Why Unemployment Motivates Me

There is a folder on my desktop with unemployment as the title.

My wife and I were both employed at the same University. I left my professorship in 2011 to catch up with my passion. So, I started my own Sport Psychology company helping teams and leaders build mental toughness.

My wife stayed on teaching and mentoring. If it weren’t for her support or God, I would have had to ask my dreams where they were going, because I was staying. 


God was huge because leaving my position was a leap of faith, so I asked God for a sign if this was correct. A real sign! Yes, I asked. Now, this is my experience, but I audibly heard “It’s going to be okay.” I’ve only heard this one other time and in both situations, God was right. 

I cut bait at the University and in the first few months of my new business, I was at The Masters for the entire week with one of my golfers, riding up Magnolia Lane every day, and enjoying the best event ever. It was my favorite week up to that point professionally. 

Less than two months later, I was fired.

See, I didn’t know this at the time, but I’ve been fired MORE times AFTER my teams or athletes have had success than when they failed. Huh? Think about it, helping professional athletes reach success means they’ve reached their goals; so you’re no longer needed on retainer. Not always of course, but it happens. 

Later that summer just two weeks before the college semester began, my wife received an email stating that her position was no longer needed. Fired. Bam. Done.

Two weeks before college classes started was a problem. No one was hiring educators at that time of the year. Seven years at the University and abruptly let go was not a good spot to be.

I hadn’t built up the business enough to sustain both of us, we had two kids under four, and we also needed the health insurance.

Faith isn’t really faith until it’s all you’ve got.

I tried to hire her for my business, but I couldn’t afford her full-time. I did the only thing I could which was stay hustling.  My pride was severely hurt and the evil head trash began “ Aren’t you supposed to provide?” “Are you good at what you do?”  “What are we going to do?”

But, that wasn’t the hardest part.

She was the one who went through the suck.

The unemployment office.

Here was an educator with a Masters degree, almost twelve years in higher education, forced to take a class on how to write a resume and apply for entry-level jobs.  She felt like a criminal because she had to prove her position was absolved and not trying to “work the system.”  It was the most humbling experience of her life. 

Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’ve got.

A few months later she found a new online position mentoring students, but it was massive transition.

The unemployment folder remains on my desktop. 

It’s a reminder. A nudge. Motivation that someone else is working right now, so you can either get better or stay bitter.

Funny how many successful people I’ve met that have been driven stronger by fear than success.

I’ve always grinded because I had a fear of what exactly happened, losing a position.  Now, we can’t live or operate out of fear  because that is suffocating and not joyful. But occasionally peaking at fear adjusts our focus to dig deep.

That’s why unemployment motivates me. 

That’s why failure drives me. 

I am blessed that business thrives today and we get to coach so many lives. God provided along this entire journey. 

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

Everyone Is An Athlete, BUT Our Office is Different


I was caddying for one of my golfers at a PGA Tour event at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. During a practice round, we played with Tom Watson for the entire day. What a treat! As we were walking down one of the fairways, he put his arm around me and said, “This is such a nice office.”

I’ve been borrowing that line ever since because it is true.


Everyone is an athlete our office is just different. Some of us are corporate athletes or entrepreneur athletes. Being an athlete is an attitude and awareness. It means looking through our own lens of life as an athlete.

First, as an athlete, we compete.

Competition has always been part of humanity, ecology, and biology and at its basic level, competition for space or resources. Some are drawn toward this type of competition while others often shy away from it.

However, true competition is me vs. me.

Too often is only viewed as an “I win and you lose” concept. This viewpoint of competition has been easily perverted into trying to beat someone else, which turns into a mindset of there can only be one winner. We confuse competition only against some other opponent and thus create a mindset of scarcity, fear, and isolation. See with the “I win, you lose game”, the opponent can become anyone outside of ourselves, even our own teammates or co-workers. The scarcity is born from there can only be one promotion, one president, one “winner”, so it must be me.

Competition against ourselves isn’t easy. It is easier to focus on beating others rather than ourselves, because competing against ourselves is much slower and deliberate. We are quick to improve our circumstances or our situation, but not ourselves.

Competition against ourselves is the most difficult part of being an athlete because we already know everything about our opponent.

Competition is especially difficult because we can compete in everything we do.

We compete against ourselves is most all that we do. When waking up in the morning and rising as soon as the alarm goers off to letting go of a resentment we have against someone else. It’s a competition against ourselves if we will refuse that piece of cake or get that workout in or wake up when our alarm goes off or help out someone else.

We can compete in our job, our relationships, and our physical endeavors. We can compete in being a friend, a spouse, father, mother, teacher, etc. We do not always compete against others, but against a much tougher opponent, ourselves. Competition is about challenging ourselves about how good that we can become

When we focus on becoming the best version of ourselves, it means that there are setbacks, pain, adversity, suffering, struggle, and learning. However, there will also be growth, joy, thanksgiving, satisfaction, and true success.

Second, being an athlete means being in shape.

When we show up to our office, we need to be conditioned. Yes, there is some physical fitness to our lives, and an over all well-being. But, obviously, “everyone is an athlete” mentality doesn’t mean that we need to be able to play 90 minutes of a top-level soccer game.

Being well-conditioned means that we show up early, are able to be present, deal with others in effective manners, commit and contribute to the overall mission, and simply be other person focused.

Third, as an athlete, we are are always training, practicing and preparing.

A funny thing about competition and practice is that we will practice WAY more than we will ever actually compete.

How many tennis balls have a Wimbledon champion hit in their entire life? How many mountain climbs has someone done before a successful first ascent? How many range balls or simple practice rounds has a Masters champion finished, or practices has an NCAA Volleyball champion completed?

An athlete competing in the Olympics will have just one event or at most maybe a couple events. Thus, 99% of their time invested in the previous four years has been in preparation.

We will practice more than we will ever actually perform. Thus, our preparation is in many regards more important than our actual competition because when our moment arrives, it’s too late to prepare. We will need to be ready because we do not know when or who will be our hinge moment. That’s why everyone is an athlete.

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


I completed a 1/2 ironman with less than 2 weeks of training. So, I ended up writing a book about it, only to chop it up and sell the parts. The book How to Crush a 1/2 Ironman in Less Than 2 Weeks was a few weeks from completion when I realized, who is going to read that book?!?  I went totally overboard with the book-  So, I immediately got to working on the next book to cater to every corporate athlete. Title- NO ONE Gets There Alone. It was painful.

In order to complete a 1/2 ironman with less than 2 weeks of training, I needed to develop my “why.” Just like you, I had excuses, but did not choose to use them. I focused on my excuses and turned them into my actual reasons why!

Turn Your Excuses Into Your Reasons

“If we literally did all the things that what we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”-  Thomas Edison

All of us have head trash that consists of limiting beliefs that keep us from our true potential. We hold onto old ideas like they actually help us, and we do this because it is more comfortable than exploring our true possibilities and developing new patterns of thinking. It is difficult and uncomfortable to combat the old ideas that we “can’t do something.”  It is far easier and less taxing mentally to simply hold onto limiting beliefs.

An old idea could be “there is only one winner, and everyone else is a loser.” It’s a comfortable belief and can be effective, but it comes from a source of scarcity (there’s only one winner, so it’s me vs. everyone) rather than abundance (I’m confident I’ll reach my goals, who can help me and how can I help others?)

If we look for excuses not to do something, we will find them; however, if we search for reasons to do something, we can find those instead.

These excuses and limiting beliefs always involve people, places, or things.

We grasp onto the times that we failed and were embarrassed and allowed those moments to define our identity. We focused on our deficiencies rather than our strengths. Or we compared ourselves to someone else who was better than us.

Most of the negativity is about not being good enough to do something, which allows us to then create excuses for not being good enough.

It’s a vicious negative cycle.

So, we play it safe and avoid taking the necessary risks for success. The reality about life is that we don’t get credit for being safe! The only way to find out what we are capable of is to take a chance, go for it, and just do it. The scary and difficult part about taking chances is it means challenging our old ideals that have kept us safe.

Each of us has a story with experience, strength, and hope. We all have excuses why, and the tough part is to be able to identify these excuses and use them to our advantage. We need to be able to use our limiting beliefs and turn them into our empowering reason, our why.

We will have an excuse or a reason. The excuses exist for a reason; they are there to see who really wants it.

Here are four common excuses, mine included. At the same time, all of my excuses became my reasons why.

Excuse #1: Time

We are either wasting time or investing time. It is the most precious resource!

Time is the number one excuse for not starting. Discipline is the number one excuse for not continuing.

Yes, time is the biggest limiting factor, but it also is an excuse. We all have the same number of hours, if we don’t create the time for ourselves, then we simply do not want it bad enough.

We either make time, or we make an excuse.

Can we examine our actual time commitment? Are we hiding behind our kids schedule, our spouses’, weekend drop-offs, work, or is it that we are just too tired? Do we waste time on netflix ® binges or making sure we watch the big game?

John Grisham would write in the early morning before starting his day job as an attorney in the courtroom. It took him four years to write his first best seller, A Time to Kill.

A friend of mine preparing for a race would get his long run in on the way to and from both of his kids’ weekend soccer games.

It is about making time and getting creative with our lifestyle.

In my life, time was an excuse as well. I’m a business owner, husband, father of two, golfer, and I travel a lot with my athletes and teams, so making the time to train for a ½ Ironman was difficult.

In order to do your best at ½ Ironman or Ironman distances, 6 months to a year of training is ideal. I hadn’t previously signed up for longer races before because training for a ½ Ironman for six months wasn’t appealing. I didn’t want it bad enough.

Now, time was a major factor to prepare because I only had two weeks to train. It could have been a good excuse.

Reason Why #1: Time

Time in my case became an advantage!

If time was an excuse for not doing the race, I realized that I could devote less than 2 weeks to prepare for a ½ Ironman. My focus and life could accommodate this challenge. My first excuse turned into my why.

Excuse #2: Fear

Remember as a kid when coach would tell us that if the baseball hit us, it wouldn’t hurt? LIE! It hurt, and my broken nose can attest to that fact.

Well, I’m not going to lie here either because attempting your goal will hurt. But, that is actually what makes it great as well. If it were easy, then everyone would do it.

If we don’t commit to setting a goal, then we will not fail. Boom; problem solved! However, it also ensures that there is no way we will become who we want to become or crush our goals.

We then create a habit of not committing, or starting something, but never finishing.

My second excuse was fear. It was an unknown if I could finish the race or not get injured. But I was also scared by the commitment it takes for successful races. I’ve accomplished marathons, half-marathons, Masters swimming, and the random road 5k or 10k, here and there.

I’ve also trained with elite athletes and I’ve see those people who simply kill the workouts and crush those types of races. I’ve also worked with professional athletes. The mind-set, the dedication, and the attention to detail are paramount. It takes a lot of sacrifice both individually and family- wise. Having been a part of that culture, I know full well what it takes.

They are all-in!

These professionals are what the pig is to breakfast, while I was more of what the chicken was to breakfast. See, the chicken is invested in breakfast by supplying the eggs, but the pig is fully committed by providing the ham or bacon.

Reason Why #2: Commitment

While I realized the sacrifice and dedication necessary for greatness, my goal was important; finish. Heck, at least the chicken still contributes to breakfast. I know the intricacies about what it takes to compete. I could do this. All I have to do is commit and just keep moving.

Part of the fear exists because we allow an “out.” When we burn the ships, we make the commitment.

Excuse #3: Expectations

Tiger Woods used to say, “ I expect to win the tournament.” Expectations are not confidence, but we confuse the two. Expectations and confidence are just cousins.

We can have confidence in the things we can control, but we hold no control over how we want things to work out.

Expectations are out of our control and often involve other people’s opinions of ourselves. They also turn into tomorrow’s resentments. Continuing to have the highest of expectations means we will struggle when we have to mentally trouble-shoot and reboot.

We basically only control, our effort, our attitude, our confidence, and how well we let of mistakes and re-focus.

While I haven’t been willing to commit the vast amount of time to training for a 1/2 ironman, I also suffer from a disease called “just don’t suck.”

This attitude of “just don’t suck” is actually a cousin to perfectionism. I don’t have to be perfect at things, but I find it unacceptable to not be “good” at everything. It’s the reason why I play chess, ping-pong, golf, poker, run, swim, ski, write books, and can play most any sport.

The obsession drove me to accomplish some okay athletic activities (back in the day), like running a sub 20:00 5k, breaking 1:00 in the 100 Freestyle, bench pressing 300 lbs, completing a marathon in 3:20, making a hole-in-one, and completing a tough mudder.

However, the “don’t suck” disease is also the reason why I have never been the best at any one of these skills. My attention, passion, and intention get drawn toward other endeavors. You can’t be the best at one thing, if you’re trying to be the best at everything.

That’s insanity.

That’s the disease.

Why #3: Past Performance

How do we know that we can do something? We’ve done “it” before. Our experiences no matter how small must serve as confidence, not build expectations. There is only one expectation for the race, just keep moving.

My past experiences of having raced and competed before have served as reasons why I could finish a ½ Ironman in less than 2 weeks.

My Excuse #4: Age

Every Thanksgiving, as a family, we run in a local 5k and I not only got smoked in my workouts leading up to the race, but I was also passed in the 5k race by a guy who was having knee surgery immediately after the race. This was a guy I went to the gym with and so I knew about his injury.

That sucked. Was I really getting that old?

Also, my body has started to break down on me. I’ve always had back issues since my near death experience of falling off of a cliff. Now, my knee pain has gotten progressively worse and it hurts walking up stairs sometimes. I’m much more sore nowadays.

My age was an excuse for not signing up.

Why #4: Age

We have never been older than today and we will never be any younger than today.  None of us are getting any younger.

Before the movie, The Bucket List, was released, I wrote out 100 things I wanted to do before I die. As a former college professor, I would have all of my students perform this goal as well.

Complete a full Ironman was on the list.

Since nothing is guaranteed in life and tomorrow certainly isn’t, I asked myself, “if not now, when?” “If not you, then who?”

My age now became my why, if not now, then when?

Most likely your “½ Ironman” is a different challenge altogether. Maybe it is running a 5k, writing a book, hiking the Appalachian Trail, losing 10 pounds, finishing your Masters degree, or becoming a professional in your field. Whatever your goal is going to be, building mental toughness will be key.Mental toughness will be the deciding factor in our success. 

For everyone, these struggles are different.

What is interesting is that we do not need to be mentally tough in order to be comfortable in today’s society. We are already comfortable in our lives, so there is not always an immediate need to push ourselves.

However, we don’t thrive in mediocrity; we survive.

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