1. Perfectionist

I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree and moved to Crested Butte, Colorado to be a ski-bum for one season. Well, the employment opportunities were not in high demand, so I was forced to work construction. I sucked at it. I became the laborer of the group, because I could hardly nail two pieces of wood together.

To this day, I “hate” being bad at anything and can’t accept the fact that I am not good at everything.

     2.  All or Nothing thinking:

My mentality: win or lose, make the shot or miss it, do a good job or a poor job. This type of stinking thinking has gotten me into trouble. It means the good times are good, but the bad times are bad, and there are few times of being in the middle.

The problem is that when I think this way; I allow no room for making mistakes or learning the lesson. However, since we all are going to lose more often than we will win, a big part of mental toughness is learning how to deal with loss and failure.

 3.    Negativity:

Coach John Calipari said once that he can bring the intensity to practice 3 out of 5 days, but he needs his players and other coaches to bring the enthusiasm the other days.  I am the same way. One of the things that I teach is the power of attitude and belief, and I still struggle with it. I can sometimes catch myself when driving to negative town, but it is still one place that I hate to go, since it serves little purpose.

4.    Tunnel vision:

Everyone’s greatest strength is also his or her greatest weakness. Mine happens to be my obsession with mental toughness, sport psychology, and improvement.  If I set a particular goal, I will achieve it, period. However, there is a level of selfishness with this pursuit. For example, I’ve written four books on Mental Toughness, ran 2 marathons, and had a hole-in-one.  So, other pursuits in my life have to drop off in order for me to remain steadfast on the people and things that are really important.  Although, the tunnel vision is productive in the short-term, balance is better.

 5.    My unbelief:

There is a verse in the bible, Mark 9:24. It’s the verse I sign all of my books with. It is a man talking to Jesus, who says “lord I believe, help my unbelief.” This sums me up. I believe in my faith and salvation and know that things happen for a reason and that things also work out.

However, when I get stressed or fearful, it means I am not practicing my belief. The most important mental skill is confidence, and faith is all about trust. When I don’t trust it, I don’t believe.

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 Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

A mental toughness article I wrote previously for Stack magazine…How to Improve your mental game just by watching the Olympics



Dr. Rob Bell is the author of Mental Toughness Training for Golf, an AASP certified Sport Psychology consultant, and caddy on tour. He consults with athletes, coaches, and teams at all levels helping build and enhance their own mental toughness.                                                His website is www.drrobbell.com and you can find him on Twitter @drrobbell

With 2 little one’s, there is a major replay button on the movies in que, thus for will be parents, prepare to watch Shrek, Madagascar, and Monsters Inc., over 1000 times each…

Mistake #1-Trying to stop doing something…

One movie in the rotation is The Bee Movie. A funny scene is when “Barry” keeps flying into the window, and he keeps saying “this time, this time, this time, this time, this time.” These mistakes are common and are called the insane mistakes: “thinking what we are doing will produce different results.” 

First, we make this type of mistake because change is tough! We have also had some success and because we’ve had some success, it helps justify why we aren’t willing to or need to change. We don’t recognize that our successes are in spite of not because of our behaviors.

When it comes to these types of mistakes, we must become “sick and tired of being sick and tired” before we are willing to make any change. If we are still having limited success, we won’t make any adjustments to our behavior.

Mistake #2- Trying to do something…

Three frogs are on a lily pad, and two decide to jump to shore, how many are left? Three— merely deciding to do something doesn’t make it happen, it takes action along with commitment.

These types of mistakes are often why New Years Resolutions and typical goal setting fail. These are the getting ready to get ready mistakes, we have good intentions, but our hesitation and fear make it difficult to move forward.

In the book, Good to Great, the researchers found something called the flywheel effect. Great companies understood that big claims did not need to made at the onset of change, they just changed, spun the flywheel, and after momentum was built up, they’d look up and say “hey, if we just keep pushing on this thing, there’s no reason, we can’t accomplish X.” p. 177.

Whether we are trying to do something or stop doing something, they solution begins the same: do something…anything, and keep at it….

Author: Dr. Rob Bell

There is a Ben Hesen….There are a 1000 swimmers, who unless you follow the sport, you’ll never hear of. Ben Hesen may be one of them. He was the 2008 NCAA Champion in the 100 Backstroke and an NCAA All-American. He even finished fifth at Olympic Trials in 2008.

How Close is Close?

The one aspect about The Olympics that people don’t often grasp is “how” close is close. On Wed night, Ben Hesen swam the 100M backstroke at the Olympic Trials in 53.03, which would have won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in 2008. In fact, there are only 3 individuals outside of the US who have a faster time than Hesen does in 2012. However, he finished fourth at the trials in one of the fastest fields ever in the event, and will not be on the team.

Unlike most other sports, where there is usually “a tomorrow” in the sport, Olympic Trials is THE gateway.  Only the Top 2 in each event represent the USA at the games. The selection process may be debatable, but it is the American way. If you swim fast enough when it matters most, you are part of the team, end of story.

These individuals that you’ll never hear of have been champions since high-school, never miss a workout, and train like no other. A rest day to them can mean running a few miles or just lifting some weights. These are the one’s with the motivational quotes oozing out of them, like hard-work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard and so on. Their social lives are often difficult as well, because of the amount of time and effort that goes into it. So what happens when Ray Liotta from Goodfella’s comes out and says and now it’s all over and that’s the hardest part.”  

And Now What?

Many hold on and many struggle with letting go. It makes sense, it’s tough!!! Think about when you lost a game, match, or had a set-back, now magnify it by 100x. It’s the same reason why athletes cry when they actually make the team; they realize how extremely hard they have worked to make it! In order to “make it”, one has to be ALL IN.

People ask me, what would I say to an athlete? Honestly, “no idea.” All I know is that the relationship must be built up over time and a few key points should be evident before getting to that point.

First, there must be a passion of loving swimming. Not to just to love winning, but to love swimming, swimming, and more swimming. Next, they should actually contemplate that they won’t make it. After all, it is a possibility, so why not examine it? Is it still worth giving it your all, even on the bad days? They have to be willing to give everything, day in and day out, with no guarantee of success. Do we approach life, sport, and/or our own careers this way?

“If you want the ultimate, you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price.”-Point Break 

There are no guarantees in life. All we have are opportunities.

Vince Frank at the Cru Golf outing at Stonewall Orchards took advantage of his opportunity.  The par-3 9th hole, held the hole-in one contest for $10,000. However, one had to pay $10 to be eligible.  He was the only one in his group to donate the money, because he said “it was for a good cause.”

Vince being the seventy year old golfer did not even see the ball roll in the hole on the 168 yard shot, but his partners sure did and they let him hear it. The odds of Vince making the hole in one were not very good, but we all can learn from this event.

We should focus on what’s possible, not what’s probable.  If we pay attention to the probability, it can severely dampen the number of opportunities we take. In many ways, we regret what we DO NOT DO, rather than doing something and it not turning out the way we want. If we at least do something, then we are giving ourselves a shot. Go ahead, pay the $10.

Imagine for a second that Vince DID NOT pay his $10. He would have had a more difficult time moving on from NOT winning, than making his hole in one.

Read How to make a hole-in-one. 

Lastly, he even gave a bit of credit to me because he said my talk at the beginning of the event made him NOT  think about the shot, even if it was the only one he did it for all day…Maybe I should send him an invoice? Nah, that’s why they brought me to speak…

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 Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness   

Like most books I read, I was told about this one from a friend. It is an easy read (read it in one day) and offers some insight that is both thought-provoking and moving. The question I get is: do you believe the story is real? One of the answers I learned not so long ago is this; believe so you can understand, don’t understand so you can believe. 

The story delves into experiences of a young boy who ever so non-chalantly and matter of fact shares his three minute trip into heaven. There he spends time with family, Jesus, and God. One of my favorite lines of the book is: Jesus loves children.

First, it’s not the QB, a kicker, or even a lacrosse goalie. The toughest position is not only stressful and demands thick skin, but it is completely thankless; it’s the referee. Think about it, the best officials are invisible, because they only warrant consideration when something bad has happened. Nonetheless, the best games possess a flow, fairness, and game management only available through the toughest position on the field.

In addition, we all have to be officials at certain points on our own team or career. Interviewing the toughest of toughest positions on the field (SEC football officials) has revealed three keys for all of us to follow:

1)   Get excited, not nervous-

Prior to a game, referees get the same type of feelings and thoughts as the players. The best get excited rather than nervous and the difference rests in how they perceive the situation. They must view games as “we get to call a good game,” rather than “I hope I don’t mess up a call.” It’s the same in our own lives, when we get excited; we view things as challenges (something we get to do) rather than threats (something bad can happen).

2)   Communicate-

Since the game has changed in 20 years from big guys or fast guys, to big and fast guys, there are more “gut” or “marginal” calls on the field.

The head official is only one addressing the crowd at the game, so he must administer the call not only correctly, but also timely. When you see the referees gather together, it may even come down to the head official’s decision to make the call.

3)   Re-focus-

There are approximately 170-180 plays in a game and referees never call a perfect game. The officials focus on their preparation, rely on their mantra of “ready, every play”, and the pre-snap routine. Every official has a different role on the field, so each person goes through a specific mental checklist that helps them focus.

However, mistakes still happen. Thus, some of the referees actually have a physical re-focus cue to help them on the most important play; the next play. When something goes poorly in your own life, what is your re-focus cue?

 Dr. Rob Bell is the author of Mental Toughness Training for Golf, an AASP certified Sport Psychology consultant, and caddy on tour. He consults with athletes, coaches, and teams at all levels helping build and enhance their own mental toughness. His website is www.drrobbell.com and you can find him on Twitter @drrobbell

The tour caddy is the closest thing to being a sideline head coach, except the roles are  different. Whereas the head coach has the final call, gets criticized, and interviewed; the player makes the decisions. Caddying reveals amazing insight into the game that no one else can get, and caddies save a professional golfer, in my opinion, about one shot a round.

“Keep up, clean up & shut up”

Caddying is all about timing. Just like being a good spouse; the best have an awareness of when they CAN  speak up and when to SHUT UP.  Our spouses {players} want us to know what they are thinking and even anticipate a response before a question is asked. Since reading minds is tougher than reading greens, it comes down to the strength of the relationship.

“There is a reason why their name is on the bag”

A caddy never hits a shot, but he/she is still only as good as their player. Two of the absolute best that I know are Paul Tesori and Joe Skovron. They have played golf at the highest level, have caddied for winners on tour, and prepare better than anyone else.

A great caddy is also like a sponsor in A.A. It is built upon a mutual relationship of trust and 100% confidentiality. The best aren’t afraid of having a heart to heart if their player is not preparing the right way, abandoning game plans, not committing to shots, or getting in their own way. Most importantly, a great caddy isn’t afraid to make mistakes.

“We shot 66, he shot 74”

Caddying is easy when they are playing well and the bags are never heavy after shooting a 66, but they can get weighty with a 74. In fact, the toughest part of looping is removing oneself from the actual score and not getting caught up in what the player is doing. The player himself sometimes rides an emotional roller coaster, so keys for a caddy is staying positive, calm, in-control, and un-emotional at all times.

“Every shot counts”

The difference in prize money between the Nationwide and PGA tour is vast. Thus, at the end of every season, the difference between who keeps his card at 125th on the money list and loses it at 126th, will come down to basically a few thousand dollars, even though they will both will have made over $600,000.

I was reminded of the importance of every shot, when once my player 3-putted the last hole of a PGA tournament, which cost him a top-25 finish and $21,000. Ten percent of that amount, (my cut) is more than I have ever gambled in my life.

If you care to read about my worst experience as a caddy and how I caused a two-shot penalty, check out the book: Mental Toughness Training for Golf: Start Strong Finish Strong

Dr. Rob Bell is the author of Mental Toughness Training for Golf, and an AASP certified Sport Psychology consultant. He has PGA Tour credentials and has worked with winners on the PGA Tour. He consults with athletes, coaches, and teams at all levels helping build and enhance their own mental toughness. His website is www.drrobbell.com and you can find him on Twitter @drrobbell

Most of my life, I have been a sport obsessed honk, not only playing, but also following every sport, in every possible venue.  For instance, as a kid, I used to watch EVERY SINGLE match of Wimbledon on HBO during the summer. I just assumed that the best win, end of story. I had no idea that there was a mental component to winning or even playing consistent.

In 1992, my beliefs changed. Reebok had launched a campaign titled Dan or Dave, who is the best athlete in the world? Who will take home the Gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics? The competition was between Dave Johnson and Dan O’Brien, two USA decathletes.

credit fortifies

Even before the Olympics began, during Olympic trials, Dan O’Brien was leading after the 1st day of competition and on record-setting pace. However, during the 8th event, the pole vault, Dan O’Brien stunningly failed in three attempts, scored zero points, and drifted to last place.  He said, “it was like a dream, I wanted to turn to somebody and say, “Do something.”

However, he also said something I’ll never forget. During his weakest moment, he said “I pity anyone who goes against me in the next four years.” I was so intrigued that anything like this had happened that I began to follow his career, even cutting out the newspaper clipping [above] from that day!!!

Dan O’Brien began to see a sport psychologist to help with his mental preparation. He admitted that there were too many variables in his preparation and he needed to become more mentally tough. Well, in 1996, he won the Gold medal in the Decathlon in Atlanta and set the all-time record.

His trials and successes were the impetus in my own journey of becoming a mental coach. I knew from that moment I wanted to help athletes feel the greatest joy of performing well when it mattered the most.

how to make a hole-in-one
How to Make a Hole-In-One

Dr. Rob Bell

How to Make A Hole-in-One, Run a Marathon, and Write a Book

I often say “simple, but not easy.”

The steps are simple, but it does take hard work, a few mental skills, and some luck. 

I am fortunate enough to have achieved these milestones and simply want to share the simple, but not easy strategies on how to make a hole-in-one, run a marathon, and write a book. 

  • Write out your bucket list for mental toughness. 

In college, I heard about Ted Leonsis writing down 100 things he wanted to do before he died, and I simply did the same thing. 

When I was teaching Sports Psychology at the university, I had my students write out their own bucket list, except they had to frame the list so they would see it every day.

You have to get lucky… That’s how to make a hole-in-one…


If I hit it close, it was a good shot, but it went in, so I was lucky (irony). My first hole-in-one came with a 9-iron in my hand. Hey, it counted. I am happy that I actually achieved one of the goals that Ted Leonsis hasn’t had yet, a hole-in-one. 

What is it that you want to achieve, experience, visit, or accomplish? It’s easy and fun to start, but can get tough later on: because do you really want to party with Jay-Z, or ride across the United State on a Harley?

Think big when writing out your list, but only write down what you really want to do.

  • Use a mentor or guide for mental toughness.

One of my athletes stated the “he” got better because he saw what the great players did and would simply repeat their behaviors, practice habits, etc.

Writing my very book, I used two mentors, Malcolm Gladwell, and John Grisham.

First, I followed Malcolm Gladwell’s books and his writing style. He starts off every chapter with a story and infused research thereafter to back-up the claims.

Perfect! I can do that! 

I used John Grisham as a guide because he would write every day before going to the courtroom. When my daughter was born, I would take the early morning feedings, and she and I would then open up the coffee shop for an hour and half of writing, while she slept.

It works, I’ve written six books on mental toughness so far…

  • Make mental toughness a habit

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle

Starting graduate school, I needed discipline in my life, so I began running.

Slow and short at first, and not many miles per week, or at much of a pace, but I was consistent. I then witnessed the finish of a Philly Marathon, followed point #1, and I made it a goal.

I already had a small base of running underneath me, so I just upped the mileage, talked with experts, read a book, and ran…. I ran 6 days a week for four months of training and ran a respectable 3:32 marathon.

The best part was when my second marathon came around, I knew how to train, what worked, what didn’t, repeated the behaviors, and ran faster, a 3:22 marathon…

It’s also a big reason why I merely signed-up and completed a 1/2 Ironman and a full Ironman and an ultra marathon. 

Whatever it is that we want to do, we must make it a habit, and simply do it every day, period. “Simple, not easy.”

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 books on Mental Toughness-