By Scott Westerman
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“You are today where your thoughts brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” ~James Allen

“You’ll get there a lot faster if you recruit some accountability buddies!”~Yours Truly

Oh how hard it is to turn thoughts into actions. Earl Nightingale’s famous maxim, “We become what we think about,” is one of the great philosophical truths of the age. But in some cases, turning thoughts into actions can be a challenge, especially if those actions require us to step outside our comfort zone and expose ourselves to discomfort.

Maintaining a commitment to health and fitness is right up there on that list. I’m so proud of how my wife makes it out of bed every morning at 5AM to keep her appointments at the gym. As the mileage has piled on to my own body, it’s become harder and harder to answer that alarm, let alone lace up the running shoes.

How do you turn those productive thoughts into sustainable actions?

Get some help!

Our fitness journey began when we hired personal trainers. Knowing we would have to pay someone, whether or not we showed up was a pretty darn good motivator. And in every endeavor, having an accountability buddy can keep you on track.

This is why we have one-on-ones with our boss at work. It’s part of the reason we check in with our parents and children. Sure we love hearing their voices, but we also are excited to hear about their latest adventures; the thoughts they have turned into action.

Elite athletes retain a cadre of coaches, experts in the honing of mind, body and spirit in the direction of victory. And you’re no different. Don’t your dreams deserve the best possible support system to help them come true?

Here’s an exercise for the forthcoming week: Think of one of those goals you’ve had on your mind for some time. You may already be taking concrete steps in the direction of achieving it. Pull out that pen and legal pad I recommend keeping nearby at all times and write down the names of at least two people who can help you move more deliberately to take your actions to the next level.

Call them and recruit them as your accountability buddies. Tell them what you expect to do and explore how they can help you stay focused. Some people I know write this down as an agreement. Do whatever works best for you. Create the plan. Your buddy’s role is to make sure you follow it.

Carefully monitor the inputs you allow into your brain. They become your thoughts.
Carefully consider each and every thought. They become actions.
Deliberately ponder what knowledge, resources and people you need to bring into your life. These are the things that can turn actions into the habits that ultimately morph into achievements.

With purpose and passion you will realize that you are destined to do great things. Recruit some accountability buddies to help you do them. They’ll end up being the first people you invite to your victory party.

Have a great week!

Feedback always welcome to


Building Mental Toughness

On October 2, 2016, in The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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What is the single greatest factor that can help you face any challenge and take major steps in the direction of any goal? Mental toughness. But what is it? And how can we integrate it into our daily life?

Former Navy Seal, Mark Divine, writes that mental toughness is a skill set that can be learned. In his book Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level, Mark breaks it down into four ideas, micro-goals, breathing, positivity, and visualization.[1] Let’s explore each in turn.

Micro-Goals involve compartmentalizing your goals into short time frames, “allowing you to create a series of short-term victories.[2]” This is a corollary to Davis Allen’s Two Minute Rule[3], the concept we introduced on June 8th.
• The simple art of mindful breathing is one of the most under rated tools available to build mental toughness. The practice of Box Breathing is a simple method to harness its power. And all you have to remember is the number “4”. Breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4.
• The elements of positivity are: Courage, Trust, Acceptance and Forgiveness. It may feel like acceptance and forgiveness don’t fit into a definition of toughness, but they are essential to manifesting it.
• And finally, Visualization: Our brains are analogous to the flight simulators pilots use to practice for every possible situation. And visualization is how they are programmed. A.J. LeVan, writing in Psychology Today says, “Brain studies.. reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions.[4]” It possible to program your conscious mind for an outcome, pre-playing future events.

Like every skill, mental toughness can be learned through regular repetition of the habits that manifest it. And it’s well worth the work. Creating a mental toughness mindset will give you the capacity to stay centered when the going gets rough, paraphrasing Kipling, “to keep your head when everybody else is losing theirs.”

This is the place where leaders emerge, breakthroughs occur and excellence lives.

[1] Divine, Mark (2014-01-02). Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level (p. 139). Mark Divine. Kindle Edition.
[2] Divine, Mark (2014-01-02). Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level (p. 101). Mark Divine. Kindle Edition.
[3] Clear, James, “How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the ‘Two-Minute Rule’, Posted 5/29/13 –
[4] LeVan, A.J. (2009-12–03) Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization


The Unknown Zone

On October 2, 2016, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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“Discovering the next chapters in our adventure stories are often hard because we only know what came before.”

The memories that Facebook serves up via their “On This Day” page can be at once both joyful and sobering. On any given date, I can look back over the last eight years and be reminded of the highs and lows.

A friend recently commented on this, noting that a few short years ago, she was struggling in a job she didn’t enjoy. Whereas today, she’s living the dream, feeling professionally fulfilled and happy within a corporate culture that is in sync with her values.

Back then she was living in “The Unknown Zone”. The current reality wasn’t working. And future prospects were far from clear.

How many of us are in The Unknown Zone right now?

Even in the most ideal of circumstances, there can be a daily second-guessing exercise. There’s a dark voice in every subconscious that may be wondering if the good things in the now are too good to last. If you are wrestling with a change in direction, that voice may question whether you have the ability to do it. Add in some outside stimuli, negative feedback, unexpected events, debt, kids, parents, health issues, even success, and it can feel like you’re being pulled into a rip current, toward a sea full of sharks. The vortex of The Unknown Zone.

In these moments of uncertainty it can be hard to trust that things will work out. The reality is that they will, if you can focus your energy in the right directions. Here is a prescription for navigating The Unknown Zone:

  • You will get what you expect. So expect the best.
  • You will become what you think about. So keep an eye on what you allow into your mind.
  • Your life has a purpose. You were put here to do good things. Figuring out what and how is an ever evolving, lifelong game. Endeavor to play it well.
  • You are not alone. You deserve to be surrounded by good people who will build you up when you need it and recenter you when you deserve it. Some not-so-good people will also cross your path. Embrace and nurture mutually beneficial relationships. Gently let go of everything else.
  • You will experience both highs and lows. Both are temporary and will pass. How you handle them will determine the extent of your joy and pain.
  • Attachment is the root of all suffering. If you’re not feeling good about something, ask yourself what attachments may be connected to it.
  • Everything that happens to you is a teachable moment. Learn from these moments and never stop learning.
  • As the great sales trainer, Tom Hopkins, once wrote, “We are not judged by the number of times we fail, but by the number of times we succeed. And the number of times we succeed is directly proportional to the number of times we can fail… and keep trying.” See your failures as the golden gifts of enlightenment they can be. Learn from them and get back in the game.
  • Have faith in the universal law of cause and effect. Make your causes the best they can be and equally beneficial effects are inevitable.

Discovering the next chapters in our adventure stories are often hard because we only know what came before. Painful past experience, fear and resistance can keep us inside the Unknown Zone. These things keep many of us from writing new chapters that can turn the plot of our lives toward a thrilling tale of courage and accomplishment.

You may not always be able to control the events that make up your past. But you and only you will always be the author of your future.

Make it a good one!

Feedback always welcome to



On September 25, 2016, in Monday Motivator, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
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“There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” Unknown

One of my favorite success quotes is attributed to the actress Mae West. “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.”

We live in a world where people are increasingly choosing careers that suit a 9 to 5 schedule. Gen Y kids are said to switch jobs in a heartbeat, if it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. And everybody knows about the uncomfortably high divorce rate.

In the elite world of high performance you always need to be on your A-game. The difference between leading the field and getting stuck in the pack is the work you’re willing to do on the extra mile.

It’s easily forgotten that the single most important behavior that leads to achievement is commitment.

“Unless commitment is made,” said management guru Peter F. Drucker, “there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”

My mentor, Jim Collins of Good to Great fame, writes, “The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step.”

Jim’s words remind us that the habit of excellence is based on the foundation of commitment.

Commitment is taking the time to figure out what happiness really means.
Commitment is due diligence before decision.
Commitment is an inoculation against distraction.
Commitment on both sides is the steel that forges a lasting relationship.
Commitment refines and transforms dreams as they come closer to reality.
Commitment is malleable but unbreakable.
Commitment overcomes fear.
Commitment repels negativity.
Commitment is the fuel that recharges energy.

How many of these definitions fit your outlook, your goals, your behavior?

When NBA hall-of-famer Earvin Johnson used to come by WVIC in the days when we were both in East Lansing, it was clear, even then, that Magic was focused. “I was able to see what I wanted to do,” he wrote later. “I could see the opportunity, even when others could not. I stay committed to doing it and doing it well, no matter what.”

How about you? How do you feel today about that central dream that drives you?

If we expect excellence, we tend find it. But, like all things in life, it has a way of being attracted to people who are committed to it.

Have a great week!

Feedback welcome to or @MSUScottW on Twitter.


The Ever Present Past

On September 18, 2016, in The Pass It On Podcast, The WestermaNation, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman

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Scott’s Maxim: “Most of our bad juju is self created and a result of continuing to think about what we might have done, instead of what we still can do.”

Class reunions are a time for reconnection and reflection. As the years pass, people grow and change. Many of the people we knew during high school and college end up leading very different lives than we expected. Your popularity then doesn’t guarantee your happiness now. Outcasts and introverts can blossom. The “most likely to succeed” sometimes don’t.

Memories inevitably flood back as you recognize now unfamiliar faces you used to know. And if they open up to you about their adventures, regret may creep into the conversation.

What’s keeping you up at night? That’s on the short list of questions I ask alumni whenever we are one on one. Almost always the answers end up being about things that might happen and things that have already happened.

Worrying about the future is useful only to the extent that we channel that energy into productive activities that influence positive outcomes.

Worrying about the past is a total waste of time.

Wise sentiments. Now, if we could just convince ourselves to believe them.

The “ever present past” keeps us from living in the now. We relive past mistakes, things we wish we had not said or done, missed opportunities, hearts we have broken, people we offended, anger felt toward those who have hurt us. And not just what happened yesterday. Many of us are still paying penance for things we did years ago.

This is wasted energy.

Life eventually marks us all as damaged goods. Since we become what we think about, focusing on what might have been, or worrying about what might be can cement self fulfilling prophecies. The most productive thoughts are centered in the now. What will you do today to take one step in the direction of being the person you hope to become?

The happiest people is see at class reunions are those who have come to terms with their past, accept the realities of their current situation and are executing a plan to get happier.

If you have lost something important, find something else that fills the void in a healthy way. If you screwed up, learn from it. If you hurt someone, apologize. Then, let it go.

Easier said than done. But we only have so much time and our energy reserves are finite. Every moment you spend thinking about the past, or worrying about what might be, is a present moment lost.

And life happens in the present.

Have a great week!

Feedback welcome via



Keep Breathing

On September 11, 2016, in The WestermaNation, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
Do you know someone who seems to love to wallow in self pity? There are people out there who thrive on unhappiness. Most of them don’t do it intentionally, but they like nothing better than a good audience to listen to them tell you how horrible their life is. And boy, can they tell the story. They weave a tale of woe that could depress the most positive thinking motivational speaker.

Here’s a fact of life: Sometimes life will suck. Bad things happen to good people and good things sometimes happen to bad people. Just don’t get attached to the “suckyness”. At times like these I often think of the parable about the student and the master.

“I’m having a terrible day,” said the student.

“Keep breathing. It will pass,” said the master.

The student did as he was taught and within a few days he found himself enveloped in warm feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

“I did what you said, and today I feel wonderful,” said the student.

“Keep breathing. It will pass,” said the master.

“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be,” writes Cheryl Strayed in her book book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. “Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

I would add this: Acceptance may sometimes feel like an empty room. But If we keep our hearts open, something magical ultimately walks into that room to fill the void.

“In the end,” writes Jack Kornfield, “just three things matter: How well we have lived, how well we have loved, and how well we have learned to let go”

When you must do things you don’t enjoy, do them to the best of your ability, have faith that with determination and practice you will discover a path that suits you, and understand that all things.. both good and bad.. are temporary.

Happiness is nothing more than a state of mind you choose to manifest. So is suffering.

Do your best to manifest good things. Be prepared to ride out the inevitable storms with courage and grace.

And whatever your current situation, always remember that nothing ever stays the same for very long.

Keep breathing, it will pass.


Living in The Now

On September 4, 2016, in Monday Motivator, Spartanology, The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
It’s easy to peer into the unknown and worry, to look in the rearview mirror and regret.

We can become paralyzed if we imagine some inevitable future pain we must endure, fearing that traumatic scars, real or imagined will damage us beyond recognition. We sometimes choose to give up on a dream, rather than risk the heartbreak inherent in the inevitable failures that show us the way to making them come true.

How can some people find seemingly unending reserves of energy and courage to try again and again, even as an objective mind tries to convince a subjective heart to give up?

The Swiss Psychiatrist, Carl Jung, challenges us to remember, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”

Those choices can make all the difference.

Continue reading »


Chasing Happiness

On August 29, 2016, in The Pass It On Podcast, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman

From 2012, here’s one of my most requested messages about, defining, bracketing and “chasing happiness”. It’s a good shot in the arm for anyone starting something new, or perhaps assessing the current chapter you’re writing right now in this great adventure we call life.

“In essence, our lives are about defining, bracketing and chasing… Happiness.”

(From my keynote at the 2012 Choices Conference in Grand Rapids.)  As I write this I’m freshly returned from a trip to Asia. 48 hours ago, I was standing on a street corner in the center of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Here you’ll find an example of nearly every nuance in the broad spectrum of humanity. Men and women in $1,200 suits share the same sidewalk with burquas and Nike t-shirts. Every form of commerce is in play here from oil executives and government ministers to prostitutes and peddlers of Rolex knock offs. The obese and the underfed, the well educated and the uneducated, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Confucians and I suppose more than a few atheists, all breathing the same air, existing elbow to elbow.

What, I wondered, do all of these people share in common? When you peel away the Maslow pyramid and get to the essence of these millions of concurrent lives, what is the common question that is in the back of everyone’s mind?

So I decided to find out.

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Mike Sadler’s Six Maxims

On July 31, 2016, in in Memorium, Spartanology, The Spartan Life, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman
MikeSadlerYou learn a lot about a person when they are thrown into the public eye. Notoriety and achievement require a higher standard of behavior built on a firm foundation of character, work ethic and compassion. Such were the elements that defined the all too short life of Mike Sadler.

Mike and I both came to Michigan State University in 2010. I had the opportunity to watch his progression, as an athlete, an academician and as a human being. We often found ourselves in front of the same audiences.

He always spoke of the importance of an education, setting goals that stretched you, doing the hard work to achieve them, cultivating a compassionate heart and taking the road less traveled with fellow travelers who shared your ethical outlook. He also loved to have fun and maintained an insatiable inquisitiveness that turned every challenge in life into a fascinating puzzle to be solved.

A common theme among those who eulogized him was that this young man crammed more living into his four and twenty years than most accomplish in sixty. How did he do it?

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Prioritizing People Who Care

On July 17, 2016, in Monday Motivator, by Scott Westerman

By Scott Westerman

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“Prioritize people who care, in the end they will be the only ones there.”

Giving hearts can be trapped in un-productive relationships. The flip side of compassion can sometimes be a tendency to hang on to someone when you should be letting them go.

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