Mastery of Fear

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai p. 113

It is said that every time, the late Oki Hyobu’s group gathered and after all their affairs were finished he would say,

 “Young men should discipline themselves rigorously in intention and courage. This will be accomplished if only courage is fixed in one’s heart. If one’s sword is broken, he will strike with his hands. If his hand are cut off, he will press the enemy down with his shoulders. If his shoulders are cut away, he will bite through ten or fifteen enemy necks with his teeth. Courage is such a thing.”

Intention and Courage 

You need to hold in your heart your intention, your purpose, your mission in life. If you do not have a goal to reach in the short and long term as part of a bigger purpose, you will never achieve greatness. Just like you intend to go to the grocery store you NEED to intend on greatness.

Set your mind on your purpose and go headlong into it with courage. Nothing of value will be achieved without getting uncomfortable. Outside one’s comfort zone lies greatness, mastery, and mastery of fear. Courage is such a thing. The more you overcome fear and come closer to mastery the bigger your courage muscle gets. The bigger your courage muscle the more freedom you have of your own life.

Do the thing and you will have the power. 

This is what Emerson was talking about. Do what makes you scared. Do it over and over. And then pick something else. Because the obstacle to overcome will allow you to become free if you choose to take action.

Courage is such a thing

Setting out on your Hero’s journey will require you to get outside your comfort zone. More than you ever have in your whole life. So why not start now? Start doing things outside your comfort zone daily.

Little and often over the long haul

Little courageous acts daily build up the muscle. Just like physical exercise in training, these courageous acts continue to allow us to grow. The powerful feeling you receive as a rite of passage is amazing. Passing through this life existing rather than living is the greatest mistake. LIVE. Make mistakes, grow, learn, and make a new mistake.


Failure is one the best teachers you will ever encounter. I’ve failed so many times I would bore you. But all those failures add up to one moment of achievement and overwhelming emotions take over. It’s truly amazing to work so hard for something and finally achieve it, with only you knowing all the times you failed. On the outside, it looks like that person is successful and gets it right every time. On the inside, the person knows how many failures it took to get to that point.


Every time you flex your courage muscle and overcome fear you come one step closer to mastery of fear. Fear will never leave but its hold on you will be less and less as you overcome it. And when you face a difficult challenge—the biggest obstacle you’ve ever encountered, look back on your experience and know you’ve done this countless times.



They Did It

A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.

Arnold H. Glasow

In August of 2013 I began as a “GA” for Dakota State University. I was the only strength coach but was considered a GA because of the masters program and money/reduced tuition I received. The primary teams I worked with were Football and Volleyball. These teams were marred with unsuccessful seasons. Football hadn’t had a winning season since the mid 90’s and the volleyball for almost 10 years.

The school had never had a strength and conditioning coach. I had never had this power either. I was fresh off an internship at the University of Northern Iowa with Jed Smith and Nick Davis (two mentors and role models I’ll never forget). It was scary and I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. Am I ready? Is this what I really want to do with my life? All these questions continued. Not to mention, I was LIVING in the storage closet of the weight room to save money. This was not known to anyone else, save a few people. It was my choice but there were many trade-offs.

One of the biggest trade-offs/stresses was the constant “what-if” questions of people finding out. What if someone catches me sleeping here? What if the athletes find out? What if? Rarely did I have a restful nights sleep as stress was seemingly always high. I didn’t go outside much as I was in the weight room literally all day and night. And when I wanted to go outside at night, I had to think of the repercussions of athletes seeing me walking back into the weight room at very odd hours of the night.

Eventually I moved out about a year later. I still don’t have my own room with a door but I have a place that is my own. I don’t stress when going to sleep that someone will find me. If I did, the mental hospital would be knocking at my door.

Fast forward to this past season for Football and Volleyball. I was hired as the first Strength and Conditioning Coach in Dakota State’s history. Both teams were improving (physically but more importantly mentally) throughout the first year as a GA and now many things in my own life had changed for the better.

Football had their first winning season in 16 years. Volleyball had theirs in almost 10 years.

Was it ME? Did I do this? The answer is a big fat NO. I was a very small part. Outsiders will point to me as a big reason. Heck, even the athletes have done this. But I refer to Mark Watts when reflecting on this.

“If you credit your team’s loss to the other team having more talent then you can’t credit your team’s win to the strength training program.”

Why did both teams, the primary teams I spent the most time with have winning seasons for the first time in a decade? Millions of little reasons I can only assume. The athletes are the ones going out and performing. I give them the credit. Did I go out and score a touchdown? Did I hit the game winning kill? No, and I’ll never take credit for the success of the teams I train.

THEY did it. I simply helped out a little each day.

Shine your Light

Developing Leaders

“Senior leaders who expect perfection and do not look at mistakes or shortfalls as developmental opportunities will soon create a zero-defects command climate that will stifle initiative and creativity, fragment teamwork within the organization, and stunt the development of subordinates, which all serves to hinder organizational effectiveness.”

Leadership Lessons From West Point

I am the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Dakota State University in a small, quaint town of approximately 6,000 people. Off the interstate, within an hour drive of major cities lies Brookings (home of South Dakota State University) and Sioux Falls (University of Sioux Falls, Augustana, and the Sanford Hospital and Complex).

It seems like every day a new opportunity to teach my student athletes a lesson occurs. The athletes are young. They will make mistakes. It’s a huge part of the maturation process of a young person. Some mistakes are bigger than others but those are the ones with the most to learn from.

When they make mistakes, the easiest thing to do (and what most people in leadership positions default to) is to punish/discipline the person without using the event as a learning opportunity. It takes time, effort, and energy to do this day after day with every student athlete. But the payoff is tremendous.

Day after day, week after week, month after month I enjoy the privilege to see the positive changes from my student athletes. It doesn’t come without frustration, however. But, the people that need the most help are the ones who make all the energy and efforts worth it when they turn the corner on the maturation process.

Let me give you an example of a major and minor mistake and how I use it as a learning opportunity.

Major: Fight breaks out among athletes and is quickly diffused. I talk one of the athletes about the importance of walking away from these type of confrontational events. In regards to running his mouth, I asked him to picture the football team stopping the opponent on 3rd down only to get a 15 yard penalty and automatic first down. The momentum shifts, the other team scores, and the other team gains confidence. Our team gets frustrated with the stupid penalty, loses momentum, and eventually loses the game. I mentioned to him that everything can be used as a learning experience and how being mentally tough in a situation like that means walking away.

Minor: Team fails to put away equipment in the time allotted by failing to work together. I relate this to how just because one person finishes his own area up that the job isn’t done until everything is done. It is not enough to do your job. You must do your job and then see if your family—your brothers need any help. Football is the ultimate team sport and little things like this can drive the point home to the athletes about the importance of teamwork. Talking about teamwork is fine, but giving them opportunities to display and then talking about how it went afterwards is more beneficial.

Are you a leader? Do you use mistakes and shortcomings as opportunities to learn? If not, why not? You are not developing the people you serve if you choose not to do this simple—but not easy task.

I challenge you to adopt this rule of life and reap the benefits of positive development of the people around you. Create leaders among your ranks and let them lead others. That is the ultimate goal.