The secret to success is simple. It’s the thing that everybody is trying to avoid.The thing that everybody is trying to figure out a way around. The secret to success is hard work.

But nobody can want hard work for you. Only you can decide that you want it.If you don’t want it, you’ll never choose it. But if you let the roots of hard workgrow in you, they’ll blossom into a deep WHY. And with a deep enough WHY,you can accomplish any HOW.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: capacity; impact; hard work; work hard; best work; effort; intentionality


Too often people believe that opportunity is random, and received by being in the right place at the right time. The reality, however, is that opportunity is everywhere. Opportunity isn’t a “luck thing”, it is a “sacrifice thing”. The opportunities that lead to success come at a cost, and that cost is preparation, priorities, and practice.

Prior Preparation Permits Proper Performance

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: preparation; 5 Ps; stages of grief; disappointment; important vs urgent; long shelf life skills;


Leaders are careful about what they commit to. They don’t commit to every good thing that is out there.

There will always be more to do or achieve, but leaders aren’t interested in more for the sake of more; they are interested in achieving their next goal, and nothing more. Leaders know that enough is enough, and they don’t make commitments that don’t help move them forward.

Pillar:  Personal Code

Key Topics: alignment; boundaries; cost; commitment; count the cost; hard work; service; perserverance; setting boundaries


So often in life people will put limits on themselves and on others. They’ll put limits on what can and can’t be done. “You can’t do that!” They will shout.“That’s impossible!” They believe. Even well-meaning people will limit you at the sky— “The sky’s the limit!”

That’s cool...but didn’t we put a man on the moon?

What would you life look like if you focused more on what you were willing todo, than what people told you couldn’t do? What records might you break?What would you do if you lived with no limits?

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: confidence; limitations; intentionality; awareness; breaking limits; no fear


One of the most powerful tools that you have at your disposal is a simple phrase. One that, if you let it, could change the course of your life. “It doesn’t have to be this way.” 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. And 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; expectation vs. reality


Stand firm and face your fears. Or turn and run from them. As tempting as it will be to turn and run, remember this: When you run from your fears your fears will overrun you. So, how do you find the fortitude to face your fears? You find F.A.M.I.L.Y. (Forget About Me I Love You). Turns out, F.A.M.I.L.Y. Is the antidote to fear. Whenever you have people surrounding you who are willing to sacrifice what’s best for them, for what’s best for you, you can face, and overcome any fear. Fear is a part of life. Overcoming fear is part of F.A.M.I.L.Y.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: no fear; confidence; trust; FAMILY; hard work; truth;


Being dependable means keeping your word, which is simple, but not always easy. It’s simple because it’s black and white that “I said I would do X, so I’m going to do X.” But often, your promises will require more effort and sacrifice than you anticipated. It’s easy to say “Well, I said I would stay late after practice, but now my friends want me to get tacos.” Regardless of the external factors, you have to stick to your commitments if you want to be viewed as trustworthy and dependable.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: accountability; dependability; ability; reliability; hold the rope;


“Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional” Chili Davis Growing up is a choice. You can choose to stay in a childlike mentality, never growing up, just getting older. But what kind of life is that? Age doesn’t mean you stop seeing shiny things or hearing discouraging words or thinking the grass will be greener on the other side of the fence. To achieve something great, you have to overcome great obstacles, and one of those obstacles will often be your own mentality. Pinpoint in which area(s) of your life you have a childlike mentality, and grow up!

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: growth mindset; distractions; discouragement; disappointment; childlike mindset; praise; reward; service


You are part of multiple families: your parents and siblings, your team, your friend groups. However you define your family, they should be first in your mind at all times. Family means Forget About Me I Love You. You put your family first because you love them. Their well-being is important to you. Everyone defines family differently, but at its core, family means Forget About Me I Love You. Family should always be first and foremost in your mind because together you are stronger than you are alone.You’ve got to go pro in your mentality long before you go pro in reality. Otherwise, you might not get to the professional stage at all. Pros have three key things in common. They look for the next great challenge to overcome. They understand the concept of “garbage in, garbage out.” And, they work when it is required, not when they feel like it.
When you go pro in your mind, it allows you to go pro in your body. Go pro is a mentality. It’s a mindset. It’s a mantra. Stop thinking like an amateur and go pro today.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: growth mindset; goals; alignment; family goals; personal goals; mudita; your role; FAMILY


Success doesn’t care if you “want to” or not. Success doesn’t care what you “feel like” doing. It only cares about whether or not you choose to put in the work to make your dreams a reality. Listening to your heart just isn’t going to cut it. Your heart may be telling you to go back to bed when you’re supposed to be giving your all in an early morning practice. Your heart may be saying “It’s cool. We can drop this. My passion is really sleeping in late anyway.” Your best will change based on circumstances and how you’re feeling, but as long as you’re bringing your best in that moment, every time, you will find success.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: effort; giving your best; bring it; impact; remove obstacles; support; motivate; encourage


You want to win. That’s why you play the game. But remember this: good character is not a consolation prize for missing out on your sports goals. And it’s not an extra bonus after winning state. Your character is what enables you to win in the long-term, beyond your sports career. The strength of your character reps will determine the strength of every other rep in your life. You want to win, and so does everyone else. You can’t always win, but you can prepare yourself for success in the rest of your life through intentional, positive character reps.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: character reps; self-discipline; reliability; courage; work ethic; humility; grit; generosity; reflection


It’s not fair. Why is this happening to me? These are common thoughts when reality doesn’t meet up with your expectations. Common, but unhelpful. Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people. Everyone makes mistakes. Even if you do everything right, you may still fail, but you have an opportunity to learn from this event and prepare for similar situations in the future. One method for seizing opportunities like this is the OODA Loop, originally developed by U.S. Air Force Col. John Boyd: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: punishment; discipline; reparations; mindset; expectation; reality; ought vs. is; communication skills; observe; orient; decide; act; OODA Loop


Motivation is important for reaching your goals, but there’s much more to goals than mere achievement. Goals have external results beyond the achievement itself— they teach you about helping others, being intentional in your life, and becoming your best self. As Zig Ziglar said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Goals don’t exist separate from the rest of your life. The costs and benefits of achieving your goals touch all aspects. Goals help you purpose your actions, focus your attention, and strengthen your abilities, while also teaching you to help others and live with intentionality.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: tough love; discipline; blind spots; growth mindset


Everyone has a responsibility. Only you can take care of your responsibilities as a student, as an athlete, or as a son or daughter. Responsibility means doing what you have been trusted to do. The moment you fail to do your job and someone else tries to do your job for you, there’s two jobs that aren’t being done. Your team counts on you to do what only you can do.
This applies to all areas of life, even when you think you’re “just a” freshman, teenager, etc. You have responsibilities that only you can handle. Take responsibility for what you have been trusted to do because only you can do it.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: goal setting; intentionality; goals; achievement; focus; purpose; others-centered leadership


Self-AwarenessEveryone has responsibilities or things they are expected to do, but there is always a choice as to whether you do it or not. Often in our daily language, we don’t make it a choice, though. We adopt a “have to” mentality and say, “I have to go to practice” or “I have to go to work.” We turn our responsibilities into obligations, and we deny any role in choosing them. Remember this: you always have a choice. You choose whether to view your responsibilities through a “have to” or “get to” lens, but everyday, you are making that choice.

Pillar: Personal Health

Key Topics: obligation; choice; have to vs get to; others-centered leadership; helping others; get to mindset; negative visualization; gratitude journal


A well-known piece of writing advice is “Show; don’t tell.” A fictional character is built through showing them to the audience in bits and pieces throughout a story or book. In the same way, your character is built through small acts each day. When you act with integrity, honesty, self-discipline, and generosity, that shows your character, even when no one else is looking. Just as a fictional character is built through showing their actions, your personal character is built through your actions. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Show me by recognizing the difference between intention and demonstration, impacting the attitudes of others through your actions, and combating entitlement in daily life.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: family values; gratitude; perspective; humility; service; accountability; leadership attitude; team attitude;


It does you no good to be a 5-star athlete if you have 0-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. Compartmentalizing your life pushes everyone else out so the focus is only on you and what you want out of life. It’s about what you are good at. On the other hand, having a 5-star character requires caring about others. It means leading a life that makes the world a better place. You can’t do that if you’re focused on nothing but being the best at your sport. Stop compartmentalizing. Do this, and you’re on your way to 5-star character.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: people you spend time with; influence; 5 star; character; values; know who you are;


Finishing strong is about more than crossing the finish line. It’s about the grit and determination needed to not only reach the goal, but to blow past it. You go past the goal instead of to the goal because that’s the only way to maintain your momentum right up to the end. If you start thinking you only have to reach the goal itself, you’ll start slowing down before you get there because the end is in sight. Choose to finish strong. Don’t try to coast your way to success. Instead, choose to put in the effort, discipline, and intentionality needed to finish strong.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: finish strong; coasting; effort; discipline; choice; culture;



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