He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure. -- James Allen
In some of my writings and speeches I have made reference to "The Black Door." I was first told the story by Bill Brown, one of my former assistants at Clemson. For all of those who haven't heard the story, or how it applies to sports (and life), here it is:
A Persian General has the enemy spy placed against the wall as the firing squad take aim and readies themselves to shoot upon the given order.
He slowly walks up to the spy and says, "I'm going to give you a choice about your fate. You can take the firing squad that is ready to carry out your sentence, or you can take what waits for you behind that Black Door."
The spy asks, "What is behind the Black Door?"
The General replies, "I can't tell you. It is your choice."
The spy starts to imagine the possibilities of a long and painful death. Perhaps there are tigers on the other side of the door that will tear him to shreds. Perhaps it will be snakes or another frightening death. After some contemplation, he confirms to the general that he is ready to take the quick and simple method of execution or the firing squad. And the execution is carried out swiftly.
Afterward, a young corporal who had witnessed the whole thing walks up to the General and asks, "What is behind the black door?"
The General replies, "It's Freedom. But no one has ever chosen it. It seems that most people choose a death that they are familiar and more comfortable with than to risk the unknown."
I used to have a sign in my locker room that read, "Most want comfort more than they desire excellence." Another sign read, "To get all, you must give all everyday in your training, and be willing to risk all every time that you compete." Players must be always aware that giving all in practice is much easier than risking all when they compete.
As this diagram shows, when you go through the Black Door, though you may fail in the process, but you'll never have to go though the initial passage again.
Gradually, as you see Black Doors for what they are, new confrontations become less intimidating.