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The Courage to Succeed
- June - 2004
What are You Saying to Yourself?
(From Ruben's upcoming book, "Success Leaves Clues: Secrets from an
Unlikely Three-time Olympian.")
Top achievers in every field understand that words have the power to
condition the mind to succeed or to fail.
Whenever you say something, your mind tries to build a case for it. If
you call yourself “stupid” the mind does a subconscious “Google search”
on the word stupid and pulls up a list of every stupid thing you’ve ever
done in your life. Now, you have the proof that you are stupid and you
start acting that way. If you call yourself a winner, your mind pulls up
all your winning moments. And you start acting like a winner.
In fact, if you are not getting the results you want out of life, it can
probably be traced to your self talk. “What you say to yourself
will influence what you think. What you think influences what you do.
What you do all the time becomes your habits and your habits determine
your results and ultimately, your destiny.”
That’s why you have to be very careful with whom you associate. You
don’t want to get any “second hand” negative talk from the people you
hang around with.
Top coaches will not tolerate having their players bad-mouthing
themselves. They want to create an environment conducive to achieving
peak performance; an atmosphere where success is in the air.
Sometimes, even Olympic athletes forget to watch their self-talk. My
worst luge crash ever was a result of negative self-talk.
One year before the Salt Lake City Olympics, we were in St. Moritz,
Switzerland training for a world cup race. We were training in the
morning and the Italians were training in the afternoon. At the time,
the Italians were the best. So that afternoon, I went to the track to
watch the Italians train. I wanted to see what lines they took down the
track. I wanted to learn from the best.
I went to the fastest point of the track, curve thirteen. Watching the
Italians rocket down the track at over eighty-five miles per hour was
unbelievable. Every time an Italian luger went by I would mutter to
myself, “I can’t believe I do that.” Another luge would barrel down the
track and I said to myself, “I can’t believe I do that.” For two hours,
I said it over and over.
Up to that point, I had not had any problems at that track. I was just
looking for a way to take my abilities to the next level.
The next day, on my first run, as I reached Curve thirteen, my mind
reminded me, “That’s right, Ruben, you CAN’T DO THAT!” And I froze;
forgot to steer and I had a horrible crash. I broke my foot, broke my
hand, and totaled my sled. End of season.
That was the lowest point of my luge career. At that point I didn’t know
if I would be able to go to the Olympics. I was hurt and I could not
afford another sled, and it was all because a couple of hours of
I had a pity party for a couple of days but eventually, as I was flying
back home from Europe, halfway over the Atlantic, I got my head
straight. I took a piece of paper and wrote, “This has been the worst
year of my life; the most stressful and frustrating. I am being tested.
I will pass the test. I have an opportunity to make an incredible
comeback and show what I’m made up of.” Then, I started saying to
myself, “There is always a way. There is always a way. There is always a
way. I will find a way, because there is always a way.”
Repeating the phrase, “There is always a way,” over and over, when you
are facing obstacles, puts your mind in a solution-finding state. It
helps you shift your focus away from the problem and into finding a
And I did find a solution. I could not afford to buy another sled, but
maybe I could borrow a sled. I started calling some of my best luge
buddies and my good friend Adam Cook of the New Zealand Luge Team,
loaned me his sled to qualify in the pretrial and race in the Salt Lake
Watch what you say to yourself, and remember, there is always a way.
Book of the
Never Met a Man I Didn't Like: The Life and Writings of Will Rogers," by
Joseph Carter, is this month's pick. Will Rogers was America. Part
Cherokee Indian and former cowboy, he captivated audiences around the
world with sparkling gems of wisdom cloaked in gentle country wit and
astonishing rope tricks. His words are as entertaining , inspiring and
relevant today as they ever were.
Rogers was the voice of the nation during the '20s and '30s. Movie star,
vaudeville headliner, radio commentator, his views and observations were
syndicated daily and weekly in over 600 newspapers across the country.
This book tells the story of his remarkable career, from Oklahoma
"cowpuncher" to international star...and the warm, knowing and hilarious
philosophies of the man who embodied the heart and soul of his nation.
Quotes of the
"When I die my epitaph is going to read:'I joked about every prominent
man of my time but I never met a man I didn't like.'"
- Will Rogers
"Politics is a great character builder. You have to take a referendum to
see what your convictions are for that day."
"The problem with a politician's life: somebody is always interrupting
it with an election."
"The crime of taxation is not the taking it, it's in the way that it's
"A tax paid on the day you buy is not as tough as asking you for it next
year when you are broke. It worked on gasoline. It ought to work on
Rolls Royces, cigarettes, lipstick, rouge and Coca-Cola."
"There is nothing as stupid as an educated man if you get him off the
thing he was educated in."
"A man learns by two things. One is reading. The other is association
with smarter people."
"No one has ever figured out just why we thought everything could be
learned in four years. It just seemed a good even number I guess and we
"A diplomat is one that says something that is equally misunderstood by
both sides and never clear to either."
"Why does every peace envoy go on a battleship?"
"What constitutes a life well spent? Love and admiration from your
fellow men is all anyone can ask."
"Judge a man's greatness by how much he will be missed."