When it comes to unlocking the next level in your business or career, you often have to find ways to break through challenges. 

So in the face of breaking through, what is the singular thing that determines survival and success? It's not smarts, it's not your sick abilities to do a SWOT analysis, and it's not just about getting over self doubt

Through running my company ToutApp for 5 years, I've come to believe it all comes down to one simple capability: mental toughness.

How does mental toughness manifest itself?

  • Mental toughness is your ability to deal with a VC pitch meeting right after your office got burglarized (true story).
  • Mental toughness is your ability to rally your company through an all hands meeting where you need everyone on board right after getting off a call with your divorce attorneys where the ownership over the very company you're trying to run is at risk (also true story).
  • Mental toughness is telling your mind and body to forge ahead when your body is tired. 
  • Mental toughness is pushing through, it's being able to compartmentalize, it's being able to focus on the road ahead as you're taking a 90mph curve when all you want to do is focus on the walls you might crash into. Mental toughness is being able to focus on the positive when all you can imagine are the ways things can go wrong.

Over the years of my entrepreneurship, I've learned a few tricks to develop and improve my mental toughness so I can make smart decisions. 

1. Find your happy place

When you are dealing with tough decisions, you're stressed, tired, and you're probably facing a lot of stresses. Ironically, this makes for the worst time to actually solve anything.

So the first way to develop mental toughness is to find your Go To happy place where you can take yourself outside of the thick of things. This shouldn't be confused for an escape like partying, bars or clubs -- it should be a place where you can sit, be with yourself and just think.

2. Shrink your problem

When you're dealing with a problem it has a way of taking on a life of it's own and becoming a really huge monster. The trick I employ to deal with the problem at hand is to shrink it.

I fast forward to 20 years from now and see my 20-year-older self look back at this problem. What would an older and wiser version of me look back in the hindsight of 20/20 and do?

I then quickly rewind back 20 years and think of other big insurmountable problems I solved and overcame. I do this rewind, fast forward, and return to present a few times to analyze my problem at hand from a few different angles.

Magical things happen when you take out the pressure of the present moment for your problem. You problem shrinks. You realize that you're bigger than anything you're facing now and you've overcome insurmountable things before and you will in the future.

3. Ask yourself "What would the Pro do?"

Whenever I face tough decisions with the board, I always ask myself imagining, "OK TK, the board fired you as CEO and brought on a Pro CEO who has no emotional attachments to the current situation and can blame everything in the past regime. What ruthless decisions would she make?"

This mental trick allows me to look at problems I face through a lens of practically, non-emotion, and ruthlessness. 

4. Meditate

This one's obvious. I've been practicing Transcendental Meditation for nearly 6 years now. It gives me the singular ability to slow time down, remove away multiple stimulants, and focus on the thing that matters. 

5. "These are just problems. Problems have solutions."

One of my biggest influences in my way of thinking and going business is Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates where I was lucky to work for nearly 3 and a half years. Billionaires have a radically different way to view the world, and so did Ray.

The idea that these are just problems and all problems have a solution is a radically liberating mantra and if you learn to say it and get your team to say it, it has a magical way of getting everyone looking forward on the problems to solve at hand instead of hemming and hawing over what doesn't matter and what could go wrong.

In Conclusion

Developing mental toughness is becoming a version of Tyler Durden where you develop the ability to let that which does not matter truly slide. 

Through your ups and downs in this journey we all embark on of pursuing the impossible called Entrepreneurship, there will undoubtedly be challenges. The only thing that will help you persevere is mental toughness so figure out what gets you there for you.