Athlete’s Approach

“The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.”

Mia Hamm

A great teacher, coach, or mentor can seriously speed up your progress, but remember what Dr. Seuss said, “You can get help from teachers, but you’re going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”


Those who want to get good, really fast usually do some or all of the following:

Craft Your Own Rubric

A rubric is a guide or checklist for specific skills telling you exactly how a skill is to be evaluated. If you make it a simple checklist, you can quickly assess your progress and discover what needs more work. Set easily-measured goals. If you don’t have a goal, you don’t know what you need to assess. Set small, easily-achieved, and easily-measured goals. Ted Ligety once wrote a letter to his coaches about how he was going to race—what his plan was and how he was going to achieve it.

Wake Up

You have limited brain power. As the day wears on, your ability to focus, to remember, and ability to learn weakens. That’s why mornings or after a nap are the best times to practice. The pros know this. In the study that spawned the 10,000-hour rule and the term deep practice, most of the elite performers studied did the bulk of their practice in the morning hours.


Early riser: “I wake up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. during the winter, We go up and train early in the morning.” In the summers, she gives herself a little more time to sleep, waking up closer to 6:30 or 7 in the morning.


Grit is not just about perseverance. Grit encapsulates two other dimensions: passion and purpose. Those who have passion (internal motivation) for the activity can persist longer than those who just have willpower. Those who have purpose (external motivation) can persist even longer than those who have passion. Grit is developed. It is not a trait that you are born with or that is fixed. You can improve your Grit.

Take a short 10 question test on your grit at This will give you a starting point and areas that you can improve on.

Growth Mindset

Develop a growth mindset. Adopt the mindset of the eager novice, no matter how
good you might already be. Try to learn something every time you practice. Zen master D. T. Suzuki said it best: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” As you gain more and more skill, try to maintain the mind of a fascinated beginner. Talent is grown over time through exposure and effort. If you believe this, it stokes your desire to learn. You persist, go deeper, and have more fun.


Take a Mindset Quiz


Which statement describes where you want to be?


Taking on Challenges

1. Fixed: You don’t really take on challenges on your own. You feel that challenges are to be avoided.
2. Mixed: You might take on challenges when you have some previous experience with success in a related challenge.
3. Growth: You look forward to the next challenge and have long range plans for new challenges.

Learning From Mistakes
1. Fixed: You see mistakes as failures, as proof that the task is beyond your reach. You may hide mistakes or lie about them.
2. Mixed: You may accept mistakes as temporary setbacks, but lack strategies to apply what you learned from the mistakes in order to succeed.
3. Growth: You see mistakes as temporary setbacks, something to be overcome. You reflect about what you learned and apply that learning when revisiting the task.

Accepting Feedback and Criticism

1. Fixed: You feel threatened by feedback and may avoid it all together. Criticism and constructive feedback are considered a reason to quit.
2. Mixed: You may be motivated by feedback if it is not overly critical or threatening. Who is giving the feedback, the level of difficulty of the task, or their personal feelings might all be factors in your motivation.
3. Growth: You invite and are motivated by feedback and criticism. You apply new strategies as a result of feedback. You think of feedback as being a supportive element in the learning process.

Practice and Applying Strategies

1. Fixed: You do not practice and avoid practicing when you can.
You do not have any strategies for accomplishing the learning goals or tasks, or you apply ineffective strategies.
2. Mixed: You practice, but a big setback can make you want to quit. You are willing to practice things you are already considered “good at”. You are open to being given a strategy to meet a challenge, but you rarely apply your own new strategies.
3. Growth: You enjoy the process of practicing and see it as part of the process of getting good at something. You may create your own practice or study plans. You fluidly use many strategies, think of some of your own strategies, and ask others about their strategies.

Perseverance (Focus on Task)
1. Fixed: You have little persistence on learning goals and tasks. You give up at the first sign of struggle.
2. Mixed: You may persevere with prompting and support. Unless you are provided strategies for overcoming obstacles, you will stop or give up.
3. Growth: You “stick to it” and have stamina for the task(s). You keep working confidently until the task is complete.

Asking Questions

1. Fixed: You do not ask questions or do not know which questions to ask, but you can usually say you don’t “get it” if asked.
2. Mixed: You might ask questions about a portion of the task that you feel you can do. If you perceive it to be out of your ability, you probably won’t ask questions.
3. Growth: You ask specific questions, ask questions about your own thinking, and challenge the text, the task, and the teacher.

Taking Risks

1. Fixed: You do not take risks, and if something is too hard you turn in blank work or copied work, if anything at all. You are not engaged in the process/task.
2. Mixed: You will take risks if the task is already fairly familiar to you. If not, you will resort to copying or turning in partially completed work.
3. Growth: You begin tasks confidently risk making errors, and openly share the work you produce.


Add up your score and divide by 7.


The score is not as important as reviewing each statement about where you perceive yourself and where you want to be. Everyone will find that there are areas that they are deficient. This is where you should concentrate on improving the next time that you find yourself in a similar situation.


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