How to Think Like a Champion


What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Back when I took up the sport of luge, one of my Olympic coaches used to tell me, “Ruben, you’re only six inches away from massive success!” I wasn’t sure what he meant. He explained, “Six inches is the distance between your ears. Your success depends on what you feed your mind.” He was talking about the “Inner Game.” It would be years before I really understood what he meant. Today, I realize that he was 100% right.

You always hear about the mental part of sports being more important than the physical part. I have to admit that I was always a bit skeptical. That is, until a cold morning in October 1998.

I took up the sport of luge in 1984 and retired from the luge right after the 1992 Albertville Olympics. After Albertville, I didn’t take a luge run for six years. However, during those six years I read hundreds of books on success and listened to thousands of motivational tapes. Unbeknownst to me, but by doing that, I was gradually becoming mentally tougher.

In 1998, six years after retiring from the luge, I decided to begin training for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. My first day of training was unforgettable. I was at the start of the Calgary luge track ready to take my first run in six years. Surprisingly, I was feeling cool, calm, and confident. Believe it or not, my first four runs were personal bests! I felt more in control of the sled than ever before. Four personal bests after a six year break! Unbelievable! That day I stopped being a skeptic. That day I became a believer in the power of the human mind.

High achievers in every field share certain beliefs that give them a competitive edge; beliefs designed to keep them hungry, confident, and mentally tough so they will do what it takes to win; beliefs anyone can adopt to have better results in their personal or professional life.

If you adopt the following beliefs, you will win much more often.

Failure does Not Exist

Just because I crashed the last five times on the luge track does not mean I’ll crash the next time. Every time I come down that track, I am a better racer because I am more experienced than on the previous run. That is, if I learn something from my mistake, and then apply the knowledge on that next run.

High achievers believe that they are destined to accomplish great things in their lifetimes. They believe that the challenges they experience are there to teach them a lesson they need to learn in order to complete their “mission” in life. They believe there is no such thing as failure. They either get the desired outcome or they learn. No matter what the result, they win. The past does not equal the future. By thinking this way, discouragement can’t get a foothold in their mind.

If It Is Got Be It Is Up To Me!

Successful people are willing to work hard overcome their challenges. Struggling through challenges on the road to your goals is what makes you great. A piece of coal has to experience a huge amount of heat and pressure in order to become a diamond. We are no different. Every time we face a challenge we have a choice to make. Will we get bitter or better? Decide to get better. Face the challenge. It’s there to make you stronger. You will need that strength further up the road when you’ll be facing even bigger challenges.

Don’t ever make excuses. Whenever you make an excuse, you are giving up control. If you do make an excuse for not pursuing your dream, make sure it’s a good one, because you’ll have to live with it for the rest of your life. Don’t rationalize. Rationalizing is telling yourself “rational lies”.

Believe that you are in charge of your life. You are totally responsible. You create your results. You are in control of your life. You have the power to change your circumstances.

Commit to Win

Some people are interested in reaching their dreams and others are committed to reaching their dreams. The key to success in life is going from being interested to being committed. Once you are committed you will produce results. At the point of commitment, you mentally “burn all the bridges” and you do whatever it takes to make it happen. THAT’S when you become unstoppable!

On the road to the Olympics, many athletes much faster than me quit along the way. There are only two reasons they quit; they either didn’t want it bad enough or they were not as committed.

Commitment is what makes success possible. If you commit to do whatever it takes (as long as it is moral, legal and ethical) to succeed, success will reveal its secrets to you.

When we are training for a big race, the first thing we always do is to walk the track with the coach. Then we make a game plan about the best way to drive the track. We visualize and mentally rehearse the ideal run, but sooner or later, we have to commit. Sooner or later, we have to hop on the sled and slide down the mountain. We had to take those runs knowing that even with all the preparation, the first few times down that track are going to be pretty brutal. Is it scary? Sure, it’s scary. But you have to pay the price if you want to enjoy the prize. You have to commit to do things that are beyond your current abilities. That’s the only way to grow. That’s how you get better and stronger. So, attack your fears head on. Otherwise, you will be their servant for the rest of your life.

Take a chance. Act on faith. Put yourself in a position where you have to stretch and fight for something. It brings out the best in you. It is good for your soul.


About Author

Ruben Gonzalez is an award-winning keynote speaker and the author of the critically acclaimed book, “The Courage to Succeed.”  His experiences as a four-time Olympian and as the owner of two businesses give him a unique perspective on how to conquer the corporate struggles of today. For his free 10-Part Success eCourse, visit  or contact him at 832-689-8282.
Ruben Gonzalez is an award-winning keynote speaker and the author of the critically acclaimed book, “The Courage to Succeed.”

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