How To Build a Strong Mind

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Jim Rockford was a hero who pushed the limits. He was mentally tough in order to do what he did, day after day. His exploits had a huge following in The Rockford Files, an American TV drama that followed the misadventures of an ex-con private investigator played by actor James Garner.

Heroes and tough guys on TV and in movies let us feel what it is like to have the mental toughness to break out of a seemingly boring existence, and enter into a much bigger world-one that is full of possibility.


What secret characteristics do heroes possess? They embody these elements:

  • Confidence

  • Persistence

  • Dedication

  • Control

OK – so maybe the characteristics of a hero are not-so-secret after all. But how can you and I harness their power? How can we create the strong mind that is the trademark of those who live large in a world full of possibility?


When I took the physical fitness (FIT) test at the FBI Academy, I was the bottom 1% that made the top 99% feel better about themselves. I failed miserably, so my challenge became twofold: maintaining confidence in myself, while training to pass the rigid FIT test. I worked with a coach at the Academy, who taught me the secret to building confidence.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually bigger things will come. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t worry about short, quick improvements. Seek out the small improvements, one day at a time. And when it happens-it lasts.”

The result? I passed the FIT test and worked as an FBI agent for twenty-four years.


Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals.


Every day at the FBI Academy involved some kind of physical activity. As a trainee, I put in extra training for the FIT test. On top of that, as a class, we boxed each other, engaged in arrest scenarios, and ran around the basketball court holding 5 lb medicine balls. I was tired, depressed, and under pressure. Yet I knew that if I gave up, I would regret it the rest of my life. So I straightened my back and dug deeper. A strong mind is not built on something slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock.

Like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.

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