2 comments on “Winning Psychology”

Winning Psychology

Many books never age for me. Huck is still Huck; Holden is still Holden; Think And Grow Rich and The Magic of Thinking Big still resonate. I read and re-read these books. The books are the same, but I have changed. This remains a curious method for measuring growth.

Recently I re-read Dr. Denis Waitley’s The Psychology of Winning. Published in 1979, plenty might consider it ancient. But its wheels are still true.

Here are the takeaways that I find most valuable:

Make a List of “I Am’s.”

Create two columns. Place your assets or “I am good at” in one column. Place your liabilities or “I need improvement in” in the other column. Pick your ten best traits and your ten traits needing the most improvement. Take the first three liabilities and schedule an activity or find a winner who will help you improve in each of the three areas.

Accepting Compliments

One good indicator of an individual’s opinion of himself is the way he can accept a compliment. It is incredible how low-achievers belittle and demean themselves when others try to pay them value:

“I’d like to congratulate you on a job well done.”

“Oh, it was nothing . . . I was just lucky I guess.”

“Wow, that was a great shot you made!”

“Yeah, I had my eyes closed.”

“That’s a good looking suit. Is it new?”

 “No, I’ve been thinking of giving it to Goodwill.”

The Loser believes that the quality of humility should be pushed over the cliff into humorous humiliation. And the devastating fact is that the robot self-image is always listening and accepts these negative barbs as facts to store as reality.

The Winners in life accept compliments by simply saying “thank you.” Bob Hope says “thank you”; Frank Boorman says “thank you”; Steve Cauthen, after winning the Triple Crown, doesn’t say “gee, I almost fell off my horse”; he says “thank you.” Neil Armstrong, Jack Nicklaus, Cheryl Tiegs, Nancy Loopez, Chris Evert all say “thank you.” Self-esteem is the quality of simply saying “thank you,” and accepting value that is paid to you by others.

Wants and Desires

Make a list of five of your most important current wants or desires, and right next to each . . . put down what the benefit or payoff is to you when you achieve it. Look at this list before you go to bed each night and upon awakening each morning.


Indeed, Dr. Waitley’s Psychology of Winning has reminded me of the things I’ve lost focus on. And today, when the competition for your attention is likely greater than it has ever been before (the incessant alerts, updates, notifications via smartphones, computers, social media, etc.), one of his admonitions hits home: “Concentrate all your energy and intensity, without distraction, on the successful completion of your current project. Finish what you start.”

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Finding Peace

Some parents find peace at the end of their child’s recital, or performance, or perhaps, on a lazy Sunday morning when the kids and the dog all slumber on the bed together with Mom and Dad—quiet, relaxed, happy.

Students may find peace—albeit brief—after composing an essay or completing a final exam.

Athletes have regular opportunities to find peace. Peace, like many things, is fleeting. But there is a moment—and every athlete knows this moment—when you’ve turned in a good session, one where you pushed through the uncertainty and the discomfort, the doubt and the discord, and you’ve reached your goal. There’s that moment, when you’re sitting in your truck after a hard swim session, when you’re standing in your driveway after a tough run, or when you’re slumped over the top tube of your bike after a positively brutal ride.

That moment—when you stop moving—and when your brain is no longer urging your body forward—that is a peaceful moment. Everything, in that moment, is right. There are no bills to pay, no errands to run, no complaints to address.

Exercise

Daily exercise might require 20-60 minutes, and it might involve a few minutes of preparation. However, the science suggests that exercising will give you more energy, reduce stress, help you sleep better, and help you feel better about yourself.

Meditation

Meditating is a practice you can engage in daily for 10-20 minutes. If you don’t know how to meditate, you have plenty of options. You might begin with Headspace, an app that provides guided meditation.

Gratitude

If exercise and meditation are too much of a time commitment, then simply spend 5 minutes each day writing down all that you are grateful for. Like exercise and meditation, practicing daily gratitude should help quiet the mind.

I meet people who seem to believe they’ll find peace once they travel. Or they’ll find it when they retire. Or when their kids go off to college. Or when they get that promotion. Or when they get a new car or a bigger house.

Don’t wait to find peace. Create daily opportunities to swim in it. To bathe in it. To enjoy it, however brief it may be.

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Transformation

I was slow for most of the 15 years I spent as a triathlete. Not until 2014 did I become fast. People who knew me when it took 12-14 hours to finish an Ironman have asked, “How is it possible that you went from finishing in 12-14 hours to 9 1/2 hours?”

Determining how to transform begins by asking specific questions, and these questions can be applied to any endeavor. I wanted to transform from slow to fast, but these questions cross over to other things, like going from fat to fit, lazy to motivated, bad to good, poor to rich.

Step One. Ask yourself:  Do I look like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

The first thing I did was take a hard look at the “fast guys.” Did I look like them? The answer was “no.”

This compelled me to action.

I lost 20 pounds. Losing 20 pounds was simple, but not easy. I had to stop drinking. (Alcohol was not keeping me heavy. However, the nutritional choices I made after a few pints of Guinness certainly kept me more plump than necessary. I’m referring specifically to how good a can of Pringles—the whole can—tastes while enjoying a good beer buzz, or how great a few hotdogs taste at a ballgame. I didn’t make these poor nutritional choices when I was sober. But give me a few drinks, and pow! I’d eat everything.)

I also shaved my head. And I shaved my legs. (Body hair has been proven to slow people down in the water and on the bike.)

So in looking at what you want to become, one question is very simple: Do you look like “them?” (What actions can you take to close the gap?)

Unfortunately, after losing weight, I still did not look like them. Physically, I was getting close. But then I looked at their equipment. They had aero wheels, aero helmets, and carbon fiber time-trial bikes. I did not.

Step Two to the transformation:  Do I work like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

Asking myself this question led to a realization: many of the fast guys I met were training 20-25 hours per week. I was training 10-15 hours per week.

Step Three to the transformation: Do I think like _________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

I thought it looked cool to look like you’re suffering. And sure, maybe that’s cool. But what’s cooler? The way these guys make it look so easy. (I thought going sub-11 hours in an Ironman was fast. My friend Keish, who’s always been a fast guy, is disappointed if he doesn’t go sub-10. For him, sub-10 is not a PR. It’s simply an expectation.)

Step Four to the transformation: Do I execute like ___________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

For me, the question was simple: Do I race like them? In simply comparing my transition times to the fast guys, there were enormous differences. They transitioned with urgency. I would dilly dally. (In life it’s encouraged to stop and smell the roses. In triathlon, not so much).

The answers to these four questions—and the subsequent changes I made—are the “magic formula” to the transformation I enjoyed.

Of course, my contention is that these sorts of questions are applicable to any endeavor. If you want to improve at something, simply have a look at those who are succeeding. What are they doing differently? And why? Answer these questions, see how the answers relate to you, and then adapt accordingly.

0 comments on “A Dynamic Life”

A Dynamic Life

James Citrin’s The Dynamic Path is among the most valuable books I’ve read. Like many titles that reside in the success-literature canon, Citrin identifies and describes key characteristics of successful people. However, Citrin observes that the most successful and most inspiring travel along something called The Dynamic Path, which is a series of three stages:

Stage 1: The Champion achieves excellence as an individual or member of a team in sports or business.

Stage 2: The Great Leader transcends individual accomplishment and becomes dedicated to the individual and collective achievement of others.

Stage 3: The Legacy is left by those leaders, household names or otherwise, who achieve meaningful societal change and enduring results.

Let’s say that you are currently traveling along The Dynamic Path. Where are you today? Are you The Champion, The Great Leader, or The Legacy? If you are currently striving to become The Champion, have a look at your goals. Make sure you continue to refine them. Similarly, if you are trying to transcend individual accomplishment, or if you are focused on your legacy, refine your goals accordingly.

In his book, Citrin interviews Buzz Aldrin, Colin Powell, Bono, Tony Hawk, and a host of other top-performers. When interviewing famed cycling coach, Chris Carmichael, Carmichael offers this insight about the role of 99% in aspiring champions: “People hold back that 1 last percent so they don’t have to face not being good enough. If there is always something they could have done better, they are still safe.”

Consider that for a moment. Do you hold back? Have you done so recently? How has this affected your trajectory?

Carmichael’s observation is punctuated by sports psychologist, Bob Rotella, who notes: “It is actually much easier for people to work hard than it is to believe in themselves. I think there are so many people who are really talented and hardworking who don’t believe in themselves. What strikes me more than anything is that in the American culture, we have sold the importance of the work ethic for years so totally and completely that we have lots of people who will work their tail off and yet will choose to never believe in themselves.”

Is this you? What systems do you need to put into place so that you can go from aspiring champion to champion? What systems do you need to put into place so that you can make sure that you are traveling along The Dynamic Path?

0 comments on “Don’t Go There”

Don’t Go There

Honduras. It shares borders with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. “It has one of the highest murder rates in the world,” according to the US Department of State. “Criminals, acting both individually and in gangs, in and around certain areas of Tegucigalpa . . . engage in murder, extortion, and other violent crimes.”

This isn’t about fake news. It’s about characterizing an entire country based on the actions of a few. In the world of fallacies, we might call this a Hasty Generalization.

I booked my flight.

The goal was not to put myself in harm’s way. The goal was to simply get on the ground for four days in Honduras to see if the characterization of this nation was reasonable.

I landed at Toncontin International Airport, approximately 6 miles from Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. My first stop was Riviera, a restaurant that’s been making yucca con chicharron (fried pork belly or fried pork rinds over cabbage and yucca) for 70 years.

Honduras 1

It was delicious.

I checked into the Hyatt Place in Tegucigalpa, all the while conscious of confirmation bias, knowing that I mustn’t simply search for information that confirms my preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. This was hard, as my first impressions of Tegucigalpa (and the surrounding areas) were favorable.

For four days, I traveled around Tegucigalpa. I felt safe. Secure. The Honduran people are like many of us, just trying to enjoy a better life.

This is a recurring theme in my travels. Had I trusted the news, I’d never have gone to Colombia 11 years ago, or Croatia, or Cambodia. At this rate, I should probably book flights to North Korea and the Congo.

The takeaway is this: when you hear people speaking categorically about a person, a business, or a country, know that their credibility should be questioned. Rarely can something be entirely bad. And sometimes the only way to prove it is to conduct your own research.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, New York City . . . they each have dodgy areas. And so does Honduras. There are murderers, drug-dealers, and folks bent on extortion. But to suggest that something is entirely bad based on the actions of a few is unreasonable.

0 comments on “Be Uncompromising”

Be Uncompromising

Many Americans are familiar with the story of Henry Ford and his drive to produce the V-8. As the story goes, “When Henry Ford decided to produce his famous V-8 motor, he chose to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block, and instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine. The design was placed on paper, but the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.”

Ford’s reply was simple: “Produce it anyway.”

A story that some may be less familiar with is the story of the Burj Al Arab. I’ve been there twice, and each time I’ve marveled at the achievement it represents. The Burj Al Arab is the iconic structure standing approximately 1,000 feet off the coast of Dubai, UAE.

burj al arab

Completed in 1999, the Burj al Arab was the tallest hotel in the world for several years. However, when the vision for this self-proclaimed 7-star hotel was conceived, the ruler of Dubai was told it was impossible.

It was to be a hotel that looked like the sail on a yacht, and it should appear to float atop an island. In the words of the guide who showed us around the property, “The lead architect was perplexed. He said, ‘I cannot create land. An island is not possible.’”

The ruler of Dubai simply replied: “You build it. Or I’ll find somebody who can.”

burj3

Sure enough, just as Ford’s engineers found a way to build the impossible V-8, the architect (along with an army of engineers) found a way to construct an artificial island that could support a hotel consisting of 70,000 cubic meters of concrete and 9,000 tons of steel.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on compromise, but it seems to work best when people are trying to avoid conflict or when they have shared goals. If you fancy yourself a dreamer, a visionary, or an entrepreneur, consider the cost of compromise. Sometimes it is essential to be uncompromising.

0 comments on “Surprise Yourself”

Surprise Yourself

I don’t like surprises.

It’s not that I don’t champion spontaneity. It’s that I see my day as a closed-energy equation, one where I’ll need to allocate my energy stores in order to perform optimally. If I don’t know what’s going on, then allocation becomes sub-optimal at best.

There is a scene in Pretty Woman, where Julia Roberts’ character describes herself as a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl.” Well, that may work for many. But I am not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda guy.  In fact, if I had a playbook that identified the rules in my life, this would be one of them.

Of course, as is often the case, there are exceptions. There are moments in life—when you’re with your significant other, or spending time with your kids, or sifting through a work-related problem or a health-related issue—when surprises make you smile. These moments give you a reason to keep going.

The other day, for instance, I awoke exhausted and unmotivated. I struggled to read a few pages from a sports biography, brushed my nose when I was endeavoring to brush my teeth, haphazardly applied sunblock, and made my way downstairs.

As I drank my espresso and ate my oatmeal, I seriously considered skipping my swim and run session in favor of going back upstairs to get a few more hours of sleep. After all, my wife and dog were up there. And they looked (and sounded) comfortable.

But I reminded myself that the decisions I make when it’s early in the morning—when it’s dark and cold—those decisions shouldn’t be trusted as much as the decision I made the night before, when I was clear-headed. When I had a plan. When I was motivated.

So I trudged on, got into my truck, and reached the pool just after 5:30 AM. I was still exhausted.

They say a car uses a lot of energy to start. But it relies on far less energy once it’s rolling.

Well, I’d used a lot of energy that morning just to get into my jammers and onto the pool deck. But once I got into the pool, and once I did a warm-up of 500 yards, I started to feel pretty good.

Half way through the workout, the whiteboard indicated that we needed to do another 500. This was not all out. Just a 500. So I swam, with effort, but I didn’t go anaerobic or hypoxic. Typically, if I were going hard, I’d come in around 7:05-7:10.

When I hit the wall, my time was 6:51. (I didn’t believe it at first, but after conferring with my Garmin, I was convinced). Wow. I was officially surprised! And it was not on a day when I felt rested. It was not on a day when I exuded motivation. I hadn’t even gone all out!

Michael Phelps would likely hang up his Speedos if he ever swam a 500 in 6:51. But I was absolutely stoked!  It was a reminder that, indeed, most rules do have exceptions. And if I can be a party to these sorts of exceptions in sport, then bring ’em on!

To permeate a quiet confidence, to know that your happiness cannot be taken away from you, not today . . . that is the benefit of a breakthrough. That is the benefit of a stunning surprise in sport.

I suppose you can’t plan to surprise yourself. But perhaps if you take a chance, take a risk, push yourself—perhaps you speak up at a meeting, or organize a family getaway, or learn a musical instrument, or a foreign language. Perhaps you find a trail, or a pool, or a bike. If you take a chance . . . if you put yourself out there . . . it’s exciting to see what can happen.

Believe in the power of you. Allow yourself the luxury of dreams. Make the time to pursue them. And you might just surprise yourself.

0 comments on “Heroes”

Heroes

I like to romanticize the hero. He dons a cape. She flies an invisible jet. It is not a flea but The Tick!

The truth, though, with due deference to Comic-Con fans, is that the real heroes are first-responders, fire fighters, police officers, and members of the armed forces. They are people who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, to assist us, or to save us.

But there are other heroes. Few organizations classify their strongest assets as heroes, but we should aspire to be the workplace hero.

“Calculation never made a hero.” —John Henry Newman

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”     —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Workplace heroes share common characteristics.

Ownership

Heroes of the office ooze ownership, also known as accountability. They don’t pass the buck. They consider excuses an abomination. And they are most empowered when something goes wrong and they take responsibility for it.

Commitment

Workplace heroes do not simply start something, only to let others finish it. If it means staying later, listening longer, or starting over again, they do what must be done. They know the difference between delegation and fulfillment.

Heart

Heroes execute from the head, as well as their heart. They bring passion into the workplace. This is consistent with the Dicky Fox message in Jerry Maguire: “If this is empty (he points to his heart), this doesn’t matter (he whacks himself on the head).”

Consider ownership, commitment, and heart. How might these characteristics compel you to become the workplace hero?

0 comments on “The Negotiator”

The Negotiator

I am an expert negotiator.

Sure, I may pay full price for a car. I may get gouged for a water heater or a new air-conditioning unit. And I certainly lose most of the negotiations with my wife.

However, when I negotiate with myself, I always win.

Let me explain.

I train (exercise) everyday (with rare exception). Before I begin, I’ve already begun the negotiations. “Next item up for business: you planned to run 6 miles. Are you going to run 6 miles?” And then the process begins. It’s like an epic courtroom drama, the slick defense attorney vs. the conservative prosecutor.

Once I begin the run, the negotiations continue. Of course, the moment I sense a twang in my right knee or a ping in my left foot, it’s like a new exhibit has been entered into evidence.

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” —Vince Lombardi

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” —Henry Ford

Sometimes I can convince myself to complete the 6 miles. Other times, I’ve negotiated a new outcome, one that realizes itself at around 3 or 4 miles. The evidence is almost always compelling: “You don’t want to get injured. Better to play it safe.”

While I think this process is healthy, it’s important to be conscious of one thing: do not allow your negotiations to become one-sided. In other words, if you’re regularly negotiating downwards (turning a 50-mile ride into a 30-miler, a 4,000 yard swim into 2,500), you must make sure to also negotiate upwards. On the days when you feel good, extend your bike ride, add an extra 20 minutes to your swim session, or run a couple extra loops around the block. And make sure this mindset transcends the treadmill and finds its way into your professional life. Negotiate upwards at work by minding the power of questions, daily goals, and self-talk:

Questions

Ask yourself carefully-crafted questions. “What can I do to increase productivity today?” “What can I do right now to help meet this quarter’s revenue goals?” The answers to these questions will help compel you to go forward.

Daily Goals

I like to jot these down in the morning, and if I’m spending a lot of time in front of a computer, I’ll put a Post-it Note or two onto the monitor to keep me focused on that day’s goals. Also, I’ll make an effort to visualize the attainment of these goals during morning meditation. Clear awareness of your daily goals should help you negotiate upwards, as daily goals should promote purpose.

Self-talk

Be mindful of your self-talk. As Lao Tzu noted, “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions; Watch your actions; they become habits.” As you negotiate throughout the day, nudge your self-talk toward affirmation and optimism, employing language like “You can do this. Dig deep. Just make one more call.”

It’s okay to be an expert negotiator. But a real expert should be good at getting the most out of every negotiation.

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Remember “The Magic of Thinking Big”

Originally published in 1959, Dr. David J. Schwartz’s entrepreneurial bible should warrant residence in your library. And while many of us have read his seminal work, The Magic of Thinking Big, we may not review it as often as we should.

“You are what you think you are.” —David J. Schwartz

“Don’t blame others when you receive a setback. Remember, how you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.” —David J. Schwartz

Here are three highlights from his work:

Rid Yourself of Excusitis

Schwartz writes about his amputee friend who is an excellent golfer: “One day I asked him how he had been able to develop such a near-perfect style with just one arm. I mentioned that most golfers with two arms can’t do nearly as well. His reply says a lot, ‘Well, it’s my experience,’ he said, ‘that the right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time.’ The right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time. Think about that for a while. It holds true not only on the golf course but in every facet of life.”

Build Confidence by Managing Your Memory

Schwartz argues that “Your brain is very much like a bank. Every day you make thought deposits in your ‘mind bank.'” Schwartz likens negative thought deposits to fertilizing weeds, and he offers this plan: “Just before you go to sleep, deposit good thoughts in your memory bank. Count your blessings. Recall the many good things you have to be thankful for: your wife or husband, your children, your friends, your health. Recall the good things you saw people do today. Recall your little victories and accomplishments. Go over the reasons why you are glad to be alive.”

Vitality Is Essential

Schwartz writes: “In everything you do, life it up. Enthusiasm, or lack of it, shows through in everything you do and say. Life up your handshaking. When you shake hands, shake. Make your handclasp say, ‘I’m glad to know you.’ ‘I am glad to see you again.’ A conservative, mouse-like handshake is worse than no handshake at all. It makes people think, ‘This guy is more dead than alive.’ Try to find a highly successful person with a conservative handshake. You’ll have to look a long, long time.” And about smiles, Schwartz writes: “Life up your smiles. Smile with your eyes. Nobody likes an artificial, pasted-on, rubbery smile. When you smile, smile. Show a few teeth. Maybe your teeth aren’t attractive, but that’s really unimportant. For when you smile, people don’t see your teeth. They see a warm, enthusiastic personality, someone they like.”

One way to inoculate yourself from small thinking is to devour success literature. Consider adding The Magic of Thinking Big to your daily ritual.