Justin Su’a: The Role of Spirituality in Developing Mental Toughness
He helped coached the Boston Red Sox on their way to becoming World Series champions but on today’s episode of “All In,” Justin Su’a coaches you on how to enhance the way you show up in life by cultivating a strong mentality. Su'a also explains the importance of faith in athletics and in the lives of disciples of Jesus Christ.
I think as you have faith in the process, and do everything you can and build your life with these heavenly habits around you, you'll end up finding that you can be happy in the moment, you're going to find joy in keeping the commandments and doing what the Lord asks. And...that's when the magic happens. And when the Spirit is filling your life, it becomes palpable and tangible, and you wake up excited to do it the next day.
Buy Justin's book, "Mentally Tough Teens" here."
Read more about Justin Su'a "here."
Read about Justin's daughter's recent role in "Hobbs and Shaw" here"
Find the audiobook of Justin's book, "Overcoming Spiritual Slumps" here."
1:34- Winning a World Series
4:02- Journey to Mental Skills Coach
8:28- When One Door Closes
9:49- Prepared For Sports Psychology
14:45- Experiences With Faith On The Job
19:55- "Increase Your Impact" Podcast
25:15- Raising Mentally Tough Teens
29:00- Modeling Strong Mentalities
33:23- Strengthening Your Mentality
37:14- Spending Time With God
41:00- The Role of Faith
43:50- Choosing the Right
47:24- What Does It Mean To Be "All In" The Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones: Justin Su'a won a World Series in 2018 and he has a ring to show for it. But he wasn't out on the diamond. Instead, Su'a had the unique role of preparing the players of the Boston Red Sox mentally for the biggest games of their lives. Justin Su'a is a major league mental skills coach who now works for the Tampa Bay Rays. He previously worked as a mental skills coordinator for the Boston Red Sox and mental performance coach for the NFL's Cleveland Browns. A former BYU pitcher. He earned his Masters in Sports Psychology from the University of Utah. He and his wife Melissa are the parents of three children. This is "All In," an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be 'all in' the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones, and I am thrilled to have my friend Justin Su'a, on this week's episode. Justin, welcome.
Justin Su'a: Thanks a lot, Morgan. Looking forward to being with you.
MJ: Well, Justin, you are one of my favorite people to interview. And I have to warn you and listeners that I have been sick and so I sound a little bit like a man, hopefully you'll forgive me. You'll feel like you're talking to one of your athletes, probably. Male athletes. Just kidding. Well, first of all, I haven't talked to you since the Red Sox won the World Series. You're not with the Red Sox anymore but what was it like to be a part of a World Series winning team?
JS: Oh, my goodness. To have the vision that you're going to go out there and you're going to win the championship in a sport—at the highest level of professional sports the goal is always to to be the last team to win at the end of the season. And it has been such a long journey. I think in 2014, or 15 or so, we actually had one of the worst records in all of baseball. And then to see us just kind of slowly climb back and to development players and to see those young players turned into the stars on the team. It was, it was surreal, actually. And it was just, it was a wonderful, wonderful thing to experience and to be a part of.
MJ: Yeah, well, and I can only imagine the role that you played. I mean, obviously, you're not out there on the field, but to recognize growth in the players' mentality, and kind of developing that winning spirit. That has to be pretty incredible to witness.
JS: Yeah, because a lot of times, and it is, you said it perfectly. What's neat to be part of a team, everyone has the role. And from the strength and conditioning coach to the athletic trainer to the hitting coach, the pitching coach, even the clubhouse managers and I'm so grateful to have had a small part in this huge cog to help, even if it was just 1%, half a percent, to help one player at some time, both on or off the field. And it was really neat to see it all come...at the end of the day, it was all put together to be able to hold up a trophy for the entire organization. It was amazing.
MJ: Yeah, that's like, it's like the stuff dreams are made of I feel like it's like everybody dreams of being a part of something like that. And maybe not in the capacity...you know, in your situation, you were a baseball player. And so maybe you dream of it in a different way. But what an incredible experience to be able to have.
JS: Yeah, so funny because I grew up wanting to be in the major leagues and wanting to win the World Series and wanting to be on that field and doing that. It's funny how the things work out and I was able to do it a different way, never would have thought that that's how I would win a World Series ring. I never even thought that was a possibility. And so it was neat to see. You look at the World Series, my World Series ring now, and you're just like, "Wow, who would have thought and it's funny to share that with my parents and those who were with me, especially when I was younger, and I always wanted to be a World Series Champion. It's funny to see how it worked out a different way than I thought.
MJ: For sure. Well, now that we've got that out of the way, I think you have such a cool job. And whether it's with Tampa Bay or the Red Sox, I think your job is like the kind of job that grown men would pay big money to have much less get paid to have. So you are a mental performance and leadership coach. For those who aren't familiar with your story. Tell us how someone gets a job that cool.
JS: Yeah, well I love going to work every day. I pinch myself sometimes thinking how did I get this job? How did this happen? And I always go back to see the journey. There are a lot of different ways, it's an interesting field really. The field of sports psychology and without getting too deep into the weeds, there are different ways and paths you can go. You can go into clinical psychology and licensed therapy or psychiatry, which is obviously more pathological, more clinical and then I chose the route of performance psychology, which is more dealing with performance, confidence, focus, energy management, regulating your emotions under pressure, that doesn't deal with necessarily depression, anxiety, and so forth. We have clinical psychologists to help us with that. It all started, I was a sports broadcaster going to BYU to get my degree in sports broadcasting, Vai Sikahema who is known in the Church, was the first one who introduced me into that field. And while I was playing baseball at BYU, I was getting my degree to go that way. And after my internship with NBC Sports, Los Angeles, my wife and my son Jarom, we were in LA and I decided, "You know what? I don't want to do broadcasting, I want to teach." And so I actually moved back to Utah to be a seminary teacher. So I was a seminary teacher for the youth of the Church for five years when I got my masters in sports psychology. While I was teaching simultaneously, once I got my masters, I left teaching seminary to open up my own consulting practice. And then from there started to work one on one with individuals and a friend of yours and mine, Chelsie Hightower, I had the chance to to team up with her and then from there worked with soldiers in the army. And then from there went to a place called the IMG Academy where I worked with high level youth athletes, training their mindset, and then helping the parents to help their children train in elite mindset. And then from there, the Red Sox called and then the Cleveland Browns and then the Tampa Rays and so it's been quite a whirlwind. But if anyone's interested, I would Google "sports psychology" and look into getting a masters and a doctorate in performance and sports psychology. That's the way to get in.
MJ: Yeah, well, I think it's so interesting. Looking at how, in many situations, I think this is true, even in my own life, where you have every intention of kind of going into a different field. But then stuff happens and you find yourself somewhere completely different than where you imagined, but also, somewhere that, you know, God led you to. And I think we see that with your story for sure.
JS: Absolutely. It was it was so funny and not funny, but as I'm driving, I am working for the military in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, and got this phone call from the IMG Academy. And I'm driving on the freeway and we are comfortable there and doing this and this we're going to take our family on a completely different path, still in sports psychology but I remember just kind of questioning everything wondering, "What's going to happen? How's it going to go?" IMG is bringing me to to Florida and it was my mom who told me, she goes, "You need to remember that IMG is not taking you to the Florida, the Lord's taking you to Florida," and that was in that moment...(it) helped me keep things in perspective and remember and realize that yeah, just as you said, the Lord is shaping and creating paths and opening doors and closing doors. There have been many things that I didn't get that I thought I was going to get to do. And a lot of times I've learned that lesson by by looking backwards and saying, "Wow, had I gotten what I wanted at that moment that wouldn't have provided...I wouldn't have the opportunity to do what I'm doing now." And so, so yes, that has been so true in my life as well.
MJ: Yeah. Can you give people an example of one of those doors that kind of closed that led you to something else?
JS: Yeah. So growing up, there have been a number of different doors that have closed from not getting into a baseball University I wanted to get into playing kid playing college baseball with Cal State Fullerton or USC or UCLA, those big schools, and not getting drafted into professional baseball. That was...I was absolutely crushed that that didn't happen. I applied for a PhD at BYU, a number of different PhDs. But the one that BYU in religious education was the one that particularly crushed me, especially because that's the route I thought I was going to go. I wanted to be a religious educator and do that and to not get accepted there that crushed me and numerous, some teams...oh, when I was at the IMG Academy, I was going to go jump on to a company and be their mental skills coach for a company. At the end of the day, they're like, "No, you're not a good fit for us." And that was crushing at the moment and I thought "Wow," and had any one of those things. And then even fast forward to closer...NFL teams, major league baseball teams to sit down and interview and to look the general manager, the owner in the eyes, and then for them to say that "Nope, you're not going to be right for us." Yeah, I've had a lot of doors closed in my face, thinking that that was the direction I was going to go, almost counting the eggs before they hatch. And I'm so happy and so grateful that some of those didn't open, who would have thought that they would have led to this moment? I can go back and say, Wow, if that would have happened, I wouldn't have been here and wouldn't have been here, wouldn't have met my wife, wouldn't have been with the Red Sox, wouldn't have been with the Browns and so yeah, I've had a lot of lot of a lot of opportunities to learn from closed doors.
MJ: Amazing. I think it's so cool to listen to you talk about those things, because it's like those are like pretty strong forms of rejection. And yet you've taken those and they've turned into such positive things. And I think as people are listening to this episode, I'm sure that they can hear in your voice, some of the things about you, Justin, that lend themselves to succeeding in this type of capacity. But what about your personality do you think has led to being so successful in your career?
JS: My personality, I think just naturally, just growing up, one thing that you learn in behavioral psychology and human performance is just the importance of your environment when you're growing up. And a lot of them...I come from parents who my father was an immigrant from American Samoa, my mom didn't graduate high school, and they ended up...my father ended up going and playing professional baseball, they ended up creating and running a multimillion dollar business. Once again, my mom not having graduated high school, she's the co-owner and VP of sales and finance. And my father didn't graduate college. And here they are having 150 employee company, and really teaching us kids just a lot of powerful important values, both in life and also obviously from the Gospel as well. But I think one thing that I learned and I tried to adopt and copy from them is number one, this perpetual optimism, they were just always positive, their outlook on life, no matter how bad things were, and how bad things got, they just knew that things were going to work out for our good, our family's good and I think that's something that I have copied and adopted and absorbed, just naturally not because of my degree and not because of anything I've read necessarily or studied. Another one is just the capacity to love I think just my parents just because of obviously being members of the Church and their testimony of the Lord and just naturally the Polynesian people and the Latin people, Hispanic people, just tend to be lovers of people and will give the shirt off your very back. And I think that my capacity to love I just really essentially care about people and how they're doing. And then I think another just thing off the top of my head is I'm super curious. I'm really really curious on about people and what makes them happy, what makes them successful. And I ask a lot of questions. That's the nature of my job. But I try not to be judgmental in a judgmental way nor in a interrogating type way but a sincere "Hey, teach me about your ways, what makes you successful." I think those three things in particular, have just come naturally and are basically just part of my my personality.
MJ: Yeah. And I think I can definitely see how those things serve you well, regardless of your career. I want to touch on one in particular, you mentioned the capacity to love people. And I have been the recipient of that love from, you mentioned Hispanic culture, I served a Spanish-speaking mission. And literally a lady that we were teaching gave me the sandals off her feet, because I told her that I thought they were cute. And I so I think that there is...different cultures have a capacity to love. And I definitely think Polynesian culture and Hispanic culture, they are so good at loving. But in your career, Justin, recognizing what we know, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that everyone and many different religions obviously know this, but we are all children of God. And because of that there's a certain level of respect and care and kindness that we need to treat each other with. I wondered if you've had opportunities to share your faith and your belief in God, maybe as you're working with these athletes and seeing them as children of God? Have you had opportunities to kind of share those things with anyone in the sports world?
JS: Yes, many times actually, and because this athlete world is filled with an array of different people performing at the highest level for a lot of money. The reason I say that, because that does give context to how people view the world and people who are atheist, agnostic, we have members of other faiths. And when you're around all of these men, all of the time, conversations come up. And you talk about politics, you talk about religion, you talk about the issues in the world, and these conversations do come up and very regularly, once they find out "Where did you go to school Justin?" "BYU," it always happens. "Oh, so you must be Mormon." "Yeah, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." And it comes up quite often, whether they're asking questions about the Church itself and doctrine, or they're curious, they want to talk about prayer or simple, basic topics, subjects, prayer, scripture, studying and going to church and Sabbath day. And so it comes up very often. I have had players, I mean, there have been players, I was on the same team as who were members of the Church. And he will allow me to share this. So Nate Orchard played football at the University of Utah. He got injured. And he is a member of the Church as well. And him and I were eating breakfast in the cafeteria for the Cleveland Browns, he had just got injured. And we don't even really know each other at this time. I had just joined the team. And we're sitting there and he's telling me about a situation and we started talking about the church a little bit and, and it's just him and I which is very, it's intriguing, interesting, because usually it's just not two people at a table there's filled with with people, and at this moment it was just us. And I just felt impressed to let him know, "Hey, if you need a priesthood blessing, let me know, let me know if you need a priesthood blessing." And he just kind of said thank you. And wouldn't you know it, a couple of days later, I get a knock on my office and he comes in and he goes, "I actually would like a blessing." And for me to be able to give him a blessing of peace and comfort in that moment in my office for the Cleveland Browns was an unbelievable opportunity to experience and it happened a few other occasions after that with other players. And two of us were administering and it was an incredible experience. But I've talked to players in the dugout about how to pray. And one thing I will say is, is my role is not to not to come out and initially come out guns blazing and "Hey, let's talk about prayer or the scriptures," it will be guided by the players, it would always be guided by them. And a lot of times I'll ask them the question, "What is your anchor? What is your source of happiness to your source in this storm, the struggle you're going through?" And if they say my faith, or if they say Jesus Christ, or if they say the gospel, then I'll explore more. "What do you mean by that?" And they'll talk about scriptures and their testimony, their relationship with the Lord and prayer. And that's when we'll get a little bit deeper into gospel principles, and we'll talk a little bit more about it.
MJ: Yeah, well, I would love to be like a fly on the wall in those situations. But I think it's powerful that you recognize that they have to come to you. And I think so many times we're looking for missionary opportunities or opportunities to share our faith and, and we want them so badly that we don't wait for them to come to us. But I think if our heart is in the right place, and we want to share those things for the right reasons, God is going to put those opportunities in our path.
JS: I absolutely agree. I absolutely agree with you. And I am a firm believer of I believe it was President Uchtdorf who said, always preach the gospel and if necessary use words. (Editor's note: This is actually a quote by St. Francis of Assisi and says "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.") And I think I'm just kind of butchering that, "if necessary use words," but basically be the example they'll see and in the pro sports world that you could probably imagine, the language is probably a little bit different than you'd see, the music they listen to, the topic of conversation and so it's funny, a friend of mine who was on the coaching staff for one of the teams I was working with said, "You stick out because you don't cuss, you don't get engaged in these conversations," and so being...and we tell our children this all the time so being able to stand alone sometimes, being able, and when you don't do something that everybody else does, it really does stand out, and then you will get those questions, not all the time but "Hey why don't you do that?" or "You are a little bit different. Let's talk." And provide an opportunity to...just live a life so that it will create some intrigue for people, not for the sole purpose of that. But if you live your life a certain way, it can create some intrigue where people start asking you, which will open the door and give you an opportunity to share what means and matters most to you.
MJ: Yeah, well, now Justin, I want to kind of shift the conversation, I could talk about sports all day, because I love them. But I also think that you are such an expert on mentality. And so I want to take advantage of that. While I've got you you. We mentioned in your bio, that you have a podcast yourself where you release daily, two to five minute episodes with motivational messages. And I think, correct me if I'm wrong, you have over 960 now, is that right?
MJ: That's unreal. I will never have that many episodes of this podcast. Just kidding. Knock on wood. But why have you felt, I feel like there's a lot of work that goes into a podcast and even though they're short little bite-sized episodes, that takes work, why have you felt that that's important?
JS: People who usually hire mental skills coaches are either Olympians, military professionals, or military soldiers, college athletes, professional athletes, or people who have the means to do so. And it breaks my heart to know that there are other people who are out there who would love to have mental skills training, who would love to learn the principles of how the brain works, and to optimize performance in whatever they do, but don't have the means, don't have the opportunity. And so the reason I started the podcast was for those people, were for the people who don't have the opportunities and I said, "You know what I'm going to share with everybody, everything that I teach to these elite athletes, and I'm gonna do for free every single day, every single day." And it's for free. You can have it, you can so there's no secrets. There's no wondering, I wonder what these elite athletes are getting. It's yours. Listen, if you just go and chime in, and many times, I'll get done with an athlete. And we'll talk about something and I'll get on the podcast, I'll go to my car, and I'll start recording to share with the world. This is what we just talked about, obviously not names and not the context of the story. But the basic principle that we're talking about or the strategy that we use, and at first, I never would have imagined I would have gone this far. I've been doing it for about three and a half, four years. And once I started getting emails from people, people in their hospital beds. I got an email once from a father, a husband and a wife, who had just lost their child. And they said that listening to a certain episode on a certain day while they just got word that they lost their their newborn child brought them a little bit of peace. That was earth shattering to me to think that "Wait a minute, it wasn't intended for for that," and to know that there are some people who aren't athletes, who aren't parents, who aren't coaches, but they just listened to it as they get ready for work. That inspires me. And that's what keeps me going every single week, each weekday and there have been moments where I've been like, "I don't know if I can do another one." And then the next thing you know, I get a little message from someone. "Thank you so much. They inspire me." And that gives me a little more inspiration and drive for the next three months worth. And so it's been it's been quite a journey.
MJ: Well, could you give people, Justin, a little taste of what one of these bite-sized messages that you share on the podcast are like?
MJ: I'm putting you on the spot.
JS: Absolutely, I think I'll go today's for example. I'm sorry, we'll go Friday's for example. This past Friday, episode I believe 963, talking about focusing on what you can control. And I know that's such a cliche, but I really try to operationalize it and make it tangible. A lot of people the reason they don't perform at the highest level is because they focus on things they can't control. And the axiom we talk about, the principle we say is the things you try to control but can't end up controlling you. And a lot of times things you can't control are the past, is the future, or even other people and you start comparing yourself to other people. AndI always say that sometimes the worst thing is to compare yourself to your old self. I used to be able to fit in those clothes, I used to be ambitious, I used to be a go-getter. And then we start to spiral downward. And in this episode, I just we do a little exercise where I have the listener listening write down all the things that they can't control, what are these, these open tabs in their mind that they keep worrying about that they have no control over. And then you write it down and you just almost just expunge it from your mind. And then to identify and write down okay, what can you control? And as you look at the two lists, you'll see that the list of things you can control is very small, a lot smaller, it could be your attitude, your efforts, it could be your ability to work with others, your outlook on things. But as you focus on that small list, you'll see that you'll be in a much better position to be where your feet are and perform at your best. And so that's just a kind of a little example, that was just today. And it was only about three, three and a half minutes long, quick to the point. And then we're moving on to the next one. And so that's just a little example of one.
MJ: I love that, such a good thought. So I had the experience last week for those listening of interviewing one of Justin's three children, his youngest daughter, who is 11 years old, and was just in a major motion picture. And I have to tell you, Justin, I was so impressed with her. She is the most darling, I like was going around our office and letting people hear the audio clip because I was like this is the cutest child. But I was struck by how articulate she is and how, you know, for lack of a better term, you've written books about mentally tough teens. And I'm like, this is a mentally tough, 11 year old girl. And I've seen other things with your other children on Instagram and different things, but it's obvious that you have kind of taught them these principles and that they're applying them in their lives. In your own home, what have you done to try to strengthen the mentality of your children?
JS: Yeah, well, first of all, I appreciate what you said about our kids.They're too much fun. They're amazing. Early on, my wife and I, Melissa, we did our best to really try to cultivate a home centered on the Lord, centered on the Savior, Jesus Christ, and also with this desire to water, their ambition. To help them to cultivate and to let their light so shine. And at a young age, we try to adopt these habits for them to really learn how to be the best version of themselves. So one of the things that my wife and I did when they were younger, is to ask them three questions every day, because we want...a lot of times when you talk about cultivating mental toughness or resilience, it comes down to awareness, a sense of awareness. Are you aware of decisions you're making? Are you aware of your outlook and how you're viewing things? And so the three questions we'd ask our kids every night before they go to bed is number one, what was the best part about today? And when you're asking 2,3, 4, 5-year olds, these answers are hilarious. But we wanted them to get you to learn how to look back in your last 24 hours, and see the good, because it's so easy to be negative, we wanted to teach our kids how to flex their optimistic muscles, and to be able to hunt the good stuff, because it's hard. It's hard in this day and age, we wanted to help them learn how to do that early on. And so what was the best part about today? And then the second question we would ask them is, "What was what was something you learned today?" And we want them to help them learn from lessons and we could have easily asked what was something you didn't do good today, but we wanted to teach them is that you can learn from successes as well. Not only learn from your failures and learning from things that don't go well or go right, but you can learn from your successes. And you can learn from your brother and sister and you can learn from other people and so those were fun answers as well. And then the last one is what are you going to do better tomorrow? My wife and I wanted to help them just kind of be able to identify Okay, what, even if it's one little thing one small percent, what can you do to be better tomorrow? And they would say things they be nicer to my sister, be nicer to my brother, be more obedient to mom and you know what? They're not perfect. They're gonna go and none of us are. They'll mess up and then we'll go and we'll recap it the next night. And then I think that little exercise right there. One of the things, one thing that we did really help them, and I don't know, I don't have any scientific evidence to prove, but we really wanted to help them cultivate that. That's just one exercise that we would do with them, just to kind of help them with that. But yeah, we like to do some fun things to try to help them out.
MJ: Yeah. Well, and I, I think that I love that because it's such a practical example. Why would you say, Justin, that it's important for parents...so I want to now kind of shift to us as adults. Why is it important for parents or adults in general, to model the importance of mentality for the next generation?
Yeah, that's a really good question because I believe it does start with mom and dad. One thing we learn about child behavior growing up is kids don't create habits, they don't create their self talk, they adopt them, they copy them. And so a lot of times a parent's response to stress becomes the child's response to stress what a parents says to their child, and the words they say to their child, and about their child becomes...ends up forming into the words that are the beliefs that the child thinks about themselves. And I used to work with youth all the time, you would hear them saying things about themselves: "I'm dumb, I'm bad at math. I'm terrible. I have a terrible backhand. I'm slow, and I'm never gonna get this." I'm like, "Why would you say that?" "Oh, because my uncle says that, my mom says that, my coach says that, my dad tells me that," and they're not trying to throw their parents under the bus. They're being absolutely sincere. That's just the feedback that they're getting. And so as parents, and again, it's so hard to be a parent. We know we are not perfect. And we mess up all the time. And there were moments where my wife and I are praying at night, we're thinking, "Please erase the memories of our kids, so they do not remember how we were acting and how we were being." And I think that's huge. And I think another thing that we try to do as well, for learning, is learning to tell your kids "Hey, we messed up, our fault. We messed up. But we are sorry, that was a bad example, what we did." And so I think you're right, with these, this question, placing such an emphasis on it. And there's something called emotional contagion. Children will catch the emotions of the parents in the room. And they'll adopt those same, they'll learn those same neural patterns and adopt those same they have habits and it will perpetuate when they become parents. And then they become parents. And so how parents think, what they say, how they act, how we act and how we do that is huge for the development of our kids.
That is so fascinating to me, I think that for me, I've noticed even as an adult, so I don't have kids. And first of all, when you were talking about how hard it is to be a parent, I my heart just like goes out to parents. I'm like, that is a tough job, you're on like 24/7, you never have an off time and your kids are looking at everything that you're doing. And there is, like you were saying, there's like a feeling in the room that's created. And so I think it's interesting to think about how a parent's behavior or mood or whatever can affect a child.
JS: Yeah. And to go along with that, what I love, so if there's a parent listening to this and they're thinking, "Oh, no, I messed up." Or if there's someone who's listening to this, and they think, "Okay, it's my parents, it's not me." Or they're thinking, "Oh, now I'm lost, because I had a bad childhood growing up." That's why I'm so grateful for the gospel. That's what I'm so grateful for the Atonement, is because if you're a parent and maybe you do want to make changes, yeah, we can study neuro-plasticity, we can study the science and art of behavior modification and change, yeah, that's there, the science is there. But what's even more important, deeper, even in greater impact is the gospel, how the Spirit can change hearts, and then the Lord can change you through the power of the Atonement, you can be changed. And regardless of your upbringing, let's say you didn't have a good upbringing, didn't have a good environment, you can still be created, you can still evolve into and become the best version of yourself as you continue to live close to the gospel and allow the Lord to change you, despite your difficult upbringing, despite maybe your parents weren't the best examples. But you can still live a happy fulfilling, a fulfilled life, because of the gospel and because of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
MJ: Yeah. I think that this topic of strengthening our mentality is of particular importance right now, because I think there are so many things attacking our mentality. Social media, I feel like we bring up social media in every episode of this podcast, but I think it's because it's affecting every aspect of our lives, and in particular, our mentality. So for those listening, Justin, could you give a few basics of how to strengthen your mentality?
JS: Yeah, I think if I can give just kind of a global umbrella principle. There's great research out of Stanford. Carol Dweck, Dr. Carol Dweck did it and she wrote a book called "Mindset." And there's incredible research done on this that NFL uses, military uses. And it's very practical, very simple and easy to use. Basically, there are five principles that to cultivate the ideal mindsets, a resilient mindset or pliable mindset and mental toughness, however you want to phrase it. So number one: Principle #1 is basically learning from failure. To have the ability to learn from failure where this growth, these growth mindset individuals, they learn from failure as opposed to viewing failure, as something that defines who they are. The second principle (#2) is a growth mindset person, they embrace obstacles, where the fixed mindset person, they avoid obstacles, they don't want the hard road because they go and try to do the hard thing, failure is probable, and they hate failure but the growth mindset person they want to do the hard thing, they want to embrace adversity because they know that become stronger as a result of it. And number three (#3) is effort level of the growth mindset person, they give their best no matter what. And sometimes your best is going to look, it's going to look different from day to day. Your best today might be not as good as your best yesterday or your best before. But they know that "Hey, maybe all you have is 90% today. So just focus on the 90% you do have as opposed to beating up on yourself on this 10% you don't have." The next one (#4) is receiving feedback. critical feedback. A lot of youth, when we talked about youth a lot of times, and "Hey, Mom and Dad love you," the best athletes in the world, they have coaches, they get feedback, and to embrace it and to use it as an opportunity to learn, as opposed to a signal that, "Hey, you're not good enough." A fixed mindset person, they ultimately don't believe they can change, which is why they struggle with feedback so much. And lastly (#5), which goes very well with what you're talking about social media, is the success of others, not being threatened or jealous by the success of others. And as opposed to learning from the success of others and applauding their success. But really essentially learning from it. "What are they doing that I'm not doing? How can I be better? How can I take what they're doing and adopt it and make it become my own." But a lot of times in social media in particular, we compare other people's highlight reel to our own reality and sitting with a lot of athletes who have millions of followers and millions of dollars in the bank and people clamoring for them and thinking their life is perfect. I have a front row seat to learn that it's not and they struggle, and they have insecurities, and they lack confidence. But you look at their Instagram page, and you're like, "Wow, these people have the perfect life with the perfect marriages." And it's just not true, myself included. We have so many rough days and bad weeks, and marriage is difficult and parenting is difficult. And kids are disobedient and you waver and you struggle and you fail. But as you hold to these principles of the growth mindsets, it can help you navigate the storms of life, both in spirituality and in your work and school, wherever you are.
MJ: Yeah, I want to go back to one thing that you said in particular, Justin, which is that idea of when you have a day where you only feel like you have 90 percent. And that's something that I've been working on. This is going to sound weird, but I've been working on it in terms of my personal spirituality and scripture study. I think I used to have this mindset of, you know, I want to study for a chapter a day, or I want to study for 15 minutes. And I'm going to read my scriptures for 15 minutes a day. And it was just kind of this box that I was checking off. And I've recently tried to shift that mindset and recognize that my main goal is to spend time with God, and to want to spend time with Him. And so some days I get home from work, and because my job is faith centered, sometimes this is going to sound terrible, but I'll get home and I'm like I can't read my scriptures right now. And so instead, I've tried to shift and cut myself some slack and recognize, okay, maybe right now, it's a better idea to read a conference talk where I'll still get some scripture, but it won't be as deep or I won't have to focus as much. And I think in doing that it's created a joy, again, for me about that time that I'm seeking to spend time with God and strengthen my relationship with Him. And so I just wonder, do you have any thoughts on that?
JS: Yes, that is that's beautiful that what you just said, and it's, and it's so true. And I shared your sentiments. When I was actually a seminary teacher I felt the same way. And I taught the gospel out of the scriptures every day and thinking about, "Okay, I don't know if I want to read scriptures anymore." I taught it for a living every single day. And so, as you mentioned that I was just smiling and thinking, "Wow, You took the words right out of my mouth. That's exactly how I felt." In terms of...I love what you said. And one of the things that I've learned from these elite performers in the world is it comes down to their habits. And sometimes it's just doing something, an object in motion tends to stay, stays in motion, Newton's law—it just stays in motion. And sometimes your motion is just a baby step. Maybe it's just one step. Maybe you can, maybe you can run 30 feet one day, and you can just crawl the next day but what happens is a lot of times, (people) beat up on themselves. And they think "Oh, just because I can't read for 15 minutes or an hour. Oh, okay, then I'm not going to do anything." You see this with a lot of people with dieting as well. "Oh, I took one bite of pizza, you know what, it's over, I'm just gonna eat the whole thing." It's like, "Wait a minute, no, you could you could make the decision just to end with that one piece, or maybe that one slice. And that's it." But I think you are on the right track in terms of, even if you just do one little thing and one thing we always talked about is, is a little by little, a little becomes a lot and you might read one verse, just one verse, but how about you pull out as much as you possibly can in that one verse, it's on your mind, you think about it, you talk to your friends about it, or maybe you write about it, you're just chewing on it throughout the entire day, you'll get a lot more out of that one verse doing that the entire day, as opposed to rushing through, just kind of being in and out and not fully invested in a 15 minute scripture study session, just so you can check the box as you mentioned. And so I love what you said, because I think a lot of people experience that. Whether it be in their spiritual life, their fitness life, and in work or whatever it may be. But that's a great point. Even if you do a little bit, just staying consistent with that, it leads to a lot.
MJ: Yeah, I think that's one way that faith is kind of a testing ground for building a strong mentality. Do you have any thoughts on what role faith plays in cultivating this mental toughness?
JS: Yeah, I think that's a really good question. Because first of all, a lot of people ask what mental toughness is like what exactly is that? And for me, I think it's a it's a number of different things, mental toughness is their motivation is in there, confidence is in there, resilience is in there, and different components of that. And so it's comprised of a lot of different things. But I think faith in mental toughness, faith is, as we know, from the scriptures is believing things that that you cannot yet see. And that's a lot of times mental toughness, these athletes who I work with, they work so hard, they train so long, and they surround their lives around something that they can't really...they believe it, they know they can be the best in the world, they know that they can win the championship. That's why they work so hard for it. However, they're hoping for it. However, they haven't experienced it yet. They haven't touched it yet. Some have won championships, but those who have not, they haven't experienced it. So they're working so hard for something for that wonderful thing at the very end. But here's the cool thing ends up happening: as they end up realizing, as they get lost in the journey, they find joy in the journey, they find pleasure in the process and power in the push. And I believe that's the same thing with the gospel as well. You end up...the reason we read scriptures, and go to church, and have family home evening, and say our prayers, a lot of times is leading to eternal salvation. That's what we ultimately want. That's the prize. But as we get lost in the moment, and do it every day, and find joy in it, you end up finding that becomes the prize, scripture reading and feeling the spirit that becomes the prize and you yearn for that, you want that, as opposed to constantly questioning yourself, or wondering, "Am I going to get there? Am I going to get there?" Constantly checking your spiritual temperature. I think as you have faith in the process, and do everything you can and build your life with these heavenly habits around you, you'll end up finding that you can be happy in the moment, you're going to find joy in keeping the commandments and doing what the Lord asks. And that becomes, that's when the magic happens. And when the Spirit is filling your life, and it becomes a palpable and tangible and you wake up excited to do it the next day.
MJ: I love that so much. That's something I am so passionate about is this idea of experiencing the joy of the gospel. And I think that you're right, sometimes we get so caught up in what's the next thing that I have to be doing that we don't even stop to feel the the joy that can be found in it. And so thank you so much for sharing that. Before we get to our last question. I wanted to ask you one more thing in relation to the gospel. We talk a lot in the Church about having standards and morals. And I feel like, especially today's youth are coming up against a lot but even adults, I think even as adults, maybe we're coming up against even more than past generations have in terms of decisions where we have to be able to choose the right. How would you say that trying to work to build a resilient mentality helps us choose the right under difficult circumstances?
JS: Yeah, I love this, this notion that this correlation between faith and standards and decision making. And ultimately, that's what the best in the world are able to do, they're able to make these difficult decision under dire circumstances. And one thing that the Navy SEALs lives by is "you don't rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training." Or in other words, you sink to the level of your habits. And I truly believe I'm a firm believer the power of habits and cultivating habits that will help you make decisions and deciding early. And I think you're right with the world we live in to create a set of non-negotiables for yourself. And one of the things that elite performers do at every level, in any domain, is they have a game plan. They know how they're going to act and how they're going to be, they know who they are, first of all, they know their strengths, they know their weaknesses, and they know what they want. Number two, and then they create a set of behaviors or habits around those things that will help keep them on track. And so someone who's listening to this, if you want to make better decisions in this world that we live in, where the line is starting to become blurred in certain places. What can you do to build your life, we have 86,400 seconds a day, 86,400, that's it. An everyday matter just today, all you can control is today. If you can build a life, a day, one day, with habits that will help you keep things in perspective and help you keep things in track, what would those habits consist of? Where would you need to place them in your life, and as you do, and as you begin to execute those habits, and you want it to be easy enough where you can execute them. A lot of times people create these elaborate, hard to do plans and they suffer paralysis by analysis. Now they don't do them because they've created a difficult task. Keep it simple. Keep it simple, whether it be prayer, scripture, study, family prayer, whatever you need, the music you listen to, and then create those habits, which sets your mind up and your heart up to be able to hold true to those non-negotiables, those standards that you set for yourself, when adversity strikes. And you want to make these standards easy enough to where when you travel on vacation, when you go on a business trip, no matter where you wake up in the world, if you travel a lot, or if you're sick or whatever, you can still actually execute the great majority of them. And so that's what I would say, to be able to make good decisions in this very difficult time of life is to create a set of non-negotiables, identify who you are and identify what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you truly want, and then build some habits around your day, every single day to help you win today, and to put yourself in the best position to succeed.
MJ: Thank you so much for sharing that. Before we wrap up, Justin, I just have one last question for you. And before I say this, I just want to thank you, thank you so much for sharing these things that you have worked so hard to understand and sharing them both today, here with us and then also on your own podcast, because I think that's definitely helping people. But before we finish, what does it mean to you to be "all in" the gospel of Jesus Christ?
JS: When I think about all in, I think about no retreat. I think about being in it for the good and the bad, when you're at your best and when you're at your worst. And I think all in is doing your absolute best to be the best version of yourself, a version that's the best disciple of Jesus Christ you can and it's going to look different for everybody. And it's going to look different at different times of your life. But if you just commit to say, you know what, I'm going to do the best I can to be a disciple of Christ today and I think your behaviors, your thoughts, your words will begin to flow from that. And I think that's what all in looks like for me.
MJ: Perfect. Well, thank you so so much. And we'll look forward to rooting for the Tampa Rays this year.
JS: Nice! That'll be great.
MJ: Well, thank you so much, Justin, we'll talk to you soon.
JS: Sounds good. Thank you.
MJ: Big thanks to Justin Su'a for joining me on this week's episode of "All In" to learn more about Justin, you can find him on Instagram or listen to his podcast "Increase Your Impact." We will link both of those in our show notes at www.ldsliving.com/allin. Thank you so so much for listening for your ratings and reviews and for sharing this podcast with your friends. We want to reach as many people as possible, but we can't do that without your help. So thank you and we will look forward to next week's episode.