Making Mental Strength Your Biggest Strength
Welcome to Self-Mastery — a place for exploring timeless ideas to become the architect of your mind, create yourself, and do less, better.
You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
— Marcus Aurelius
Formula One has been had its place in my life since I was a kid—too young to remember what everyday life was like. I even found old photos of myself wearing a Williams jumper and haven’t got a single clue as to why I wore it so often.
But I’m a big fan of the sport. I love the technical/performance part of it—but also the physiological and notably: the psychological aspect.
Mental strength is everything in sport—and everyday life. Your mind tends to give up before your body, which is why it’s imperative to strengthen what is the most significant piece of what makes our life special. Top athletes are relentless in trying to maximise their capacity to cope with repetitive loss, doubt, criticism, injury and setback or failure. We should be the same. I’ve seen good mental strength lead to a wonderful life (and poor mental strength lead to a terrible one). I don’t think we should ever undermine how powerful its impact is on who we are.
And you can learn a tonne about how to be headstrong from world-class athletes. There’s one example I’ve been fascinated by recently.
Charles Leclerc. The man in the picture.
“A typical rich kid from Monaco”, would be most people’s first guess about him (if you know native Monégasque, you’ll know they aren’t rich). I don’t blame them. But Charles’ story is one of the most heartfelt and compelling stories I’ve ever heard about what it means to develop great mental strength. He was a kid who scorched his way to the top of Formula One—while coping with the sequential losses of his Godfather, father and then childhood friend.
There are hundreds of good examples of exceptional mental strength. But this one sticks out for me.
In Formula One, or any open-wheel category, (money aside) you need an absurd level of resilience to survive—let alone win. There’s unremitting pressure from sponsors, personal backers, media, fans. You need to be able to handle that on top of the technical bruteness of the sport.
Charles Leclerc soared from his debut in 2005 to Formula 2 in 2017. But on the week of an early-season race in Baku, it was announced his father passed away from a long-term illness. Four days before his race. 48 hours later, he was back in the car, taking pole position and winning the race.
He was 19. A teenager who just lost his father. To have that kind of mental strength, at that age, is staggering.
Two years earlier, Charles’ Godfather and close friend Jules Bianchi died in 2015 from injuries he bore at a racing accident in 2014 (the first since Ayrton Senna in 1994). Charles recalled this as one of the most difficult moments in his life, but still, he managed to finish 1st and 4th in his two championship years around that time. It’s impossible to describe how hard it is to lose someone at 18 and still compete at a high level. It’s no surprise he repeats that it was extremely hard to cope with.
In his Ferrari debut year, Charles lost his childhood friend Antoine Hubert in a racing accident the day before his own race. That next day, he took his first win in Formula One, which he dedicated to Antoine.
He admitted in a recent podcast that mental strength was his biggest weakness. He openly spoke about being weak mentally and how it caused him to be very emotional. Reminds me of my past self.
Overreacting. Beating yourself about not getting the right results. The needless stress. Though he had help from professional mental trainers and psychologists, nothing and nobody can train you to react better when you suffer a loss. Nobody other than yourself can make you change the way you think. To cope with adversity and still push to be at the top is something magical. No matter who.
Charles turned his biggest weakness into his biggest strength by learning to transmute negative emotions into momentum and strength. No, it’s not easy; he didn’t go from brittle to dense in a short span of time. It took years.
Knowing how to reframe what doesn’t go our way and turn it into something positive is what you and I should always try to do. We won’t be good at it every time something bad happens, but seeing more positives, day by day will do a lot for our health.
Charles’ journey made me a big fan of his. For a kid to make it into Formula One, lose three people along the way and build mental strength from that to beat the best in the world is a story worth telling to everybody—whether you’re a fan of the sport or not.
Let’s put less pressure on ourselves. Ask “What” we can do better instead of “Why” things went wrong. Let’s reframe negative situations into positive ones, constantly. Practice catharsis. Celebrate our wins, even if it’s slightly off the mark. Repeat this time and time again and you will find all the strength in mind you could need.
“Change what you cannot accept; accept what you cannot change.”
What’s on My Mind
I’m constantly thinking of ways to put my experience in coaching, core training, training and recovery, psychology, etc, to good use. And I’m interested in adding a section in this newsletter to answer any questions you might have about the “moving better” part of our lives. This is one way I can help you, the kind reader, to improve the physical piece of your health puzzle.
Drop me a comment below (or email me), any questions you have about health, training, recovery, and so on. And I’ll write an answer for you—perhaps above or underneath this section.
“Deliberate practice is the best technique for achieving expert performance in every field—including writing, teaching, sports, programming, music, medicine, therapy, chess, and business. But there’s much more to deliberate practice than 10,000 hours. Read this to learn how to accelerate your learning, overcome the “OK” plateau, turn experience into expertise, and enhance your focus.”
“Most people have a problem with their expectations. We think people owe us something just because we do them favours. Sure, it’s nice when people help you, encourage you, or repay what you did for them. But they’re not obliged to, nor is it our right to demand that they are.”
I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.
Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day—if you live long enough—most people get what they deserve.
— Charlie Munger
Favourite Thing This Week
7 years ago today, Mr Beast hit 1,000 subscribers on YouTube. This took him years to achieve. Now… he’s nearly at 60 million subscribers. Persistence and perseverance don’t get much better than that.
Question of the Week
What was your happiest moment in the past two weeks?
PS: If you’ve made it this far, you’re awesome. This section is only for the best scrollers (and skimmers). I might add some bonus stuff here to make it even better. Also, I won’t ask too often, but could you do me a favour and tap that heart button if you did make it down here? A lot of you are opening each edition—which is amazing—but I would like to gauge how many of you make it to the end (and how many of you actually like this format). Cheers!
Have a wonderfully productive week. See you at the end!