Since I have been a little girl I admired people that are great in what they do, that are known and appreciated. Looking back, I realize that one of the greatest desires I had in my life was to feel appreciated, to feel like people could look up to me, because I always felt so small and insignificant. So unconsciously, I turned my attention to what makes other people great, resilient and successful.
And more than that, what is going through their mind? How do they keep the drive alive? How do they become so resilient? And most of all, why are successful people miserable? Why do they kill themselves? What is that they are missing in these wonderful lives that we see on TV or read on the internet?
The journey of my life had ups and downs, as for everyone. The last years though, had pushed me closer and closer to the need of finding these answers. As I struggled through my own depression and suicide thoughts, I desperately wanted some resolutions. Why am I weak? And what is the secret ingredient that makes other people succeed?
My rock bottom came and I realised I had two options: be or not be alive. I needed to push myself over the edge of my mind and pull myself together. The story of healing myself started with a lot of introspection and research. Even though a lot has been written about this, the road to greatness is paved differently for each and every one of us. We all have different perspectives around success and greatness. For one being successful can mean to have a beautiful family, for another one success can mean to have the biggest IT company in the world.
Through my research I have found 7 essential superpowers that are present in every successful story. This is going to be a long post, so bear with me through the stories, they are really awesome.
- Personal mission.
Everything starts from this. The number one reasons why we don’t reach our goals or follow through what we need to do to get there, is the fact that our goals are not actually ours. They are embedded in our minds and souls. They are stapled in our brains by family, society, school, friends, work places, SOCIAL MEDIA. We have this idea of how our life SHOULD BE, according to what our parents have told us, according to what we see on Facebook or Instagram, according to what other people live on TV.
There is a story about a young man named Sylvester Stallone, that wanted to be an actor because he wanted to inspire people. He wanted to make people believe in the their own powers. He was funny looking, because at birth he was pulled out with a forceps, and people kept telling him that he will never be an actor, a star, that he should do something else. He was living with his wife and his dog and all day long he was going from audition to audition. He refused to get a real job and earn some money, because he knew that he would not have the time to pursue his dream. Eventually his wife left him. He was broke and homeless. In one cold day, in order to warm himself a little bit, he entered a public library. Since he was there, he started reading a book that was on a table. And this book changed his life, because he started to change perspective and think about how he can influence other people’s lives, not only his own life. So he decided to become a movie writer. After a Muhammad Ali fight, he felt so empowered that he wrote the entire script of a movie in 20 hours straight (I bet you can guess the movie). At the end of the writing, he was shaking. And then started to reach out to agents to sell his script. They refused him over and over, telling him that it’s stupid, predictable and so on. He wrote everything that they said to him and he read it the night he won the Oscar with that movie. And one day, one of them said ‘”Yes, this is brilliant. We will give you 125.000$, but you will not star in it”. He said “no, this is my script, my story. I am Rocky”. He refused to sell the script, even though he was starving, with 0$ in his pocket. Eventually, after a month or two, they offered him 30.000$ and let him star in his own movie. We all know what happened next.
My question is: how many times would you have tried to sell your script? How many fails and NOs could you accept before thinking that you are a failure or you are not made for this?
I suppose that the only way you could ignore these kind of situations is through knowing that what you want is coming from the core of your heart. When our goals are our own and not a construct of what anybody else thinks, the drive will follow. The drive to action, the drive to change our mindset and our behaviours in order to reach our dream. The drive to become the best version of ourselves in order to be where we need to be. And that drive also comes when it’s not only about us. When it’s about sharing with the world our experience and helping others. Because we are not alone. When we touch other people’s lives for the good, it’s the greatest achievement.
Kevin Hart became a comedian because in his childhood, with a father that was not really there for him, humour was what bonded them. When they had good moments together, was almost always when they were watching a stand up comedy. The one that marked his childhood and inspired him was Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” (you should watch it if you didn’t, it’s absolutely brilliant). So he grew up wanting to bring in other people’s lives what Eddie Murphy brought into his life: connection, common ground, BELONGING.
And that brings us to the next point.
- The willingness to fail.
The number one thing you can spot at all great people and achievers, is the fact that they make failure their stepping stone. They are not afraid to fail, in fact all the great people I know and I heard of, said that their biggest fails in life were the greatest things that ever happened to them.
Mike Tyson and Conor McGregor made their biggest loses their biggest comebacks. They knew exactly what they did wrong and that it was a necessary wake up call to be able to go to the next level of their career.
Michael Phelps was going through depression and suicide thoughts after winning the Olympics, and it was then when he realised that if he can manage to overcome this mental sickness, he can prevent other people to go through the same things as he did.
Shaun White, the greatest snowboarder in the world said that losing the podium at Sochi Olympics was one of the biggest disappointments in his life. After he took everything in, calmed down and analysed what had happened, he said: “I’m gonna turn Sochi into the best thing that ever happened to me”. And he did. He won his third olympic gold medal in 2018, with one of the greatest snowboarding sequences in history.
Sylvester Stallone took everything that the agents told him he will not be able to do, and turned it into his motivation.
One of the PCC coaches from my coaching school once said: FAILURE IS THE FOUNDATION OF SUCCESS. And, oh God, how true is that. We spend our lives trying to find and reach perfection, and seeing it as a good thing. But in the end, if you reach perfection, how you will grow after that? You will stop growing? So basically perfection is the end of evolution, of growth. Do you want that? Do you need that? If you reach perfection at 20 years old, you won’t grow anymore in your life? Well that is impossible, because life happens and you are forced to grow no matter what. So not only perfection is something that it doesn’t exist, it’s something, I think, that no one wants to reach.
How many times in your life you changed something when things were going great? Well, probably never. Why would you want to change something that is great? Failure is the one that always got you to change perspectives, attitude, to look at things from different angles, to change your own behaviours, to stop relationships that were toxic for you, to add something new into your life that brought value, and so on.
The thing about failure is the fact that we are having a hard time adjusting our expectations. We want control, we want to know the outcomes, we want to be sure about what will happen next. But life doesn’t work that way. Life happens, people around us act unexpectedly because IT’S NORMAL THAT THEY DO. So when that happens, we “fail”. We fail to provide the right outcome, we fail to behave the way we want, we fail to make others behave the way we want.
It would be easier if we would understand that the only thing we can REALLY do is to INFLUENCE. We can try to influence the outcome, we can try to influence others, but in the end, it is what it is. And that takes away the pressure of the need to always be right, that makes you realise that you are doing the best you can with the best you’ve got. And if you don’t, you will know better next time.
We spend a lot of time imagining our best lives. How our house would look like if we had a lot of money, how our vacations would look like, how our cars would look like, how we would feel. And that is great, because the more real the visualisation is, the more our brain starts to believe that it’s possible for us to go there. But then, of course, we say, “but that will never happen to me”.
Another thing that great people do, is the fact that the visualisation game it’s a very big deal for them. Shaun White said that “if I win, I am where I need to be. If I lose, I have this mental picture of where exactly I should be.” Because he has been doing this for years, and he knows where he could go wrong. The Olympics are just another practice. It’s the same half pipe, those are the same boards, those are the same moves that he has been doing all this time. So if he wants to win, he can see exactly what he needs to do.
Sylvester Stallone made visualisation the only way for him. He cut all the boats so he could only focus on what he wanted, and kept it close to his heart. He didn’t get a real job when he was starving because he knew that a moment would come when he would settle into the comfortable life, into the safety of tomorrow, and his big dream will be lost. He needed to make his dream the most important thing in his life. Because as Tony Robbins says, where focus goes, energy flows.
When Michael Phelps was competing, he was visualising all the scenarios. He visualised how he would want the race to go, and maybe the most important thing, how he would want the race NOT to go. Also, he focused on both perspectives as a strategy. Meaning, that he would not spiral into what could go wrong. We know that all of us have a tendency of doing that. Usually, we get in our own way, and we quit before we even start, because we only think about the things that could go wrong. But Phelps’s strategy was to be realistic, not exaggerate, and to use it to his advantage. ”What could go wrong and HOW can I overcome it?”. He was focusing on the solution, not on the problem. If you ask yourself “why is this problem bothering me?” you will go deeper and deeper in all the reasons why, towards the problem. But if you ask yourself “what do I want”, “how can I change things”, you will turn away from the problem, and towards the solution.
The mental fitness is challenging, but it’s not impossible. The mind is something that can be trained, and as in fitness, in order to become stronger, the mind needs constant exercise. The more you challenge it, the more you can get out of it.
And that brings us to the next skill:
- The ability to go that EXTRA MILE.
In an interview with Mike Tyson , he talked a little bit about his trainings. He said that in the winter, he used to get up at 4 in the morning and run for miles in the snow. When he was asked why he would do that, his answer was: “because I knew my opponent won’t”.
One of the very interesting facts about people who master their game is that they always find new ways in which they can improve. And also, they are willing to take that next step that nobody wants to.
For example, after winning the Olympic gold medal, Michael Phelps said that “everybody is taking a vacation of nearly one month after the Olympics. The next day after the Olympics I’m at the pool, practicing. Because for one day in which you are not in the pool, you need two to get back to the shape you were.”
Also, Shaun White stated that “usually, when somebody gets 2nd place at the Olympic games, they go out and party hard. I won’t do that. I’m not ready for 2nd place. If I take 2nd place, the next day after the Olympics you’ll find me in the gym”.
What drives these people? The hunger for more. Why? Because THEY KNOW they can do better. Because they know what are they capable of. So when everybody sits back and relax, they take the game to the next level. That ability and desire to take their skills higher and higher is expressed by taking massive action towards their goals. Either there is some mental fitness or physical training, the people who excel in anything never stop growing. Which gets us to how they
- Build SELF CONFIDENCE/SELF TRUST.
One of the biggest misconceptions about self confidence is the fact that self confidence is a personality trait. There is nothing more false than this. The ability to trust in your own powers is A SKILL, something you must develop, train for and especially, maintain through constant action.
Notice the fact that through this entire article I have been talking a lot about action. Why is action so important? Well, Mel Robbins, a person that I admire greatly, said that taking action actually boosts your confidence. When you see yourself DOING things, you see yourself as a person who CAN, who is up for the challenge. Even if in some days the big action is to get yourself out of bed, brush your teeth and change your clothes. Because we have this kind of days also.
Also, the confidence loop is something worth explaining here:
When you TRY something, you either SUCCEED OR SURVIVE. When you SUCCEED OR SURVIVE, you LEARN something. When you LEARN something, you DEVELOP SKILLS. When you DEVELOP SKILLS, you gain CONFIDENCE.
So, until now, Mel Robbins’s definition of confidence is the one that really stuck with me and that makes the most sense for me: CONFIDENCE IS THE DECISION TO TRY.
And that is something that I myself have tested. After going through the horrible postpartum depression, one day my baby boy fell and hit his head, and for a second I thought I would lose him. Fortunately, everything was ok after two days in the hospital, but that was my wake up call. I realised that NOTHING is more important than his health for me.
After that day, I decided that if he is okay, it’s time for me to be okay also. And I enrolled in some Positive Psychology classes. I learned a lot, and I took action. I applied every exercise that was given to me. And I saw myself taking action, and that boosted my confidence. I’ve saw myself rising from the terrible depression and feeling that MAYBE there can be some hope.
Day by day, with small steps, with constant mental fitness, I started to build self confidence, without even realising. I started to speak kindly to myself, because yes, THE WAY YOU TALK TO YOURSELF MATTERS. Being able to turn the kindness I showed others, towards my own person, was the greatest gift I ever offered to myself.
Mike Tyson said that “when I was young, I trusted nobody. Because in order to be able to trust anybody, you need to be able to trust yourself”.
It’s the same thing with love. In order to be able to receive the love that you want and need, you need to learn how to love yourself. Because only then you will be able to expose to others how you actually want to be loved, and you will not settle from anything less.
- The ability to TAKE A BREAK
As important as constant work is, we cannot neglect the fact that we cannot be 24/7 on the run for greatness. You know that in any kind of game the players need a break, they need to stop for a period of time in order for their muscles to relax a little bit, to ease their mind, and to pull themselves together after they have given 100%.
We get wrapped up in working and working, in chasing this road for greatness, but we don’t know how to stop. We become exhausted, we become tired and sick of being on a constant race. The ability to take a break is as important as the ability to go that extra mile. Why is that?
Because it requires a lot of wisdom, a lot of courage to sit with yourself and feel ENOUGH when you are “not doing anything”. We don’t know how to do that. We get distracted all the time: if we don’t work, we go shopping, we cook, we clean the house, we ALWAYS find something to do in order to feel valuable. The power to take a break means that at the beginning you will need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You will need to be okay with who you are when you are not working. When you are taking a break, YOU ARE THE SAME PERSON who knows the same things, who offers the same things. Your value does not cease to exist when you relax.
As a matter of fact, after 6 full months in which I was full speeding through courses, coaching school, coaching sessions, a hunger for personal development, German classes and full time raising a toddler that thinks that sleep is overrated, even though my self confidence was high, I felt the urgent need to settle down. And for 2 months this is what I did. I kept my clients, but the coaching school was in a summer holiday, so I paused everything. I told myself I will only do what’s necessary. And so I did. What happened next was very interesting. It was hard at first, but I began to understand the things I NEEDED to do and to cut off the things I THOUGHT were a priority, but in fact weren’t. Also, all the things that I have learned in the past months began to settle down and I was gaining another kind of perspective.
Because this is what I think it happened. In yoga, every practice has a beginning (when you warm up), a middle (when you are in the intense phase of the practice) and an end (when you receive and accept what the practice brought you). This is the exact same kind of situation. I had a beginning (the motive of starting this journey), a middle (an intense phase of learning, accumulating, experiencing, practicing) and an end (where everything I learned settled down and I was gaining the wisdom of those 6-7months).
It requires a lot of patience with yourself and also a knowledge of yourself to balance this two abilities: the ability to go the extra mile and the ability to take a break. Basically the ability to take a break means that you know where your “burn out” boundaries are. It means that you know when to push yourself over the edge, but also when it’s time for you to stop.
Each and every day we adapt our behaviours in the situations that we encounter, and that means that usually we build up walls around our personality in order to match every situation. We behave in some way at work, we act different with some friends, different with other friends or relatives, because we need them to see the appropriate version of us required in that specific situation.
One of the hardest things we can do is to be able to be vulnerable. Anyone can build up walls, but very few of us have the courage to show our true colours. To open up, to let others see our imperfections, mistakes, failures, shameful behaviours.
After surviving depression and suicide thoughts, Michael Phelps opened up about what he called “the hardest time” of his life. What more could someone so successful want in his life? At first he was ashamed, because he knew that there are people struggling with “real” problems, like hunger or very critical medical conditions. But he realised that now he had a platform where by sharing his story and being vulnerable, he can literally save other people’s lives.
He started raising awareness about mental illness, something that can affect EVERYBODY at ANYTIME. People who are successful are even more prone to being depressed, because they are exposed in ways in which normal people aren’t. Your every move is being watched, and if normal people have the privilege to fail without no one noticing, successful people are failing under the watch of millions of people. And that is something that can bring you to your knees in a second.
The courage to be vulnerable usually comes from the courage to go inside yourself. Because when nothing seems to work, the best place to turn for solutions is inside.
We live in times where we are constantly distracted from our own feelings and states, we literally don’t take time to really see what is going on inside. We don’t know what triggers us, we don’t know and we don’t understand the root of our behaviours. We are not aware of our own limiting beliefs and how much we are stopping ourselves from growing.
When you are able to do all of these things, when you are able to sit with yourself in an honest way, looking inside you with JUDGEMENT FREE AWARENESS and being curious about everything that is there, you will be true to true to yourself, and you will have the courage to be vulnerable.
In the TV series Game of Thrones there is something that Tyrion Lannister said to Jon Snow that stayed with me through the challenges in my life: “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world won’t. Wear it like an armour, and it can never be used to hurt you”.
When you are peace with who you are, with your flaws and your strengths, accepting that you are human, that you are a work in progress, you will have the courage to be vulnerable.
All of the great people that I follow and admire stated that in order to follow through your own pat, you have to be authentic, to know the real you. When they succeeded that, they were at the highest level of their achievements. Michael Phelps, Shaun White, Mike Tyson, Sylvester Stallone, Tony Robbins, and these are just a few examples.
Don‘t be Michael Phelps, Shaun White, Mike Tyson, Sylvester Stallone or Tony Robbins, be yourself and GIVE yourself the privilege to fail and SUCCEED.