Trevor Moawad, IMG Performance Institute Director talks to MeetTheBoss about management leadership skills.
“If we find success, it’s all about sustaining it. And if we are struggling, it’s all about responding.” Trevor Moawad, Director of IMG Performance Institute, explains the main principle about adopting the correct attitude to affect the performance and being able to talk athletes into winning.
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Okay. So I wanted to talk to you first about wheredo you get the greatest satisfaction from working with athletes?
You know, athleticdevelopment is a unique process because the journey that athletes go through isreally never ending. It’s – I think thetypical thing would be a great win or seeing them get drafted or seeing themmake a Pro Bowl or an All Star team or all those areas. But it’s not typically that simple. I mean, a lot of times your greatest successis going to see how they manage a very difficult time in their life becauselife doesn’t stop for professional sports. Life doesn’t stop for college sports.
And difficulties are not a unique part of life. They just happen all the time. SoI think, for me, when I see an athlete manage an injury, manage a difficultpersonal situation, manage a difficult coaching situation, being traded, andrecognize that as just another area, just another thing, that he or she needsto manage and the ability to move forward from it.
For me, the job is never really over. Ifwe find success, it’s all about sustaining it. And if we are struggling, it’s all about responding. And if we win a national championship, it’sall about how we’re going to frame it in a positive way. If we lose in a conference championship,it’s, again, how we’re going to find a way to be motivated as we get ready forour next opportunity.
And an athlete’s window of time is very, very short. So I think for me, I probably find most of mysatisfaction in the consistency with which they’re able to deal with both thegood and the bad.
So how do you helpthem to – I mean, there’s – you can react in a very negative way and a verypositive way to events. How do you trainpeople to have a positive attitude, to recover from failure? What are some of your techniques?
Well, I think, firstof all, it’s important to understand what attitude is. And attitude’s kind of like ateeter-totter. It’s not negative orpositive. It’s just simply a directionin which you lean. And you can eitherlean positively, or you can lean negatively. For me, I’m asked all the time, oh, you’re one of those positive guys. You’re one of those guys that’s going to lookat the glass is half-full and all those things.
And my typical response to that is, look, I don’t know if positive thinkingworks all the time, but I know that negative thinking does. And if I had to pick or choose one side Iwanted to be on, I’m probably going to look at it from a more positiveperspective. Eighty percent of allillnesses today are caused, in some shape or form, through negative thinking.
The mind is a very simple process. Everybody talks to themselves at a subconscious level. We’re constantly – you’re talking to yourselfright now. I’m talking to myself.
You said 300 to 1,000words a minute, right?
They’ve estimatedsomewhere between 300 to 1,000 words a minute. And those words that I’m telling myself trigger pictures in mymind. Like if I said, “Anna, I don’twant you to think of the Eiffel Tower. Idon’t want you to think of Paris in the summer. I don’t want you think of the Empire State Building.” You’d say, “Trevor, I wouldn’t think of it ifyou’d shut up right now.”
Okay. Whatever you’re telling yourselfis going to create a picture, and that picture affects your emotionalstate. So it’s no different thanadvertising. Why do Pepsi or Snickers or– why do they spend $3 million for a 30-second commercial on Super Bowl Sunday? Because they recognize that when we watchthose things, when we hear those things, I mean, if you think about “melts inyour mouth, not in your hands”, right. M&Ms. That commercial wasoriginally developed in, I think, 1946, and yet 64 years later I still knowit. And it’s the power of words. It’s the power of how words affects that andhow that affects the emotional state.
And it’s really important that athletes understand that. Because it’s not me, Trevor Moawad from IMGmaking that up. It’s a universaltruth. You will talk to yourself. And those things that you say to yourselfwill affect those pictures in your mind, and those pictures will affect youremotional state.
And that will affectyour performance.
And that ultimatelyaffects your performance. So probablyone of the biggest areas that I’m constantly battling, look, when you’re in thefield of mental conditioning, you’re in the field of performance, it’s always asell. No matter what, it’s always asell. I’m constantly in the positionwhen I meet people of explaining what it is we can do because, again, that –the whole attitude concept seems so intangible, even though at an intuitivelevel everybody understands it.
So helping athletes, first and foremost, to recognize you will talk toyourself. And what you say will affecthow you think, and how you think affects how you perform. It’s very, very important. And there’s a lot of ways that you can goabout that process. So a lot of timesit’s using video. A lot of times it’susing thought replacement. A lot oftimes it’s using very, very basic concepts.
Now, probably one of the greatest things of working for a company like IMG hasbeen the access over my last 12 years here to some of the best performers inthe world of sports. And having theopportunity to spend time with Michael Johnson or Serena Williams or EliManning or all these people, you’re not only servicing a role for them, you’relearning from them.
Do all those peoplehave a great attitude in common?
Well, I think theyall have different understandings of how they’ve been able to becomesuccessful.
But one of the thingsover the years of being around those athletes is understanding – my fatheralways had a way of looking at athletes where – or businesspeople, that was theworld and the space that he inhabited a little bit more than the sportsworld. But you can be unconsciously incompetent. And that’s people that don’t know that theydon’t know. And then you can get tooconsciously incompetent, recognizing, you know what? I have a lot to learn. I can get better. These are some areas I need to improve.
And then you have a lot of people who are unconsciously competent. They have some success, but if you ask themwhy, they don’t know. They could saylunar alignment. They could say anyspecific things.
Sorry. Did all of those athletes have in common thisreally positive attitude?
Well, I don’tnecessarily think all athletes have a positive attitude, but I certainly thinkall athletes are looking for repeatable symptoms that can allow you to be – tomaintain success. Success always leavesclues, and it’s always developed with patterns.
So like I said, I mean, you’re ultimately looking for that consciouslycompetent athlete, the athlete that knows and knows that he knows. And I think probably one of the best thingsthat happened to me was in 2001, our football agent brought Michael Johnson,the Olympic sprinter down, to help our athletes run faster 40 times. And I quickly gravitated towards Michaelbecause he was one of those few athletes that really understood what it took tobe successful. I mean, he was number onein the world for nine years in a row.
And it’s really amazing when you think about it. For example, if I go into a grocery store andI don’t have a list, what’s going to happen to me? I’m going to forget half of the things Iwanted to buy, and I’m going to come home with a bunch of things that I neverwanted to buy.
And being a great athlete is very simple, and it’s a simple process, and it’s asimple plan. And Michael would tell us,okay, as he’s competing in the Olympics, he had four simple things: keep myhead down, pump my arms, explode, think like a bullet. And we would get him in front of theathletes. He’d talk to theathletes. He’d take them through theirprocess. Recognizing that you’re alwaystalking to yourself. And there’s a lotof substitution Brian Tracy and a lot of people talk about, which means you canthink about one thing at a time.
So if I’m telling myself “keep my head down, pump my arms, explode”, very basicthings, then those are the things that I’m going to be thinking about in thecritical moment, not the 100,000 people or the one billion people watching onTV. If you look at Serena or Venus, whenthey go in between – you know, in the world of tennis you have every odd game achangeover, and you have 60 to 90seconds where you can sort of regroup.
And if you look at just the simple strategies, you’ll see Serena pull out hernote card, and it’ll have very specific things that she wants to focus on. Her grocery list. And the number one thing it will typicallysay, depending on what her focus is at the time, is “Serena, you can doit.” All right. Just, again, continuing to affirm herself tobe positive. And then number two is“accelerate the racket head”. Justlittle, specific things to remind herself how to be successful.
And I think all athletes are very similar. So people like me, there’s nothing innovative about having a goodattitude or having simple strategies to stay focused in the moment. It’s just recognizing that there’s a lot ofclutter that impacts all of us.
I mean, think about it. You’re drivingto work. Somebody pulls in front ofyou. Ten hours later, you’re still madat that guy. Why?
It’s not part of whatyou need to be thinking about or choose to be thinking about. But we sometimes allow ourselves to getdistracted by things that are petty and not important. For an athlete, that affects contracts. That affects money. That affects performance. And if you go down that road, you’re going tohave a tough time being consistent.
So not dwelling onmistakes is probably a very important principle in all walks of life in termsof having good performance in the future.
Absolutely. Everybody’s got to be able to put duct tapeon the rear-view mirror. I mean, you'vegot to. You’ve got to be able to lookforward.
Look, you’re responsible for your mistakes. If I’m a football team, and we go out, and we lose by three touchdowns,we’re responsible for that. If I’m aplayer, and I make mistakes, I am responsible for it. I’m accountable for it. But I’m not that mistake.
The thing is, if you are what you do, then when you don’t you aren’t. And as funny as that sounds, it’s a bigproblem today. Athletes are so wrappedup, their esteem is so based – CEOs, their esteem is based upon their money,their performance, their success, all of those different elements. And they really impact what they’re allabout.
You'll hear coaches like Nick Saban at Alabama, Jimbo Fisher at Florida State,Derek Dooley at Tennessee. And they’realways talking about the process. If wefocused on the right process, the results will come. If you focus on the rightprocess, the results will come. So howdo I sleep at night? What type of foodam I putting into my body? What is mystrategy for maintaining success? Howoften am I reviewing film? How am Irecovering? How much time am I spendingin the ice bath?
One of the athletes that I got involved with in 2002 was a running back fromthe University of Florida. His name wasFred Taylor. And Fred had a nickname,which was Fragile Fred. And he had, foralmost every season early in his career, had missed over half the season due toinjuries.
And my partner and myself were brought in by Coach Tom Coffman at the time, totry to find a way to help Fred get to that next level because his issues werenot ability. And they also didn’t need aclinical psychologist to help him. Itwas more of an attitude issue, a mental conditioning issue, not a physicalconditioning issue.
We talked to Fred and we said, “What do you want to do?” And he said, “I want to play all 16games.” And there’s no doubt that hewanted to play 16 games. So he saidlet’s look around at the players on your team and find out what are the commoncharacteristics of the guys that have played more than eight seasons in theNFL.
And as we looked around the team – and, again, it was his goal, we found out thatthe majority of the players that had played more than eight seasons in the NFL,which means they’ve got a second contract, almost a third, had showed up topractice between 6:15 and 6:30 in the morning. Meetings typically started at 8:30 in the morning.
He typically showed up at 8:25 in the morning, right before the meetings wouldstart. So one of the things that we didwith him was we’ll have you show up at 6:15 or 6:30.
So Fred made adecision to show up at 6:15. He askedwhat necessarily am I going to do when I get there. I said, “I don’t know, but that’s what theydo. You’ll figure it out.” He made that one adjustment. That adjustment ultimately led to 46 games ina row, and he went from Fragile Fred in 2002, to the 15th leadingrunning back in the history of professional football. And a lot of it came from making that onechange. Finding common denominators ofsuccess that weren’t entirely innovative, but just getting behind things thatother people were doing and applying those.
And again, ultimately he became passionate about his preparation, hisrecovery. And Fragile Fred was no longerFragile Fred.
So what – you touchedon this a bit in that example.
But what are somegeneral principles of halting a slide-in performance before it becomes a slumpand getting an athlete back to sustained success?
Well, first of all,external talk is extremely important, what you say out loud. If you notice Tiger Woods in his prime, Tigerwould never talk about being in a slump or playing poorly. He did a great job managing his own advertisingcampaign.
He was interviewed a few years ago with Ahmad Rashad. And he had Tiger, Pete Sampras, CharlesBarkley and Peyton Manning. And he askedthem, he said, “You never publicly say anything bad about yourself.” Again, he understands the basicprinciple. He’s his ownWieden+Kennedy. He’s his own ____________. He’s his own IMG. He’s his own advertising firm. So he needs to be smart about that.
So he would always basically come out and say, “You know what, I was great offthe tee. I really did a good job ingetting to the green. I’ve got to get alittle bit better once I’m on the green in terms of finishing.”
And so first of all, with athletes, it’s amazing how simple it is, but gettingthem to recognize that although they still might be thinking things, not to saythings out loud, particularly in the media, coming out and saying, “I’m playingpoorly. I can’t finish. I’ve got no backhand today. I can’t seem to get anything right. I’m in a tough spell.” As soon as you do that, you put a nail in it.
And the statistics say for every one time I say something powerful like thatwith emotion, it takes ten positive opposite events to counterbalance that onenegative comment. So, first andforemost, I don’t want to come out publicly and say those things.
Now, obviously, realistically, I might be thinking those things, so there aredifferent strategies. A lot oftrack-and-field athletes will use thought stopping. They’ll literally picture a stop sign. Everybody knows what it is. It’s red. It’s octagon. We know what todo. And we’ll literally stop it andreplace it. As simple as that sounds,hey, all right. I’m not playing as wellas I want to play right now. Just focuson the simple, basic tasks. What do Ineed to do to get it going?
One of the athletes that came through here was a young guy named JozyAltadore. He was one of the stars ofthis year’s World Cup for the U.S. team. And when I was talking to Jozy last year he was playing in England, andhe had talked about going back. He saidhe was starting to find some success in England. And he said he was just going back to thesimple basics. He had a note card. He kept in his locker.
And he was reviewing the three or four things that allowed him to play good inthe games, which was being dangerous as a forward, checking to the ball,communicating with the midfield. Justsimple things. And recognizing if he’snot playing well, start doing one of those things. And then he starts doing one of thosethings. Okay. I’ve got one down. Now I’m going to start doing another thing.
Typically what happens to athletes when they’re playing poorly, “Agh, it’s justnot my day.” Rather than thinking,“Okay. I’m not playing well. All right. What is it that I’m not doing? And what is it that I need to do?” And focus on that one thing and then gradually build up. “Okay. I’m doing one thing right. Nowlet’s do the second thing right. Nowlet’s do the third thing right, and build that confidence.” It’s all about the process.
What would you sayare your three core values, and how are they demonstrated in the players or theteams you work with?
The number one valuethat I think has always driven me is achievement. There’s probably nothing more core to me thanthe ability to work hard. I’ve alwaysbeen – even as an academic student at Charles Wright Academy, where I went to avery rigorous prep school in Seattle, Washington. And I felt like most the – I had a graduatingclass of 45 and 15 went to the Ivy Leagues. I knew realistically I might not be bound for the Ivy Leagues.
So I always recognize that the intelligence I could have was the intelligencethat I could outwork anybody. So thework ethic. I’m not afraid of 110-hourweeks. I’ll go – typically in the fall Iwork everyday, usually about 120 days in a row. I work every weekend on the road with the college and pro footballteams. And then I work every week, Mondaythrough Thursday, at IMG Academies.
You don’t worry aboutburnout?
I don’t. It’s interesting. I don’t because I love what I do, and I findtimes within what I do to recognize – I mean, there’s opportunities to rest andwhatnot, but different elements of my job provide different relief. When I’m at the academies, I’m doing a lot ofbusiness development. I’m doing a lot ofstrategic planning, strategic initiatives, working with our partnerships,building our performance business, building our academy business, building ourfoothold in the high school sports space.
And when I’m on the road, I’m working with coaches and organizations on how tobe better and directly implementing the field of mental conditioning. So it’s a little bit different, butachievement is that drive. It feedsme. I have to manage it, obviously, withmy wife, and find that time to make sure, okay, I need to take some time andvalue that time. And she obviously is,with my job and with my faith, a huge priority.
But achievement is very important to me. Its just always been core to who I am. If I’m not working hard, it bothers me. And I think the other thing is faith is important for me. Making sure that I’m true to that. I’m in a field that you don’t get secularversus non-secular mixed up.
I think the principles that – the spiritual principles and performanceprinciples and common sense principles all relate. But for me it’s very important to stayconsistent with my faith. I feel better whenI’m consistent with that, and for me it’s as simple as making sure no matterwhat I do I find a way to get to mass on Sunday or Saturday night, no matterwhere I am.
And I think the thirdthing is just honesty, being honest and upfront with what I do is prettycritical to me. I don’t – I feel offbalanced if I’ve done something and know that I wasn’t necessarily honest.
No matter what I do,I want to make sure that I get to mass on Saturday night or Sunday. I think that’s very important to how I feelabout myself. It’s been an importantpart of the way I grew up.
How do you lay thefoundations for a world-class athlete? What are the building blocks?
That’s a greatquestion, and I think the building blocks are a lot broader than people wouldthink. Eighty percent of an athlete’sconfidence is going to come from the physical preparation. An athlete knows if they haven’t done it theright way.
Eighty percent of anathlete’s confidence is going to come from their physical preparation. So performance is really a broad term, butobviously a lot of it comes from the physical preparation. So first and foremost, what we’ll do a lot oftimes with an athlete is we’ll literally write that pyramid, no different thanwhat Coach Wooden would talk about all those years, sort of where do we want togo and what are the steps that we’re going to take in order to get there. We’ll laminate that pyramid. We’ll put it on their bags. We’ll keep it in places. But we’ll make sure that we break that down.
And ultimately, we can get you a copy of one of those pyramids if you want tosee what they look like. But we need to– you need to make sure as an athlete that physically you’re doing the rightthing. So if I’m a – whatever sport Iplay, I’m taking the right steps physically. How I train, my muscle elasticity, my strength, my explosiveness, mypower, all those pieces need to be developed.
My strength, my power, my explosiveness, all those pieces need to bedeveloped. Nutritionally, I need to makethe right steps. I need to recognize asan athlete that what I put in is going to affect my ability to maximize what Iget out. So recognizing just basics interms of how I hydrate, what I need to do the night before, what types of foods– at a minimal, you've got to get an athlete to be an educated derelict. He’s got to at least know or she’s got to atleast know. They may choose not to doit, but they’ve got to understand it.
Team dynamics are very, very important, so communication is a huge aspect thatyou've got to train. How does an athletereact interpersonally? Fifty-fivepercent of your body language is completely nonverbal, and an impression isderived of you – 55 percent of an impression of an athlete or a person or abusinessman is completely nonverbal.
What kind ofnonverbal cues can a businessperson do to come across well?
Well, I think firstand foremost you've got to recognize that, look, it’s not being haughty andhaving your head up so far. It’srecognizing that coaches, employees, they’re reading your cues. “Oh, no, how is she today? How is he today? Oh, my god, this is how coach is today.”
And, look, you may want to send a certain message, but 55 percent is nonverbal,38 percent is extraverbal. So only 7percent of an impression of you has anything to do with the words. Everything is how you sound when you say itand what you look like when you say it. So it’s just something that I want to control.
I think ultimately, CEOs and elite coaches should prepare no differently than apresident. I mean, if you think of thepresident of the United States, he will not get in front of anybody or she willnot get in front of anybody without preparing. What am I going to say? How am Igoing to look when I say it? What impactdo I want to make? What morale, whattone do I want to set?
And more than people know, the top coaches in sports are doing the exact samethings. An opportunity to speak to myteam is imp. Why would I wing it? Why would I not be prepared? Why would I not put considerable thought intothat message? So I think recognizingthose things is very important.
And you have to understand the science of it, the music they listen to, themovies they watch, the TV they watch. Ifyou really care about developing athletes or developing the people around you,you've got to understand all those things are going to affect their perception?
Now, you've had a lotof experience doing – speaking to corporations as well, like NASA andAT&T. What kind of advice do yougive in those speeches, other than what you were just saying of beprepared? What other advice do you havefor people?
Well, my father spentmore time in the corporate world than I do. I obviously spend some time in it, but he obviously lived and breathedthis. And so it was interesting to spenda lot of time being young, going to Young President’s Organization or seeinghim at NASA or going to Starbucks or all these places with him.
I think there’s a lot of reciprocity with how athletes prepare and howbusinesses can prepare. And I think thatthere’s a lot of synergies on both sides. We share with a lot of our world-class coaches and athletes some of theways the top CEOs prepare, and we share with the top CEOs and the topbusinesses some of the ways world-class athletes prepare.
So it’s the universal truths. Ifsomebody says, “Man, I’m not into that goal-setting thing. You know, Anna, I’m just not into thatgoal-setting thing.” Look, if I wake upin the morning and I have to go the bathroom, it’s a goal. I didn’t write it down. I didn’t make a big deal about it. But I said it in my head, and hopefully I wasable to accomplish it.
So goals areimportant if you want to reach your peak performance.
You’re always settinggoals, and we also, again, like I said, it’s the – ultimately, it’s theshopping mart theory. I need to writethings down. Mark McCormack, the founderof IMG, I mean, one of the things that was unbelievable about him was he hadthese little note cards, and he was famous for just writing things down. What’s on his mind, what are things thatathletes need. The attention to detailis significant.
What’s a universaltruth about managing adversity? You weresaying that there’s a lot of principles that go across sports, business,wherever. What are some principles therefor that?
Well, a universaltruth, I think, with respect to adversity is it’s coming, and you’re going todeal with it. And like I said, lifedoesn’t stop for work or for sports. Youwill have family that will get sick. Youmight have personal issues. Great,talented people may leave your organization. People may do things that you don’t – that just defy logic, and greatathletes might get hurt, and you've got a recognize that that will come.
And your response is critical. Andchoosing that response – you know, there was a famous proverb about an ancientChinese wise man who was asked – who was a famous breeder of stallions. And one day his most famous, most expensivestallion left. And people came from theneighboring towns, and they said, “Geez, this is really bad news. I’m sorry to hear that your stallionleft.” He said, “Well, the stallionleft. How do you know it’s bad news?”
Everybody kind of shook their head. Well, it turns out, the next day, the stallion came back, bringing withit two beautiful stallions. And theysaid, “Geez, you’re right. This wasgreat news. That stallion came back, andhe brought two beautiful stallions.” Andhe said, “Well, it came back. How do youknow it’s good news?” Well, the next dayhis son was trying to break in one of the new stallions, and he was flipped fromthe new stallion, landed on his hip and broke his hip.”
So they came and said, “Okay, you've got to admit, your son broke his hip” --
So the stallion cameback.
So the Chinese wiseman, when the stallion came back, told us – told the people, “How do you knowit’s good news?” Well, his son wastrying to break in one of the horses, was thrown and broke his hip.” Now, everybody came back and said, “Hey, yougotta admit. This is bad news.” And he said, “Yes, son was thrown, broke hiship, was injured, but how do you know it’s bad news?” And they kind of said, “Geez, this guy’scrazy.”
Well, three days later, a warlord came in conscripting all able-bodied soldiersto go fight in a war. His son wasn’table-bodied; so, therefore, he didn’t have to go fight in a war in which manypeople would die.
Now, the reality of that story is we don’t know what’s good or bad. Sometimes a lot of great things come fromadversity. And so I think recognizingour approach, our process doesn’t need to change when bad things happen. We regroup. We look at what caused it. Welook at what can affect the change, and we put the plan together.
It’s amazing how simple that – when you get a chance to be around great CEOs,world-class athletes, world-class coaches, which I do, which is a tremendoushonor, the synergies between what make them successful are the positiveself-talk, the consistent goal setting, the recognizing of managing people, andthey also bring people in that are strong in areas that they’re notstrong. Because as an elite manager, youmight not be naturally optimistic, but that doesn’t mean that you can’tsurround yourself with some key players, who might be strong in areas wheremaybe you’re not as strong.
And then ultimately, recognizing what I tell the people that work for meultimately is the advertising campaign that’s going to impact them. What am I doing to help those people on aday-in-day-out basis to make them better.
Great. When you’re working with an establishedplayer, what’s your first priority?
And do you have astrategy for getting fast results?
You know, I was witha team a few weeks ago that had started out and had a couple of difficultlosses. When I get to teams early on,you try to find key influencers. There’salways – in key organizations or key teams, there’s influencers, and those aresome of the best players that can affect change.
The reality in the sports world is you treat all athletes fairly, but you don’ttreat them all equally, and that’s just the business. Some are paid more. Some are paid less. Some need more attention. Some need less.
So, ultimately, I work a lot of time with those key influencers and how theycan impact change. So many of them I’vebeen with for a long time, but if I just start with them, it’s a matter ofbasically saying, hey, look, this is where we’re at right now. This is kind of why I’m here.
I might show them a video of a variety of different athletes talking aboutadversity or recovering from losing or maintaining success, et cetera, and thenwe’ll just talk. We’ll talk about wherethe team’s at, where the organization’s at, and what we can do to affectit. That might be a player getting thegroup tog and doing a Tim Tebow speech.
A few years ago, Tim Tebow lost a game, went out in the media and said, “I’msorry. I can’t affect that we’re goingto win every game. But I can tell you, Iguarantee this team will fight, will compete, will go above and beyond to makethe difference.” And he took theaccountability and affected it.
So this athlete did the same thing with his team. The team went on to win two huge games, andso that key influencer impacted change by being verbal. Other times it might be affirmations. It might be just simple strategies.
What affect doespressure, either good or bad, have on decision making?
Great question. I mean, there’s two types of stress. There’s ______ stress, which is positivestress, and there’s distress, which is negative stress. And it all depends on an athlete’s pressurethreshold. That’s one of the things Idefinitely learned from Michael Johnson.
Michael viewed pressure as a reflection of ambition. He wore gold shoes in the ’96 Olympics. I mean, you couldn’t more pressure onyourself. You’d look kind of funnyaccepting a bronze medal wearing gold shoes. He wanted that pressure on himself because he knew it would affect hisperformance.
Some athletes don’t actually do as well with that type of pressure on themselves. They need to divide the pressure amongst avariety of people. For example, hey,look, all I need to do is my job. Idon’t need to do any more; I don’t need to do less. My job is to do A, B and C. That’s my focus.
And so with certain athletes, you’re going to try to simplify thepressure. Look, we’ve got a lot of greatplayers on this team. They’re going todo their job. You just need to focus onyour job. You’re capable. These are the things you need to do, and youcan do them. And we might show a videoof them having them done them before, different types of things, but just – soI think dividing the pressure is important. Also recognizing, again, what you tell yourself is going to impact howyou view the pressure.
Can you do coachingto someone so that they – because we can’t always control the pressure in ourlives. Sometimes it just comes. How can you handle it better and performbetter on it?
Well, one of theprocesses that ultimately we go through with the athletes is, is literallydeveloping their own ad campaign. So ittakes about four to six weeks to develop a habit. Like if I went to your house, and the rulewas to take my shoes off. The firstthree or four times I’d forget, and then after that I wouldn’t think about itanymore. Or if I’m driving home from anew job, the first couple times it would be a weird job, but sometimes I wouldliterally get home and not remember driving for the last 15 minutes.
Does it take longerto break a bad habit?
No, because you focusless on breaking a bad habit and more on developing a new habit. And as you develop the new habit, you movefurther away from the person that had the bad habit. So it’s a combination of developing affirmations.
So one of the affirmations that, a lot of times – and, again, affirmation hasgotten a bad word over the years from, like, Mick Foley and Saturday Night Live,“Down by the River”, and the humor in all those things, but, again, you’regoing to talk to yourself.
So an affirmation is a statement in first-person, present tense, about yourcapability. It’s not saying I’m thegreatest CEO in the world. It’s aprocess related – I take setbacks as temporary. I bounce back quickly. I want theball when the game is on the line. Iexplode consistently every time I’m in the start position. Just little things that I can affirm, and asI say it, it’s going to bring a picture with me.
Sometimes on the back we’ll write specific examples. “Against Florida, I did this.” I try to develop a little flick back,flick-up process where they remember a time where they did it right, and theapply it to the affirmation.
So I think it’s a combination of an athlete recognizing or a businesspersonaffirming the behavior that they want to go to, holding themselves accountablefor not saying out loud that the fact that they’re not good at it. And also, I think, really sharing your goalsor your plan with people that are supportive of it.
I was in SAE, a fraternity. And I hadaffirmations that – before we’d go play the University of San Diego inbasketball or something like that, I’d review.
Even in college youwere doing this.
In college, beforeevery game, as I – just being comfortable bring in the ball up the court andmaking an entry pass, or as a college soccer player, how I was going to respondto certain pressure, how I was going to move, being dangerous, just things thatI wanted to affirm.
Now, if I shared that with teammates, they might – I mean, they would – theycould either laugh at me. They couldsay, hey, that’s not you, or you never do that. So I don’t need people who are going to tell me what I can’t do. I’m going to surround myself with people whoare going to believe in me, or I’m only going to share them with myself.
So a lot of times it’s just – it’s developing that ad campaign. We do things on iPods. We do a video where their best plays oniPods. We do mental imagery scripts thatwe put on their iPods when they’re running.
You use technology. Eighty percent ofthe athletes we deal with are visually based, so why talk to them for 45minutes when they’re going to respond to something much better that’s visual. It could be a movie clip, you know.
Speaking ofvisualization, does that work in other areas other than sport, like if youvisualize success in other areas, does that really help you?
Yeah, I mean, I thinkif you look at the research of Carl Prebum, a neurosurgeon at Stanford, youlook at the top people, you see how it’s being applied in with Olympic athleteswith psycho cybernetics, with battling cancer, with visualizing white bloodcells. I mean, Norman Cousins’ book,laughing – An Anatomy of an Illness, talks about laughing himself healthyagain.
There’s no question that visualization is extremely important, and it makes adifference. And, again, you've all had adream where all of the sudden you’re in a college class, you pop up like that,and you move, and you literally thought you were falling off a cliff. Your mind can’t tell the difference betweenwhat’s real or imagined. And worry isthe number one misuse of our imagination. We start to worry about not performing at the critical moment, makingthat mistake, so you combat it by telling yourself and seeing yourself in thatpressure in first person executing.
You’re going to visualize anyways. That’s the whole point. You’regoing to talk to yourself anyways. You’re going to set goals anyways. You’re going to be affected by the environment anyways. The music that you watch, the TV – the musicyou listen to and the TV you watch. Imean, I love country music. I don’tlisten to it. Country music for me is amisuse of my imagination because it makes me think of everything that’s goingwrong in my life.
There was a title“How Come All My Children Look Like My Best Friend”. And it’s just funny stuff, but – and I lovethe music. Don’t get me wrong. I love the melodies, but why would I dothat? I mean, if I’m in a bad mood, andI put “Louie, Louie” on by the Kingsmen, tough to stay that way, regardless ofwhat I’m dealing with.
How do you motivatethese athletes who are already incredibly motivated?
That’s an interestingquestion, and people always ask, “Well, what are you going to do for aworld-class athlete? They’re worldclass.” They’re the easiest people towork with because they recognize their window of time is very short. And they’ve g