How To Build Bulletproof Mental Toughness (Even If You Cry Like A Baby)

How To Build Bulletproof Mental Toughness (Even If You Cry Like A Baby)

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Photo by Jeremy Lapak

Starting in 1968, a California man named Mark Covert ran every day for 45 years without missing a single day.

On his last day of running on July 24, 2013 he had run over 163,000 miles total. That’s enough to circle the circumference of the earth seven-and-a-half times. And more than most humans travel in their entire lifetimes.

He ran every day over the course of nine US presidents and multiple wars.

He said he ran 23 miles the day a man walked on the moon for the first time, 19 miles the day John Lennon was shot, 12 miles the day the Berlin Wall fell, and 6 miles the morning the twin towers came down.

He ran during California earthquakes, severe thunderstorms, and pounding hail that left cuts across his face.

Forty-five years, 16,436 consecutive days of running. Not a day missed. All while so many of us have a hard time remembering to build a good flossing habit.

Consistency is one of the most valuable parts of getting ANYTHING you want in life — because it creates compounding interest. And compounding interest is what Einstein called the most powerful force in the universe. It’s what made Warren Buffet a Billionaire.

Knowing that, you might be wondering: What’s Mark Covert’s secret?

According to him, it all starts with mental toughness. And that’s something you can develop to do whatever it is YOU want to do every day.

Let’s Dive Into It!

Mark Covert wrote a book called Never Missed: Lessons Learned From Forty Five Years Of Running Without Missing A Day. Mental toughness, he said, can be learned.

And he broke down the steps to doing it, after using it himself and teaching it over and over to students and athletic teams he coached throughout the years.

Covert said he first learned about mental toughness from his parents. His father once came home from his meat-carving job having sliced open his hand with a butcher’s saw. After 30 stitches, with his hand swollen to twice its size and wrapped in bandages, he went right back to work the next day as if nothing happened.

Using his father as an example, Covert said mental toughness really boils down to creating the culture among your team (or just yourself) that there are very few excuses as to why something should not get done.

That’s why his definition of “toughness” is the ability to do something you don’t want to do, regardless of being ‘not in the mood’, injured, or sick.

Whether it’s putting in that extra work, even after a long shift, doing one or two last repetitions in the gym, or having an important conversation in a relationship that makes you uncomfortable. Doing the thing you most need to do and giving yourself no excuses not to — is absolute rocket fuel for your goals, your progress, and turning your dream life into reality.

The more you do it, the higher you will climb.

The Stoic Philosophers
Called This Right Action.

It’s the virtue of taking the action that is RIGHT — for your goal and your future self-interest — no matter whether your “present self” feels like it at all. It’s just a matter of whether you can get yourself to do it — to be tough…

So how can you always get yourself to do something you don’t feel like doing?

The three main components of toughness, as defined by Covert, are commitment, preparation, and positive self-talk.

Of course, you can apply these three components to any area of life where you want to succeed, not just running. They’re fundamental.

Remember — no one comes out of the womb ready to run a marathon. None of us know how to walk, talk or ride a bike when we’re first born. But we learn. And learning doesn’t end in childhood. It ends whenever you decide it does.

You can learn the skills that turn you into that vision of yourself you desire most — by starting with these three basic components of mental toughness:


What’s so important to you that it has to be done every day, no matter what?

If you don’t have an answer, I’d suggest finding something to be consistent with. It doesn’t have to be permanent. Just find something to get you going, because if you don’t have a commitment to at least one single action every day — an action that is more important than YOU are — that’s a recipe for letting your “lower” instincts take over.

The laziness, sloth, gluttony — you won’t have anything that is more important than the feelings telling you to NOT do it.

Covert said for his dad, commitment was going into work no matter what, and remembering the responsibility he had to family as the lone breadwinner.

His mom kept the house functioning no matter her frame of mind or how she felt.

He said as he got older, keeping his running streak going was not just about upholding the commitment he made to himself. But about showing his family and the team he was coaching the importance of commitment.

He wanted to show them the importance of doing something you say you’re going to do every day.

How he felt in the morning or what the weather looked like never determined whether he was going to run each day. He ran because he had committed to run.

Covert was also determined to constantly be improving, no matter the stage in his running career.

As a coach, athletes would often come to him with poor excuses for missing practice. He always hoped that witnessing him work out each day would teach them that if you are going to do something, you have to be ALL in, and you have to be committed ALL the time.

No exceptions.


Covert said he does not believe a person can be tough mentally without preparation.

Preparation can come in the form of hours spent on the practice field, or weeks spent studying for the bar exam.

His father’s preparation was a nightly routine where he walked into the kitchen after the house had quieted down to sharpen his butcher knives for the next day.

It wasn’t an activity he took lightly, either. For nearly an hour, he would examine the sharpness of each blade and the touch of every handle. These were professional knives. They weren’t just purchased over the counter at a drug store — their preservation required incredible care and precision.

If those blades weren’t ready to go when his father walked into the store the next day, his ability to get work done in the manner he expected would be completely screwed up. The second he attempted to slice through a piece of meat, everything would be off.

Those who take the time not only to do the act but prepare for it, have the edge over everyone else who is just “showing up.” When the big opportunity comes, those who prepared reap the rewards.


Finally, how you speak to yourself is pivotal for mental toughness.

Any semblance of feeling sorry for yourself or saying negative things will inevitably make you mentally weaker.

Mental toughness is made of the opposite. Even if you fail, lose, or have a total catastrophe… you are not allowed to pout, whine, complain or sulk. Those things will only hurt your mentality. They’ll make loss, failure, and catastrophe more likely in the future.

You are weakening your mind by letting yourself do those things. Which only makes it harder for you to succeed in the future.

Covert says:

“If a person of less-than-average strength or speed can become powerful and fast by training, so too can a person of weak mindedness and negative thinking become mentally strong by becoming aware of their negative internal dialogue and adjusting it.”

Negative self talk creates unnecessary pressure you are putting on yourself. The more positivity you talk to yourself, the more you believe in the work you’ve put in. And the more you stay in the “here and now” when you need to perform, the less pressure you’re going to feel when you need to be at your best.

“I’ll train to do better next time”

“I am convinced that I’m a winner.”

“Every day and in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

“I’m becoming more successful every day. No obstacle will stand in my way.”

Tell yourself things that EMPOWER you. That give you the vision. And feel it. You MUST believe in yourself. This extends to who you surround yourself with, what you visualize, and what you have in your daily environment. All these things will affect your thoughts.

It’s All About YOUR Choice

It really is all a matter of choice. That’s what it HAS to come down to. And the choice is yours.

Only you can decide how committed you are going to be. Or whether you set aside the time to prepare yourself correctly, or how you are going to communicate with yourself at every moment of the day.

You are the one who has to choose if you are going to train your mind to be tough. And YOU make the daily choice of whether you’re going to go for your dreams.

You are in total control.

Right now, in this very moment — and in each moment that follows — you can make the choice to be as tough as you want to be.

You can go on a run you haven’t attempted before. Or you can push your workout harder than you did last time. You can start a brand new business or income stream.

All those things take consistency. And consistency requires mental toughness. Because you’re not going to automatically feel like doing it every day.

The choice is yours. The question isn’t what you are going to do to become tougher, the question is whether you are going to do the thing that can get you there.

So what’s it going to be?


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  • kjc


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