Recently I spoke with author and sports psychology coach Dr. Rob Bell. In Bell’s new book, The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness, he gathers stories and philosophy about recognizing those crucial life-changing moments and having the resilience it takes to deal with them.

What’s a hinge, you might ask? Very simple. If you look at life as a door, a hinge is what makes the door work. A hinge can be anything: a moment, an event, or a person who makes a difference in our lives. A hinge can range from the tragic to the heroic, and from a brief encounter to a lifelong companionship. But the most important thing about hinges is that people typically don’t see them coming and are often unprepared for the changes they will effect.

This is where the philosophy of resilience comes into play. Resilience is a skill no one is really born with but can develop through experience or by training his or her brain. Here, then, are four tips to help you build your own mental toughness:

1. Hold on to your scars

Knowing where every scar came from means having lessons from those moments to guide you. When you deny your failures, you lose those lessons, because failure is the best teacher.

2. Discipline occurs daily

The greats didn’t get that way by just being lucky. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Truly successful people, then, are aware of their commitment to excellence, and this discipline helps them find those hinge moments to build on.

3. Embrace your fears

Everyone gets scared in life and in business. But the mentally tough don’t run from fear; they deal with it, as it’s simply a part of the game. Control your fear; don’t let it control you.

4. Be a peaceful warrior

Miyamatsu in The Book of Five Rings describes the quality of a master swordsman in battle as unrippling water on the inside and fury on the outside. Practice, focus, and confidence can help build this core, which means being a peaceful warrior.

The gem here for me is spotting the hinge moments as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling that your life is going to change, and other times you come to realize that you changed many years ago.

In business, the same thinking applies. That random opportunity or great candidate who just walked into your office are but two of many examples that occur every day. Sometimes people ignore them, or they jump on them without understanding the dangers ahead.

Everyone knows hindsight is 20/20, but great entrepreneurs almost have a sixth sense for spotting those moments. Though there is no way to prepare for every situation, you can consider the most likely outcomes, be they good or terrible, and plan for them.

Dr. Bell reminded me of a great quote from Peyton Manning: “Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.” In business, you can’t afford not to recognize the hinge moments, and a plan should be ready to go when that door swings open, or in some cases, closed.

For more information on Dr. Rob Bell and his book, The Hinge: The Importance of Mental Toughness, visit his site. You can also read my full interview with Dr. Rob Bell.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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