Mental Toughness

What Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll Can Teach You About Building Positive Company Culture

This article was originally published on, which can be found here. 

It was about six weeks until our first super bowl…Coach Carroll and I were standing in the tunnel at the training facility and he looks at me and says, Do you feel it? Do you feel what’s happening here? Dr. Gervais nods and says “It’s Amazing….god it feels good around here.” People are deeply optimistic, looking forward to the future, handling adversity well… there was a great togetherness that was taking place.

What Dr. Gervais is describing is the incredible culture that Coach Carroll has created since taking over as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. Dr. Michael Gervais is a high-performance sports psychologist who has done mental training for olympic champions, the Red Bull jumpman Felix Baumgartner, CEO’s and since 2012 the Seattle Seahawks. In podcast I recently co-hosted with Dr. Gervais, he describes in detail the inner workings of the Seahawks’ culture; here is the full interview.

This article will hopefully answer questions such as:

  • What’s unique about the Seahawks’ culture?
  • How did Coach Carroll build it?
  • How can you apply Coach Carroll’s methodology to your start-up, team or business?

But first, what is culture and why does it matter?

Culture is the shared beliefs and attitudes of the members of a team, or as Benjamin Hardy writes, “culture is a social construct”. Most companies think culture is about rewards v. punishment, titles or salary. While those things are important, culture must tap into a higher level of needs than those of base needs because once base needs are met, they are no longer useful cohesives to keep a team together. Instead, a successful culture taps into what Maslow described as ‘esteem needs.’ Esteem needs are met when one feels a sense of connection and meaning due in part to being a member of a team or group. It’s the step right before self-actualization.

While culture is intangible — you can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and you sure as hell can’t buy it — it can be a competitive differentiator in a big way. On average, organizations can expect 147% higher earnings per share vis-a-vis their peers when employees experience above-average levels of engagement (one measurement of culture).* Other factors, such as retention rate, absenteeism and product quality are all positively affected by a company’s culture.

So we know what culture is, and how freaking important it is. Let’s now dive into 3 tactics for upgrading your team’s culture.

#1 — Develop a Philosophy

There wouldn’t be one person in the [Seattle Seahawks] organization who wouldn’t know the philosophy, and know what it means.

If I asked you, who are you…what do you stand for…what do you believe in, or in short, what is your philosophy? Could you answer it? More importantly, could you answer the question in a sentence or less?

What about your company’s philosophy? Does every person know, word by word, your company’s philosophy and infuse it in everything they do? If not, getting clear and precious on your team’s philosophy is the first step in creating a culture, as it’s the guiding star for every member of the team. It also gives the team members something to fall back on when adversity strikes.

Dr. Gervais said that there wouldn’t be one person in the [Seattle Seahawks] organization who wouldn’t know the philosophy, and know what it means. For Seattle, the philosophy is “Always Compete.” Coach Carroll then goes into detail as to what the philosophy means and how it should be applied.


#2 — Invest in the Person

Coach Carroll puts a heavy emphasis on helping each member of the team be the best that they can possibly be, and from there let’s the rest fall in place.

The second tenet focuses on caring about the people on your team at a deep level — caring about their work and non-work self. Coach Carroll puts a heavy emphasis on helping each member of the team be the best that they can possibly be, and from there let’s the rest fall in place.

So how can we help our team, our employees thrive as individuals?

Dr. Gervais suggests focusing on the three areas within our control — body, mind, and craft — and providing resources to your team to improve each.

Body — this is all about the eating, sleeping, moving. For a professional football team, the focus on body is heightened compared to a company whose team members meet in an office as opposed to a football field. That said, if your team members aren’t healthy, their performance will suffer. Providing stipends for gym memberships is one way to do it, but a more effective way is to lead group workouts, such as a run in the morning three times a week. Doing so brings the team closer and improves fitness levels.

It’s well documented that exercising increases serotonin, which in turn impacts brain function, mood, and impulse control.

Mind — this is where Dr. Gervais helps the Seahawk players with mental training and mindfulness. In short, their sole focus here is increasing the frequency at which each player is able to focus on the present moment. Or, to develop a deep awareness for what’s happening NOW because that is where flow state/ peak state begins, and in turn is where we do our best work. There are a number of ways you can provide resources for your team, such as meditation, imagery (imagining the optimal experience for a given call or meeting), or consider contacting Compete to Create (a firm started by Dr. Gervais and Coach Carroll).

Craft — this is the actual skill-work or technique required to perform one’s job. Each role in the company can be performed at various levels of excellence. To improve an individual’s ability to serve a certain role, we should distill that role into the various micro-skills that comprise the overall skill. For example, in sales the micro-skills could be prospecting, discovery, and negotiation The key here is to keep the micro-skills simple and easy enough for the individual to focus on.

Helping your team improve each of the above three areas — body, mind, craft — tie back to the overall point, which is to care about the development of the person on a deep level, inside and outside of the company. If you put an emphasis on helping each person improve their body, mind and craft, within work and outside or work, you’ll notice a strange occurrence start to take place. The person will be pulled (as opposed to pushed) into doing their role to the best of their ability. They will give it their all because doing so helps the overall group, the overall team, and the connection to the group — due in part to the culture — is everything.


#3 — Creativity

If you don’t spend time each day creating ideas, your idea muscle will atrophy.

Creativity boils down to setting aside time for each person to produce ideas to help improve the performance of their role, which in turn helps the broader team. Doing so reinforces the connectedness one has to the culture. It also reinforces the meaning one feels towards the culture.

James Altucher is known for his thoughts on flexing our idea muscle. In short, your idea muscle is just like any other muscle. If you don’t spend time each day creating ideas, your idea muscle will atrophy.

How can we put this to use in the business world? It depends on the role, but one idea is to have each person set aside time each day or week to create 10 ideas that will move X forward. What is X? If you are in sales, it could mean creating 10 ideas to move a given deal forward, or 10 ideas to penetrate a new account. If you are in product, it could be 10 ideas for new features. Tailor the idea session to the role, and lead from the front by sharing your 10 ideas with the team.

Here is a podcast with James where he describes in detail his ritual for creating ideas.

To connect the dots, Coach Carroll created a culture in Seattle that enables the players on the team to feel deeply connected to the group and derive meaning from being in the group. He does this by having a clear philosophy that guides everything the team does, cares about the person inside and outside of football, and creates an environment where the players can be themselves.

I’d love to hear any suggestions or feedback for how you’ve created a winning culture at your organization.

* The State of the American Workplace, 2017, Gallup.

About the author:

Ryan Warner (@Ryan_N_Warner) is the co-host of TR Talk Podcast, which interviews leaders in their fields to learn how millennials can fastrack their personal development. Guests have included former NFL players, NBA champions, Olympic gold medalists, CEO’s, and New York Times best sellers. Ryan is also an account executive on Salesforce’s financial services team. You can subscribe to the podcast here and connect with Ryan through the following channels.

RyanWarner.Net | LinkedIn | Medium | Instagram


[This article was originally published on Trail and Ultra Running blog, which you can find here.]

Courtney Dauwalter needs no introduction in the ultramarathon world.  Most recently she won the Moab 240 in 57 hours 55 minutes. Courtney joined a podcast that I co-host and we went DEEP into the mental side of her running game.

Her mental toughness and ability to push through physical pain are unbelievable, so I felt compelled to share the three takeaways from our conversation with Courtney.  The way I see it, if we can adopt any one of the three bullets into our running game, we will be better off because of it.


This nomenclature is nothing new in the running world, but we have to take a step back to understand why this is important to Courtney. More than any person I’ve hosted on the podcast, Courtney has a curiosity to see how far we can push the body and brain. She’s adamant that the combination of the body and brain working together is a source of unlimited potential, but to tap into that potential we must seek states of pain or uncomfortableness.  Courtney’s medium is running insane distances at an unbelievable pace, such as beating the second place finisher in Moab by over 10 hours.

Don’t give yourself excuses or reasons to quit, invest all of your energy and time on a given task, and you’ll be amazed at the results, says Courtney.


A month before Moab, Courtney won the Run Rabbit Run race, completing the final 12 miles while blind due to a case of corneal edema.  With 12 miles left in the race, deep in the Rockies, we asked Courtney why she didn’t simply stop and her answer was simple: “Stopping didn’t cross my mind…what is stopping going to do for me?” The realization that Courtney’s response is a metaphor for life didn’t hit me until a few days after the interview.  

While one’s definition of success changes from person to person, failure is always defined as the inability to reach one’s goal. The reality is that most people quit right before they tap into their definition of success. In a race, or in life, we never know how close we are to our goal unless we continue to push and take the next step. Courtney experiences low points throughout a race just like the rest of us, but her determination to continue moving forward is absolute.  It’s amazing to see what humans are capable of when their conviction and belief are laser focused on a given task.

Think of what we could do if we simply refused to stop or quit, no matter what obstacles are thrown at us, such as blindness during a race.


238 miles is a daunting distance to run, and focusing on the entirety of the race can be crippling. To avoid being bogged down mentally, Courtney focuses only on the section of the race where she finds herself and savors the experience of the run. Sport psychologist Michael Gervais refers to this as being “on time” or experiencing flow state – you know the feeling, when the game or run seems to slow down and opens-up before your eyes.  

I’m convinced that Courtney’s ability to live in the now and ignore past sections or the miles ahead, is one of the reasons she can push through even the lowest points of a run.  Focusing on the now removes a ton of emotional baggage, and frees-up Courtney’s mind to push through those low moments of the race.

Thank you for reading! If you’d like to listen to the full podcast interview (30 minutes), click here.

The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Search “TR Talk” and scroll to episode 15. If you would like to recommend guests for upcoming episodes, leave a comment and we’ll do our best to bring those folks onto the show.

About the author

Ryan Warner (@Ryan_N_Warner) is the co-host of TR Talk Podcast, which interviews leaders in their field to learn how millennials can make an impact in today’s operating environment.  Former guests have included CEO’s, sports psychologists, New York Times best sellers, self-help gurus, and former/current professional athletes. If you want to support the podcast, have a listen and feel free to recommend guests in the comments below. Contact: Website.

Win the Morning, Win the Day: the 5 Elements of a Morning Routine

[This article was originally published on Quotable, which can be found here.]

“Win the morning, win the day.” Tim Ferriss

Three months after college, I had a haphazard morning routine. No structure, no routine, and when I hurried into the office I was nowhere near ready mentally to win the day — which is key in B2B tech sales. My results suffered, and after two months of missing the mark, I read everything I could on how business leaders, sales leaders, and professional athletes start their day.

There are numerous ways to structure a morning routine (and well over 100 articles authored on the topic), but for field account executives such as my colleagues and me, the five elements below are the most useful. The key to incorporating each element into your morning routine is consistency, so if it helps, start with one theme and add another each week.

  1. Wake up early. Early to some, such as former Navy Seal instructor and best-selling author Jocko Willink, means 4:30 a.m. Sales thought leader Anthony Iannarino also wakes up at 4:30 a.m. (an interview with Anthony on his morning routine can be found here). Waking up early has been shown to increase performance, and is correlated with having a healthier diet. It also gives one a mental edge over the competition. I personally wake up at 5 a.m., as it allows me to catch a minimum of seven hours of sleep (assuming you hit the hay at 10 p.m. or earlier) — which is the absolute minimum for me — and complete steps 2–5 below, and still make it to the office by 7 a.m.

  2. Make your bed. I’ll admit, this seems tedious, but as former Admiral William McRaven famously said, “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do another task and yet another. And, if you happen to have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that you made and this will give you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.” The first thing I do after waking up is make my bed.

  3. Work out. This could include yoga, running, hitting the gym, or doing a class. By working out in the morning, you are joining the likes of Howard Schultz, who goes for a long bike ride shortly after waking up; Jack Dorsey, who runs six miles every morning; and Tim Cook, who is in the gym six days a week. If I’m working out of the office, my workout routine consists of four kettlebell-circuit workouts (comprised of 20 minutes of continuous movement with a 35-lb. kettlebell), and one day of yoga. On the off days, I like to stretch for approximately 10 minutes to stay loose. If I’m on the road, the tried-and-true 30 seconds of sprinting and 60 seconds of mild pace on the elliptical is my go-to, followed by body-weight exercises.

  4. Meditate. Growing up in a rural, farming community in Western Illinois, meditation is a word one hears sparingly. However, after reading that meditation changed the life of the billionaire Ray Dalio, I started incorporating meditation into my morning routine. Even if it’s 10 minutes or less, meditating gives one time to reflect on goals, priorities for the day, and gratitude. I’ve found that a 5–10 minute timed meditation session on Calm is the most effective, as this app provides background noise, as opposed to Headspace, which is completely silent for the most part (in pure silence, my monkey mind wonders). Both are great apps and highly recommended.

  5. Put pen to paper. Get a journal and write down your sales goals and any other distracting thoughts that have permeated for a few days. Wade Burgess, a former LinkedIn executive and CEO of Shiftgig, uses a “roles and goals” methodology when journaling, where he sets tangible, weekly goals for each role he fulfills (father, husband, CEO, and others). For the full breakdown of Wade’s roles-and-goals practice, skip to minute 13 of this podcast with Wade(episode 14). I’ve also authored a blog on how I structure my journal.

This list is by no means all-encompassing. However, these five points have had a strong impact on my sales career and the careers of many others. What does your morning routine look like?

Dream Kit: Courtney Dauwalter’s Moab 240 Head-To-Toe Gear

[This article was originally published on, which you can see here. ]

Running 240 miles is no easy feat. Doing it faster than anyone ever had before is otherworldly. We interviewed Courtney Dauwalter and got the scoop on the gear she used during her record-setting run.

Fifty-eight hours on foot takes a toll. Recently, I hosted Dauwalter on my podcast, TR Talk. Being a gear junkie, I had to know the nitty-gritty details of the equipment Dauwalter used to cross the Moab Desert.

Dauwalter won the Moab 240 in October with a dominant 10-plus-hour delta over the second place finisher. The course wound itself along the Colorado River in southeastern Utah.

It crossed into Canyonlands National Park and through the Abajo and La Sal mountain ranges. She completed the run in 2 days, 9 hours, and 59 minutes, ascending 29,467 feet along the way.

Moab 240 Dream Kit

In total, Dauwalter used 14 pieces of equipment during the race. Note: Salomon sponsored the Moab 240 and also sponsors Dauwalter. Thus, she largely uses gear from the brand. But her choices give some direction to ultrarunners shopping for new kit.

One segment of the Moab 240 course

  • Shoes: Salomon Sense Ride. Dauwalter said she wore one pair for the whole race.
  • Socks: Injinji Lightweight Run Crew. She loves these because they prevent blisters.
  • Hydration pack: Salomon Advanced Skin 5.  This pack provides lots of room for bottles and gear and the ability to attach her poles to the pack. Dauwalter carries 2.5 liters of water between aid stations.
  • Shirt: Salomon men’s t-shirt. Dauwalter is known for wearing a baggy running shirt, which she says is all about comfort. When running 238 miles, comfort comes first.
  • Shorts: Salomon men’s shorts. She is a big fan of the Pulse model. Similar to the t-shirt, Dauwalter’s decision to wear men’s shorts is all about comfort.
  • Windbreaker / Rain jacket: Salomon Bonatti Pro and S/Lab LIGHTare her go-to’s for wind and rain. She carried both with her during the run and would pick up both from her crew in the afternoon before a long break between aid stations.
  • Fuel: Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel. In addition to Tailwind, Dauwalter also drinks Gatorade during the race to replenish electrolytes.
  • Food: Honey Stinger energy chews and waffles. Her favorites are the pink lemonade energy chews and both the vanilla- and honey-flavored waffles.
  • Entertainment: iPod Shuffle with Michael Jackson pre-loaded.Dauwalter spent around 150 miles of the race alone, using the iPod for a mental boost when needed.
  • Mittens and stocking hat: nothing crazy here. Basic off-the-shelf gloves and hat that she could throw away if needed.
  • Emergency blanket. Fortunately, Dauwalter didn’t need to use this during the run but had it with her in case she needed to make an emergency stop in the night and stay warm.
  • Headlamp. Just as she did with the mittens and stocking hat, Dauwalter used a standard headlamp for night portions of the run.

It’s worth noting that Dauwalter would meet her crew in the afternoon so that she could load up with the mittens, hat, and layers, as evening temperatures dropped to 9 degrees F – as if the race wasn’t hard enough already!

Dauwalter’s mental toughness is incredible. After talking with Dauwalter a week ago, we are fired up and ready to train. The full podcast is available here and also on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play.

Ryan Warner (@Ryan_N_Warner) is the co-host of TR Talk Podcast, which interviews leaders in their field to learn how millennials can make an impact in today’s operating environment. Former guests have included CEOs, sports psychologists, New York Times bestsellers, self-help gurus, and former / current professional athletes. If you want to support the podcast, have a listen and feel free to recommend guests in the comments below. Contact Warner online here.