You may have recently read somewhere, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” This question is obviously meant to inspire you to do the things you have put off by putting your tepidness, laziness, or fears behind you. If you knew you wouldn’t fail, you might attempt much more than you currently do. What is it about the thought of failure that stops us?

There’s a different way to think about failure and what we decide to do with our time in the face of it. Consider the following question:

What would you do anyway, if you knew you would fail most of the time? Would you change what you are doing day-to-day? Would you stop thinking about your big dreams?

For professional baseball players, “failure” is a regular part of the process. The average Major League player only hits the ball and gets on base two or three times out of ten. Even the best of the best never average more than four out of ten. This means that the likelihood of not hitting the ball and getting on base is way more than 50 percent. In other words, they fail most of the time.

In fact, all of us fail regularly. The process of obtaining any goal is paved with failures whether we choose to recognize them or not. When we embrace the hard times, those that we can label as failures, our road to success is streamlined.

Josh Lifrak is the Director of the Mental Skills Program for the Chicago Cubs. His job is to help over 300 players that are in some way associated with the Chicago Cubs organization to reach their potential through mental health training and mind exercises. He works with a staff of six individuals that lead meditation, and other mental practices to help professional athletes gain control over their minds. 

Deciding what to do with your thoughts and finding ways to create positive thinking is Josh’s specialty. As we sat down to interview Josh today, we learned new tips on setting goals, dealing with nerves, and embracing the hard days. Josh also happens to be a runner, so of course we asked him how his training for baseball players is pertinent for runners. Read along or put in your headphones to learn more!

You Control Your Thoughts

Every training period leading up to an event has several “suck” days. You know, the days when for whatever reason you feel sloshy, your legs are heavy, your mind is tired, your breath is shallow. Josh relishes days like these. This is when you get to practice “hitting the wall.”

When you embrace these hard moments, you grow in ways that others won’t. Instead of looking at this challenging day as a failure, look at it as an opportunity. It’s not every day that you get to train your mind in a race-day-like scenario.

This applies for any number of negative feelings and thoughts you have. While we can’t always control what comes into our mind, we have the power to choose what to do with those thoughts. Before you let your next negative thought control your day, take a mental step back, realize what is happening, and then decide what to do with it.

Pressure, Nerves and Butterflies

Along the lines of controlling our thoughts, race day mental antics are just that, jokes. You have put in the hours and miles; the time is now yours to celebrate the training you have put in by competing. For Josh and the Chicago Cubs, they have a saying that goes, “Turn your have tos, into get tos.” In other words, realize that this is an opportunity. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you get to do.

Feeling nervous means you are ready. It means your body is warming up and ready to go. Let those nerves give you energy because that is what they are meant to do. Josh says, “How often do we get to feel that alive?” 

So whatever it is that you are feeling, you have the power to turn it into a positive. If you are having a dumpy training day, use it as mental practice for race day. If you are feeling anxious and nervous on the start line, harness that energy and use it to propel you. Embrace each thought and moment to use it to your advantage, and don’t forget to feel alive.


Josh’s Website

Josh’s Twitter

Josh’s Article on Goals

Justin’s Twitter

Listen to the Running for Real Podcast here:

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Thank you to Coros and Athletic Greens for being the wonderful sponsors of this episode of The Running For Real Podcast.

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