The Power of Belief / by James Leath

The journey of where I am as I write this started with a simple thought, “I want to work at IMG Academy.” The position I wanted required more than what I currently possessed, including a masters degree, a few certifications, learning a new language, and a doctorate in psychology for good measure. At the time, I was a full-time instructor and coach, and I had little time for anything else outside of teaching, coaching, and school work. However, I knew what I wanted and I knew it was worth it. Waste-deep in research papers, I stayed up late to complete the work for each class. I believed with everything in me I would one day be in that position. Henry Ford is many times credited with the saying, “Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you are right.” That being said, I believed. When I finally applied, I decided to shoot low and apply for a summer position. I told my mentor and she had some choice words for me, some of which I probably shouldn’t repeat here. Her message, which paralleled the message from my wife, was that I was selling myself short. They both saw in me something I had yet to realize. I thought I believed in myself, but I was not quite there yet. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I needed Glinda the Good Witch to remind me I already had everything I needed to be successful. Three years later, and a slight change from the original goal, I am the head of the Leadership Development and surrounded by an amazing group of leadership and mental coaches, strength coaches, nutritionists, and athletic trainers who are great at their jobs and challenge me daily to grow as a person and a professional.

Here are a few things I have learned about belief:

Belief creates power. Belief has a way of creating the momentum you need to achieve fantastic feats. Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), an American Psychologist who many sport psychology students credit as a huge influence in their studies once said,

"The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.”

Can you relate? I bet there is a situation you can think of right now in which you could honestly say you sold yourself short. If only you believed you could do better, perhaps that would have pushed you to try a little bit harder.

Belief is a matter of effort. When I was a high school strength coach I loved working with the incoming freshmen because they were so eager to learn. On the second day, after a day of teaching fundamentals in the weight room, I would take them outside and ask them to raise their right hand as high as they possibly could. With their right hand in the air (insert the classic “your other right hand” joke here) I asked them if that was as high as they could go. They would say yes. Then I said, “Raise your hand one inch higher.” Every single player was able to raise his hand at least an inch higher. I have done that with females and adults, too, and invariably get the same result. We live in a world of fierce competition and when all things are equal, the one who wins is the one who went an inch further than anyone else. Last year I wrote an article asking: What is the difference between winning and losing? The answer, I argue, is Three Inches.

Belief is learned. I remember my freshman year of high school I once said to a teacher, “I am just not good at math.” He responded, “Yeah, some people just aren’t good at math.” As a teacher myself, I now know how damaging that statement was. He should have encouraged me to work harder to understand the things I did not yet understand. He could have used that moment to teach me the power of “Yet” that Carol Dweck teaches in her TedTalk about the power of believing and in her book Mindset: The New Rules of Success. Instead, he agreed with me and I spent years believing math was just not a subject in which I could ever excel.

Some people will call you crazy for your beliefs. You are. You should be. You have to be a little bit nuts to ignore the haters who try and poke holes in your dreams. They are loud and persistent. Exceed their efforts to distract you by letting your accomplishments speak for you. And when someone tells you their dreams believe them, ‘cause, why not?

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

~Steve Jobs (1955-2011)