Book Club: Greg Everett’s Tough: Building True Mental, Physical and Emotional Toughness for Success and Fulfillment

October 17, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Instagram @catalystathletics
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Greg Everett is the founder and co-owner of Catalyst Athletics, a world championship weightlifting coach, athlete and author. 

  • One of his books, Olympic Weightlifting, serves as a bible for those coaching the sport, and for those aspiring to learn and improve upon the snatch, clean and jerk. 
  • His videos shared on his social media channels, his instructional guides, articles and programs have been used by athletes and fellow coaches throughout the world, since Catalyst Athletics’ genesis in 2006. 

Everett’s most recent book, Tough: Building True Mental, Physical and Emotional Toughness for Success and Fulfillment, veers away from the sport of weightlifting, and instead dives into the theme of toughness. It’s a concept that entices us, and is one we revere when we see it personified in individuals. 

  • “We’re unquestionably drawn to the idea, whether consciously or not, and gravitate toward people we believe embody it, from ourselves to them, we strive to emulate them and we try-however clumsily and often poorly-to teach our children how to live more like them.” 

While the idea of toughness is a challenging one to define, it also begs the question, how is it achieved? What are the steps an individual can take day to day to improve and sharpen those qualities that make one “tough”? 

The breakdown: In the book, Everett defines four elements that we must continue to hone and develop in order to achieve toughness:

  • Character – who are you?
  • Capability – what are you able to do?
  • Capacity – what are you able to withstand?
  • Commitment – what are you willing to do? 

The four main sections of the book take on each of these components individually, the “fundamental elements of toughness and the multitude of mental, emotional and physical aspects that it encompasses.” Further, Everett gives insight on how one can build on those elements, encouraging self-reflection, journaling and constant growth. 


Everett explains that “who we are,” is an ever-changing and evolving process of self-discovery, decision-making, and then action: “A loop of discovering who we are, deciding who we want to be, and acting in alignment.” With action being the key component. “Identity is described by ideas,” writes Everett, “but defined by actions.” 

Another element defining character is security in our identity: understanding who we are as humans, and resisting the urge to be pushed in contradictory directions. We are what we value and remaining confident in that notion and in those values builds character. 

Everett encourages readers to journal about their daily gratitudes, and to reflect on personal standards and daily achievements and to compare “intentions with execution.” 


Everett describes capability as a tool box: “The more tools we have at our disposal, the more skilled we are in using each of them, and the more variety of the work for which we’ve employed them in the past, the greater our preparation to handle whatever we encounter.”

He emphasizes the concepts of independence and self-reliance, and how they are only obtainable through capacity. By collecting skills and abilities, we are creating the potential for synergy, confidence and with the specific addition of physical abilities, resulting in physical health and fitness, we are supporting mental and emotional health, as well as cognition. 

Everett lays out multiple exercise training plans, and outlines “universal basics” of capacity, citing skills like simple survival skills, home safety, basic car maintenance, among others. 


Everett recognizes that this trait is often thought of as “resilience: the ability to not simply survive, but to recover subsequently to our previous condition.” 

Everett explores the balance between surviving versus thriving, within this section, and the vast difference between the two.

  • “The capacity element of true toughness is more than the ability to merely survive an experience- it’s the ability and intent to thrive through and after it.” 

He stresses that while we as humans will most definitely face adversity in our lives, being tough means preparing for that adversity, and accepting its inevitability. This can be done with capacity training and stress inoculation, outlined at the end of the section. 


“Without commitment and the action it induces, the other traits become meaningless fantasies,” explains Everett, in the final section of the book. 

  • “In order to remain committed, we need to discover and understand our intrinsic motivations through the same kind of self-examination we use to determine our identity and values.” 

Commitment is expressed via discipline, hard work and failure, being willing to push ahead and having the ability to continue and to try again. 

Everett stresses the importance of journaling once again, emphasizing how it can be an inexpensive and accessible vehicle to promote goal setting, task planning and reflection. At the end of this section, there are specific steps and outlines for guided self-examination. 

The bottom line: Everett’s Tough: Building True Mental Physical Emotional Toughness for Success and Fulfillment is a short but very dense manual on how to find personal achievement and purpose. It is 250 pages of expert insight and advice on an ambiguous but attainable theme, and one many of us strive to attain. 

  • Everett: “We all have two fundamental choices in life– what our purpose is, and whether or not to pursue it. Discover that purpose, and begin your unrelenting pursuit.” 

Tough: Building True Mental Physical Emotional Toughness for Success and Fulfillment is available now in print, kindle and audio editions.

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