Interview with Darrin Donnelly: On developing a warrior mindset


Vera: Congratulations on your book ‘’Think like a Warrior’’. What is the ‘’Warrior’’ mindset?

Darrin: The “Warrior” mindset is the mindset required to overcome the obstacles that stand between you and your dreams.  The inner beliefs we choose to hold determine our mindset and the five inner beliefs discussed in my book make up the “Warrior” mindset.  These five inner beliefs, I have found, are shared by the most of the world’s greatest achievers – whether in sports, in business, or anything else.  If you develop a “Warrior” mindset, I truly believe it will empower you to overcome any obstacle that stands in your way.  And the exciting thing is that the choice is yours.  Anyone can choose to develop a Warrior mindset.


Vera: Why was writing the book as a fable the best way to do the book and how does this approach add value in a way that a traditional style wouldn’t have?

Darrin: It’s funny because I always assumed I would write this as a typical nonfiction-style book. I never really considered writing an “inspirational fable” until I read a couple of books by Jon Gordon and books like The Mulligan by Ken Blanchard.  I realized how powerful this format can be in helping the principles really stick with you.

How often do you read a personal development book and then quickly forget the key principles and lessons?  With the fable format, the principles stick with you. You associate the lessons with scenes or characters in the story and it’s easier for your mind to hold onto them.  Plus, I like how this format allows you to tell a more realistic story where you see the process of a person going through the trial and error of applying the lessons he or she learns.  It’s more lifelike this way.


For my book, “Think like a Warrior” the format worked great because you learn each key inner belief from a legendary coach from the past.  Once you read the story and sit in on the conversations, you’re able to always associate each inner belief with a specific coach.  It makes it much more memorable this way and the inner beliefs stick with you.


Vera: “Warrior” suggests that one needs to fight certain things on the journey to success. What in your experience must one tackle to be unstoppable?

Darrin: The things that hold us back are inner beliefs based on fear, self-doubt, overwhelming stress, and worry.  Getting so worried about the things we have no control over or giving up on our dream because someone tells us it isn’t “realistic.”  These are the negative beliefs you must conquer if you want to achieve success, happiness, and fulfillment. We also have to fight through the idea that we’re entitled to a problem-free life.  Success isn’t about living a life where we never have any problems, it’s about facing those problems head-on and conquering them with a positive, can-do attitude.


Vera: You basically suggest that success starts from within and there’s no short cut. Talk me through the key inner beliefs that you say are central to achievement?

Darrin: There are 5 beliefs.

  • Focus on the things you have total control over – primarily, your effort and your attitude in the present moment.
  • Love what you do and attack each day with joy and enthusiasm. Find your purpose and live the life YOU were born to live.
  • Don’t be afraid to dream big. Follow the dreams in your heart and ignore the naysayers and cynics. Keep reminding yourself of all the reasons your dreams CAN come true.
  • Be relentless and never, EVER give up on your dreams. Expect problems, but know that you have what it takes to overcome each and every one of them.
  • Choose faith over fear. Most failures are a result of fear and worry. Be fearless and know that you have everything you need to become the person you were born to be.


Vera: Your fundamental premise is that the science of success is best drawn from sports where success cannot be fudged. If someone came to you desiring to improve their mental and spiritual toughness, what would you say to them?

Darrin: I’ve been an entrepreneur for 20 years and I know how important self-improvement principles are. I know first-hand how crucial it is to develop mental and spiritual toughness in order to succeed.  I’ve been a voracious reader of self-improvement books.  I’ve found that advice you learn from coaches, athletes, and sports psychologists is the most reliable source when it comes to self-improvement principles.

This is because in sports, a successful person’s thoughts and actions can be directly evaluated, tested, and confirmed based on their results—results that can’t be denied. Though the business guru often has an incentive to portray a certain brand image that may not be completely accurate and the self-help guru can be tempted to make promises that are too good to be true, the achiever in sports can’t fudge (or inherit) his results. Simply put, the scoreboard never lies.

I also believe that sports is the perfect metaphor for life. The coaches and athletes represent anyone with a big dream and the desire to be successful. The seasons or games they endure represent the seasons of life we all must go through when trying to master a new skill, achieve a new goal, or rebound from a setback.


Vera: Zeroing in on the power of the sub-conscious in the process of success, how does one use the power of the subconscious to advantage?

Darrin: Self-talk is so important. Most of us talk to ourselves all the time without even realizing how negative some of the things we’re saying are.  How you talk to yourself – over and over again – determines your inner beliefs, which your subconscious then puts to work to fuel your conscious thoughts and actions, ultimately creating the reality of your life. That is how the inner beliefs you hold determine your fate


Vera: You have your doubts about some of the success secrets that are dispensed out there. What are some of the timeless principles for self improvement that work?

Darrin: I’m troubled by some of the “self-help” advice I’ve seen get very popular in recent years.  Advice that makes big promises about unlimited success with very little effort required.  If a promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  You need passion, grit, discipline, enthusiasm, and a strong work ethic to make any worthwhile dream come true.


Vera: There is so much short-termism these days. What’s the best way to achieve longstanding success and what are some things to do daily in this regard?

Darrin: I think taking time to visualize and think about your long-term goals helps you do the short-term work required to make those big dreams come true.  I also think a lot of hardship could be avoided if we enter each day expecting obstacles, but then confidently knowing that we have what it takes to overcome these obstacles.


Vera: Maintaining momentum no doubt is key part of success especially when setbacks and obstacles abound. How do you define momentum and how does one regain it when they get off track?

Darrin: Like everything else that determines our success, momentum is a choice we make.  It’s an attitude.  It’s not determined from the outside world, it’s determined from within.  If we focus on all the things going against us, we develop negative momentum.  If we instead choose to focus on all the things going our way – even if it’s little things to be grateful for during a period of big problems – it creates positive momentum and starts turning things around.


Vera: What’s been the biggest accomplishment you’ve made using the warrior mindset and which of the beliefs would you say was critical to this?

Darrin: I would say running my own business and writing for a living – things where you’re never able to rely on a regular paycheck – certainly require a Warrior mindset.  The most important – and most difficult – inner belief to really embrace is choosing faith over fear.  It’s so easy to lose confidence and focus on fears – all the things that can go wrong.  You have to have an inner faith, an inner confidence where you KNOW that if you continue to move forward and give your best, things will work out for the best.  This confidence is not easy, it requires a great deal of courage, but it’s essential to success.


Darrin’s profile

Darrin Donnelly is a full time writer and entrepreneur. He and his products have been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, Fast Company Magazine, and newspapers, websites and radio outlets all over the world. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and three children. His blog and free newsletter can be found at


For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.