Mental Toughness is a Voicemail Away

One speaking event at my alma mater, Shepherd University, I made sure to invite my professor, Dr. Joe Merz. He made such an impact in my life. If not for him, then Sport Psychology and the passion I live out everyday would not have happened.

I received a voicemail from him after the event.

The voicemail was about a minute long and went in-depth about and what an amazing job I did and how proud and impressed he was. 

It felt good. I saved it. It built up my Mental Toughness. It’s still on my phone today.

That same week though, I probably left a dozen voicemail and text messages to various people. But, I could not begin to tell you what I said or wrote.

We can listen to all of our voicemail messages right now on our phone. But, we have no idea that messages we left during that same time.

Life is the same way.

We remember the most impactful people in our lives. But, we often have no idea the impact we made on someone else. We can’t know.

On a much simpler level, perhaps we remember the person who waved to us today or held the door. But, we don’t know the effect of our own kind gesture today.

We are literally and figuratively leaving voicemails all the time for people and it makes a difference, good or bad.

If we want to KEEP our mental toughness, we HAVE to give it away.

Every transaction we have with someone has the potential to be transformative. We can’t know who or what will be the hinge. People will remember how we made them feel even for an instant and it has the potential to connect them to someone else.

So are we intentional about our messages?

We give away what we possess ourselves. All of us has fired off an angry email or perhaps left a not-so-friendly voicemail. If we are filled with resentment, contempt, hatred, or lack of confidence, then that is the message of our transactions. It usually effects those closest to us as well. 

However, if we can be deliberate about leaving messages that are encouraging, positive, filled with confidence and hope, then a miracle occurs. We actually start to leave ourselves a message. If we act and behave in ways that are focused on others and building their own mental game, then we act our way into right thinking and our own mood and outlook changes.

That’s how Mental Toughness works. We have to give it away to keep it. 

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 

What Blocks us from Mental Toughness

One of the most difficult things in life is to let go of old ideas and ways of thinking. The sexy term nowadays is having a growth mindset compared to a fixed mindset. Here’s how it plays out.

Hope you enjoy this brief Mental Toughness video. 

“The secret it to move with the punch” – Jake LaMotta

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 all the books on Mental Toughness- 

An Attitude of Gratitude is a Myth

Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. 

His immediate family died in the concentration camps, but he survived. He talks at length in the amazing book- Man’s Search for Meaning -about how he survived while others did not.  

He concluded that we actually find meaning through our suffering.  Frankl stated: “it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

It was through his suffering as a prisoner that he was obligated to find meaning, to focus on the smallest of gratitude, like a sunset, or a memory. 

It was NOT his Attitude of Gratitude. It was his ACTION of Gratitude.

  • He would have a virtual conversation every morning with his wife even though he didn’t know if she was still alive.
  • Prisoners who were starving would give their last pieces of bread to another to help them survive.
  • His freedom came as a result of his refusal to give up hope, even though survival was thin.

His attitude of gratitude is a myth. It was a result of his action.

We need to take certain action steps to exercise our attitude muscle.

Some of us have a greater sense of thankfulness than others, just as some of us are faster or better-looking but, what matters is are we willing to take certain steps?

Here are six ways to exercise an action of gratitude:

  • Write out as gratitude list-  

Once we start listing our blessings, it gets tough to stop. It is too easy to focus on where we lack, or where we come up short. Basically, all advertising focuses on telling you that you need this product in order to be happy. It’s not enough to think about our gratitude, we need to write them out.

  • Keep a Gratitude Jar- 

On our dining room table, we have a jar that fills up with small pieces of paper from the week. We express our gratitude for someone in the house when they do something we are thankful for. We can be in poor moods to begin, but at the end, our outlook has changed. That’s why an attitude of gratitude is a myth. 

  • Change the way you treat somebody- 

Want to change the way you feel about somebody, change the way you treat them. This is difficult if you have anger or resentment toward someone, so start small, send a message, email, or ask them a different question.

  • Forget the weather- 

We could have a cold, brutal winter and not after a month of warming up, people will start complaining about how it’s too hot.


A simple action step is to find the benefit in the weather, no matter the condition. I’ve trained my family that we are mudders. We LOVE the poor weather because we play better. 

  • Pray and if that doesn’t work, Pray again- 

There are three kinds of prayer, 1. God- Help Me! 2. God- Give Me! and 3. God- Use Me.

Prayer is an action. Pray as if God has already given you the gift that you want, give thanks for that, and ask God to help you help others. God, Thank you for the patience that you have given me so I can be a good father and husband. 

  • Find The GOOD-

Basically, here’s the way to approach all challenges and obstacles. Another reason why an attitude of gratitude is a myth. Check out the video by GOOD by Jocko

attitude of gratitude is a myth

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- 

Are We Testing OR Training Mental Toughness? 


On a run the other day, I passed two people and asked them for what race that they were training. She said a half-marathon, but hedged her statement with, “as soon as I can get through my speed work.”

I gave her unsolicited advice and told her she was ready and just to sign up that night instead.

I’m not sure she agreed. I felt like an idiot so I ran faster.

She was basically doing what we all do. She was testing herself for the race instead of training for the race. She was playing the if/then game. If her runs were good enough, then she would sign up.

Testing, testing, 1…2…3…

We test the microphone. Bands do a sound check. Plays and weddings have rehearsals. The difference is that they’ve committed to the event, they are preparing. Imagine instead if a band did a sound check weeks before the event and only if that went well, then they would do the gig. However, that’s often what we do.

Teachers in school don’t give a test and then prepare you later. That’s what life does, life gives you the test first and then the lesson comes after.

When we test ourselves, we are operating under the mentality of, “Am I good enough right now?” or “If today was the event, would I be ready?”

Testing ourselves is brutally flawed thinking and it adds undue stress. The flawed thinking is that the event isn’t here yet, so while it would it be nice if we were ready, we don’t have to be. When we are testing ourselves, we are also in constant comparing mode, comparing ourselves to our future and ideal self, the one that is near perfect. Comparing ourselves to our future self also means taking us out of the moment, which is dangerous.

There’s a difference between training ourselves as opposed to testing ourselves for an event. This small shift makes a huge impact on training mental toughness.

Instead, when we are training ourselves instead of testing ourselves, our mindset changes. When we train, we no longer evaluate if we are ready, but approach it more as if “what do I need to work on?” Yes, we will still think about the event and compare ourselves, but now there is a context and a backdrop. Instead of testing ourselves, we are now training mental toughness.

We operate in training mode by first recognizing when we actually need to be ready. A poor training session can then be learned from because the event isn’t here yet, so we are still preparing. We are training ourselves. We are also training mental toughness by staying in the moment and not thinking too far ahead, which again adds undue stress.

Someone asked the other day if I was ready for a talk I was to give in a few days. I said,”NO, I’ll be ready then.” I wasn’t speaking at that exact moment, so I didn’t need to be ready. No need to test myself, I was still training.

I went home and prepared some more.


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. Click Here to check out any of his books on Mental Toughness. 

Al Bundy

I was in Tennessee with a golfer at the PGA tour event. On wednesday afternoon, We were all standing around the chipping green while I was talking with my players’ caddy.

From literally nowhere, this guy, drove a gator tractor over my foot with the front tire and then just stopped with the back tires now on my foot!!

I yelled at the guy to “KEEP GOING” because he just had a blank stare on his face. He looked like he couldn’t believe he just did that. I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Time does stand still for the precious seconds that a gator tractor is on top of your foot while you try to lift it up.

The entire process took less than 10 seconds, although it felt like minutes.

He pulled forward and I didn’t have shooting pain down my foot, so I knew it wasn’t broken.

Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, I was still a bit embarrassed. 

I said “Man, I hope you don’t drive like this is real life.”

After the commotion was over and people asking if I was okay and such, The guy walked back over to me and apologized.

I apologized as well!

I know he didn’t do it on purpose!

I said “I hope I didn’t say anything derogatory to you, I was just upset.”  I also said, “If this is the worst thing we ever have, we will be okay.” He laughed.

He made a mistake and was embarrassed as well. I could have blown him off or yelled at him some more, but what would that have accomplished? It would have made the issue way worse!

I wanted to use this situation as a quick lesson on how I want to conduct myself and stay calm. If I lost my cool, maybe I would have been viewed as an idiot.

How can we make our mess, our message?  Mental Toughness is doing the next right thing and apologizing is a big part.


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   

Here are 5 Ways Parents Can Build Mental Toughness.

“Perfect little Rachel ” She was not mentally tough and it had little to do with her. That’s how her parents described and introduced their child, a high-school 2nd baseman. That’s pretty high expectations, and I was curious how long they had been calling her that. These tips are how parents can build mental toughness in their kids. 

Check out Our Latest Post- The Ultimate Sports Parent Guide: How To Have A Great Athlete in 2019

Read more


How Athletes Can Re-Focus

How athletes can re-focus is a good question. The reason it’s a good question because when were athletes, or ourselves, taught this skill? 

Athletes can be taught to re-focus through specific cues, and these cues are best utilized when they are merged with one’s specific learning style, auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. 

Re-focus is the second most difficult mental skill because it is the second most important. However, when it comes down to the actual how athletes can re-focus tools:

A strategy is more important than technique. So, here are three. 

how athletes can re-focus


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.  

Our podcast is titled 15 minutes of mental toughness 

“If you are a coach, you are paid to read.” That’s what Tim Robbins taught me, I believed him, so I tried to abide. I hammered more audiobooks this year than every before as well.

Here are my top 5 books from 2015 (in no particular order).

Click on any book image to learn more…

This book was outstanding. He interviewed and embedded the stories and strategies of the greatest financial minds. We immediately started implementing two techniques that he outlined in the book and it saved us a few thousand dollars, not bad.
James Altucher has become a go-to resource for me.  This book outlined strategies for wealth (a trend from me this year?), but how and why to choose yourself. Ten ideas a day, insight into your 401k, why the house always wins are some cool concepts.

Chip & Dan heath also wrote the awesome books Switch and Made to Stick. These books are up there along with Malcom Gladwell’s.  Decisive delved into how and why we make certain decisions and how to counter-balance our own intuition with making smarter decisions in almost every circumstance.
I did NOT think I would like this book. I always have my guard up when it comes to books about persuasion techniques. However, all I could think of while reading this books is how NFL scouts and college coaches “miss” on players. A very enlightening book!

As you can see, I’m not a fiction guy at all. I think the truth is much more entertaining. The amount of research that went into this book was amazing. The journey of the 1936 crew that transformed the sport of rowing. Epic stories of mental toughness and overcoming adversity.

dr rob bell

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 our most recent book on Mental Toughness- Don’t Should on Your Kid: Build Their Mental Toughness   

My high school baseball coach once praised me behind closed doors but criticized me in front of my teammates. I think he had it backward, but I wasn’t mentally tough at the time. He served as a huge external motivator to prove him wrong later in life.

My junior varsity soccer coach taught me the most. He would run us for miles and miles and throw in sprints along the way. We had a massive hill that we would run. The day before games, whoever we were playing, we had to sprint 50 yards while shouting out each letter of the team! North Hagerstown was a tough one. He taught me that it was a privilege to train.

Coaches are the most important person in today’s society. It doesn’t matter if you have a poor coach either. All coaches teach us something, either how to do things, or how not to do things.

Top 10 things I’ve learned from coaches

  1. You are paid to read-

I read about 15 books one year and felt pretty good. Except, when Tim Roberts told me that he read 93 books that year, he added why, “You are PAID to read.” The knowledge is out there, but it’s a coach’s job to sift through everything and communicate the main thing, whatever the main thing is.

  1. Create an environment that you are missed if you are not there-

Lou Holtz was a genius. He knew that the best place to work was determined by the environment that we created. I was a professor at a University and was no longer living my passion of working with teams and athletes. My work and attitude suffered. I had to leave because I couldn’t foster an environment where I wanted to be. Maybe some people missed me, but the school didn’t stop, and I didn’t get too many calls begging for me to come back.

  1. Listen-

The first time I met head coach Chuck Pagano was at the NFL combine. I introduced myself and told him my profession. What he did next was amazing. He asked me a question. “Hey, what’s the one thing you stress to your athletes?” I answered it well I thought, but what struck me as odd is why he asked me a question. Head NFL coaches usually don’t do that. But that is exactly how he got to where he is. He listens. Asking questions is the best straw to stir the drink of listening.

  1. Sit in front- 

Hall Of Fame baseball coaches Tommy Pharr and Tim Corbin seemed to race to see who got the closest seat at any conference session. That’s all the proof I needed.

  1. It doesn’t matter what you know- 

What matters more is what they learn. Can you communicate it and keep it simple? Great coaches master the simple. As Coach Herb Sendek said  “Simplicity is the room I want to live in.”

  1. Themes instead of absolutes-

They always seem to stress that what we do is not as important as how we do it. We want to trust our constituents to do what they do; take risks, play free, and utilize their strengths. The best coaches have principles in place, but allow freedom to work within a framework. They make adjustments and aren’t married to only one style.

  1. You’ll get fired-

There are two types of coaches, those that have been fired and those that will be fired. I was fired twice after two of my athletes had career changing wins. I thought I would have been fired after they lost. But after they won, they actually didn’t need me anymore. My job is to build capacity, not dependency. There is only a handful of coaches in any sport that haven’t been fired at some point.

  1. Be the coach you always wanted-

Everyone is a coach and we are always communicating. A coach is someone that takes you somewhere you want to go.

  1. Thank the coach- 

Coaches Mark James and Brian Satterfield end practice the same way, they shake each player’s hand. Simple, yet powerful. No matter the type of practice or outcome of a game, the ending is the same. It was created as a way to put a type of positive closure on a poor day, a way to END it positively.

  1. A better you makes a better us- 

And a better us makes a better you. We need to root for those around us to get better. Too often we look at others as competition and a threat, rather than an opportunity to improve. Frankly, it’s the only way to improve.



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   

prevent the big meltdown

Max Faulkner Star-Telegram

3 ways to prevent the big meltdown

I took a few steps to my right at second base to field a simple ground ball. I dropped it… Run scored, game over! 

I then proceeded to punch the brick wall of the dugout before getting on the bus, I probably broke it (my hand, not the wall), I don’t remember. All I know is that I now wouldn’t play the next game. There’s always two types of pain…

Here’s how to prevent the big meltdown.

Mistakes happen, errors and failure are a painful part of the game. But, what happens next is still most important. The next play or the next day. Read our article on  What happens when we experience the BIG LOSS? 

The University of Northern Iowa suffered the worst meltdown I’ve ever seen. Up 12 points vs. Texas A & M with 44 seconds remaining to reach the sweet 16. They were a good team!!

The Texas Rangers had an epic meltdown in Game 5 of the series with 3 consecutive infield errors soon followed by a 3-run homer. I felt bad for Elvis Andrus.

The Bartman incident in 2003 with the Cubs, led to a meltdown by Alou, followed by a walk, followed by a base hit, then a crucial error by shortstop Gonzalez.

Boise State lost to Nevada in 2010, by missing a 26 yard FG in regulation, then missed a 29 FG in OT.

Meltdowns are like a huge wave crashing into the shore.  One mistake leads to another. There is a science behind the collection of mistakes. Catastrophe theory.

To prevent the big meltdown is that the one mistake and the adrenaline and anxiety tip past the point of return.

Then there becomes an extreme drop off in performance, hence, catastrophe. These meltdowns occur in bigger moments because of the importance of the situation increase, so does the overall anxiety level. Mistakes earlier in competition can be let go of easier because there’s still a lot of game to be played.

Here are three ways to prevent The Big Meltdown

Use the Time-Out

Once the error happens later in the game, use the time-out! Coaches can ease the tension and uptightness by making the transition from problematic to relaxed. Rallying the troops means to assemble everyone and bring order. The time-out allows this to happen. Too often, this gets overlooked.

During the time-out, reinforce the belief and poise in the players and team. Have them own the awareness that it’s not about the setback, it’s about the comeback. So what? Next play.

Remove the emotion

During stressful and emotional situations, we revert to how we trained!  If we have practiced remaining calm, breathing, refocusing, then we will implement these skills when they are needed. These skills are the best at removing the emotional situation and focusing on making the next play. Mental Toughness prevents the big meltdown. To keep your head when others are losing theirs.

Listen to the cock-pit recording as Captain Sullenberger experienced the depth of emotions when his plane struck the gaggle of birds shortly after take-off in New York. He remained calm as a Hindu cow because his training allowed him to re-focus on the task at hand, successfully landing the full plane with no power in the most populated area in the entire world.

Have a Plan

Short-term, process goals create focus.

Long-range, outcome-based goals create stress.  

Prevent the big meltdown by applying this…After a mistake, using the time out, and removing the emotion: what’s our plan? Short-term goals like make a stop, get an out, knock it down, throw a good pass, aggressive serve, etc. What’s the immediate goal?

Larry Bird stealing the in-bound pass or Reggie Miller scoring 8 points in nine seconds both had an immediate focus on the goal, make a play! 

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-