My teen daughter and I were talking about mindset and perspective last weekend. She was on a quest to get a first place in her dance competitions to move up to the next level. Many times over the past ten months she got seconds and thirds and fourths and those days were celebrations. But this past weekend, when she earned a second and a fifth, she was disappointed. We discussed how mindset is everything. If you expect something and don’t receive it, it steals your joy.

We also discussed how the climb is about the little things.

This reminded me of the story of Coach John Wooden, who led his UCLA college team to ten championships over twelve years. One of his players was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

When the season started and all the new rookies, who were a big deal in high school, got to the first practice, Coach Wooden would ask everyone to take their shoelaces out of their shoes. The first year players would look at the seniors wondering if this was a joke. Then the coach would tell them that if their shoelaces aren’t tied well they will get blisters. And if they have blisters they can’t run. And if they can’t run, they can’t score. And if they can’t score, they can’t win.

It’s the little things that lead to the big things.

I was also reminded of a story Ryan Holiday shared in his book Ego is the Enemy. He writes, “On April 16, 2000, the New England Patriots drafted an extra quarterback out of the University of Michigan. They’d scouted him thoroughly and had their eye on him. It was the 6th round and the 199th pick of the draft. The young quarterback’s name was Tom Brady. He was fourth string at the beginning of his rookie season. By his second season, he was a starter. New England won the Super Bowl that year. Brady was named MVP.”

Brady won a total of seven Super Bowls in his career. Great pick, right?

Holiday goes on to write, “So you’d think that the Patriots’ front office would be ecstatic with how it turned out, and indeed, they were. They were also disappointed — deeply so — in themselves. Brady’s surprising abilities meant that the Patriots’ scouting reports were way off. For all their evaluations of players, they’d somehow missed or miscalculated all of his intangible attributes. They let this gem wait until the sixth round.”

So, they focused on how to improve. Realized that they just got lucky but you can’t replicate luck.

How many times have we been lucky and mistaken it for skill? How many times did our ego get in the way of growth?

My daughter congratulated the girl who came first the next morning. And that afternoon my daughter earned her coveted first.

It took many losses to get there. Many small things to work on. Many changes in perspective.

How does our mindset generate our reality and how does it create roadblocks?

As Ryan Holiday named one of his books, the obstacle is the way. Life is about solving problems and growing. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.