When it comes to competition, the main thing is to win the game. It’s why you fight hard and sacrifice more. It’s why you keep score. At the end of the day, the main thing is to win the game. That doesn’t mean each play doesn’t matter, but it does mean that you can’t let the terrible plays, or the great plays distract you from the main thing. As long as you major in minor things, it’s going to keep you from achieving the main thing. Minor things only matter so long as they contribute to achieving the main thing. Once they stop moving you forward, they no longer matter.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: main thing; core values; purpose; motivation; distractions; roadblocks; overcome; high standards;


There’s a difference between hard work and working hard. We can work hard at something we’re good at (like playing a specific position or making a specific shot), but that’s not the same as hard work. Hard work happens when we work hard at things that we aren’t good at—things that don’t come easily. It is through doing that hard work that we grow and become better. Working hard at things that don’t come easily to us requires courage, humility, and vulnerability. Hard work and working hard are not the same thing. Hard work takes working hard at things we aren’t very good at. Over time, we’ll become better at it, and in the process, we grow, learn, and become better.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: hard work vs. work hard; humility; vulnerability; courage; integrity; being present; empathy; benefits of hard work


You have a lot of teams, though you may not think of them that way. Aside from the obvious sports teams, your family, friends, and classmates are also your teams. The type of teammate you are impacts the people around you. So the big question to ask is: What kind of teammate are you? Regardless of what team you are on, there are four answers to this question: content, compliant, committed, compelled. Let’s dive in. What kind of teammate are you? This questions impacts you as an individual, but it also impacts your team. How you answer this question makes all the difference both on and off the field.

Pillar:  Personal Code

Key Topic: content; complicit; compelled; committed; team culture; casting a vision; celebrate


Bad days are guaranteed to happen. What’s not guaranteed, is what you do when it does. The way you respond to a bad day determines your success for that day and the following days. Don’t sit and wallow in self-pity. Instead, choose to view the struggle as an opportunity. Bad days will come. When they do, instead of thinking “It shouldn’t be this way,” think “This is a GROWTH day.” To change your bad day to growth, focus on shifting your mentality. Remember that you are still learning, but you are still accountable for your actions.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topic: PLAN; bottleneck; bad day; growth day; emotional intelligence; helping others; do your job


The first five minutes after waking up set the tempo for the rest of your day. It works the same way for the first five minutes of practice, the first five minutes of class or family time or hanging out with your friends. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth bringing the first five mentality to it. That means preparing well, arriving well, and doing your job. The first five minutes set the tempo, not just of your morning, but of everything you do. Whatever you’re doing, the first five mentality can improve it.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: first five mentality; arrive well; 5 P's; helping others; preparation; do your job


Often unseen and unpraised, nuts and bolts are responsible for holding together a lot of the items that people rely on, such as vehicles, cooking appliances, and indoor plumbing. There are areas of life that are like those nuts and bolts: unseen and unpraised but vitally important. A few of those areas include: being a great follower, seeing the best in others, and knowing how to lose well. Like the often overlooked nuts and bolts throughout the world, skills like being a great follower, seeing the best in others, and losing well are often unpraised or unnoticed. Still, they are incredibly important for leading a successful life.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: work ethic; communication; self-management; self-awareness; social awareness; seeing the best in others; back to basics; nuts and bolts; how to; humility; integrity; perspective; how to lose well


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. You challenge each other to push farther than you think you can. You compete against one another not to put each other down, but to lift each other ever higher. You handle conflict without taking it personally. But why, when, and how do you do these things?

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: iron sharpens iron; proverbs; competition; challenge; conflict; handling conflict; helping others; trust; developing trust


Anger isn’t any more inherently wrong than fire. But like fire, it can be destructive if it’s not kept within boundaries. You have certain rights when it comes to your anger, but those rights can be forfeited if you let your anger control you instead of the other way around. The more you control your anger, the more even-keeled you will be. The more you can be angry without committing any of these anger rights violations, the more even-keeled you will be able to remain. And, the more even your temperament is, the better leader and teammate you will be.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: anger; anger rights; patience; control your anger; count the eyes; anger management; emotional release

WEEK 27: TWO CHAIRS (Conflict Resolution)

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. We choose when, what with, and how we respond to conflict. Let’s be the generation that is overly generous with our forgiveness. Let’s learn to resolve conflict well, so it doesn’t cause further damage to our relationships.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: forgiveness; anger; conflict; conflict resolution; two chairs; gatherings; relationships


When we lose or fail, it’s never caused by just one thing. Instead, it’s caused by a series of repeated errors. Often, you’ll see those errors, but you don’t do anything about them because you think they don’t matter. But think about an airplane. If the plane is just one click (one degree) off from the projected path and doesn’t course correct, it won’t reach its destination. The little errors left uncorrected cause the big failures. Success or failure is never caused by just one thing. It's caused by a lot of little things added together. To stay on course to reach the big picture goal, you need to be proficient in setting (and sticking to) smaller, SMART goals.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: family values; off course; standard bearer; little things; mistakes; set the example; course correct


The integrity gap is the gap between what is proclaimed and what actually is. It’s the space between your team’s stated values and the actual way those values come to life every day. For example, you would never let an opponent come in and trash your locker room; yet, you accept your teammate’s trashy talk and attitude there, and you look the other way because you don't want anyone to shine a light on the ways that you aren't ideal teammates. As leaders, teammates, and coaches we’ve got to close the G.A.P.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: integrity; integrity gap; mind the gap; catchphrase; visualize to actualize; game plan; practice what you preach; little things matter; little things; trust; developing trust


Usually a class is your “favorite” because it comes easily to you. You’re good at it, so you naturally like it. People tend to avoid the things that they are not naturally gifted at. The problem is, when you let obstacles deter you, you are giving in to the fear of failure and giving up the opportunity to learn from the obstacle course that is in front of you. The solution is to enroll in the course the obstacle is trying to teach you. When you enroll in the obstacle course and learn from it, it changes your perspective. Changing your mindset to view obstacles as classes to be learned from will take effort and persistence. To help you along the journey, treat an obstacle the same way that you would a class: have your materials ready, read the textbook, and test your knowledge.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: obstacles; struggle; truth; positivity; tough love; benefits of tough love; challenge; learning; growth mindset


The YAC stat in football tells you how many Yards After Contact the receiver made it before going down. The goal isn’t to stop as soon as you get hit; it’s to keep going as far as you can after contact, after the point of resistance. The same applies to your personal goals. There will always be resistance on the path to your goals. That resistance is what helps you to grow; it’s what tells you that you’re going in the right direction. Resistance isn’t a sign that you should quit. It’s your cue that you need to push even harder to see how far you can go. There are three things that will help you keep pushing after contact: self-discipline, humility, and preparation. There will always be resistance on the path to your goals. When you make contact with that resistance, the difference between reaching your goal and missing it lies in what you do after contact.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: grit; tenacity; resilience; stand firm; how to be tough; how to be gritty; encouraging others; TUFF


You understand the concept of “work in progress” in class when working on a big project, but you might forget that this also transfers to the real world. You are a work in progress, and you always will be because there is no end point for learning. Learning never stops, so long as you choose to stay in progress. When you are in progress, you always have something to celebrate, you learn from your mistakes, and you view others as teachers rather than threats. You get what a work in progress is, but you also have to understand that you are a work in progress. There's a process of growth that everyone has to go through, and learning never stops as long as you choose to stay in progress.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: growth mindset; work in progress; owning mistakes; learning how to learn; learning from others


A daily checklist helps you keep track of things you need to do every day to reach your goals. The power isn’t in the “checklist,” though. It’s in the “daily.” The point of the checklist is to give you a guide for what you need to work on every single day to achieve your goals. Coach Mackey’s list includes: Encourage, Energy, and Execute. But his list isn’t necessarily your list. Everyone has different things they need to focus on daily to achieve their goals and lead others to reach theirs. As an example, let’s look at Coach Mackey’s daily checklist in depth. The point of the daily checklist isn’t to have these three things on it; it’s to understand that your daily actions have power. Everyone has different things they need to focus on to achieve their goals and to help others achieve theirs. The point is to focus on those things daily.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: daily; consistency; to do; checklist; routine; ritual; creating daily habits; positive energy


In the game of sports and the game of life, there will be critics. You can’t avoid critics entirely, but you can prepare to ensure that the arrows they shoot at you can’t derail you. You prepare by developing a thick skin. A thick skin means standing in your convictions, not defining yourself by success or failure, and seeking the truth. When you stand in your convictions, nothing can topple you. It’s a solid foundation on which you can stand firm. Conviction adds to the thickness of your skin. Your conviction is your belief in something outside of yourself. It's your purpose, your why, the motivation behind your actions. You can’t control the critics and arrows that will come your way, but you can control whether or not you have a thick skin. You prepare for criticism by holding to your convictions, keeping a solid sense of self independent from success or failure, and seeking the whole truth in the criticism.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: constructive criticism; how to grow a thick skin; accepting feedback; praise; criticism; improvement; growth; staying grounded


What are the results of pressure? Does pressure catapult you forward, or crush you. The difference lies in how you choose to view and use pressure in your life. Pressure comes in a lot of areas, but pressure from your peers, your family, and yourself are the most common. You put pressure on yourself everyday. This pressure is largely based on what you believe others expect from you. So in a way, this pressure is built from the other pressures in your life. If you let the pressure become too much or if you don’t vent some of it to others, it can pile up and try to choke the life out of your endeavors. Remember: you are enough. Whatever your goals, whatever the pressure you're experiencing is trying to tell you, you are enough just as you are. Pressure is neutral. It is your choices which change that neutral state to a positive or a negative.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: under pressure; stress; anxiety; high expectations; helping others; goals; expectations; correction; punishment


As you step into summer and off-season, remember this: If you're going to talk it, you better walk it. Nobody cares what you say; they only care what you do. You can talk all day without anything to show for it. But when you walk it, you get somewhere. When you walk it instead of just talking it, your teammates will trust you more because you show them your dependability and accountability. Only you choose if you're a walker or a talker. Walking it means putting in hard work and long days, but it will always be worth it.

Pillar: Work Ethich

Key Topics: walk the walk; walk it like you talk it; do what you say you will do; accountability; dependability; integrity; hold the rope; respect; integrity; work ethic; character



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