THE BLOG

Billy Joel's 'New York State of Mind' Teaches a Lesson in Mental Toughness

03/21/2013 03:07 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2013
  • Steve Siebold Author and expert in the field of critical thinking and mental toughness training

It's the video that's gone viral, spreading across the Web like wildfire: Vanderbilt University student Michael Pollack accompanying his childhood idol Billy Joel on "New York State of Mind." It's a "feel good" kind of video where the young college student gets to play his favorite Billy Joel tune with the artist live on stage, but beyond that there are some very important lessons about mental toughness that we can all take from it.

Champions are Bold and Daring Visionaries
One of the most important habits of champions is the creation, nurturing and ongoing psychological evolution of their life's vision. Amateur performers are aware of what vision is, but they don't believe in the concept or themselves enough to create and manifest their own visions. The great ones have the confidence and clarity to be bold and go for their dreams. Michael Pollack is a great example of how this is done. He knew he was a great piano player, and he was bold and daring enough to go for it.

Champions Develop Bravery in the Battle for Their Dream
World-class performers know facing their biggest doubts, fears and worries are the ultimate challenge for champions and therefore exercise a substantial amount of bravery in their lives. They are willing to endure sleepless nights and endless worries as they walk the razor's edge. Champions accept the fact that the end result to life is the same for everyone, and since no one will survive in the end, there is no point in playing it safe. Michael Pollack exhibited extreme bravery when he asked one of the greatest singer/song writers of all time if he could accompany him with that song. He didn't just ask Billy Joel; he asked in front of a room of hundreds of his peers.

The Great Ones Think Big
While average performers think about how to survive with the least amount of pain and struggle, the world class thinks big and plans their brilliant futures. Most people think about just getting by, and that's also known as selling yourself short. The great ones are fearless and focused on manifesting their ultimate dream. Amateur thinkers view the world as a scary place, whereas champions like Michael Pollack see the world as an exciting adventure with endless possibilities. Review the vision for your life. Are you selling yourself short? Are you thinking too small? Do you really have what it takes to hit it big? (Hint: yes!)

The Great Ones Do It All With Class
True champions have class, and they consistently conduct themselves in a manner congruent with their self-image. While amateur performers publicly gloat their victories and agonize their defeats, professional performers tend to keep a low profile during times of great success and failure. The great ones have the character to do what's right, and they do it all with class. Bill Joel exhibited a high level of class when he allowed Michael Pollack to join him on stage. He could have easily brushed him off or come up with some reason why he wasn't going to do it. Not only did he do the right thing, he did it with class.

Champions Are Not Addicted to the Approval of Others
Approval addiction is so impactful because it stems from the belief of "I won't be loved or accepted unless others approve of my behavior." It's conformity at all costs. Michael Pollack is a great example of not letting approval addiction get in the way of your dreams. He didn't care what his friends, teachers or even Billy Joel thought of his request to join the singer on stage. He went for it all when so much was at stake. He could have given into the "what if" thinking. What if I mess up? What if Billy Joel thinks I don't play piano well? But he pushed through, didn't worry about what others thought of his request and will be able to leverage this for the rest of his life.

Just for today, be bolder than you've ever been and see how it feels. Give your fears the day off and pretend it's impossible to fail. You might just be surprised how you feel at the end of the day. Put it in perspective: All you have to do is start by taking small steps outside your comfort zone. Michael Pollack took a giant leap in front of the world.

Start today playing to win the great game of life. There's a champion performer inside you just waiting to get in the game and lead a life really worthy of living.

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