Performance coach, with a bent towards sports, surgery, and executive performance, gives his thoughts on being a top performer. The key is the "Trusting Mindset": like a squirrel runs across a telephone wire. Just doing it, without thought, because you've trained yourself plenty until that point.
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man.
Great performers are, by definition, abnormal; they strive throughout their entire careers to separate themselves from the pack. What this means is that traditional “health” psychology has actually been pushing performers in the wrong direction!
To be a top performer you have to be passionately committed to what you’re doing and insanely confident about your ability to pull it off,
Thinking is a habit, and like any other habit, it can be changed; it just takes effort and repetition.
How do they not think about all the distractions and possible outcomes and the details of a given performance when they’re under the gun?
The best in every business do what they have learned to do without questioning their abilities—they flat out trust their skills, which is why we call this high-performance state of mind the “Trusting Mindset.” Routine access to the Trusting Mindset is what separates great performers from the rest
You cannot pull up all those years of education, training, and experience in your memory as you perform—that’s the “Training” Mindset. In the Trusting Mindset, you have to let all that expertise be there instinctively.
Different, in fact, as you and a squirrel running across a telephone wire!
Squirrels cannot think.
This ability to reason, evaluate, and make rational calculations is what separates us from other animals, and surely such rationality is a blessing in life—except when you are performing under pressure. Then you want to put aside the Training Mindset and respond to the stimuli bombarding you as much like a squirrel as is humanly possible. Squirrels are natural masters of the Trusting Mindset. I want to help you find your inner squirrel.
We humans can assure a similar kind of closed processing by taking our cerebral cortex out of the game, as it were, and allowing ourselves to react to sensory stimuli with motor responses we have already stored.
Tossing a set of keys seems to require no thought; it’s very squirrel-like. The consequences are minimal, so we don’t bother to use our cerebral cortex.
Chest-high—this time for a $1 million prize to the most accurate tosser—enter open loop processing. Things would likely turn scientific; people would start practicing.
What was a simple, “minimal synaptic” task, not to mention a fun game, is now difficult and filled with potential for anxiety. Once the pressure is on, people try to toss a set of keys across a room and end up choking.
That instinctive, free-wheeling, “What’s the big deal?” trusting attitude has been replaced by an analytical, critical, evaluative, “there’s a fortune hanging on this toss so I better make sure I’ve got it right” training approach to performance.
Performance is simply “child’s play,” which suggests a useful definition of the superstar’s edge: The Trusting Mindset is what you were in before you knew any better.
Former college football coach and NFL Super Bowl champion Jimmy Johnson used to help his players play with more abandon, and which I now use in my class: Put a two-by-four board on the floor and walk from one end to the other. It is not hard. Not one of my students has ever fallen off the board. If you videotape yourself doing this exercise, you will see that your foot hits the middle of the board every step of the way, as if you were walking down the street. Your eyes just look past the board at the far end, to where you’re going, and your feet just move. Now suspend that board thirty feet in the air and walk from one end to the other.
This, I believe, illustrates the feeling that accompanies the Trusting Mindset perfectly. A tightrope walker is in a Trusting Mindset in an environment where everything screams: “Watch out!
The difference between circus performers and the rest of us is that they have trained themselves to perform just like squirrels and step onto a sky-high, swaying wire, effortlessly and simply, as if out on an afternoon stroll.
They’ve purposefully devoted so much time to practicing thinking that way that they can switch it on at will. And so do the best entrepreneurs, surgeons, diplomats, politicians, and other best-in-the-business performers.
Success depends on emptying your head rather than filling it.
Pressure occurs at the moments when meaningful accomplishment is possible. In fact, that is the reason why performers perform: for the opportunity to tackle challenges head on, to do something significant, to demonstrate what their talent and hard work can produce. Those who perform well consistently—the superstars—are always looking for the opportunity to take their game to the next level.
The heart beats faster to get more blood through the arteries, carrying nutrients and oxygen to the working muscles and brain cells so they can perform at a higher level.
The physical symptoms of fight-or-flight are what the human body has learned over thousands of years to operate more efficiently and at the highest level.
In our culture few words carry a more negative connotation than “pressure” and “stress.” Stress gets blamed for everything that doesn’t have an otherwise clear diagnosis. Going gray or losing your hair? Must be stress. Unidentified pains or headaches? You guessed it. But stress is not the cause; it’s how you interpret stress that causes psychosomatic illness.
If you have to address an audience, even a tiny one, you had better rehearse in front of some kind of audience.
once you start enjoying that kind of pressure, I advise you to ratchet things up a notch. Incorporate some distractions in your rehearsal. Encourage audience members to heckle you or ask the toughest questions they can think of.
“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
Ninety percent of this game is half mental.
Great performers in all fields seem immune to what outsiders think about them. Their sense of themselves never depends on the feedback—positive or negative—they get from their environment. They know that the world tilts toward the conventional,
Super salesmen or sport phenoms, they started out inclined to believe that they would excel long before the evidence was in (or, in some cases, even before they chose a career).
Identify a thinking pattern that we want to use under pressure and then practice it, over and over.
Choose a new lens through which to see reality and start using it the majority of the time.
Only people who take the time to get to know the intangibles about you are worth using as resources.
A personal coach who helps us work through certain problems, has suggestions for appropriate fixes, but never tries to limit anyone. These kinds of experts teach you what they have learned from experience, particularly from dealing with other performers with problems like yours.
But if you walked into my office today for a consultation, I would also want to know immediately: Do you have an exciting, vivid vision of the world and where you are in it? Are you extremely committed to the success of that vision? Are you so confident about your potential that other people will think you’re a little too cocky for your own good, maybe even out of your mind?
Talking about dreams may be the last taboo.
A dream is a feeling that sticks.
A dream is a feeling that sticks—and propels.
One reason why movies pull us into their world so easily—why they’re so psychologically captivating—is that they skip the minutiae of daily life, only stopping to feature its dramas. You are not likely to see Julia Roberts getting in the shower three times to tackle a bad hair day or Tom Cruise brushing his teeth before the start of a big action sequence. Goal setting will focus your life more on the details. Dream setting will help you stay focused on the drama.
Chasing dreams is a wide-open process; it’s about allowing yourself a broad path to success, finding adventure, opening new doors. Classic Trusting Mindset.
When you have nothing to do, where does your mind wander? Chances are that’s where your dream lies.
Back in the early 1970s, sociologist Darrel Siedentop, now the dean of the College of Education at Ohio State University, was conducting research on human development in sport. In his free time, he was a passionate gardener who had landscaped his large backyard beautifully with a well-mowed lawn surrounding his pride and joy, a lovely flower garden. One afternoon, he came home from work, headed for the garden, and was appalled at what he saw. Someone had been tramping through his flower beds. Staking out the scene of the crime the next day, he heard some voices in the yard, and there were his culprits: neighborhood kids who were using his yard as their after-school football field, diving for touchdown catches into his soft flower beds. Siedentop was furious. But he also was an accomplished scholar who studied social motivation. He had an idea. He emerged from the house and called the kids over. Instead of threatening them, as they expected, or punishing them (or worse, calling their parents), he informed the football players that he was delighted that they loved his flower garden as much as he did. He invited them to keep coming over after school, and to encourage them, he offered to pay them a dollar apiece to play in his backyard. The kids could not believe their good luck. Not only could they continue their football games in this great field, but they would also get paid for it, just like professional athletes! After school the very next day, they met in the sociologist’s yard to play, and, sure enough, he paid them each a dollar. Every day, they showed up and collected their fee. Within a couple of weeks, however, they came less and less, and soon stopped showing up altogether. Siedentop not only had his garden back, he also had data for the motivation chapter in his landmark 1972 book Development and Control of Behavior in Sport and Physical Education. The story of his “accidental” study is a staple today in psychology and sociology classrooms around the globe for explaining the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The neighborhood kids, Professor Siedentop wrote, initially used his flower bed for their end zone because it was fun. They loved playing football, his plush green yard provided the neighborhood’s most inviting field, and diving for catches into a soft flower bed had the extra kick of seeming like they were scoring in the colorfully painted end zones of the Rose Bowl. But when he started paying the kids, he began to change their motivation. Soon they were coming to his yard not for the joy of a pickup game of football, but to make a buck. Their motivation had been shifted from internal—“Hey, let’s play”—to external—“That weird guy will give us a dollar again.” Siedentop’s conclusion: Commitment that is personally driven is stronger and more enduring than commitment hinging upon outside rewards. It’s comparable to playing the violin because you love the sound and rhythm and feel as opposed to your mother loving the idea that you’re playing the violin. “But you are musically gifted!” your mother might protest. And you actually might be extremely talented. But you will never turn into a great musician because, as the old saying goes, “your heart isn’t in it.”
How differently great performers think. They decide what they want out of life and work and commit to that choice with the single-minded focus we usually identify only with starving artists
“To be a leader, you have to make people follow you, and nobody wants to follow someone who does not know where he is going.”
Soon after Arnold Schwarzenegger arrived in the United States in 1968, he made a prediction: He would become a movie star, make millions, marry a glamorous woman, and wield political power.
Confidence is different from “false confidence.”
Confidence needs to be based on tangible facts and solutions, inner talent, things you can build upon, potential, actions you can take, directions in which you are determined to head.
When conditions are that bad, the only way to make it through is to focus intently on what you have to do in the immediacy of this very second.
Great players don’t think in terms of probability; they think in terms of possibility.
Segmenting your work is an effective way to narrow your concentration
you must think about what you have to do right now, immediately, to take the next step
I actually have recommended to some clients to create even more chaos at work so that getting any work done at all will force them to be in the present.
Simplify and narrow what you think about: Just go out target shooting.
Once you’ve selected a focused, research-backed target, execute it single-mindedly and without reservation. If you start second-guessing your strategy and switch to another in the middle of the sale, you will have taken your mind’s eye off the target. Such doubt (and the subsequent loss of concentration) is more likely to cost you the sale than a bad strategy is.
When expert putters miss, they don’t say, “I am a terrible putter.” They say, “I picked the wrong target.”
Whatever your line of work, there’s a key element of what you’re doing that can soak up all your attention.
“When a man knows he’s going to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”
Close your eyes and don’t think of a tall giraffe. What occupied your mind’s eye? Yup, a tall giraffe! The solution is not to remove a thought, image, or feeling from your brain, but to summon up a new one to replace it. The more you absorb your thinking in an alternative target, the more the unpleasant or performance-hampering information gets pushed out, without your having to think about it.
Preperformance routines should be designed to get you to think clearly and simply during an upcoming event—to be confident, to focus, to take advantage of the physical response a pressure situation sparks.
That little routine is a tool for making the transition between training and trusting—two opposing mindsets.
He’d stop and intentionally commit himself to only what he was doing at present. It wasn’t so much of a warm-up or stretching routine, but a mental check to get himself away from the multitasker’s mindset. In those days, the Dave Matthews
To maximize your potential in whatever you might do for a living, you need to get into that mental state in which your focus is most intense, in which you trust your abilities, experience, and the work you’ve already done. The purpose of any routine is to help you make that all-important transition between preparing to perform and actually performing.
I will end up on top, eventually.
No matter what you are doing, there is a fun way to do it.
“Is there a disconnect between what I say my philosophy is and the thoughts I entertain all day long, particularly what I focus on in the face of adversity?” If I asked you to write down your thinking cornerstones, would you proceed to file the paper or note card in safe storage, or would you tack it up on your bathroom mirror or computer monitor and thoughtfully digest it every day? A philosophy is only as good as how much you exercise it.
Level with yourself about your bad habits of thinking and start developing their converse.
“I’m prepared for the worst”?
In business, being “creative” is likely to mean cheating, as in “creative bookkeeping.”
The Ability to “Mess Around”
One of the first things I advise my clients to do is to spend more time “messing around.”
Discover the fun of engaging themselves in a difficult task and trying to figure it out, trying to innovate. I want them to forget about the results, whether the outcome is successful or not.
You are unlikely to get better at what you do without pushing yourself, without taking some risks, and without making a lot of mistakes.