Telling no lies means being honest with others, but it also means being honest with yourself. When we fail to tell ourselves the truth, we fail to find a way around whatever obstacle made us reach for the excuse in the first place. Whenever a vague excuse like “I don’t have time” or “I don’t have the resources” pops into your mind, give it a hard look and a bright light while you interrogate that excuse to find the truth.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: truth telling, hard truths, honesty, self-awareness, know where you are, personal code, lying, dishonesty


It’s easy to get caught up in the potential. When the talent or skill is there, it’s so easy to think the game is in the bag. But as any athlete can tell you, the game isn’t over until it’s over. And as Tiger Woods said, “Until it happens in the game, it hasn’t happened yet.”
Doers do. When you lose, don’t take that as the end. Do something to create another opportunity. Do something to get a different outcome. Potential is nice, but it’s not a guarantee. There is no guarantee at all. You just have to do what you can to the best of your ability. Don’t just bank on your potential to get you to the success you dream of. Get out there and do!

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: take action, responsibility, do something, grit, determination, toughness, physical toughness, mental toughness, emotional toughness, potential, talent


One of the last things you do before you step onto the field or the court is to make sure that your shoes are laced up tight. Without that solid lacing, it could come untied mid-game and trip you up. Without the solid foundation of well-laced sneakers, you will fall.
It’s not just your shoes that need to be laced up tight, though. Your character needs to be laced up just as carefully. You will be limited by your character long before you are limited by your talent. When you lace up your character, you know that adversity is coming, you don’t let the highs get too high or the lows too low, and you do the work until the work is done.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: work ethic, character vs talent, preparation, adversity, overcoming obstacles, never give up, perseverance, one thing


You don't have to be a great athlete to be a great leader. They are separate skills. Make no mistake, leadership is a skill. It's something that you can learn, just like you learned how to throw a ball or jump a hurdle.

The best athletes aren't always the best leaders. They're two different skill sets that require different things of you. You don't have to be the best athlete to be a great leader; you just have to develop your skill to lead.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: servant leadership, leaders always lead, leadership skill, hard work, sacrifice, speaking up, encouraging others, dependable, set the example


Excellence is about giving your best moment by moment. It’s about valuing and respecting yourself and your teammates. Excellence everywhere requires that you prepare and put forth effort, both of which require you to be a person of integrity. To be excellent everywhere is really difficult to do, but as with anything else, it helps if you start small.
Excellence everywhere means respecting and valuing yourself and your teammates enough to do what you said you would do. Being excellent doesn’t have to be a big show. Sometimes, the smallest changes make the biggest difference.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: growth mindset, excellence, how to be excellent, little things, demand excellence, respect, integrity, preparation, effort


Student-athletes everywhere share a fear: the fear of failure. It’s not just athletes, though. People of all ages fear failure. But that fear comes from an unhelpful definition of failure and success. If you think that failure is when you get something wrong or make a mistake or lose a game, then of course you’re going to be afraid of it. If you think that success is only when you win, of course you’ll fear not winning.
Failure is not lack of success; it’s lack of learning. Success is not winning; it’s getting the next smallest thing right. Fear of failure will try to hold you back, so you’ve got to redefine success and failure, so that you can fire failure.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: Goals, failure, fear of failure, success, definition of failure, fear, little things, small wins, commitment to goals


When we reach for or try to become something that is not ours, we’ll always lose. Trying to be someone else never works. It’s nacho cheese; it’s not yours. There’s a difference between being inspired by someone’s success and being jealous of that success. When you’re inspired, it pushes you to be your best. When you’re jealous, it pushes you to be like them.
When you try to grab for something that is nacho cheese, you fail twice. You fail at being who you are not, and you fail at being you. Whether you are on the field, in the classroom, or looking in the mirror, your job is to be you. If it’s nacho cheese, don’t try to grab it anyway. Instead, do your job and be the best you that you can be.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: personal code, your job, responsibility, accountability, dependable, jealousy, inspiration, be the best you


No matter how chaotic life gets, you have the power to stay steady. When you take responsibility for your actions, you take the power away from your circumstances and you give it to yourself.
Life will be like a roller coaster most of the time. There will be great days and horrible days. You will feel awesome and you will feel terrible. Life is chaotic. But when life comes at you, when you are praised, or when you are criticized, do your best to stay steady.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: grit, steadfast, reliable, even-keeled, chaos, hard times, praise, criticism, good days, bad days, responsibility


We can’t become our best if we don’t give our best. Giving our best requires that we lock in. That means giving our eyes, our attention, to what is right in front of us. When we’re locked in, we aren’t distracted by outside things. To lock in, we have to walk through a ritual that will help us go from distracted and dazed to locked in like a laser.
Your ritual will look different from Coach Mackey’s ritual, or from your teammates’ and coaches’ rituals. It’s a very personal thing. But this guide can help you in developing your personal ritual. To lock in, you’ve got to develop a ritual that works for you to move you from distracted to focused.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: work ethic, ritual, focus, attention, distractions, giving your best


The hokey pokey is a fun dance from childhood. But when hokey pokey can be used to describe your commitment, your hard work, or your effort, then it’s not so fun anymore. We all know people who put in their commitment and then when it costs more than they thought it would, they take it out again. You might have even been that person.
At first glance, it makes sense to hold back a bit, to keep some energy or hard work reserved in case you need it later. But, as you probably know, there’s a problem with that. It short changes both you and your teammates. You don’t want to be a hokey pokey.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: teamwork, servant leadership, holding back, withholding, honesty, fullness of you to what's in front of you, commitment, hard work, effort, do your best


We talk a lot about teamwork because when the individual members of a team come together as a team, then the team works. As Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” There are three conditions for team to work:
• Team works when individuals bring their best for the team.
• Team works when we help others get what they want.
• Team works when we put the team in our work.
The team doesn’t work without teamwork. We have to work together if we’re all going to reach our goals.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: teamwork, servant leadership, goals, work, strength, caring for others, social skills, impact, do your job, we vs me, we first


Confidence is built, not born. It’s like any skill on the field. Confidence comes from letting go of the outcome because you know that all you can control is your response. Confidence comes from getting reps at things that you aren’t good at and seeing how much you improve over time. And, confidence comes from knowing who you are and living out that identity. If you want to be more confident, these are three things that can help you to build confidence.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: confidence, self-confidence, competition, building confidence, skills, get reps, surrender the outcome, preparation, effort, 5 Ps, growth mindset


It’s important to tell the truth to people, even when we don’t feel like it. You’ve been told this many times—to tell the truth to others—but what is frequently left out is that you need to tell yourself the truth, too. Unfortunately, people lie to themselves all the time about how good or bad they are, or how good or bad a situation is. The reality is that you and your situations are never as bad or as good as you think they are. It’s usually somewhere in the middle.

Pillar: Personal Code

Key Topics: learning how to learn, truth, narrative, stories we tell ourselves, encouragement, compliments, negative self-talk, consequences of lying, anxiety, being yourself


We live in a fast-paced society. Everything and everyone seems to be moving at the speed of electricity. But sometimes that breakneck pace can actually break our necks, or at least, it can break our goals and dreams. Life is too short to run through it like it’s a race. Instead, we need to learn to slow down.
When we slow down, we give ourselves the opportunity to give our best to what’s right in front of us. That doesn’t mean the end goal doesn’t matter to us; it just means that we’re able to be where our feet are. We need to slow down, so we don’t miss receiving something in this moment that will help us reach our goals in a future moment.

Pillar: Grit

Key Topics: Grit, slow, fast, growing up, progress, rest, recovery, rehab, patience, learning from mistakes


We live in a fast-paced society. Everything and everyone seems to be moving at the speed of electricity. But sometimes that breakneck pace can actually break our necks, or at least, it can break our goals and dreams. Life is too short to run through it like it’s a race. Instead, we need to learn to slow down.
When we slow down, we give ourselves the opportunity to give our best to what’s right in front of us. That doesn’t mean the end goal doesn’t matter to us; it just means that we’re able to be where our feet are. We need to slow down, so we don’t miss receiving something in this moment that will help us reach our goals in a future moment.

Pillar: Growth Mindset

Key Topics: pressure, you are enough, peer pressure, decision-making, punishment, correction, expectations, growth mindset


“The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Thomas Edison
Failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is a part of success. In the process of getting things right, you’re going to get some things wrong. When it happens, ask yourself: am I willing to try again? The only real failure is in not trying again. Or, as Edison put it, if you want to succeed, you have to try again.
If you want the next try to be better than the last, there are three things you need: Honesty. Honor. Hunger.

Pillar: Work Ethic

Key Topics: work ethic, honesty, hunger, passion, honor, selflessness, teamwork, service, failure, success, mistakes, learning


We all have different lenses through which we see the world. Some of these lenses relate to our family heritage or regional culture. But perhaps the most important lens that we use is either faith or fear. A lens of faith sees a future of possibility while a lens of fear sees a future of difficulty. The way that we see the future determines how we act (or fail to act) in the present.
When you think about your goals, do you view them through the lens of faith or fear? That choice makes all the difference.

Pillar: Goals

Key Topics: goals, faith, fear, failure, anxiety, perseverance, future, present, success


It’s not about you. Too often, we hear that and go “yeah, right. Of course it’s about me!” That’s the ego talking. It’s the part of you that thinks only about me, myself, and I. But as a servant leader, you’ve got to learn to make the ego take second place to the team. We before Me. The goal of leadership is not to have other people help you achieve your dreams; the goal is to help others achieve their dreams.
There are three things that happen when you fight for second place: When you fight for second place, you replace entitlement with gratitude. When you fight for second place, you don’t take criticism personally. When you fight for second place, everyone succeeds together as a team.

Pillar: Servant Leadership

Key Topics: me before we, servant leadership, service, teamwork, go first, ego, relationships



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