William James is known as the father of American psychology. He once said:

“Everybody should do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice.”

I call this mental cross-training.

There will always be things you dislike doing–laundry, homework, making sales calls, practicing, or eating healthy, for instance. But what if we didn’t feel like doing these things and did them anyway? How would that make us feel? I would guess that it would make us feel pretty good; it would make us feel proud. That would give us confidence. And it would give us momentum. That’s part of mental toughness.

Winners do what losers don’t feel like doing.

In other words…

You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Begin today.


“We are all capable of infinitely more than we believe.”
-DAVID BLAINE, magician

The great David Blaine once stood atop an 80 foot pole for over 30 hours and then proceeded to jump off into a pile of cardboard boxes.

How did he do it?

He practiced at twenty feet. Then at forty feet. And finally at eighty.

When he performed the stunt, he imagined that he was jumping off and landing on air mattresses (which is what he did when he was training).

Why did he do it?

Because he had a fear of heights and wanted to overcome it.

That’s mental cross-training at its best.

What can you do today to put yourself into an uncomfortable position so you can be more COMFORTABLE and perform at a higher level?

The only way out is through.

Thanks for reading.


William James said, “Everybody should do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Ed Tseng says, “Do one thing every day that is distracting to you, to improve your focus.”

Recently, I practiced yoga, while my girlfriend, Sarah was doing a pilates video. It was yoga that I was doing, but it was really mental cross-training. I knew that it would test my focus, and it certainly was challenging. I caught myself a few times listening to the pilates video, but I accepted it and re-focused on my yoga practice. I felt an inner calm and didn’t let the external factors affect me.

When we’re on the tennis court, at work, in school or in line at the grocery store, there will be distractions. They may be spectators, co-workers, friends or an annoying stranger.

We can’t control those things.

We can only control our reactions to those challenges.

So the next time you feel yourself getting distracted, do the following exercise:

Take a deep diaphragmatic breath (from the stomach vs the chest), in through the nose for four seconds, then exhale out through your nose for four seconds. Continue for several breaths. This will bring you back to the present moment and help you re-gain your focus.

What will you do today (intentionally) that will distract you?


So yesterday I did a little mental cross-training and competed in the National Sudoku Championships in Philadelphia. I wanted to put myself in an unfamiliar situation to test my focus, relaxation and motivation.

It certainly did. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, but I did it anyway. There were some serious competitors there and my brain hurt after the first round. But I stood up, relaxed, made sure I was breathing.

Well I didn’t make the playoffs, but may have come in first for the bonus round for my city, Lawrenceville, NJ. That’s if I was the only entrant for Lawrenceville.

It was a great experience as there were 828 competitors as young as 8 and as old as 93. The came from 23 states and from as far as British Columbia.

I caught up with Thomas Snyder (above), the 2006 and 2007 National Sudoku Champion from Silicon Valley.

I asked Snyder how he prepared for the event. “The week before the competition, I do about 300-400 puzzles. I can do an intermediate to advance puzzle in a few minutes. For the finals, you have to write on this large Sudoku white board and there isn’t much room, so I built a make-shift one at home with tiles and whatnot to make it as realistic as possible.”

Another question I asked was if he gets nervous beforehand. “Yes, but I try to stay relaxed by singing songs in my head and give myself a little pep talk.”

“Can anyone become successful at Sudoku?”

“Yes, with practice and the right strategy,” Snyder responded.

“How does Sudoku help you in other areas of life?”

The Sudoku expert responded, “In many ways…in life you have to know your task, have the right strategy, constantly observe, adapt, explore new ways to do things, and relax under pressure.”

Interesting, it sounds a lot like tennis.

Today I attended the Mind. Body. Spirit. Expo in Philadelphia and heard one of my heroes, Dan Millman give a lecture. Tune in tomorrow for details.

By the way, if you missed the Tseng Performance Academy shout-out in this week, click here:


What is cross-training? It’s training in different ways to improve performance. So if you’re a tennis player, you may cross-train by jogging, lifting weights, or playing basketball.

Cross-training your body can certainly help your physical performance, but there is another type of cross-training.

It’s called, mental cross-training.

If you have a tough time performing under pressure, do something similar that will help your mental toughness, like speaking in front of a group. When you put yourself in similar situations that will force you to face your fears and overcome challenges, it will be easier when you encounter pressure in your sport.

I really like cross-training my body at the gym, interval running, or practicing yoga.

But I LOVE cross-training my mind.

So what am I doing today?

Competing in the National Sudoku Championships in Philadelphia.

I know what you’re thinking, “He must be pretty good.”

Actually, it’s 5:26am and I just solved my first sudoku puzzle…EVER. Registration begins in just over three hours and the first round starts in just over five hours.

Don’t worry, I’ll be competing in the Beginner division. I’m extremely excited to put myself in that pressure situation and test my focus, relaxation techniques, and motivation. You never know, I might have beginner’s luck.

Well, I should probably go practice some more.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading.


“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

I really like this quote.

Most people avoid scary things. But then why do we watch scary movies? Why do we ride roller coasters? Because we love the excitement.

How does this relate to sports?

Well, I call it mental cross-training. If you get nervous or scared before a tennis match or tryouts, put yourself in a similar type of situation more often. Then, when it actually happens, you will be more comfortable.

But there’s more to it. When you face a scary situation and do it anyway, you are flexing your mental toughness muscles. It makes you stronger and tougher. It gives you confidence.

What scares me? Speaking in front of a group and I’m a motivational speaker. It scares me, but I love it. Public speaking is the most feared thing in the world. Even more than death. Last year I gave over 30 talks and I wouldn’t change a thing. It has made me a better speaker, tennis pro and person.

So I challenge you to do one scary thing today and see how it feels.

Leave your comments…

Thanks for reading.


Today’s message is especially dedicated to Amy Morse.

Do you know what mental cross-training is?

Yesterday I had an audition for the new Pixar movie, Avatar: The Last Airbender. My friend and agent, Eileen DeNoble signed me up for the part. My schedule allowed it, and I thought it might be interesting to pursue, so off I went to Philadelphia.

As I was sitting there among all the professional actors and actresses, many of whom knew each other, I felt in another world. What was I doing here? How does this all work? I didn’t have my headshot and resume in hand. And even though it is an animated film, I was still nervous. Very nervous.

I went in, read my two lines and I was done. The casting director said, “Good.” What exactly does that mean? I guess we will see.

Whether I get the part or not does not matter. At the very least, it was mental cross-training. Many athletes play different sports or workout at the gym as cross-training because it helps hone their skills in their sport and forces them to use different muscles.

You have never heard of mental cross-training? That’s because most people don’t do it. If you tend to be nervous before a tennis match, go give a talk in front of your class or co-workers. If you can overcome nervousness in one situation, you can overcome nervousness in the other. That’s mental cross-training. It may not be comfortable, but do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be great?

To improve physically, you have to stretch your muscles and put them under stress.

To improve mentally, you have to stretch your mental muscles and put them under stress.

Thanks for reading.