The number one problem that keeps people from winning in the United States today is lack of belief in themselves. ARTHUR L. WILLIAMS Founder of A.L. Williams Insurance Company, which was sold to Primerica for $90 million in 1989 Napoleon Hill once said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” In fact, the mind is such a powerful instrument, it can deliver to you literally everything you want. But you have to believe that what you want is possible.
YOU GET WHAT YOU EXPECT
Scientists used to believe that humans responded to information flowing into the brain from the outside world. But today, they’re learning instead that we respond to what the brain, on the basis of previous experience, expects to happen next. Doctors in Texas, for example — studying the effect of arthroscopic knee surgery — assigned patients with sore, worn-out knees to one of three surgical procedures: scraping out the knee joint, washing out the joint, or doing nothing. During the “nothing” operation, doctors anesthetized the patient, made three incisions in the knee as if to insert their surgical instruments, and then pretended to operate. Two years after surgery, patients who underwent the pretend surgery reported the same amount of relief from pain and swelling as those who had received the actual treatments. The brain expected the “surgery” to improve the knee, and it did. Why does the brain work this way? Neuropsychologists who study expectancy theory say it’s because we spend our whole lives becoming conditioned. Through a lifetime’s worth of events, our brain actually learns what to expect next — whether it eventually happens that way or not. And because our brain expects something will happen a certain way, we often achieve exactly what we anticipate. This is why it’s so important to hold positive expectations in your mind. When you replace your old negative expectations with more positive ones — when you begin to believe that what you want is possible — your brain will actually take over the job of accomplishing that possibility for you. Better than that, your brain will actually expect to achieve that outcome. “ YOU GOTTA BELIEVE” You can be anything you want to be, if only you believe with sufficient conviction and act in accordance with your faith; for whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve. NAPOLEON HILL Best-selling author of Think and Grow Rich When Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw — father of legendary country singer Tim McGraw — struck out batter Willie Wilson to earn the Phillies the 1980 World Series title, Sports Illustrated captured an immortal image of elation on the pitcher’s mound — an image few people knew was played out exactly as McGraw had planned it. When I had the opportunity to meet Tug one afternoon in New York, I asked him about his experience on the mound that day. “It was as if I’d been there a thousand times before,” he said. “When I was growing up, I would pitch to my father in the backyard. We would always get to where it was the bottom of the ninth in the World Series with two outs and three men on base. I would always bear down and strike them out.” Because Tug had conditioned his brain day after day in the backyard, the day eventually arrived where he was living that dream for real. McGraw’s reputation as a positive thinker had begun 7 years earlier during the New York Mets’ 1973 National League championship season, when Tug coined the phrase “ You gotta believe” during one of the team’s meetings. That Mets team, in last place in the division in August, went on to win . Adapted from “Placebos Prove So Powerful Even Experts Are Surprised: New Studies Explore the Brain’s Triumph Over Reality” by Sandra Blakeslee. New York Times, October 13, 1998 National League pennant and reach game 7 of the World Series, where they finally succumbed to the Oakland A’s. Another example of his always optimistic “ you gotta believe” attitude was the time, while he was a spokesman for the Little League, that he said, “Kids should practice autographing baseballs. This is a skill that’s often overlooked in Little League.” And then he smiled his infectious smile. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND GO FOR IT Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can. RICHARD BACH Best-selling author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull Tim Ferriss believed in himself. In fact, he believed so strongly in his abilities that he won the national San Shou kickboxing title just 6 weeks after being introduced to the sport. As a prior all-American and judo team captain at Princeton, Tim had always dreamed of winning a national title. He had worked hard. He was good at his sport. But repeated injuries over multiple seasons had continually denied him his dream. So when a friend called one day to invite Tim to watch him in the national Chinese kickboxing championships 6 weeks away, Tim instantly decided to join him at the competition. Because he had never been in any kind of striking competition before, he called USA Boxing and asked where the best trainers could be found. He traveled to a tough neighborhood in Trenton, New Jersey, to learn from boxing coaches who had trained gold medalists. And after 4 grueling hours a day in the ring, he put in more time conditioning in the weight room. To make up for his lack of time in the sport, Tim’s trainers focused on exploiting his strengths instead of making up for his weaknesses. Tim didn’t want to merely compete. He wanted to win. When the competition day at last arrived, Tim defeated three highly acclaimed opponents before making it to the finals. As he anticipated what he would have to do to win in the final match, he closed his eyes and visualized defeating his opponent in the very first round. Later, Tim told me that most people fail not because they lack the skills or aptitude to reach their goal but because they simply don’t believe they can reach it. Tim believed. And won.
IT HELPS TO HAVE SOMEONE ELSE BELIEVE IN YOU FIRST
When 20-year-old Ruben Gonzalez showed up at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, he had in his pocket the business card of a Houston businessman who believed in his Olympic dream. Ruben was there to learn the sport of luge, a sport that 9 of 10 aspirants give up after the first season. Almost everyone breaks more than one bone before mastering this 90-mile-per-hour race against time in an enclosed milelong downhill track of concrete and ice. But Ruben had a dream, passion, a commitment not to quit, and the support of his friend, Craig, back in Houston. When Ruben got back to his room after the first day of training, he called up Craig. “Craig this is nuts! My side hurts. I think I broke my foot. That’s it. I am going back to soccer!” Craig interrupted him. “Ruben, get in front of a mirror!” “What?” “I said, ‘Get in front of a mirror!’ ” Ruben got up, stretched the phone cord, and stood in front of a fulllength mirror. “Now repeat after me: No matter how bad it is, and how bad it gets, I’m going to make it!” Ruben felt like an idiot staring at himself in the mirror, so in the most wimpy, wishy-washy way possible, he said, “No matter how bad it is, and how bad it gets, I’m going to make it!” “C’mon! Say it right. You’re Mr. Olympic Man! That’s all you ever talk about! Are you going to do it or not?” Ruben started getting serious. “No matter how bad it is, and how bad it gets, I’m going to make it!” “Again!” “No matter how bad it is, and how bad it gets, I’m going to make it!” And again and again and again. About the fifth time Ruben said it, he thought, Hey, this feels kind of good. I’m standing a little bit straighter. By the tenth time he said it, he jumped up in the air and shouted, “I don’t care what happens. I’m going to make it. I can break both legs. Bones heal. I’ll come back and I will make it. I will be an Olympian!” It’s amazing what happens to your self-confidence when you get eyeball to eyeball with yourself and you forcefully tell yourself what you’re going to do. Whatever your dream is, look at yourself in the mirror and declare that you are indeed going to achieve it — no matter what the price. Ruben Gonzales made that declaration, and it changed his life. He went on to compete in three separate winter games in the luge — Calgary in 1988, Albertville in 1992, and Salt Lake City in 2002. And he’s currently training for the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic