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