CoM Quote 8-22-23

The single word that can change your life

In day 2 of this 5-day email series on How to Master Your Mindset & Unleash the Warrior Within, I’d like to share the most important lesson I’ve learned from over ten years of running Spartan Races and Tough Mudders – not to mention 5+ years of training for American Ninja Warrior:

“We are lying to ourselves about what we’re truly capable of.”

I spent most of my adult life constantly convincing myself that I couldn’t do certain things. And since pushing myself outside my comfort zone more times than I can count, what I’ve discovered more than anything is this:

I am completely and totally full of shit.

Yeah that’s right, I said it.

I’ve spent my entire life lying to myself about what I can & cannot do.

The catalyst for completely shifting my mindset and changing the trajectory of my life (i.e. my “Sliding Doors Moment”) was simply saying “yes” when I was asked to run my first Tough Mudder. Saying yes was the first in a long line of dominoes that has led to me becoming the coach, the leader, the father, the spouse, and the person I am today.

But “yes” is not the magical word that changed my entire life…

Day 2: Mindset

The Single Word That Can Change Your Life

In yesterday’s newsletter I talked about the importance of defining your identity beyond your job title, suggesting that challenging yourself by training for your first Spartan Race is a great example of how adding a little adversity into your life (on your terms) can help you strengthen the characteristics of being courageous, resilient, and confident.

There is, however, one dangerous down side to having a strong identity outside the work you do…and that’s when you believe your personality, your defining characteristics, and your identity cannot change. This is called a “fixed mindset,” and this can often lead to you being largely reactive when the going gets tough as opposed to being proactive and taking charge.

Being reactive with a fixed mindset often makes you feel like your entire life is out of your control and can ultimately lead to anxiety, depression, and even burnout (ask me how I know this). When faced with adversity, uncertainty, or the tremendous changes we’re all experiencing right now, it’s pretty easy to spot those with a fixed mindset. They use phrases like:

“It is what it is.”

“We just have to wait it out.”

“What can you do?”

Even more damaging than expressing how out of control everything is are the deeper seated limiting beliefs that not only can nothing be done about the situation, but there’s nothing you can do to change yourself.

“Who am I to think I can find a different job in this market?”

“I’m not the kind of person who could start a business.”

“I’m not smart enough to learn [insert skill/software here].”

Thanks in large part to the seminal work of developmental psychologist and bestselling author Carol Dweck from her book Mindset, we’ve learned that practically everything about our personalities – and most importantly our beliefs about ourselves – can change.

But change requires a different perspective known as a “growth mindset.” A growth mindset is a specific way of perceiving the world such that you believe your actions can actually lead to change, thus becoming proactive.

For example, someone with a fixed mindset might watch this badass training montage and think “I could never do that.”

But a person with a growth mindset would watch the same montage and respond with, “I couldn’t do that…yet.”

And this is the single magical word that can literally change your entire life…


Once you add this word to the end of any sentence, you realize the only thing standing between you and everything you want out of life is yourself.

Once I made it a habit to look at a seemingly impossible physical or mental challenges and say, “I cannot do this…yet,” the obstacles in my life simply became challenges. (And fun ones at that!)

Those with a fixed mindset do everything they can to avoid failure.

Those with a growth mindset understand that failure is the fastest path to success, and it’s only failure if you give up. Otherwise it’s just gathering feedback.

Those with a fixed mindset receive creative feedback (i.e. notes) and take it personally. They find it emotionally draining to constantly have their work – and thus their identity – constantly under attack.

Those with a growth mindset receive notes and see them as an opportunity to explore new ideas from someone else’s creative point of view (and ultimately grow in the process).

Those with a fixed mindset are consumed by anxiety during uncertain times.

And those with a growth mindset take advantage of the opportunities in front of them, no matter how extreme the disruption.

Science has proven that those with a growth mindset are more successful in their careers as well as more fulfilled in their lives because ultimately they feel more in control of their choices. And there’s no better way to cultivate a growth mindset than by choosing the obstacles in your life and training for them…that way when the obstacles in life choose you, you are ready.

If you join me and my fellow Optimizers over the next four months you will be pushed to the limits of your discomfort zone, because outside your comfort zone is where you discover who you really are. I’m not saying this journey is going to be easy. In fact this might be one of the toughest challenges you’ve ever faced in your life.

But as we say in the Spartan community,

“You’ll know at the finish line.”

Ready to discover who you really are?
👉 Unlock Your Inner Spartan
(FYI: Enrollment only opens once a year)

Navigating (and surviving) the chaos of our post-pandemic “HurriQuake” reality requires a whole new level of grit, determination, and resilience we never dreamt necessary just a few years ago.

Let’s unlock the optimized version of you together.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”