Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance

Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance

by Jason Selk
Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance

Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance

by Jason Selk


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Take your professional game to the next level—in 100 seconds o r less!

People with inborn talent may be good at what they do—but only the mentally tough reach the highest plateaus in their field. And here’s the best news of all: mental toughness is something anyone can learn.

Director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals and a top-tier executive coach, Dr. Jason Selk knows everything there is to know about developing the mental toughness required for achieving any goal you set for yourself. In fact, the techniques he outlines in this book are the same ones he used to help the Cardinals defeat the heavily favored Detroit Tigers in the 2006 World Series.

Inspired on the vision of legendary basketball coach John Wooden, Selk’s program is as simple as it is effective. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You have to put effort into your drive to success; it’s the only way to build up your mental “muscles.” Selk provides hands-on daily exercises for breaking old, self-defeating patterns of behavior and replacing them with the can-do attitude and positive behavior that would make Coach Wooden proud.

Executive Toughness outlines the three fundamentals for attaining high-level success:

ACCOUNTABILITY—admit to mistakes, correct them, and, most important, learn from them
FOCUS—on your strengths, on winning, on reaching your goal . . . for only 100 seconds per day
OPTIMISM—don’t just believe you can succeed, know you can succeed

Executive Toughness takes you through the steps of making these critical behaviors part of your everyday routine. Practice your accountability, focus, and optimism, and you’ll be on the path to attaining your goals; make them part of your mental “DNA,” and there will be no turning back—ever.

A complete regimen from a leading expert on developing the mindset for attaining goals, Executive Toughness is your workout for ultimate success in your career and in your life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071786782
Publisher: McGraw Hill LLC
Publication date: 11/03/2011
Edition description: Net
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dr. Jason Selk is the bestselling author of 10-Minute Toughness, director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals, and an executive coach.

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2012 Jason Selk
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-07-178678-2

Chapter One

Define Your Win

Determine Your Purpose and Priorities

At an early age Maxine Clark, founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop, the world's largest producer and retailer of make-your-own stuffed animals, learned the importance of having purpose and doing what you love. Maxine's mother taught Maxine that "every person has the right to become all that they can be." Although Maxine's family was far from wealthy, they did meaningful things. Her mother cofounded a school for children with Down syndrome and took Maxine to political conventions. When Maxine was 12, her mother took her along on bus rides protesting segregation; they were both arrested. "When I was young, I was so curious and my mother gave me the opportunity to see all kinds of things. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I didn't want to be anonymous. I wanted to do something special. I know now that my purpose in life is to be my mother's daughter."

You don't need to spend much time with Maxine to realize she is living her purpose. She truly is a remarkable woman. Her presence does not rely on the fact that she has established herself as one of the top businesspeople in the modern era. Instead, it stems from her very substance. Quite simply, she cares: she cares about the world, she cares about education, she cares about people. Her passion and style are both refreshing and inspirational.

Maxine first made a name for herself at the May Department Stores, where colleagues thoroughly enjoyed working with her. Maxine's infectious creativity and innate ability to care propelled her to the top of the male-dominated retail industry. As president of Payless ShoeSource, Maxine experienced great success pushing this industry giant to achieve more than $2 billion in annual sales. "I knew growing up in the male world of business that you had to pretend to be someone you really weren't in your heart. That wasn't a bad thing. It was like putting yourself in a role that you wouldn't have played otherwise, and there is nothing wrong with that. But after a while I realized that my financial bank account was full, yet my psychic income was at empty. Ultimately I decided there was more to life"

Maxine decided to move forward, but this time with purpose. "I had to remember who I was. I then determined what I wanted to do." After resigning from Payless in 1996, Maxine made the decision to follow her dream of doing something different and important. One year later, Maxine opened her first Build-A-Bear Workshop, a mall-based make-your-own-stuffed-animal experience that is enormously popular with children in the United States and in many other countries around the world. Ten years after its founding, Build-A-Bear Workshop recorded sales of $474 million and had garnered accolades for its deep, inclusive corporate culture in which every employee could make a difference.

The main transition point in Maxine's career came when she realized she wasn't on her path. She found the courage to decide what she wanted out of her life. In making this decision, she exhibited mental toughness fundamental #1: define your win.

DEFINE YOUR WIN: Know your purpose and priorities to solidify your ability to win in the important aspects of life.

You begin to achieve the success you want by determining your purpose and priorities. When you, like Maxine Clark, decide who you want to be and what you are going to stand for, you begin to rise above the masses in business who have no idea. You set the course for winning, quite simply, by defining what winning means to you.

A Scoreboard for Your Life

When you watch a baseball game, it is easy to know who is winning: you look at the scoreboard and it's right there in front of you to see. But how do you know if you are winning in life? The only true method of answering this question is to clearly define your win by delineating what is most important to you. This chapter will assist you in identifying your purpose and your priorities so you will always have a "scoreboard of life" that tells you if you are winning or not.

No one else can create that scoreboard for you; in doing so, they would be telling you what you want out of your life. Yet it seems that so many people—businesspeople in particular, for some reason—swallow a set definition of success hook, line, and sinker. The result is that they end up trying to live someone else's dream without connection. Whether you are currently successful or not, you can and will go further by making a conscious choice to create the life you want instead of simply letting the machine of your subconscious hum along on its own without accountability or direction.

So many individuals walk into my office believing they do not control their lives. The truth is that we are in complete control of our destiny, and the first step is to own this reality. The great thing about our existence is that we each get to choose who we are and how our lives turn out. In the book Discover Your Destiny, Patanjali is quoted:

When you are inspired by some great purpose or some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations. Your consciousness expands in every direction, and you will find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

The flip side is that without such a life vision in the form of purpose and priorities, people become stagnant, sedentary, and worn out by the daily grind. A leading cause of depression, lack of a life vision is quite common. Often- times, individuals who have tried every medication in the book still end up walking into my office full of suffering. That suffering is their body's alarm system notifying them that they need to make some changes. The cure cannot be found in a pill bottle. The act of defining the win by creating a specific, actionable life vision-of-the-win can begin to produce relief almost immediately.

A Cy Young Award—winning major league pitcher told me this story about how not having purpose and priorities early in his career impacted his life: "When I was a kid, all this success came easy to me. I could do anything athletically better than other kids my age. I could surf before I was eight; skateboarding, basketball, you name it, I could do it. I didn't even have to work at it. Same thing with baseball. I have the ability to do things with my arm that others can't, and I really don't have to work that hard at it. My career just kind of happened without me really knowing it." But then the battery lost its charge: "The problem was," he continued, "that the money and success wore off pretty fast. I was absolutely lost because I didn't know where I was trying to go with my life."

Maxine's mother made sure she had opportunities to see the wide spectrum of life, thus giving Maxine ample experience to know what possibilities existed. Certainly, Maxine's early curiosity set the stage for her eventual determination of purpose. But in the end, both Maxine and the Cy Young winner had to summon up their own courage and dedicate their own time to design their own scoreboards for life by defining purpose and priorities. Likewise, your decision will take courage and time. So you begin your executive toughness journey by dedicating a few minutes to work on these basics.


It doesn't matter if you are a CEO of a Fortune 100 company, a stay-at-home mom, a major league baseball player, a college student, or a gas station attendant: the truth is that until you identify your purpose in life, you will never reach your full potential, because you won't have defined for yourself what that potential could be.

To define your purpose, ask yourself: What is my purpose in life? What is the overall main reason for my being? Here are a few examples:

• A doctor I know has the purpose of serving others.

• A client of mine who is a corporate attorney has the purpose of achieving greatness.

• The CEO of a major pharmaceutical company strives to live each day with patience, contentment, and generosity.

• A gym owner's purpose is to experience love.

• A professional football player I work with believes his purpose is to make the world a better place every day.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to purpose. But it is important that you decide what your purpose is so you have a guiding light for how you live your life.

Unfortunately, most individuals have no idea what their purpose is. Many believe that identifying a purpose is one of life's biggest and most daunting undertakings. Sure, it's tough to know why you are here and what you are supposed to do. No one wants to answer the "What is my purpose?" question incorrectly, so most of us just don't answer it at all. Yet it all becomes easier when you realize that there is no right or wrong answer. It's your life, and you get to decide your purpose in it. I can't tell you to make it your life purpose to become a business icon while making the world a better place for children. Likewise, I can't tell you that this combination shouldn't be your life purpose. You must decide for yourself what you are passionate about, what you want to do, and how you want to make your mark.

Important decisions aren't supposed to be easy, but don't let that stop you from making them. Many people become overwhelmed with making big decisions such as identifying their purpose in life. The result: they don't make the decision, they end up lacking purpose and therefore underperforming, and they get stuck in a "holding pattern." Holding patterns are one of the most counterproductive and uncomfortable places to be.

When we fail to do anything through indecision, we open ourselves up to more problems. So here's my advice: in the face of decisions big or small, just pick a direction and then confirm or deny. As time passes, if the decision seems to have been for the best, confirm it in your mind and continue to take action. If the decision seems incorrect, then deny it and simply make another choice based on the new reality. Avoid holding patterns at all cost! Have purpose, and with each day and every correction, move toward it. Never look back, only forward.

Your purpose may change over time or as you put more thought into it. Figuring out your purpose in life will serve as your true north in many of your life's future decisions. Knowing what you are ultimately trying to accomplish will serve you well in many of the decisions you will need to make on your journey. It will provide you with great motivation and passion along the way. When it comes to decisions, decide to always decide.


Priorities are the second important item to consider before you can fully define your win in life. While your purpose tells you why you are here, your priorities capture what you value. Ask yourself: What is important to me?

That's another really big question. As a multifaceted professional, you may come up with dozens of things that are important to you. I've learned from the channel capacity theory that most human beings can successfully manage only three priority items at a time, so let's hone this really big question to just the three most important aspects of your life. With that limited focus, you can be sure to achieve leadership performance in those three areas that are of utmost significance to you.

Begin thinking about how you would describe your top three priorities in life. Many of the individuals I work with list family, career, and relationship with self as the top three priorities. But remember, neither I nor anyone else can define your win, so those may not be yours.

Steve, a financial advisor with Wells Fargo, defined his purpose as "experiencing excellence and personal fulfillment daily." He went on to describe his top three priorities in life as:

1. Relationship with self

2. Relationship with family

3. Career

Steve expresses the specifics of his priorities in the following way:

The first most important thing in my life is my relationship with myself; I want to be honest, hardworking, healthy, fun-loving, giving, courageous, and connected to God.

My relationships with my wife and kids are also of great importance to me. I want to be present in their lives. I want to have a great relationship built on love and friendship with each of them.

Career is the third priority in my life. It is important to me to be successful. I would like to attain a great level of financial stability for my family by helping my clients have the financial stability they strive for as well.

Achieving Greatness

The first sentence in Jim Collins's seminal book Good to Great reads, "Good is the enemy of great." Individuals and companies have a tendency to become satisfied with what is good, and the sense of satisfaction promotes an attitude of stagnation. I once heard former coaching great Lou Holtz say that people are like trees: the second we stop growing, we start dying. Stagnation easily morphs into laziness, and once a person stops trying to grow and improve, he or she is nothing more than mediocre. I detest "the aggressive pursuit of being incredibly average" that so many in our society have bought into. Make it a point to become more than average, and decide today to complete the first step of becoming great ... by defining your win.

Yes, it will take extra work on your part to identify your dream and put the energy into making it happen. Take the time to define your win, and you will dramatically increase your likelihood for personal and professional success. Follow this process, and you'll follow in the footsteps of industry greats like Maxine Clark, who win on their terms.

Chapter Two

Turn Up Your Thermostat

Heat Up Your Performance

Eleven days before his eighth birthday, Ben Newman lost his mother to amyloidosis, a rare muscle disease. Ben obviously missed his mom in hundreds of ways, some immediately obvious and some more subtle. For instance, without her supportive presence, Ben grew up with little to counter his innate perfectionist tendencies. Ben never lived up to his own expectations: no matter how good his grades were or how many points he scored on the basketball court, Ben never felt good enough. Recalling his childhood, Ben says, "It was tough, it was really tough losing my mother, and I was so hard on myself. I have to admit I was lost, but I guess my saving grace was that I knew I was lost and that something needed to change."

After receiving his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, Ben felt overwhelmed by the decision of where to go next with his life. For a year he bounced around from job to job until finally deciding to take control. "One day I decided that my life wasn't going the way I wanted it to go. I sat down and made a decision, and that decision has literally transformed my life. I decided how the rest of my life was going to turn out, and it wasn't just a fleeting thought. I decided I was going to be a great husband and father and have a great career and that I would be happy with myself." Ben identified his purpose and priorities in life; then he created something I call a "vision of self-image," a 30-second mental video of the specifics of who you want to be and how you want your life to be in five years. In Ben's vision of self-image, he laid out the specifics of the personal and professional success he wanted to accomplish.

Every day Ben played his vision of self-image in his head. Slowly but surely, day by day, Ben's life began to take shape and he began accomplishing the things he set out to achieve. When things would get difficult for Ben, he would conjure up his vision of self-image and he would focus on it with great intentionality. "I work in a rejection-based business. So there were days when my clients wouldn't show up for meetings or they would just flat out tell me no. At those times I would take 30 seconds or so and mentally replay my vision of self-image, and it would give me the confidence I needed to make the next call."

Within eight years, Ben Newman became not only one of the most successful agents in the history of insurance giant Northwestern Mutual but also a nationally recognized speaker and bestselling author. Ben is happily married to his beautiful wife, Ami, and is now teaching his two children how to be good enough in their own eyes to experience true peace and satisfaction.

Unfortunately, Ben is more the exception than the rule. More often than not, hardships derail happiness and success. Ben's key to success lies in his commitment to mental toughness fundamental #2: create your vision of self-image

Ben found a way to meld his life vision and his self-image together by constantly envisioning the specific details of what he wanted before he actually got there. Using the vision of self-image, you can achieve similar success and transform your concept of what you want in life into a concrete reality.


Excerpted from EXECUTIVE TOUGHNESS by JASON SELK Copyright © 2012 by Jason Selk. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Andy Hill vii

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Introduction 1

Mental Toughness: Potentially the Difference between Life and Death

Foundation of Mental Toughness

What You Want and You Are

Chapter 1 Define Your Win 19

Determine Your Purpose and Priorities

Chapter 2 Turn Up Your Thermostat 29

Heat Up Your Performance

Developing Executive Toughness Characteristic 1

Accountability: Doing What Needs to Be Done

Chapter 3 The Process of Achievement 45

Goals That Really Work

Chapter 4 Prioritizing the Priorities 67

Schedule It or Forget It

Chapter 5 Accountability Through Self-Evaluation 83

Learn to Look in the Mirror Every Day

Developing Executing Toughness Characteristic 2

Focus: Improving Execution and Consistency

Chapter 6 Preparation 105

Control Your Emotions, Control Your Performance

Chapter 7 Script Your Way to Focus 123

Always Say the Right Thing

Chapter 8 The Mental Workout 135

100 Seconds a Day Keeps Failure Away

Developing Executing Toughness Characteristic 3

Optimism: Overcoming All Obstacles

Chapter 9 Relentless Solution Focus 153

The Ultimate Measure of Mental Toughness

Chapter 10 Gable Discipline 169

Optimism Through Unremitting Action

Conclusion 183

The Minimum Requirements for Greatness

Notes 197

Index 199

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