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. Everybody wants to be the real deal, but most of us also fear it. If it's so desirable to be the real deal, why do we fear it? There are two main reasons: fear of accountability and fear of being different. 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" despite their fears. 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


Too often we think of courage as something distant from where we are. Undaunted courage is for soldiers on the battlefield. Courage is for people like Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for standing up against racism in South Africa. Courage, we think, is for other people in other places. But the truth is that courage underpins everything that you learn in these lessons. Without courage, you can't stand up for what's right, you can't act with integrity, and you can't do the hard work that is required to find success. Courage makes all the other things possible. Courage isn't something distant from where we are. Undaunted courage is part of our everyday life as we strive to become who we were born to be.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: courage; character; foundation; live with purpose; accept criticism; be you; narrative; encouragement; try something new; learning from mistakes


You've probably said "I don't have time" for something when what you really meant is "I don't want to." Not enough time is rarely a limiting factor; your will is the most common limit. It only takes one minute to make a change. If you decide that in this one minute you're going to work towards your goal, then the one minute becomes two and before long you've changed the way you use sixty minutes, so that you've worked towards your goal for an hour. Whether you reach your goals and dreams isn't about having enough time; it's about managing the time that you have. With the ABCs of time management, change the way you use one minute so you can change the way you use your whole day.

Pillar:  Goals

Key Topic: time management; change; beyond time; control the controllables; have to vs get to;


During a game, you don't ask the other team for permission to set the tempo because you know that permission will never come. In the same way, you aren't going to get permission from anyone to set the tempo in the locker room, in your education, or in your personal life; you just have to go first and set the tempo for yourself and others. Setting the tempo is about establishing the standard that you are going to uphold. 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 Topic: set the tempo; control the controllables; serve first; go first; servant leadership; setting the standard; influence


You are tested in a lot of ways. Whether it's a test in a classroom setting, a test of physical skill, or a test of your patience, you will face many tests in your life. These tests are important because they tell the truth about where you are in your development. You need the truth of where you are so you can get where you want to be. If you take today's test today and do that every day, you'll build a life of knowing exactly where you are on the path to where you want to be until you get there. You may not like what today's test reveals, but if you take that test, it will provide you with valuable information that will help you reach your goals and dreams.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: tried and true; tested; progress; goals; action steps; grit; overcoming obstacles


Great athletic programs are made of athletes and coaches who handle business every single day. You have a responsibility each morning that you wake up to do your job to a certain standard. That standard keeps you accountable to handle business. If you want to be a champion, you have to hold yourself to a champion's standard every single day. Success is just handling business day after day. It's true in sports, and it's true in life. If you want to be a champion, you have to hold yourself to a champion standard not just on the field or court, but in the locker room, in the hallway, and in your own living room.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: work ethic; taking care of business; handle your business; championship standard; do your job; responsibility; accountability; upholding the standard


Anything worth doing is worth doing in attack mode. 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. Attack mode has three clear parts that make it the best way to do pretty much everything. These parts are activities, not characteristics. When you do something in attack mode, you believe it is worth doing, you establish clear objectives, and you focus on one thing at a time.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: clear objectives; attack mode; focus; goals; never give up;


We've all experienced moments that have rattled us. We've all had times when we thought things were going to go one way, but then life threw us a curveball. In those moments we only have two choices: let that rattle shake us out of the game or roll with the rattle and change tactics. Everyone gets rattled sometimes. What matters is whether you let the rattle shake you or you roll with the rattle. If you roll when you get rattled, you'll find success in sports and in life.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: stress; anxiety; ought vs is; lose well; win well; grit; self-management; losing is an option


What is it that winning, confidence, and unshakability all have in common? Preparation. As the 5 Ps state: Prior Preparation Permits Proper Performance. Practice is a big part of preparation, but it is not the sum total of it. Three other keys to preparation are: being specific not general, making game day rep 1001, and being a student not a fan. Prior preparation permits proper performance doesn't just mean "practice more." Practice is only part of preparation. When you are prepared, you win, you are confident, and you are unshakable.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: preparation; 5 Ps; student of the game; specific not general; game day is rep 1001; work ethic; effort


The concept of YouTube and confidence for athletes is similar to duct tape and bailing wire for coaches. They are tools with which you can achieve anything. With YouTube and confidence, you can do anything you set your mind to if you are willing to put in the work. YouTube (or the Internet in general) is a good place to find information; that's a valuable tool. But where do you find confidence? Confidence is found through working to make an impact in the lives of others. When you seek to make an impact, you don't worry about failure or setbacks.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: confidence; right work; right tools; effort; attitude; self-esteem; growth mindset; failure; learning from mistakes; learning from failure; encouragement


Working with a Last Set, Best Set mentality means that you give your all to the last set, even if you're tired and even if you don't want to. It doesn't just apply to the weight room. If you approach everything that you do with the mindset that you are going to finish it out better than you started, you will be unstoppable on or off the field. When your last set is your best set, that applies to everything that you do throughout the day. Instead of taking your prior effort as permission to go easier on the next task, accept the invitation to keep working hard. You are capable of more than you think you are, but you will never get to the more if you do not make your last set your best set.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: second wind, perseverance, hard work, personal code, time management


A leader is someone who helps others become their best. You might think that you aren't qualified to be a leader, but the truth is that anyone can be a leader. You've just got to get the first things first: Leaders follow leaders, leaders keep it simple, and leaders stay focused. You can become a great leader. It's not something out of reach. It's not just a daydream. Leadership is attainable, and you can start today. But you've got to get the first things first.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: servant leadership, serve first, lead, learn to follow, keep it simple, stay focused, overcome obstacles


Everyone has experienced times when they just didn't feel like doing what they needed to do. Everyone has struggled with the question: How do you do what needs to be done when you don't want to do it? The answer is simple, but not easy: You do what your goals demand, not what your feelings want. You are not alone in the struggle to do what you don't feel like doing. When you don't want to do what you know needs to be done, remember to ask your goals what is required, and then go do that.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: hard work, work hard, personal code, do what you can, don't stop the movie, perspective, how to do what you don't want to do, how to do what you don't feel like doing


When you go after something big, there's no way you can achieve it in a day or even a week. Big goals and dreams take a long time to reach, so you need a plan for how to get there. That plan is where you aim small. There's a big goal that you're working towards, but before you can get there, you have to do all the little, daily things that will build on each other over time. Remember: To reach big dreams, you've got to aim small.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: daily work, hard work, goals, focus on the little things, focus on the goal


Each day of the week is important. Friday may get all the hype and Monday all the disdain, but each day matters. After all, there's no celebration on Friday if you don't do the work on the other four days. Wednesday in particular is important because it's the day when motivation and willpower start to wane. That's an opportunity for you to turn to other, more workable methods, to help you stay on track, such as recognizing that Wednesday is an IF day, a PARTNER day, and a SUBMISSION day.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: work ethic, taking care of business, handle business, get it done, daily work, hard work, partner day, if day, submission day, submit to the plan, buddy system, accountability partner, encouragement


Here is the simple and difficult truth: The only thing standing between you and your goals is the work that you have to do. Achieving your goals is very simple, you just have to do the work that your goals require. But, simple does not mean easy. In fact, the simple work that will get you to your goals will be really difficult. If you want to reach your goals, you don't need anyone to motivate you or tell you

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: hard work, work hard, quick and easy, how to do what you don't want to do, handle business, get good at being bored, boredom, motivation


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. When others do those things, that's an opportunity for you to extend the second chance, the opportunity to become who they 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


Are you a pretender or a contender? Everybody will say that they are contenders, but what do their actions show? At first glance, pretenders and contenders look the same, but that's only on the surface. If we look a bit deeper, the differences become clear. Whether you are a pretender or a contender has nothing to do with your words and everything to do with your actions. If you want to be a contender, follow your integrity, embrace what you can become, and be patient in pursuit of your goals.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: grit, growth, hard work, effort, integrity, who you are on the inside, daily work



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