Cus D’Amato’s Lessons That Transformed Mike Tyson Into a Champion

Hard to believe, but boxing legend Mike Tyson was the product of an intensive self-help regimen that transformed him from a street thug into a boxing legend. I am reading his blockbuster book, Undisputed Truth (, and it is filled with all sorts of self-help information that he learned from legendary trainer, Cus D’Amato. It is actually an amazing education, this book, if you can get past all of the horror that was Tyson’s non-boxing life. Cus taught things to Tyson that were straight out of bestselling self-help books such as Think and Grow Rich, The Power of the Subconscious Mind and even my book, Rich Habits ( In fact, I was shocked how many Rich Habits Cus taught Tyson. What those teachings did was create perhaps the greatest, most successful boxing heavyweight, the world had ever known. There were so many  firsts in Tyson’s dramatic boxing career that you cannot dispute the affect those self-help lessons had in molding Mike Tyson, the boxer.

Here are some of the self- help lessons that were responsible for turning Tyson into a legend:

  • Visualizations – Tyson used visualization techniques, created by Cus D’Amato, to help him see himself as a fierce, quick-footed boxer. Cus had Tyson engage in visualizations as part of his nightly ritual. Occasionally, according to the book, Cus would sit next to Tyson’s bed and assist him with his nightly visualization routine. Cus had Tyson visualize himself as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, a fearsome, unbeatable fighter and as one of the best boxers of all time, even better than Marciano and Ali. He had him visualize his training and his bouts. Cus turned Tyson’s brain into a virtual movie theater.
  • Affirmations – Affirmations, like the visualizations, were another part of the reprogramming techniques Cus used on Tyson. Cus had Tyson repeat various affirmations that were tied to his goals, in bed just before falling off to sleep. Cus would repeat many of the affirmations to Tyson even during the day. He’d feed Tyson’s mind with statements about being unbeatable, becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion, going down in history as the greatest boxer the world had ever known etc.
  • Repetition by Doing – Part of Tyson’s training regimen included repeatedly hitting a torso displayed on a mattress, over and over again in the same specific spots. Every combination he threw at that mattress became programmed into his subconscious. This soon became a habit that Tyson would take with him into the ring.
  • Moderate Eating – Cus monitored what Tyson ate every day. If he saw Tyson eating something fattening, like ice cream, he would get in his face to change his behavior. Tyson was always on guard as to what he ate out of fear of retribution from Cus.
  • Self-Improvement Reading – Cus instilled in Tyson a love of reading. He encouraged this behavior daily and provided Tyson with all sorts of historical and biographical books beyond just boxing. Tyson credited those books with helping him understand the way people think and thus, helping him psyche out his opponents. One of Tyson’s favorite reading subjects was Alexander the Great. He often thought of himself as boxing’s version of Alexander the Great.
  • Learn From Mistakes – In his early amateur bouts, Cus and Tyson would go over all of his mistakes, post-bout, and then correct them in the gym. Cus viewed every one of those early bouts as a learning experience for Tyson. Cus told Tyson that the best lessons came from being defeated. That’s where the hard lessons were learned, he’d tell Tyson.
  • Goals – Together, Cus and Tyson set numerous goals and worked to realize those goals. One of those goals was to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world by winning all three belts, which Tyson did on March 7, 1987 at the age of 20. He was the first heavyweight boxer to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles, and the only heavyweight to successively unify them. He was also the youngest.

Mike Tyson was very fortunate to have Cus D’Amato as his mentor. Cus D’Amato was not only a great trainer, he was steeped in self-help knowledge. What made Tyson, Iron Mike Tyson, was his willingness to embrace all of the self-help training Cus could dish out, and his belief that he controlled the circumstances of his life. Tyson soaked up all of Cus D’amato’s self-help knowledge like a sponge.  It was a perfect mentor-men-tee relationship; one the boxing world will likely never see again.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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