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Our Minds are NOT Machines

This past week, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of an awesome team. It was a team of volunteers and workers that were tasked with getting the Golf course at Lancaster Country Club prepared each day for the United States Women’s Open. Preparing the course each day is a major undertaking, which consists of basically mowing every single blade of grass in the playing area on an over 6,400 yard golf course. Our team included over 100 volunteers and workers and countless pieces of equipment, including over 10 fairway mowers, and numerous mowers designated to mow the greens, tees, and the treacherous rough. The entire process is nothing short of amazing.


Fortunately, I was assigned to work with a team of individuals that would mow greens. The greens mowers were set to cut the grass on the greens to 1/10 of an inch; these are finely tuned machines, calibrated each day and night. If we got to a green and the mower was not cutting properly, it was returned to the maintenance building and a new mower was brought out to use. On Friday morning, on the greens mowing crew I was with, we changed our greens mower three times because it was not cutting the grass properly.


These machines were not performing to the proper expectations and were discarded at that time for a new machine. This sounds a lot like our mindset at times. When we face adversity, we want to discard our current approach and look for a new one. We however, are not machines and cannot just go out and find something that is supposed to function better. We are humans and we must develop our mental toughness to endure any situation and perform to the best of our abilities. Performing our best includes developing the confidence we have in ourselves, with an optimistic mindset with positive energy to mindfully live in the present moment.


This week, stick to your process, not discarding it. Focus on your process of development, not discarding it for a new machine quickly when adversity hits.


Enjoy the week and grow every day.


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The MOST Important Japanese Word

Creating an environment where everyone can grow, develop and ultimately achieve is the goal of every, parent, teacher, coach, and leader. An environment that promotes performing outside of our comfort zone is essential to growth and development. This is difficult in the American Society that is based solely on winners and losers, rather than development.


The development mindset is commonplace in Asian culture. The cultures of the Far East value pushing each other to take risks and improve weaknesses. In the Far East, there is a focus on improving a weakness and persisting through the agony with patience and dignity.   The word that is used in the Japanese language for this concept is “gaman.”


Many people outside of the Japanese culture view this as introverted, reserved and showing no emotion, however in the Japanese society it is considered a show of strength in the way they attack a weakness or endure the suffering that comes with this in their development.


In their book, The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman reported the term, gaman, when it is loosely translated means, “keep trying.” In Far Eastern cultures, it is expected that you keep trying and learning as you endure and persist through any agony with patience and dignity.


Build on a weakness this week. Keep trying, endure, and persist through your struggles, for those that win are likely those that continue on the longest.

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Maintaining the Mission

“Every mission constitutes a pledge of duty.  Every man is bound to consecrate his every faculty to its fulfillment.  He will derive his rule of action from the profound conviction of that duty.”

 – William Lloyd Garrison, Journalist and a founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society

Goals are merely checkpoints on our journey that is our mission. A defined mission provides focus and determination to move forward, enduring setbacks as learning opportunities and successes as springboards. Establishing a mission creates a focus and mindset to be open to opportunities that are available to pursue our mission.

When on a mission, goals are needed, however they are merely checkpoints in this pursuit.

The mission of the Heart of the Competitor is to create the thought process within every individual that they have the ability to become the best they can be. It is about competing with yourself to become 1% better everyday. The Heart of the Competitor maintains the mindset of minuscule improvement over a long period of time, which allows greatness and excellence to be achieved.

The Heart of the Competitor is not about winning the athletic or competitive lottery; it is about a daily devotion to maintaining positive energy with focus and attention on what can be improved on a daily basis.

It is the purpose of the Heart of the Competitor daily readings to maintain the mindset of marching forward each day. This reinforcement is needed because the world around us will invade our thought process at times and provide doubt and distractions from our mission and goals. It is at these times the Heart of the Competitor is needed the most, to kick those doubts and questions out of our mind and focus on doing what we can to improve on that day.

Commitment from the heart to the mission will direct all of our work to improvement, which will lead to achievement and accomplishment.

Question of the Day:

What have you done to kick the doubts out of your mind and focus on your mission?

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10 Lessons for a Talk with Best-Selling Author Jon Gordon

Thanks to Columbia University Head Baseball Coach and good friend, Brett Boretti, this past week, I had an amazing opportunity to hear best-selling author Jon Gordon speak to the Columbia University Baseball and Women’s Lacrosse teams.  Jon Gordon’s book The Energy Bus jumpstarted my thoughts and beliefs in building the Community of Competitors as a goal in my life.

The following are ten pieces from Jon’s talk:

  1. Culture drives a team to achieve.

Teams achieve great things as a result of the culture they build.  A culture of teamwork and positivity will drive the habits that produce daily energy and progress.

  1. Goals do not take you anywhere.

Goals are great to have and we all need them, however a commitment to the process of improving is what moves us and takes us to great experiences and achievement.

  1. Optimism is a competitive advantage.

Teams and individuals that maintain a positive outlook work harder and achieve more.  Optimists believe their hard work will pay off.

  1. We are being refined, not defined.

Optimists are not defined by their failures; they are refined by their failures.  They take the lessons learned from a failure and refine their thought process or actions improve.

  1. Visualize the outcome and focus on the Process.

Champions love to visualize and feel the dog pile of a championship, however true competitive champions know the process is what drives the progress and allows championships to be achieved.

  1. Distractions are the enemy of greatness.

Like the great scientists who have made discoveries with Microscopes, great teams can zoom focus on the task at hand and what is needed to get 1% better everyday.

  1. You do not have to be great to serve, but you have to serve to be great.

Great competitors and leaders are always serving and looking for what they can do for others.

  1. When you know your why, you know your way.

When you have a purpose in life, you will find a way to make things happen.

  1. I am not who I am.  I am who I am becoming.

We are always learning, always gaining experience.  We are being molded into the great competitors we can become.

  1. We cannot choose the events in our life, but we can choose our response.

We are born to be great.  Greatness is achieved because we are able to respond in a positive way to every setback and success in our life.

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Peace through Ignoring


What has come into your life and distracted you from achieving a goal?

What can you IGNORE?

When everything in my life pointed me to the word GROWTH for 2015, I was not sure what to expect, but I knew that I was being called to grow. After two plus weeks of 2015, I am realizing why the word GROWTH was chosen for me. GROWTH was chosen for me because in order to grow we must do less; and doing less for me meant doing less in the area of those things that I felt have pulled me away from my purpose in life.

As I shared two weeks ago, my mess is now my message. The goal for the Heart of a Competitor is to develop deep within our soul and inner being a desire to continually work to become better, that we can compete against our self. The first competition I have had this year with myself was to remove the Facebook and Twitter Apps from my iPhone, a sort of “Digital Detox.” This has been mightily successful and increased my efficiency ten-fold. Having these apps at my fingertips had created a dependency that I did not like and was not conducive to achieving the goal of completing the 1 Year March to the Heart of a Competitor.

Have I eliminated using the social media and social networking tools from my toolbox?

No. However, I have become extremely efficient at using Facebook and Twitter. I am now allotted 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening to check these various social networks. I am still able to maintain a social presence and respond as needed to the conversations that continue in these areas.  In fact, the number of likes, favorites, comments, and retweets related to my social media presence has increased since I instituted this into my routine.

My “Digital Detox” was inspired while reading Timothy Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek. In this book is the following quote from Robert Sawyer:

Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.”

Ignoring the notifications, distractions, and constant communication society insists we maintain is difficult, however, is totally necessary in developing and maintaining the Heart of a Competitor.

What is in your life that you can begin to ignore?

Ignorance is bliss.

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Learning From a Mess

This is a great time in the year.  It is the first full week of a new year and everyone is excited to start anew on their New Year’s resolutions, goals, or live out their word for the year.  Building on last week, when we mapped out the importance of our routine of self-development and reading 15 minutes a day, I wanted to let you know about the first book that I read in 2015, The Hinge by Dr. Rob Bell.  I loved the way Dr. Bell set-up the book and provided numerous stories of people demonstrating mental toughness and the aspects that make-up mental toughness.  There is one specific piece of this book that hit home for me and it is the following quote:

“Our mess becomes our message.”

As I reflect on my life as a competitor, a coach, the work I am doing now, my mess has definitely become my message.  As a young player, I did not have the mental toughness, self-control, and faith in my abilities to perform at my peak.  There was always a doubt in my mind that I could compete with those that I was against.

This mindset carried over into coaching, always looking at what other coaches were doing and comparing myself to them.  This created the feeling that I needed to win each game because that would prove that I was better.  This is a true definition of a fixed mindset.  This did not mean that I was less than successful, just always pushing.  In December of 2005, I was fortunate enough to be named the Head Baseball Coach at Millersville University, achieving a goal, to be a Head College Baseball Coach.  This was the beginning of my mess, but is now an integral part of my message.  I ended up spending two LONG years at Millersville, with many factors that led to us losing 37 games in 2007.  Experiencing these 37 losses was the toughest thing to endure, but has been the biggest blessing, focusing my mindset on development and improvement rather than the worldly pursuit of wins and losses.

This mess has led me to the message of the Heart of the Competitor, a 1 Year Daily reader that will be completed in the near future to impact the lives of all the competitors out there.  In the next couple of newsletters, I will be providing a glimpse into the Heart of the Competitor.

You are signed up for this weekly Community of Competitors newsletter because you are a part of a group of people that want to get better.  As we approach the first full week of 2015, enjoy the day and grow in any way possible, knowing that your mess, even a mess of a number of losses, can become your message.

Yours in the fight,

Jeff Swarr

I would love to come share my message (mess) with your team in the New Year and my calendar is filling up for 2015.  Email me or give me a call at 717-917-8409.

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Pride: The 1 Secret to Alabama’s Success

Pride permeates through every aspect of the competitor’s life. Pride in every effort and every endeavor the competitor undertakes, no matter how small it may seem at the time. Pride is doing the best that you can do to become the best that you can become. Imagine placing a sign on the front of your jersey that says the Heart of a Competitor is behind this jersey. That is what you are doing everyday.  (Watch this Nick Saban Press Conference and you will understand the Jersey reference.)

“There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.”

 – John Maxwell, Writer and Leadership Consultant


To accomplish a goal and to demonstrate excellence in any field a competitor must have pride in their work and pride in their heart. For a competitor, pride can take on many forms, but best-selling author and speaker, John Maxwell, mentions the most important part of pride above there must be dignity and self-respect. The Heart of the Competitor has the dignity and self-respect inwardly that forces them to pay attention to every small and seemingly inconsequential detail. Pride is the reason the baseball team hustles on and off the field. Pride is the reason the football team hands the ball back to the official, so preparation for the next play can occur. Pride is the reason the team walks together in lines of two coming off the bus to the field.


On the other side of the pride coin is the bad pride that seemingly seeps into some competitor’s lives. This is the “bad pride” that is evident when certain competitors walk like they have never done anything wrong. It is not the confident or successful strut, it is the “arrogant” and “I am too good for that” attitude that radiates from their body. The arrogant individual that never helps pick-up equipment or the individual that jogs to the next station. This has no part in the Heart of the Competitor, for the Heart of the Competitor is always asking what else they can do to help themselves and help the team.


Coaches and players that have experienced success at a young age must fight the “bad pride.” Those that experience success in the form of wins and losses at a young age have a tendency to develop the “show up and win” attitude that reeks of conceit and arrogance. The players that have to work at the craft develop the Heart of the Competitor because they have always had to fight and prove their will can defeat an opponent’s skill.


How have you evidenced “good pride”? How will you evidence “good pride”? (What have you done to show self-respect and dignity toward your craft?)

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Determined to Create a Masterpiece


“An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.”

 – Thomas Fuller, Author and Historian

Determination is not based on one action or one situation. Determination does not occur for an instant and fade into the background. Determination extends over a long period of time and pushes the competitor to accomplish great things. These great accomplishments are works of art that take focus and attention to create. According to legend, it took Leonardo Da Vinci four years to create and complete the Mona Lisa.


Determination is the commitment to the process over a long period of time. Da Vinci was determined to create a masterpiece and he did. He created a masterpiece that has been around for over 500 years. This invincible determination allowed Da Vinci to be an exceptional artist.


The Heart of the Competitor maintains their determination over a long period of time. They expect there to be bumps in the road that will require persistence and action. Any fear that is experienced is a bump in the road; any failure that is experienced is a turn on the road that is the journey. The true Heart of the Competitor keeps the gas pedal pushed down and consistently keeps the car moving forward. This is determination.


Today, choose to be determined that one action, one situation will not define you as a competitor, realizing that it is a daily occurrence over a long period of time, that demonstrates the invincible determination that allows great things to occur and be accomplished.


Question of the Day:

 What are you doing on a daily basis that will allow you to accomplish something great four or more years from now?

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3 Reasons to take the Leap of Faith

An amazing story of taking risks early in life was aired on the BBC in October. It is the story of the Barnacle gosling.  Check out the 2 Minute Video  on the BBC Page.

 Barnacle Gosling’s Leap of Faith 

Barnacle geese need to nest their eggs high up on a cliff, so they are protected from predators, specifically the Arctic Fox. Shortly after birth, hatching form the comfort of the eggshell, these newly hatched goslings are called upon to take a nearly 4oo foot plunge.


Their parents, specifically the mother, urge these newborn goslings on to take the “Leap of Faith.”


These young goslings inherit a trait to follow their mother anywhere, but they are still reluctant to jump of this cliff.   The filmmakers noted the goslings may take 30 minutes to half a day to muster up the courage to take their Leap of Faith.


What can we learn from the Barnacle Geese?

  1. Encourage our offspring to take the Leap of Faith.

As a parent of two young boys, we are always concerned about their safety and this is warranted, however, they need to be pushed to take the Leap of Faith and jump at opportunity when it arises. The Leap of Faith is where the great experiences occur in our lives.

  1. When you take the Leap of Faith, how you land decides your fate.

The Barnacle gosling is unable to fly, but they can glide. This gliding allows them to land on their bellies and absorb the impact. The courage to take a Leap of Faith allows new experiences, new learning for all of us. When taking the Leap of Faith, like the Barnacle gosling, we will fall, but is how we land that will decide our fate.

  1. Staying put allows your predators will gobble you up.

Arctic foxes will eat the Barnacle goslings that do not take a Leap of Faith. Waiting around to do something allows others to get ahead, to surpass you. Someday is not a deadline for accomplishing or doing something, someday is not a date on the calendar.

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Are you Focusing on the Process?

“There is nothing either good or bad except that thinking makes it so.”

 – Dr. David Schwartz in his book, The Magic of Thinking Big

Understanding that life is a process is a huge step in the development of the Heart of the Competitor. A competitor is accustomed to keeping score. Keeping score begins early in life. Parents compare their children in their timing of reaching developmental milestones, like walking, talking, potty-training, and the list can go on. Since true competition is with yourself, the Heart of the Competitor understands true development is consistent improvement. Instead of comparing milestones, to see if something is wrong, even the parent with the Heart of a Competitor enjoys the process that is getting their child to be potty-trained, to walk, to talk, and reach the other important developmental milestones in its’ life.


The viewpoint of daily development is a battle that must be fought against the world’s view of competition. The world views competition as a defined outcome or result, for if we have a defined outcome or result, either you met the outcome or result and you are a WINNER, or you are a loser because you failed to achieve the desired outcome or result.


Review Dr. Schwartz’s quote above. There is no good or bad, just the thought process and thinking that makes an experience good or bad. The world has trained people to think they need to view something as good or bad. The Heart of the Competitor refuses to be drawn into this limited view and understands that nothing is good or bad, it just is. This view allows the Competitor to accept their current state, observe what has occurred, and focus on the process of improvement.


Question of the Day:

What can you do to remind yourself the process of developing and improving is the ultimate goal and that an event in your life just “is”?