I asked Archie Manning and Andre Agassi to read my next book and provide testimonials, because they would be perfect for its message to parents. I got through to their agents, they said, “no.” Andre Agassi  denied my request three times. I hate rejection, check that, my ego hates rejection.

Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times, his ego must not have got in the way. What takes place in my mind after losing, or getting rejected is that feeling that I’m not good enough. The setback just affirms that belief, “see, here’s the proof.”

Gym owner and coach, Tyler Miller, of Force Barbell knows when someone isn’t going to make a certain lift, because their approach to the lift is different. Feeling helpless is learned, so is mental toughness. Having limiting beliefs are learned. We set up our own mental barriers about how good we will be.

PIKE syndrome A study was done with Pike fish in a tank, where they released minnows and watched as the Pike gobbled them up. Then , they placed the minnows inside of a jar so the Pike could not get to it. It still went after it, nailing the glass jar time and time again. After a period of time, the jar was removed and the minnows swam freely, meaning the Pike fish could once again feast…This time, the Pike fish did nothing! It stayed there, and eventually starved to death!  The power of nature didn’t allow the fish to survive. The Pike syndrome has to be at least 10x stronger for us humans.

How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man? – Bob Dylan

Self-imposed limiting beliefs are everywhere. For example, “you’re good, but not that good?”  “she’s pretty, but you’re just okay?” If we are unaware of our identity and our mission, then the limiting beliefs will still arise and keep us from reaching our full potential. It’s a mental tether.

Baby Elephants As a means of training an elephant, when they are very small, they are tethered by a thick rope to a stake in the ground. As a baby, it lacks the strength to break free, so eventually, it stops trying. Even when the elephant is large enough and could easily break the rope around its leg, it refuses to do so. The massive size of an elephant learned to be helpless.

Dogs & Electric Shocks Seligman was the first to coin the phrase learned helplessness. I highly recommend his book Authentic Happiness:  His experiment with dogs exposed them to electric shocks, in which they could not escape. After the dogs actually had an out and could escape the shocks, just like the elephant and the Pike fish, they did nothing. The dogs had to be physically removed, no amount of rewards, or praise would get them to leave the shocks. They learned helplessness.

If you want it bad enough, you have to BELIEVE. More importantly, we’ll have to go through our own  shocks, mental tethers, and glass jars. These are the times of non-belief that determine if we will remain steadfast and eventually break free.


Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness   

A participation trophy does not build mental toughness 

participation trophy hurts

FOX 59 interviewed me… click on the image above to watch the story…

Kids are not to blame. We are.

We’ve become obsessed not with their own medals, but our own. We run a 5k and expect a medal. A coach even told me a runner who didn’t even run, wanted their finisher medal for a 5k!

Trophies don’t mean anything.  Many Olympians have their Gold medals in a sock drawer. We are the one’s who give meaning to the trophy and what it represents.

Olympians didn’t participate for a medal, it was not the driver. They wanted to test themselves against the best. Their own mental toughness and talent are the reasons for their success.

When we give kids a participation trophy, it is more about the adults than it is the kids. Check out our article on the most costly mistake that  Sport Parents make

I doubt if even one kid ever began to play sports because they thought, “Hey, I get a trophy at the end.” They play for the fun, and the Capri Sun. 

Awarding a participation trophy actually can do more harm than good. 

We think that providing an external reward for hard work will build motivation, but the opposite may be the case. It may diminish their motivation. Is it a reason why 80% of kids stop playing by age 14?

Not sure.

Yale researcher, Amy Wrzesniewski examined the motives of over 11,000 West Point cadets across the span of 14 years.

They wanted to assess the impact of cadets “why” for entering the academy. Cadets that had internal motivators were more likely to graduate, receive promotions, commissions, and stay in the military. Cadets that entered with BOTH strong internal and external motivators (such as get a good job later in life) revealed drastically less success.

The external factors such as get a better job and make more money had a negative impact on overall success.

Think about it, we all have different internal motivators and are more likely to accomplish a task when we tap into our own “why” rather than a carrot or stick approach.  (i.e., I find a wallet- I’ll return the wallet because it’s the right thing to do, rather than the possible reward I could get.) 

Adults don’t need to give a participation trophy to kids, they just need praise their effort and allow them to have fun and also fail.

We don’t make everyone a winner by making everyone not a loser. It may even create more losers.

top mental toughness coachDr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

why I quit drinking

Why I Quit Drinking

My son has me under his thumb. It was always my daughter before. Funny thing about boys is how much they emulate their daddy. I love coffee, so he loved coffee. I would have a pint in the evening and so would he (okay, he’d have a sip).

He was three. It was funny.

But I noticed something scary. He wanted another sip and another and another. Alcoholism runs rampant in my family and I could already tell he had the sickness.

My grandfather actually has the second longest living sobriety date of 54 years in the U.S. It was confirmed at the national convention.

When I was younger, I wasn’t an alcoholic. I mean I only fell off of a cliff and was involved in a drunk driving accident during college in the same year. Some people said I was lucky, some said I was very unlucky. Some said I was meant for much more in life.

The tough part was that it had cost me playing baseball in college. I could have hurt someone else, and I never wanted that, but I didn’t think about those things.

After those mistakes, I had to attend all the alcohol classes, AA meetings, perform 100 hours of community service, and meet regularly with a probation officer. The probation officer would give me a breathalyzer every time I would show up. I always wondered, “Who in the hell would show up drunk when they had to give a breathalyzer?” She said, “You’d be shocked.”  It still wasn’t why I quit drinking. 

I had a sheet of paper that needed to be signed to confirm my attendance at all of the AA meetings. I learned, “Hey this is anonymous”! I just had people at dorms sign the sheet instead of going to the meetings. I remembered in those meetings thinking that these people were messed up, I wasn’t that bad. I focused on the differences between us, rather than the similarities.

Even after all of that for many years, I still drank. I just managed to control my drinking, so I thought…I never liked liquor, I was a 2 or 3 pint man, well, most of the time. I simply loved having fun and drinking beer was just a part of it.  Games, concerts, parties, BBQ’s, at the beach, after golf, during golf, at dinner, with friends, at the movies, hanging out, writing, chess, after runs, were all great times to have a cold one.

After my kids were born, I actually started to look forward to a craft pint in the evenings to unwind. It occupied my mind about wanting a beer.

I actually always admired people who didn’t drink.

People that had issues with drinking and no longer drank. I always thought that those who never drank were the lucky one’s.  I actually wanted to be the person who didn’t need to have a drink. That is my beautiful wife, take or leave it, no problem.

BUT, I’m an all or nothing guy. That’s why I quit drinking!

If I have one, I’m gonna have two.  A saying that resonated with me “One is too many and 10 is never enough.” The problem wasn’t the fourth or fifth drink, it was THE FIRST. The only path for me was not having one. That’s why I quit drinking.

It’s tough because it still looks appealing, but it forces me to remember my why, my gratitude list, my role as a father, and the benefits. That’s mental toughness. For example, we went to a wedding last week and the ride home with my kids was incredible, we blasted the music and sang aloud.  Before quitting, I wouldn’t have driven home.

There is a saying that if you want “To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.” 

I know my goals and I have never once written down drinking as part of the plan. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, It took me a long time to realize that sacrificing short-term gratification for long-term and big picture satisfaction is best for me. And this is just one part of my life.

I even became fearful writing this and thought, “what-if” I go out tonight and drink?

Wouldn’t I be a fraud and a failure? Just in case I mess up, maybe its best not to write this post. We are all going to mess up, but it’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback. When we mess up, we just start over, but I’m going to try to not let fear win. Taking things one day, one moment, at a time is what it takes for success in anything.

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness-

Herschel Walker Mental Toughness

Herschel Walker was made fun at school and never went out to recess because he was afraid of getting beat up. His teacher used to put him in the corner of the room because he had a speech impediment, and called him “special.” His father used to give him a quarter to buy a snack at school. Herschel would give it to another kid, so they could buy a snack as long as they would talk to him. After the kid had finished his snack, he would go back to making fun of him.

The last day of school in 8th grade, he went out to recess and got beat up, bad. He said to himself “never again….When your name is called, you have to stand up.”

Mental Toughness is often caught rather than taught. From that Hinge moment in school, he didn’t train to become a great athlete, he trained to become a super hero. How did he do it?

He did 5,000 sit-ups & 5,000 push-ups every day! Herschel also ran on a dirt track every day, with a rope tied to his waist dragging a tire.

He transformed himself from one of the slowest guys in the school, to one of the fastest in the state of Georgia by the 9th grade.

During an interview with Jim Rome, Herschel was asked when was the last day he missed a workout? He replied “NEVER.”

Sometimes, our mess becomes our message. Mental Toughness means doing what others aren’t willing to do.
Rob Bell revised slide3Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology coach. DRB & Associates based in Indianapolis works with professional athletes & corporate athletes, coaches, and teams building their Mental Toughness. His 2nd book is titled The Hinge:: The Importance of Mental Toughness
 Follow on twitter @drrobbell or contact drrobbell@drrobbell.com

Check out the new film & e-book, NO FEAR: A simple guide to mental toughness .

don’t question your mental toughness


There is “no question” about it. Did this cliche’ emerge in sports? I’m not sure, it’s just where I hear it most often.

What I’ll hear from competitors is how often they question themselves. “how did I do that?” “what are you doing?” “why am I out here today?” ” What are YOU DOING!?” 

Mental toughness doesn’t ask questions. I don’t hear an athlete playing well, ask themselves “how are you playing so well?”  “How are you so awesome?!” 

Questions during competition emerge after mistakes and they make sense, but they are rhetorical, and they aren’t answered. All they do is lead to more questions or merely go unanswered.

If you want to become more mentally strong then do this instead!

Don’t question your own mental toughness!

Things will go bad, and we aren’t going to always play our best, so we will need to make adjustments. But, questions don’t lead to many positive adjustments, just more questions.

So, we need to give ourselves instructions about what to do NEXT.

Try statements instead.

We are either listening to ourselves or telling ourselves.

“Okay, next play,” “wow, that wasn’t the best,” “stay aggressive,” “find a way.” 

These statements can even be motivational, but I’ve found that the best make slight instructional adjustments.   We don’t need questions about ourselves or our play, we just need to develop a habit of telling  ourselves what to do next.

Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis.  Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott, and Walgreens. Check out the most recent books on Mental Toughness