There are so many great athletes in the world to provide all the inspiration and motivation needed by every aspiring athlete. But we also have to be honest with ourselves that despite all that motivation, not every athlete will become the top 1% and certainly not become a GOAT. But it is with this self-awareness that one should feel encouraged and try to be their best.

I’ve been playing sports and competing for more than half my life (12 out of 21 years to be exact) and even with those 12 competitive years, I’m still trying my best not to suck at the sports I choose to participate in. For certain sports, it could be easy to just put in minimal effort (1-2 years of training) and already be better than 95% of the people around you. But if you want to truly excel, minimal effort can’t bring you to the top 1% of even just the local maximum.

If genetic limitations weren’t a factor, how far would your athletic career take you?

This is one of the questions I like to keep asking myself in my athletic journey. Not taking into consideration the uncontrollable factors in life, am I doing everything I can do to improve and become a better athlete?

I reflect on this question all the time at moments in my career when I feel meaningless and stuck for growth. I think every athlete or aspiring athlete should think about this question and come up with their own strategy on how to hack personal growth and ignore genetic limitations.

Throughout the years, I’ve come up with my own 5 mindsets and reflection points on how to become the best athlete that I can be.

YOU’RE NOT JUST AN ATHLETE

Aside from being a full-time athlete whether you’re in school or working, you have to always remember the other hats that you’re wearing. It’s not that you shouldn’t devote all your time and energy towards becoming a better athlete, but you should always think about the other roles in life that you’re playing. Aside from being the role-model athlete in life, are you also a son, a friend, a mentor, a student?

By taking a step back and thinking about the bigger picture, one that includes your entire life and not just the athletic one, you begin to appreciate and find more meaning for all the efforts that you’re putting into training.

MOTIVATION IS WHAT GETS YOU STARTED, DISCIPLINE IS WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING

We all have those spurts of motivation to do something great or achieve something really ambitious, but it’s really what comes after those spurts of motivation that’s important. And in sports as in life, behind every glamorous and action-packed shot hides thousands of repetitive strokes to master. The gracefulness you see on the court is backed by hours of boring repetitive work that are all behind the scenes and without the discipline to keep on doing these, motivation is useless.

I really like this concept called BBB (short for Boring But Big). It’s something I picked up from strength-training programs where there are these really boring repetitive exercises at low weights that you just have to keep doing for entire training cycles. They are damn boring but yield good results over the long term.

THE 10X RULE

This is a very intense principle that not many people would be able to keep up with but in essence, anyone who wants to excel and surpass his/her competitors should put in 10X the amount of work.

Does it mean that today you’re squatting bodyweight 10×10 and tomorrow you should squat bodyweight 100×100? Absolutely not, what this principle is trying to convey is that you should put in 10x the amount of work that your competitors are doing in all aspects of getting better. Think about it when you’re slacking off and your opponents are all busy honing their skills and getting better. Think about it when you want to quit during harsh training sessions. Keep the 10X mindset all the time and what seems like a 5 in difficulty level before will become 0.5 soon.

If you think in 10X mindset, everything you do will be amplified 10 times more than any of your competitors and even if you fall short of the 10X goal, you’re still greatly advancing over them.

THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM BUT THERE’S “I” IN WINNING

This might be the most unconventional rule in this list. We’re always taught that team work and camaraderie is one of the best, if not the best thing to have in a winning team. But even before that, I believe that you need to have this selfish desire to excel and win first before fitting yourself in the bigger picture of the team. This could come from my deep belief that humans are self-centred and selfish by nature, but behind every great team, the individual selfish desires to achieve and excel should be greater.

MOVE ON

One really valuable thing that I learned in my athletic journey is win or lose, you got to move on. No matter how big the set back, it’s not the end of the world nor your athletic career. Think about how many times all the great athletes failed before succeeding?

Personally, I had a really hard time accepting this rule but my epiphany came in the last UAAP season of my table tennis career. I was at a deficit of 1-2 and managed to win the 4th set and lead 6-1 in the deciding set. Everyone including my teammates, coaches, heck even myself thought that I will be able to seal my university table tennis career with a win and be happy about how good my run was. But no, life doesn’t work that way. I’m still not sure if the eminent victory got inside my head or I was just too aggressive to finish and celebrate, but I lost. I lost my last university game even with a good 6-1 lead over my opponent.

Did it feel like the end of the world? Looking back yes, at that moment it really did. The emotions and disappointment of losing such an advantageous lead was terrible. But eventually, everyone moves on. I moved on too.