Life has always been hard.

Way back in the day, the ancient Spartans built a team that embodied the opposite of fragility. The Spartans were anything but fragile as Nassim Taleb, author of the book Antifragile would describe. Spartan antifragility was built in the Agog. The young Spartan boy from age 7-18 was built into a warrior. In the Agog, these young Warriors were taught mental and physical toughness. The leaders applied pressure and taught their young how to stand. Here’s another lesson from Steven Pressfield and his worthy read titled Gates of Fire. This is The Spartan way toward building strong mental habits. I’m not suggesting you try this one on your team – start by applying this lesson to yourself!

“The Peers in their messes are encouraged, when they deem it useful for the instruction of youth, to single out one lad, or even another Peer, and abuse him verbally in the most stern and pitiless fashion. This is called arosis, harrowing. It’s purpose, much like the physical beatings, is to inure the senses to insult, to harden the will against responding with rage and fear, the twin unmanning evils of which that state called katalepsis, possesssion, is comprised. The prized response, the one the Peers look for, is humor. Deflect defamation with a joke, the coarser the better. Laugh in its face. A mind which can maintain its lightness will not come undone in war.”

Mental toughness is built through stress. Do not buy the modern mantra. Leaders are not here to relieve pressure. Never have been. Leaders are here to help the system transmit the tension to its rightful owner. Leaders adapt to strength so the team evolves accordingly. And, leaders pull the weaker ones along as long as they have the will to work. Leaders, remember, make the team do what it can. Most limits to today’s performers are mind games we’re losing before we step onto the pitch, field, court, or mat. BTL practice is a modern rendition of the agog. We render tougher teammates. What, leader, are you doing to build mental toughness with your soft team getting softer? What are you doing to become less soft yourself?

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