spur you to creative new angles in the learning process. Let setbacks deepen your resolve. Everyone at a high level has a huge amount of understanding, and much of what separates the great from the very good is deep presence, relaxation of the conscious mind, which allows the unconscious to flow unhindered. We cannot expect to touch excellence if “going through the motions“ is the norm of our lives. Players who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity are almost always the ones who end up coming through when the game is on the line. An appreciation for simplicity, the everyday—the ability to dive deeply into the banal and discover life's hidden richness—is where success, let alone happiness, emerges. To have success in crunch time, you need to integrate certain healthy patterns into your day-to-day life so that they are completely natural to you when the pressure is on. Only you know your body. Always be prepared for exertion by being nourished, but never have too full a stomach and thereby dull your senses. To walk a thorny road, we may cover its every inch with leather or we can make sandals. When our emotions overwhelm us, we can get sloppy. Prepare in a manner that allows for inspiration. Lay the foundation for us to create under the wildest pressures we ever imagine. Mastery involves discovering the most resonant information and integrating it so deeply and fully it disappears and allows us to fly free.