I’m reading the book “The Program: Lessons from elite military units for creating and sustaining high performance leaders and teams.” I’m really intrigued by their definition of toughness.

I love the idea that toughness is binary – you either are tough or you are not. It is an on/off switch, not a dial.

The Program defines tough as the ability to withstand and attack adversity or hardship while continuing to make good decisions that lead to mission accomplishments.

Toughness is binary. It is a 1 or a zero. We are, or we are not, physically and mentally tough. Thankfully, both are learned traits.

Often, coaches and business leaders will contact us about their team, explaining that they have team members who are tough, but when things “get bad,” not so much. So the coach or business leader asks if they can put their team on a 0-10 scale. Our answer is always the same: no.

Toughness isn’t a dial. It’s an on/off switch. It’s binary, a one or a zero.

Someone who is a “one” (a tough person):

  1. Has great habits
  2. Makes good mental decisions regardless of the adversity
  3. Is emotionally resilient; “cheerful in the face of adversity”
  4. Craves a challenge

Someone who is a “zero” (not a tough person):

  1. Has poor habits
  2. Makes poor mental decisions when faced with adversity
  3. Has no emotional resiliency; when things are good, they are happy and share their happiness. When things are bad, they are mad/sad/angry and they share their madness/sadness/anger.
  4. Avoids adversity

We are or we are not tough. We can do tough things, show toughness and exhibit the qualities of a tough person in a practice, game or business day. It doesn’t make us a tough person; it just means that we are doing something tough or being tough at that moment.

Toughness, like any core value, means we are tough all the time and in everything we do.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *