Preparation. Integrity. Effort. PIE. We are the only ones who can control those three key ingredients to excellence. Excellence is not defined by points or any other game stat. It is defined by our preparation and effort, which hinges on our integrity. When we prepare well, and when we give our best effort, it shows that we are acting with integrity. Those three things are what qualify us to execute on our goals and dreams.

Don’t let the hard work steal the joy; instead let the joy fuel the hard work.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: 168 hours, fail greatly, integrity, effort, preparation, demand excellence, excellence, helping others, leadership, work ethic


Successful people are always okay with, and made better by, the uncomfortable. The friction of discomfort moves them forward. That’s because they understand that perseverance in trial develops character, and that character leads to a competitive advantage.Life will be uncomfortable. Grit helps us get through. By choosing to do the difficult and hard things, we become better.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: perseverance, character, success, grit, determination, delayed gratification, time, hope, get uncomfortable


Conflict is guaranteed, but our response to conflict is not. We choose how we respond when someone wrongs us or when reality isn’t meshing with our expectations. It’s important to understand conflict resolution and practice it well because it limits the damage caused to our relationships and helps us move on together. Conflict resolution teaches us when to respond, what to respond with, and how to respond.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topic: forgiveness, anger, conflict, conflict resolution, two chairs, gatherings, relationships, servant leadership, reconciliation


When we think about competition, we probably think about competing against another person or multiple people. Running a race, playing monopoly, or eating hotdogs are all competitions against another person. But even when we participate in a competition with others, there’s always one competitor that we should be striving to beat, more than any other: ourselves.When we focus on competing with another person, we just have to be as good as them, or slightly better than they are. That limits how good we actually are or should be. When we focus on competing with ourselves, there’s no limit to how great we can become.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topic: comparison, competition, make a plan, you vs you, goals, work ethic, achievement, best yetest


It does you no good to be a five star athlete if you have zero star character. Prowess on the field is temporary. Eventually, sports will end. When it does, you will still have the character lessons you learned while playing, and the skills picked up from the lessons will help you throughout your life… or not.Having a five star character requires caring about others. It means leading a life that makes the world a better place.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: people you spend time with, influence, five star, character, values, know who you are, growth mindset, personal development


It’s easy to say “I’m all in.” But how many of us actually put in 100% if we’re really being honest? It’s hard to actually go all in. What if we put all we have into this moment right here and it doesn’t work out? What if we give it our all throughout the game, and then we’re stuck in overtime with no energy left?“What if” is a mindset that will strangle our ability to give our all to anything. It’s only when we let go of the “What if” mindset that we can go all in on our goals and dreams.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: trust, if/then mindset, building trust, remaining calm, emotion regulation, truth, goals, all in, total effort


The chicken line is the point at which your fear says you can't go any further. It's the point where you chicken out. Developing the will and courage to pass the chicken line despite your fear will mean the difference between success and failure. That's because everything you want, all of your goals and dreams, is on the other side of your chicken line.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: fear, encouragement, respect, boundaries, overcoming fears, failure, personal code, comparison, chicken line


There are certainly circumstances that are out of your control. But as we’ve said before, though you may not be able to control every situation, you are in control of how you RESPOND to every situation.The reset button isn’t always a one time thing. How many times have you tried and failed at something, only to have to keep attempting it again and again and again? The reset button is a muscle, just like anything else, and it needs to be exercised just like any other muscle.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: reset button, forgiveness, expectation vs reality, recharge, emotion regulation, grit


A leader is defined by what they do, not what title they are given or what label is assigned to them. Leaders serve. Don’t wait for permission to be a leader. Go first and be a leader. None of us can influence everyone, but we all have influence with someone. At its core, leadership is nothing but influence. So don’t wait for permission to use your influence, go first.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: set the tempo, control the controllables, serve first, go first, servant leadership, setting the standard, influence


The greatest lie that you will hear in your life is that success is given. Success is not owed to you. Your goals are not supposed to be easy to achieve. You are not entitled to success simply because you have the right "fill in the blank," or have amassed the right stats, or come from the right part of town.Turns out, even if you are given more than others, you still have to choose what to do with what you’ve been given. Success is never given. It is always chosen, always earned.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: success, entitlement, hard work, work hard, success is earned, Should mindset, preparation, learning from others, gratitude, taking ownership, work ethic, earn it, never given always chosen


In the same way that iron sharpens iron, people sharpen people. The most important role you have on any team is to sharpen your teammates—to make them better. You sharpen each other during the long hours on the track or in the pool, through the heat of the gridiron or the echoing squeaks of the basketball gym.As iron sharpens iron, you and your teammates sharpen each other through the challenges you give, the competition you engage in, and the conflicts you overcome together.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: iron sharpens iron, proverbs, competition, challenge, conflict, handling conflict, helping others, trust, developing trust, growth mindset


Attack mode is an attitude that defines how you do what you do. At its most basic, attack mode is giving your all to whatever you're doing. No half measure will do. You've got to go all in. In the weight room, in the classroom, at home—wherever you are, whatever you're doing, go all in and do it in attack mode.Anything worth doing is worth doing in attack mode.
Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: clear objectives, attack mode, focus, goals, never give up, mindset, effort, worth it


The best athletes and leaders—the ones that we want to be like—they are the real deal. They are genuine, tough enough to do hard work when it is required, and full of integrity. Being the real deal requires that you be put to the test. It requires that you move beyond the hype and the big talk about what you're going to do, to actually doing it.What the world needs more of is young men and women who are willing to stand up and say "I am the real deal me." Have the courage to be yourself. Have the courage to be the real deal.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: fear of failure, accountability, courage, cost of success, humility, integrity, diligence, uniqueness, individuality, personal code, real deal


Look at the best in professional sports: Tom Brady, Lebron James, Alex Morgan. If you ask them what the secret to their success is—the secret to the championships, endorsement deals, and complete mastery of their game—their answers would all be the same: it’s all about hard work.The best work is hard work. Choose to be your best today and work hard!

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: capacity, impact, hard work, work hard, best work, effort, intentionality, work ethic


The famous fable of the tortoise and the hare teaches us that consistent work ethic will always beat inconsistent talent. If all you have is great talent with no consistency, then like the hare in the story, you'll end up losing to a tortoise when you should have won no question. Slow and steady progress towards a goal will win over fast but faulty progress.Being slow and steady takes practice. It's a skill you acquire through repetition. To get that practice, follow the ABCs of consistent work ethic: Ask why until you know why, Be bound to the basics, and Charlie Mike.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: slow and steady, tortoise and hare, progress, practice, patience, growth mindset


There are many things you could think of when you hear the phrase "second chance." Here's how we like to think of it: A second chance is an opportunity to become who you can become. It's not something to be embarrassed about or to feel unworthy of. It's something to be thankful for.Practice gratitude for second chances. When you make a mistake, when you don't hold the standard, when you let someone down—These are all times when a second chance provides an opportunity for you to become who you can become..

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: Become who you can become, better today than yesterday, give grace, accept grace, servant leadership, help others become their best, second chance attitude, be a second chance coach, better tomorrow than today, servant leadership


In the military, missions don’t always run smoothly. But orders come from the top, and when they request or recommend to abort mission, the answer might instead be: Charlie Mike. Continue Mission.When we give up easily on the little things, we train ourselves to give up on the big things. It’s just like working out or running drills. Whatever muscle we give reps to is the muscle that gets stronger.We prefer to take the easy road and quit. We prefer to let the reps for quitting on easy things build that muscle. We prefer to give up on our dreams instead of putting in the hard work to keep going. It’s a choice. We can choose to keep building the quit muscle or we can choose to Charlie Mike.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: no excuses, stand firm, don't quit, grit, priority


When you’re the lightning in your locker room or community, you’re more concerned with the action and the work, and you let the noise follow. You are willing to do the work before you ever get the praise. For you, praise is not a prerequisite for you to do the work, it’s a byproduct.Thunder is loud and captivating, while lightning is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but the lightning clearly wins for which one makes the biggest impact. So which do you want to be: thunder or lightning?

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: hard work, praise, casting vision, action, goals, empty gym, influence, impact, thunder vs lightning



Stephen Mackey, CEO & Founder

Stephen Mackey is a player development coach, keynote speaker, Wall Street Journal best-selling author, and founder of 2Words Character Development, one of the top Leadership and character curriculums in the country. Building on the Six Pillars of a Championship Character – Toughness, Integrity, Belief, Excellence, Effort, and Service – Mackey equips teams and organizations to elevate their performance by building a culture of character.
Patrick Jones - Course author