How do I become mentally tough?"

After 19 years of coaching, training, and speaking about mental toughness, this is the question I hear most often. The answer is a process called systematic desensitization. If it sounds complicated, it's not; in fact, it's actually quite simple. Not easy, but simple.

Systematic desensitization means systematically exposing yourself to whatever you're afraid of so often that you become desensitized to it. In other words, you're no longer sensitive to the person, place, or thing that you fear.

I'll give you an example.


Genesis of a Champion

The University of Florida Men's basketball team has a new freshman superstar named Matt Walsh. Walsh is a fearless, dogged competitor with unwavering toughness. His on-court style is a cross between Michael Jordan and Rambo. This guy is as physical a player as I've ever seen; his mental focus and concentration are a coach's dream. This is rare in a freshman athlete.

How did he get this way?

Matt Walsh grew up in
the suburbs of Philadelphia; he was one of the area's best athletes. But he discovered another world when, as a seventh grader, he went into the city with his father to see the team from Simon Gratz High School.

"Where I'm from, it's just pure, white-boy basketball," says Walsh. In the city, the players were fierce and the fans were wild. Matt Walsh turned to his father during the game and said, "How do you get tough like these guys?" Mike Walsh told his son, "You've got to get out of the suburbs. You have to start playing in the inner city. The warriors play the game in the inner city."

So, at 15 years old, Matt Walsh signed up for the inner-city adult pro-am league, which was held in the recreation halls of the Salvation Army.

"They didn't call any fouls," says Matt. "That was the best part of it. You just learned to get tough. It was, 'No blood--no foul.'" Walsh was repeatedly knocked to the floor in the first couple of games, but just kept getting up...and getting better... and tougher.

How does this relate to systematic desensitization? Matt's constant exposure to the street-tough, inner-city players desensitized him from the fear of getting physical on the court. It's that simple.


Get Onto the Court

You can do the same in your network marketing business. Athletes have to endure both physical and mental pain. As a professional networker, the only pain you must endure is mental--and there's only one way to do it:

Get in the game! Start hearing "no" more than anyone in your upline or downline. Purposely expose yourself to tough prospects, go head-on with them. If you're not being turned down, laughed at and ridiculed on a regular basis, you're playing not to lose--which is not the same thing as playing to win.

Most networkers avoid rejection. Champions place themselves in the line of fire and play to win. Sure, the rejection hurts...for a while. But eventually, something magical begins to happen: the bullets begin to bounce off, and the networker ceases to feel emotional pain from the sound of the word "no." Of course, she would always rather hear "Yes"--but rejection no longer has the same emotional impact on the mind and body of the performer.

As a result, the networker no longer fears being rejected, and begins to contact more people every day. After all, if you no longer associate pain with rejection, and you know that the more people you call the more successful you'll be, you can transform into a very dangerous performer. You have systematically desensitized yourself from the fear of rejection and failure, through the simple act of multiple exposures to rejection and fear.


The Imaginary Dragon

There is something truly humorous that comes out of this whole mental toughening process: the day you realize that the threat you once perceived as paralyzing never really existed outside of the confines of your own mind. You literally created a mental dragon out of thin air.

Being rejected, ridiculed and laughed at never really hurt anyone. Words don't actually hurt us--it is our self-created perceptions of those words that keep us mentally bound. The cosmic joke is that we are the ones who make this decision for ourselves. We either conform to the ideology that rejection is painful, embarrassing and humiliating, and should be avoided at all costs--or we follow young warriors like Matt Walsh, and create more empowering beliefs that transform us into world-class performers.

The choice to succeed in network marketing is yours; it always has been. The circumstances and events that appear to be blocking your path to success are a mirage in the desert. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and it is us!"

At the same time, we have also met the one person who can make our networking dreams come true. Just look in the mirror.

In the end, mental toughness tells us that real battle of network marketing is you against you. So get in the game, desensitize, and get tough! There's only so much time left on the clock...and it's ticking. Be like Matt. Go get 'em!




is co-founder of the Gove-Siebold Group (,
a training organization that helps
networkers develop world-class
communication skills.