Last week, I had a wonderful interview with Tony Hawk on my new show, Growth Habits, where I ask the world’s most successful people about the habits that led to their achievements.
Tony Hawk is one of the most successful skateboarders of all time. Many say he’s the best ever. He’s just as successful in business, too—with a billion-dollar video game company, and successful clothing operation. The guy’s a machine.
So, what’s the secret to his success? Based on our interview (which you should watch, if you haven’t already!) here’s my take…
#1 Tony does what he loves.
He didn’t get into skateboarding because he thought it’d make him rich or famous. He did it because he loved it. It seems cliché, doesn’t it? “Follow your passion.” It may be cliché, but here’s why it works:
People who do what they love have a competitive advantage over people who are motivated by extrinsic reasons.
If you don’t love what you do, it’s too easy to quit when things are hard. I see it all the time. Someone says they’re joining a multi-level marketing company and they’re gonna make the big bucks. If you ask them if they love what they’re selling, or if they love how they spend their time, they’ll tell you no. They tell you they’re sacrificing now so they can get the payoff later.
Don’t fall for the trap.
Within a few months most of these people quit because the external reward hasn’t come yet. Not wanting to spend their days in a job they dislike, they move on to the next “get rich quick” idea. It’s an endless cycle that leads to a life of disappointment.
Tony Hawk did things differently. At the age of ten, he fell in love with skating. He spent his life following his passion, and figured out how he could make money with it along the way. At the beginning, there was no reason to believe that he’d start a billion-dollar company and win several international awards. He just wanted to go to the skate park after school and work on his skills. I say “work” on his skills—but actually, it was more like play.
Maybe that’s why Tony was able to withstand the days in the early 1990’s when he couldn’t get any sponsorship money. In his bio, he says that he was forced to refinance his home and live on a “five-dollar-a-day Taco Bell budget.” Do you think he would’ve stayed with his career if it was something he didn’t love? Not a chance.
Sticking with things when the going gets tough is fundamental to success. But most of us aren’t able to do that unless we enjoy what we do along the way.
Like anyone else, I’ve occasionally fallen on hard times during my career. But I love what I do for a living, so I keep going. There’s nothing I’d rather do than host a television or radio show. I still get a rush every time I’m on air. And there is nothing Tony would rather do than skate. That’s why he’s still doing world-class level skate tricks at the age of 48. If you love what you do, you never want to stop. And that gives you a tremendous advantage over people who are in it for the money or the fame.
#2 Tony is laser-focused on clear goals.
Tony attributes a great deal of his success to the habit of obsessing over specific goals and not stopping until he accomplishes them.
That point is well-taken. But I don’t think the idea of concentrating on goals is a revelation to anyone. Of course successful people have goals! But there’s more to the story. Tony’s habit of focusing on clear, short-term goals paved the way for him to develop his passion for skating.
When I asked Tony if he knew early on that he wanted to be a pro skater, he told me no. He said “there was no epiphany.” Instead, his passion grew as he spent time at the skate park after school. Each day, he’d focus on some new aspect that he wanted to improve.
For Tony, the joy came in finding an endless stream of increasingly difficult challenges to master.
As each small success began stacking upon another, he fell in love with the sport. And, of course, that passion reinforced his focus to go after bigger and better goals. It’s an upward spiral.
So, how does this apply to you?
I’ve met a lot of people who tell me, “you know, I wish I was as passionate about something as you are—I wish I had a big dream.” Their mistake is assuming passion comes to us fully-formed, without any effort on our part.
The truth is, passions are developed like anything else. Our motivation waxes and wanes depending on how we nurture it. One of the best ways to nurture our motivation is by setting small challenges to fix our attention on.
The habit of setting goals and constantly seeking to improve is how Tony became who he is. He attributes that habit to his success as a skater AND to his success in business. He just keeps focusing on meeting the next challenge. When something doesn’t work, he simply keeps trying on it until he figures it out.
It wasn’t natural ability that led to Tony’s success (he admitted he wasn’t a natural during our interview). Like so many other all-time-greats, Tony developed his skill through thousands of hours of practice—ever reaching to higher and higher goals.
#3 Tony knows how to summon his confidence when it counts
When I asked Tony how he was so successful in competition, he said that it came down to his ability to approach competition with the utmost confidence each time.
Easier said than done, right? Maybe not.
Tony has a simple secret that he’s used his whole career to be able to come through when it counts. The secret is treat the pressure moment like it’s a practice.
Before big events, it’s human nature to want to overthink things. “How will I do?” “What should I say?” “What if I fail?” We’ve all asked ourselves questions like these at times. But Tony had a simple habit to help him overcome all these doubts: Before competition, he reminded himself of the countless times that he did it right in practice, and he told himself that this moment was no different.
It’s a wonderful strategy. And, as I think back, I’ve used this type of language myself before big events. If I’m interviewing a president, I’ll think, “It’s just another human being, and we’re just having a conversation. Nothing new here.” And you know what, it works!
That’s not to say that you can trick yourself into confidence if you haven’t put in the work. But if you’ve mastered a set of skills, you can trust that those skills will show themselves as long as you don’t sabotage yourself by overthinking things. You know what you’re capabilities are! You should have the confidence that you can perform to the best of your capability when it counts. Just remind yourself, “This is no different than what I’ve done before,” and treat the pressure moment like a practice.
I hope these takeaways have been helpful for you. It’s an honor to be able to have these types of conversations at this point in my career. And it’s an even bigger honor to be able to share my thoughts with you. I wish you all the success you deserve!
PS- Again, if you haven’t seen the show—click here to watch! You never know when someone is going to say that single phrase that’s going to take you to the next level in your life.