What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

When I was still fairly new to the sport of luge, one of my Olympic coaches used to tell me, “Ruben, you’re only six inches away from massive success!” Six inches?! I was confused. He explained, “Six inches is the distance between your ears, Ruben. Your success depends on what you feed your mind.” He wasn’t talking about six inches on the track: he was talking about the inner game.

It would be years before I really understood what he meant. Today, I realize that he was 100 percent right. When I first heard about the mental part of sports being more important than the physical part, I have to admit, I was skeptical. And I stayed skeptical—until a cold morning in October 1998, when I first returned to the sport after a six-year hiatus.

I first took up luge in 1984 and retired from it right after the 1992 Albertville Olympics. During the next six years I spent no time in the sled. Instead, I read hundreds of books on success and listened to thousands of motivational tapes. I may not have been “in training,” in the conventional sense—but I was becoming mentally tougher. Finally, in 1998, I decided to return to the sport—and to begin training for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

That first day of training in October of ’98 was unforgettable. I was at the start of the Calgary luge track, ready to take my first run in more than half a decade. Surprisingly, I felt cool, calm and confident. Even so, the results surprised even me: my first four runs were personal bests!

Four personal bests after a six-year break was unheard of. Yet that day, I felt more in control of the sled than I ever had before. On that October day I stopped being a skeptic and became a believer in the power of the human mind.

High achievers in every field share certain beliefs that give them a competitive edge—beliefs designed to keep them hungry, confident and mentally tough so they will do what it takes to win. Here are three powerful beliefs you can adopt to get better results in your personal and professional life:

1. Failure Does Not Exist

Just because I crashed the last five times on the luge track does not mean I’ll crash the next time. Every time I come down that track, I am a better racer because I am more experienced than on the previous run—that is, if I learned something from my mistake—and I can apply that knowledge on that next run.

High achievers believe they are destined to accomplish great things. They believe the challenges they experience are there to teach them a lesson they need to learn in order to complete their mission in life. They believe there is no such thing as failure. They either get the desired outcome or learn from their mistakes. Either way, they win—and either way, discouragement cannot get a foothold in their mind.

2. If It Is to Be, It Is Up to Me!

Successful people are willing to work hard to overcome their challenges. Struggling through challenges on the road to your goals is what makes you great.

Every time we face a challenge, we have a choice to make: will we get bitter or better? Decide to get better. Face the challenge; it’s there to make you stronger. You will need that strength further down the road when you’ll be facing even bigger challenges.

Don’t ever make excuses. Whenever you make an excuse, you give up control. Believe that you are in charge of your life. You are totally responsible. You create your results. You are in control of your life. You have the power to change your circumstances.

3. Commit to Win

Some people are interested in reaching their dreams; others are committed to reaching their dreams. The key to success in life is to go from interested to committed. Once you are committed, you mentally burn all the bridges; now, you will do whatever it takes to make it happen. You become unstoppable. Commitment is what makes success possible. If you commit to do whatever it takes to succeed (as long as it is moral, legal and ethical), success will reveal its secrets to you.

In the Olympics, when we train for a big race, the first thing we always do is walk the track with the coach. Then we make a game plan about the best way to drive the track, visualizing and mentally rehearsing the ideal run. But sooner or later, we have to commit—we have to hop on the sled and actually slide down that mountain. We had to take those runs knowing that even with all the preparation, the first few times down that track were going to be pretty brutal.

Is it scary? Sure it is. But you have to pay the price if you want to enjoy the prize. You have to commit to do things that are beyond your current abilities. That’s the only way to grow. That’s how you get better and stronger.

So attack your fears head on. Otherwise, you will be their servant for the rest of your life.

Ruben Gonzalez is a three-time Olympian,
an award-winning speaker and author of the
The Courage to Succeed.