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Answer by Jonathan Fader, author of Life As Sport, sport psychologist for the New York Mets:
There is a story that was once told to me about Barry Bonds, in which Bonds had just struck out. Upon coming back to the dugout, one of his teammates asked him, "Barry, what happened there? Why did you strike out?" Bonds turned and looked at him and said, "I just wasn't ready to hit."
When you think about that story, the main learning point is that Bonds didn't fundamentally question his inner talent. He had an unshakable belief that he was a good hitter. The people who consistently have good results in life are the ones who have built up fundamental confidence in their ability to achieve in a chosen area, whether it is sports, business, or another area of life.
When Bonds failed, he didn't start to question his ability. You might say, "Well, that's easy for him! Barry Bonds is one of the best baseball hitters of all time." What I find is that people who win (regardless of their level of talent) are the ones who work hard on developing a mental climate and ability to face adversity, and on bringing out the best version of themselves. This is true whether they are late-round draft picks or people who have been star prospects from the beginning. Those who succeed are those who work hard at building trust in themselves and building trust in their game, whether it is sports, business, or other walks of life. Your ability to cultivate that winning attitude is what helps you, whether you're Barry Bonds or someone of less talent, to build that confidence.
But what if you don't have a history of success? The question often becomes: what happens first? Does success bring confidence, or does confidence bring success? Most people think you have to experience success in order to be confident, but what separates the best players from the people who achieve the most in life is that they realize that the opposite is also true. You can work to build confidence and that will lead to your success.
For example, the way that I approach even negative results will determine whether I have the opportunity to succeed later. Let's say I go up to bat, strike out, and say to myself, "Ugh, I suck. I am a terrible hitter." Guess what? The next three at-bats, I am going to bring a terrible version of myself, I am not going to have the right concentration, and I am not going to have a good attitude. I will be distracted by my negative and maladaptive thinking. Similarly, if I am a trader on Wall Street and I have a bad result and start to fundamentally question myself and my abilities rather than saying, "Okay, what can I learn from this? How can I get better?" then it will lead to negative results.
The person who learns and improves from a poor performance is the person who will get better, and at the next opportunity will be more confident as well. The mental attitude of a winner can be born from success or it can be the result of years of hard work at shaping thoughts and actions to bring the best mindset to every opportunity.
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