Remember when sports were just fun? Before the pressure of scholarships and expectations started to press in? When sports are fun and when there’s joy in getting to play, it makes everything better. Make no mistake–Hard work is the best work. However, that doesn’t mean hard work can’t also be fun work. 

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

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: hard work, work ethic, fun, joy, gift of playing, privilege, pressure, expectations, burnout


Do you focus on what you have done right or what you have done wrong? Too often, we focus on the one thing we did wrong instead of the 99 things we did right. When you focus on what you do right, it makes you a better teammate, makes you tougher, and enhances your talent. When you focus on what you do wrong, the opposite happens. 

That’s not to say you should never think about your mistakes or listen to criticism. Far from it. Learning from mistakes is a key part of growth, and constructive criticism can help you overcome hurdles on the road to success. But when you let a mistake eat at your mind after its usefulness is past, it will only hold you back. If you let it go to focus on what you did right (learning from the mistake or loss), it will propel you forward.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: Goals, focus forward, learning from mistakes, toughness, skill vs talent, being a good teammate


When we place an outsize value on talent, it becomes a convenient excuse for when we lose or fall short of our goals. When the focus is on talent, we lost because how could we possibly compete with the other team’s stats and natural talent? When the focus is on skill, we lost because we weren’t prepared or we didn’t try hard enough or they out-worked us. Either it’s not our responsibility so we can’t do anything about it or it’s fully our responsibility and we can do better next time. 

Instead of focusing on talent and abdicating our responsibility, we can focus on cultivating zero talent skills. These are things like preparation, positivity, and coachability—skills you can learn that don’t require any natural ability or athletic talent.

Pillar:  Personal Code

Key Topic: Positivity, coachability, preparation, zero talent skills, skill vs talent, natural vs learned ability,


When someone tells you to do your best, does that encourage you? When you realize that you can do nothing better than your best, it can be encouraging. But for many students, and maybe for you, “do your best” isn’t encouraging because it translates to “you can’t win, so just try not to get beat too badly.”
That thinking can lead to some dark places in your mind where you start to believe that your best isn’t enough. If you believe your best isn’t enough, you might start to believe that you are not enough. Know this: You are enough just as you are. And, when you do your best yet, whatever that is, that is enough.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topic: do your best, encouragement, positive pressure, growth mindset, try your best


Trust can make a mediocre team more successful than a greatly talented team because it has a way of amplifying the talent that a team has. That’s just one reason that trust is the most important aspect of a team. Do you have it? Do your teammates have trust in each other? It’s easy to say that you trust each other, but do you really?
A leader’s primary role on a team is to foster trust, and that requires courage and action. Do you have it?

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: Trust, servant leadership, success, building trust, courage, take action, team building


Your opponent is not someone across from you. It’s someone within you. You are your own greatest opponent. This is especially true when we experience performance anxiety. That anxiety steals your potential and that which you can become. It holds you back from being your best.
It’s important to state right now that performance anxiety doesn’t mean you’re a weak-minded person or abnormal. Performance anxiety is a thing that breathing people deal with, so today let’s look at some ways to deal with this performance anxiety so you can win the first fight against yourself.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: competition, growth, grit, determination, opponent, performance anxiety, stress relief, breathing exercise, visualization


In a world full of common, let’s be uncommon. Let’s think differently and act differently than the norm, especially where it really matters, such as when we see others being devalued or when we speak negatively to ourselves or when we’re stuck after we get knocked down. The norm in those situations is not the way we want to live. We want to create a new norm by being uncommon.
Being uncommon isn’t about being a special snowflake. It’s about going against the grain to do what is right and what is best (for you and the team). The norm isn’t always a bad thing, but when it is, choose to be uncommon.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: growth mindset, common people, uncommon courage, integrity, doing what is right, stop devaluing others, get up when you get knocked down, negative self-talk


To be a great teammate, you’ve got to make some commitments. We call these the top ten commitments of a great teammate. The ten items are each important, but if ten is a little much to remember, know that they boil down to one simple idea: WE BEFORE ME.
This also forms a handy mnemonic device for remembering the top ten commitments, which are: Work, Encouragement, Belief, Effort, Friends, Optimism, Respect, Enthusiasm, Motivation, and Effort. If you really want to be a great teammate, just remember: WE BEFORE ME.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: good teammate, team bonding, team building, building trust, respect, positivity, energy, motivation, encouragement, belief, friendship, respect, enthusiasm, hard work, effort, personal code, we before me


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: Grit

Key Topics: professional, amateur, mindset, grit, champion mentality, grow up, hard work


Character matters because character wins. Character is not a consolation prize. It’s not the thing you get because you weren’t talented enough to be a champion. It’s the thing that allows you to become a champion at all. If you want to win on the field and in life, you must win in your character first. There are three reasons this is true:
1. Character is a talent amplifier.
2. Character is your foundation.
3. Character is the truth about who you are.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: character matters, success, winning, character vs talent, servant leadership, foundation, integrity


What’s your superpower? The greatest power you can have is the strength to take responsibility. When you take responsibility, it doesn’t matter what you lack in talent or resources because taking responsibility puts the power to change your situation into your hands. As Marvel’s Uncle Ben said in so many versions of Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” But the reverse is also true: With great responsibility comes great power.
There are three main ways that taking responsibility transforms your life: It helps you own your mistakes.It helps you learn how to learn. And It helps you do your job.The ability to take responsibility is a superpower that will transform the way we act. Let’s take responsibility today.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: responsibility, duty, do your job, work ethic, strength, ability


If you want to reach your goals, you must take action. Nothing will work unless you do. When you take action, you move towards your goal. And at the same time, you move away from things that will derail you from your goals, such as entitlement, unearned praise, and unsuccessful attempts.
Your goals will never become reality if you do not take action.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: goals, focus forward, letting go of mistakes, entitlement, action steps, goal setting, unearned praise


A Do-For will only do things for what they get out of it, such as working hard for the praise. The problem is that eventually what we do the thing for will not be enough. On the flip side, a Do-Right does the right thing because it’s right regardless of where they are or what they will get out of it. To do right requires pride, time, and failure.
When you Do For the reward or praise, it won’t be enough to keep you pushing through the tough times. Instead, wherever you are or what you need to accomplish: Do Right.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: work ethic, doing the right thing, pride, take your time, fear of failure, overcoming failure


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: Personal Code

Key Topics: take responsibility, do your job, handle business, accountability, personal code


We talk a lot about love and sacrifice and commitment. But so often we live out like. Like is conditional, while love is unconditional. The best teams are the ones that live out love for each other. The best teams don’t care much about what they like, but they care a lot about what they love. That’s because love is tough, love forgives, and love is transformational.
As easy as these things are to say, they are difficult to live out. It’s tough to love our teammates. It’s tough to forgive when they mess up. It’s tough to give the best of us for the best of them. But love will always beat out like. Do you love your teammates? Or do you just like them?

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: Servant leadership, like, love, sacrifice, commitment, tough love, forgiveness, trust, teamwork, transformational coaching


Every morning you have to make the choice to either rise and whine or rise and grind. The morning is going to come whether you like it or not, but how you choose to greet the morning will determine how the rest of your day goes. Rise and whine is all about excuses and complaining–neither of which will get you anywhere. But rise and grind is all about getting up and doing the work anyway, which is the only way to succeed.
The rise and grind mindset doesn’t just apply to the morning, though. When your mindset is rise and grind, that translates to making your whole day better.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: grit, preparation, toughness, attitude, perspective, mindset, morning routine, stop whining, no excuses, want to


If you want to reach your individual and team goals, you’ve got to be all gas, no brakes. From the locker room to the classroom to your house—the little things always matter. It’s not easy to always be all gas, no brakes. But if you start tapping the brakes on the little things in life, you’re going to end up coming to a screeching halt on the big things.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: all in, discipline, effort, hard work, team unity, teamwork, goals, little things


Many student-athletes carry heavy loads. These are things that they weren’t meant to carry, yet the burden is dragging them away from their goals and dreams. These burdens are things like pressure to be perfect, fear of failure, and self-doubt. If you are carrying these things, then it’s time for you to make the swap.
Swap the pressure to be perfect for a best yet mindset. Swap the fear of failure for a growth mindset. Swap self-doubt for the belief that you are enough. The swap isn’t necessarily easy to make. But when you make the swap, all those heavy things you’re carrying stop weighing you down. Without that overwhelming load, you can move on to reach your goals, no matter how big they may be.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: pressure, expectations, perfection, become perfect, best yet, growth mindset, mentality, attitude, self-doubt, fear of failure, belief in self



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