” You can take away my house, all my tricks and toys. But one thing you can’t take away? I am Iron Man ~ Tony Stark in Ironman 3.
Doesn’t it sound badass? There are real life people who are like Tony Stark in their own ways. Perhaps the top three CEOs are Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos.
Same way, in the sporting world we can count Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.
If we were to touch upon all the characteristics of people with enormous mental strength, we would note what must be true with respect to all of them. Some of those characteristics are given below:
Belief: Mentally strong people believe in themselves. They believe that they can make a change. They believe that their changes would impact the world in a positive way. They believe that they can make others believe. A strong belief makes something go from zero to one. As soon as one believes it can be done, it can be done. Perhaps a plan would be needed. Perhaps it would be too hard. Perhaps, it would be not worth the effort. But belief makes impossible – POSSIBLE. The biggest difference between mentally strong people and average people is that mentally strong people ‘believe’, and they are able to make others ‘believe’. The famous Steve Jobs reality distortion field was nothing but belief system, and a system that made others believe. Watch in this video how Steve Jobs tells to ‘believe’.
Self confidence: Mentally strong people have a lot of self confidence that they can pull things off. What do I mean by pull things off? They make claims. Sometimes their claims are too tall for others. But they figure out a way to make things happen. Basically, they get things done.
Relevant knowledge: This is a key characteristic of mentally strong people. They know the hacks and tricks of the game. There was once I took a marathon training course. The instructor was a mentally tough person. He gave me his mental toughness. Here are his words.
When you would run the real marathon race – at about 20th mile mark you would be completely tired. Every bit of your body will tell you to stop. If you actually stop, your body will shut down, and your feet will lock. You would then not be able to begin running again and you would not be able to complete the race. Your body will be starving of energy, and it would be consuming all the blood. Your brain would be fighting for the blood and the energy. At that point in time, it is your mental toughness that would continue to sail you through. This mental toughness will come from the multiple practice sessions we will go through. At 20th mile mark, start telling yourself every three minutes – you are going to finish the race, and keep running. Sitting here today in front of me in the classroom you might feel like – woah! 20th mile means, only six more miles are left. But you are only half way through. Really, the only thing that would make you finish the race is mental toughness. What is the relevant knowledge here – it is to keep reminding in the practice sessions – that running 20 miles is only half way in the 26 miles marathon. Now here is a joke – you know all about the mental toughness, so don’t tie your shoe laces so badly, that they open up at 21st mile mark. Make sure you do not have to stop to tie your shoe laces. Keep going, and I guarantee, you would finish the race.
The reason for repeating his words here is that life is just like a marathon race. It is very long. It is very tiring. The only thing that can sail you through all the odds is the knowledge you acquire. Whether it is acquired from the college, or from your own hard work is irrelevant. What is relevant is how relevant the knowledge is to what you want to achieve. If you want to be an amazing engineer, probably getting really good knowledge of programming, machine learning, deep learning, algorithms, and so on is important. Same way, if you are in a factory, knowing enough basics about mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, electronics would be important.
Mentally strong people learn as they go, and they learn everything really really well.
Ability of building knowledge: Here is yet another characteristic of mentally strong people. They also believe that they can acquire knowledge. If you do not know something, it is not a problem. It can always be learned, and they are capable of putting their efforts in learning those things. Elon Musk is a good example of this. He knows that he can always begin from fundamental principles, and make his way upward. That is what lets him go and make investments in more companies. This is all actually true and works in just about all the industries. It is only that some people would get to the results sooner than others. Those who use fundamental thinking would not only tend to get to the results faster, but also figure out things on the way to make those results look better. In addition, they would also hack the best path forward. This is how knowledge builds, and mentally strong people know that they can repeat this whole engine over and over.
Practical application: Mentally strong people believe in practical application of their knowledge. What is the use of knowledge if it cannot be applied. Mentally strong people go after building things that make real impacts.
Patience: Mentally tough people understand that not everything will pass in the first attempt. In fact at the onset a lot of attempts fail, but they are prepared to take the failures and learn from them. This is what sets aside mentally strong people from average people. Average people simply give up after a few failures.
Positive behavior: Mentally strong people are generally very optimistic about everything including the future. They take everything in positive spirit. Take an example of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. They are highly optimistic people who have shown positive behavior over and over and have been extremely optimistic about everything. Listen to just about any interview of Mark Zuckerberg, you would also be inspired about the future.
Ability to work hard: What do we mean by working hard? Working hard is really when you look at a dream result, and you go after it. You come up with many paths to reach to that dream and you keep going without counting the hours you work in a day. In the words of Elon Musk, if someone is working 50 hours a week, and you are working a 100 hours a week, even if you do the same thing, it would take you six months to achieve what would take them an year to achieve.
A question is often asked on Quora (I intend to write an answer to it). Should you work hard or smart? The answer is – both. If you work as hard as someone else, if you also worked smarter, you would beat them. If you only worked hard, someone working as hard as you and smarter would beat you. If you worked smart, but not hard, someone working harder and equally smart would certainly beat you. The worst however is that someone working harder, but not even as smart as you also will also have a chance over you. My answer is – work so smart, that working smart is really compelling. Then work super hard. People with laser like focus, and strong mentality do not say – I will only work smart, but not hard. That does not work in the real work.
Perseverance and persistence: This is one really good trait of hard working people with strong mentality. Some of the best people I know persevere very much over all the details, and all projects they do. There was once a programmer I had known had about 100 different codes he was maintaining. A futuristic database server architecture was changed drastically because of future requirements. Everyone had a mammoth task of re-writing the codes. He looked at both the databases, meticulously understood all the differences. Picked his first code and started making the changes. As soon as he was done with that, he said – One down. And started counting as…Two down. Three down. Four down…All this while everyone else I know was only panicking, and scratching their head on what to do. Many people were only frustrated. Some people just gave up and were complaining. This guy gave no damns to anything else in the world. He was simply counting…26 down….27 down. In about five days, he was counting…47 down. He didn’t say Oh – its Saturday now. He continued counting…48 down…49 down…soon enough he reversed the counting order and started counting as 49 more to go… 48 more to go….47 more to go…By Monday he was already at 25. He kept counting like …10 more go to go….9 more to go…8 more to go…until he said –
That is a mark of strong mental personality. They don’t focus on anything else when it comes to projects like these.
Nerves of steel: People with strong mentality project that sense of mentality in everything they do. I have seen them project and manifest that behavior from one project to another. Let us imagine someone who has ran a marathon, would project the same behavior when it may come to a project that takes long hours. Usually people who finish marathons have nerves of steel, and they manifest it in every aspect of their lives.
If people with strong mentality are to be compared to animals, in simple terms – they have the – Agility of a Python, persistence of ants, tenacity of a tiger, bird eyes like eagle, strength like an elephant, loyalty like a dog, survival fitness like a camel, adaptability like a chameleon, focus like a snake and hunting capability of a shark.
Here is more inspiration on how they see the world.
Every zero is not the same: When they look at a chart, and every point seems to be a zero, they say – not every zero is the same. With each zero, there is a learning, and there has been put some systematic work. One day, the curve will shoot up. Their learning curve shoots up one day, and they start getting results. Then they repeat that performance over and over.
Take an example of someone trying to reduce weight. In this case, let us be specific. I was training them on some exercises, and diet control. Without both, the weight loss wasn’t looking like a possibility. I told them, work consistently everyday, and control diet everyday as well. About 15 days had passed, and they were not seeing drop in weight at all. I told them – every zero is not the same. Keep going, and leave it up to me what your weight will look like. Do exactly what I tell you. Soon in about 21–30 day time period, the weight started dropping, and then it kept dropping until they dropped about about 10 pounds. The conclusion is, that people with strong mentality do not get discouraged when they do not see immediate results. Often results take time, and they wait for them patiently. They keep up their work, and results eventually follow.
Repetition: People with strong mentality do not get tired of repetitions. They know that the beast is in the execution, and that the execution needs repetition. They repeat hundreds of tasks in their lives sometimes millions of times.
Trust: Repetitions bring trust. People with strong mentality care about the trust, and they systematically build it.
Knowledge sharing: People with strong mentality do not hide their knowledge. Instead, they share it. Knowledge only increases by sharing.
Ability to question their superiors: People with strong mentality do not take anything for granted. They do not hesitate in questioning their superiors. In fact, if you follow some of the articles written by Jeff Bezos, he inspires everyone to do the same. There is even a value in Amazon – be vocally self critical. People with strong mentality have this characteristic from the beginning.
Commitment to quality: People with strong mentality focus on the quality. They know that the quality of their work will go long ways and will manifest itself in the quality of products they would build, and the services they would create.
Risk taking: This is perhaps very important in the lives of entrepreneurs. Without risk, there is no gain. People with strong mentality do not fear risk. They calculate everything and go after the best paths.
Infinite mentality: I wrote a few days back on what infinite mentality means. Check out this answer here: Rohit Malshe’s answer to Who wins at life?
Physical strength: People with strong mentality are not just people with strong mentality. They are usually people with fit bodies. They exercise regularly and keep themselves as fit as possible.
I hope some of the readers certainly got to know about some of the traits. In the repetition lies the merit of strong mentality. Just like you work your arm muscles, and you get stronger arms, in the same way, you practice strong mental behaviors, and you repeat them enough, and that is the way you get strong mentality. All the best!”