Life As Sport: What Top Athletes Can Teach You about How to Win in Life – Book Summary


Life As Sport. I bought it thinking it would encourage me to shove down beers and hot dogs while watching others shine on TV. I was wrong. But I still enjoyed it.

life as sport by jonathan fader

In his book Life as Sport: What Top Athletes Can Teach You about How to Win in Life, Jonathan Fader explains how to apply mental & behavioral tricks elite athletes use to reach your goals. No needles involved, don’t worry.

Life As Sport philosophy follows four principles:

  1. Enjoyment: enjoy what you do, but compete fiercely in this game of life. Gamify & excel if you will.
  2. Objective optimism: Be confident in the future by remembering your past success. People naturally linger on negative thoughts for self-preservation. It’s not our fault; our brain is wired that way. Back in the days, you’d rather be aware of the tiger than remembering that you have five wives. Survival Instinct.
  3. Present & future orientation: always focus on what you can do now. But keep the end goal in mind. Make sure you’re practicing purposefully, by being fully present in the activity (don’t multitask or daydream, it impairs your performance). When you feel lost, get back to the ME concept: what is your Motivation (intrinsic power values) and what do you enjoy doing?
  4. Process focus: thoughts & actions are in your control. Not your feelings, neither the outcomes. Always be on the DOT:
  • Do: visualization, breath, routines
  • Think: self-talk, goal setting, motivation
  • Outcome. Remember the greater picture.

Let’s now get to the six tools to win in life. Whatever that means to you. A new house. A new wife. A new toaster. Everybody has different expectations.

1. Goal setting

People don’t commit or stick to goals because:

  • they don’t want to do the hard things
  • they are afraid of finding out they can’t

Choosing the right goal is hard. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re on the right track:

  • Focus on processes rather than outcomes. Make sure your target is an action/reaction.
  • What are your KPIs? Monitor & measure everything. Be accountable to yourself.
  • How did you plan to achieve it? Set up short-term goals working towards a long-term goal.
  • Make sure the goal can only be affected by things you can control.
  • Don’t base self-esteem on goal attainment. That is irrelevant.
  • If you fail: Don’t judge yourself. Fail better next time.

A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.
– George M. Moore, Jr.

Fader draws a mastery map to help you define efficient & constructive goals:

mastery map

2. Motivation

Motivation is a set of intrinsic values that make the attainment of your goal a necessity to you.

Those values, called power values by Frader, are way more profound than sheer monetary or notoriety goals. To find them, ask yourself why you want to attain your current objective. Then ask why again, seven times. You’ll be surprised by the results. I found out I want to master ping pong to quench my thirst to dominate the world.

How to make sure you stay motivated?

  • Be accountable to people. No friends? No problem. Here you go.
  • Form habits:
    • Stick everything to a cue. E.g., if you have a fitness goal, do 50 pushups everytime you wash your hands. If you have OCD, you’ll get ripped in no time.
    • Don’t strive for perfection, just do it. Commit to small shitty actions. That will lift off the weight of willing to be good, and will get you going.
  • Feelings don’t matter. Thoughts & actions do. Fake it, and it will become true.  Stop listening to yourself so much sweetheart. Toughen up.

3. Anxiety

Anxiety management is fundamental to winning. Although being overly relaxed can harm your performances, you need to be able to channel your stress.

Some techniques to attain composure:

  • Breathing: aim for six full breaths in 1 minute. Count 4″ inhaling, 4″ exhaling, and 2″ blocking. The author of this website cannot be held responsible in case of choking. Please consult your doctor for advice.
  • Third person viewpoint: What am I experiencing? Label your feelings.
  • Fixed mindset vs. growth mindset: you can control your reaction to your feelings.

Behaviors can have a massive impact on your actual emotional state. For instance, a study showed smiling creates an emotion of happiness.

iSmile – available soon in your nearest Apple Store

In the light of the above, here are a few behaviors that can reduce anxiety:

  • Sit and walk with a straight posture
  • Make eye contact
  • Smile
  • Uncross legs & arms
  • Masturbate – not sure that one was on the list.

4. Visualization

Visualization is an integral part of reaching your goals, as it primes your brain and gets you ready for the actual performance. But don’t picture yourself only succeeding. The trick is to focus on accomplishing a task. Be very specific about the process. Plan a varied range of possible situations & your reactions to them.

Other tips include:

  • Use an associated view: from a 1st person viewpoint.
  • Use all your senses (touch, smell, ear, vision, taste)
  • Visualize in real time, no fast forward to the end
  • Enjoy the visualization

5. Self-talk

A good or bad thing about assumptions is that they tend to be true, no matter what.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are a thing.

So avoid shortcuts, don’t extrapolate isolated events and don’t jump to conclusions when a mishap happens.

Stay objective, and base your self-talk on past facts.

You can be your best friend or your worst foe. Which you are you going to have over for coffee?

And don’t forget: thoughts and feelings are different. You have no control over your emotions, but feelings don’t mean shit. They are merely chemical reactions ingrained in our DNA. They could be an outdated heritage for dark ages. Conversely, you can control your thoughts and decide what you want to think and how you want to react to your feelings.

How to develop a mantra

Ask yourself:

  • What are my actual qualities that will help me accomplish my goal?
  • What are specific events that happened in the past that prove that I have those qualities?
  • Do my friends/family/coaches concur that I have those qualities?

Then sum it all up in one short sentence. Here’s your mantra. You’re welcome.

My mantra. You can do better.

6. Routines

Routines are a mix of behaviors and thoughts triggered before and after your performance. You can also correct minor contingencies by having a “during-performance” routine that will put you back on track.

How to build an efficient routine

Think of a time when you had a good performance.

  • What emotions did you feel?
  • What did you do before that moment?
  • What did you think of before that moment?


Sports have so much to teach us in life. More than a physical performance, exercise trains your mind to enjoy a decent amount of suffering. Training pushes you of your comfort zone and makes you go beyond what you thought you were capable of doing.

Stay focused. Get tougher. Start small. Keep moving.

About the author

Gary Paris

Hey, I'm Gary Paris. Yeah, yeah, like the city. In Texas. I'm a French comedian doing a bunch of stuff in NYC. Like standup, writing, or even acting. Discover all my little secrets here and check me out on Instagram.

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