When I was a kid, school was the worst. I had dyslexia, no friends, and did horribly on all my tests. At the start of eighth grade, I was reading at a second-grade level. In fact, I told the school principal multiple times I wanted to die. But there was a sanctuary for me in sports, and I channeled all my frustration and struggle into my performance on the field.
It paid off, and by the time I graduated high school (barely passing) I was an All-American in two sports. After breaking a world record in college football, I was completely focused on making it to the NFL. I was on track, in my rookie season as part of the Arena Football League, when I smashed my wrist, and with it, my dream.
I spent a year and a half depressed and broke, sleeping on my sister’s couch. Then I finally pulled myself together and found a new career in online entrepreneurship. A few years later, I could call myself a successful businessman, but I was still fundamentally unfulfilled.
I did some soul-searching, and realized that if I wanted to do something great, I needed to learn from people who had done it. So I started a podcast that would let me pick the brains of the brightest people in the world. I wanted to learn what greatness was from the source. I titled my podcast “The School of Greatness.” That’s what it was for me. An education in greatness from the greats themselves.
From episode one, I knew I was onto something. Now, two years and more than 10 million downloads later, I’ve had the chance to learn from people like Tony Robbins, Scooter Braun, Julianne Hough, Jack Canfield, and so many others.
I close each interview by asking my guest how they define greatness. Their answers have highlighted key themes in the lives of people we consider “great”:
1. Every great man and woman has a crystal-clear vision of their purpose and an unwavering devotion to making it a reality.
Hearing their dreams and their ideas for how they’ll bring them to fruition is staggering. Every single person with a big dream and an unassailable conviction that they must manifest it is going to face adversity. So, great people are a rich source of wisdom on turning hardship into advantage. That's where your mindset comes in.
2. Cultivating a champion’s mindset is essential for each greatness-seeker.
Think of the best athletes. They all have goals and tunnel vision in regard to their achievement. This mindset also translates into work ethic and hustle — two of my favorite traits. No matter how smart you are, if you’re not willing to put in the hours and do what others won’t, you’re not going to achieve greatness.
3. Make your body an aid in your pursuits rather than a hindrance.
When you’re pushing yourself that hard, your body is going to push back. So, mastering your body is a crucial part of your journey to greatness. When you learn to respect your physical well-being for the gift that it is, it will support you on your journey.
4. Complete tasks and face obstacles healthfully and mindfully.
This same respect and balance is reflected in the routines of great people. They practice positive habits in daily tasks as well as during life-changing transitions. Creating and sustaining healthy habits allows them to save their mental energy for bigger things.
5. Build a support system.
No one achieves greatness alone. It just doesn’t happen. Building a winning team is essential to making your dream a reality. Surrounding yourself with the people who support you is a crucial part of every success story.
6. Be generous with your knowledge and your assets.
Lastly, I’ve learned that greatness is pretty empty unless you’re sharing it with people you love. Living a life of service is a characteristic I found in every person I’ve interviewed. When I realized this, I made service a core principle of my life, and it’s been a game changer.
These are the pillars of greatness, as I have come to call them — and they create my definition of greatness. Now, it means something much bigger to me than glory, fame, or wealth. It is centered on becoming the best version of yourself and sharing that gift with the world.