This interview’s going to be a little different today. We’ve got Tony Bodoh, a number one bestselling author, a man who’s cofounded five companies, a wide array of different types of companies. He does executive coaching as well now. He is just a brilliant, brilliant mind. You’re probably asking yourself how is this going to help me today, because more than likely you are an athlete or a coach or a parent. Let me tell you, Tony is a true expert. One of his gifts is being able to break down the little things, the littlest moments, the littlest actions. That’s one of Tony’s true gifts.
In this conversation, he breaks down and he gives us an awareness of some little small moments and how we react and why we do that, why we’re already trained and conditioned ourselves to react with frustration or with anger or with sadness, whatever it is, whatever happens on that field. Tony’s going to break that down for us. Most importantly, he’s going to show us how we prepare ourselves and how we can train ourselves to react in a way that is going to service on the field the way that we want it, towards our goals and our vision. You know me, when it comes to the full force, when it comes to that slogan, Be Full Force, Live Full Force, Play Full Force, it’s when you’re congruent and aligned and everything is moving forward. You are going to want to have these little moments, these little things that Tony talks about rolling in the direction that you want to go if you want to go out there and play your very best today and play your very best long-term. You’re going to want to master these little moments that Tony’s going to talk about today.
I want to just give him a huge compliment because Tony has a brilliant gift. He has this brilliant mind, a beautiful gift of his. He’s able to dissect these small little things, these little moments. His greatest gift in my opinion is he has this beautiful mind that doesn’t make you feel dumber talking to him. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. His true beautiful gift that he has is he raises you up. You have these brilliant insights, brilliant new distinctions and takeaways when you talk with him. That’s the best part of Tony in my mind, because you will hear it in this interview. You’ll hear me say things that probably sound smarter and more clever than anything that you’ve ever heard on any other episodes. That is not me, that is all Tony. I’m so grateful to be able to call him a friend and a mentor as well. Without any further ado, I want to call Tony up to the plate. He and I will see you on the other side.
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Mastering Peak State Emotions with Tony Bodoh
Today, I’ve got another great guest, a very good friend of mine. It’s going to be a little different, a little unique. He is a man, he is a master and he is an expert in the field of customer experience. Yet here I got him talking to you because the guy knows quite a bit as well about the idea of peak performance. Without any further ado, Tony Bodoh, please say hi to everybody out there.
Hello, everybody. Hello, Jason. Good to be on your show.
Talk a little bit about your background, I’d like to hear some more. As an Extreme Focus coach too, you do such an incredible job of breaking down things like flow and peak performance and all these things that so many athletes think about and talk about. I’m just curious how you have taken what you’ve been great at as well as understanding all this stuff and just tying it all together and be on something like this where you could help us as well.
I started my career out as an analyst, a real nerd geek, not the type of person you’d expect to be talking on an athletic show. Really what happened for me was I got into a place where I was studying human behavior through marketing, so why people were buying products and services. I was in direct mail for many years, and hospitality after that. One day back in 2007, it was early January, my VP had us in our usual weekly meeting. He says, “Tony, you’re now in-charge of all customer satisfaction for the hotel brand.” We’re talking millions of guests a year. I had never written a survey. I had avoided Psychology classes. In my undergrad, I’ve got a History Bachelor’s degree of all things. In my MBA program, I tried to avoid as much as I could because I thought psychology was that soft stuff that didn’t make a difference. I was focused on process improvement and looking at how operations can run better and companies can run smoother and all that. I’d never thought about psychology. I had a choice. I remember going back to my office and just staring out the window, there was snow in the ground. I could see the Cumberland River there. I’ve got a choice to make. I could either go back to my VP and tell him I don’t know what the heck to do or I can go figure it out. I pulled up Google and I started Googling. Literally, a year later, because of what I learned and how I applied and what I did, really putting a lot of the principles that you and I practice daily before I even knew them, putting those things in place.
A year later, I was in an international stage talking about how to apply the technology that we had done to customer experience, how to really unwrap the emotion of customer experience and how it tied into decision-making. I like to tell people today, I’ve spent the last seventeen years of my life really studying human experience and the emotions that drive human decision making. That’s where it really ties into what we’re talking about here today because we have all of these emotions that are running through us all the time, constantly throughout the day. Yet we’re not even aware how they’re affecting our decision-making. For a lot of our decisions, some people say as many as 90% of our decisions, they’re made before we’re even consciously aware, somewhere between three and seven seconds before we’re aware. Everything that we’re deciding on a daily basis, what to eat, where to go, who to talk to, what to say, all these stuff happens, I call it pre-consciously, before we even know that the decision is happening. We use our logic to justify the decision we just made.
You’re basically talking about the decisions being made before we actually decide. The way we react is our decision without even thinking about it.
Exactly. When you’re facing a challenging moment in life or in sports, you’re at the plate ready to swing the bat, you’re facing that moment, there’s what’s called integral emotions. These are emotions that come up because of the challenge you’re facing. There’s also residual emotion. The residual emotion would be what you bring to the plate from the last time you were at bat or what your manager just said in the dugout, and what your coach has been saying. All those past emotions coming with you to the plate. There’s two parts to it.
Basically you’re saying, the residual is like me this last week, I’m 1 for 16. I’m not feeling very good, I’m not feeling very confident in the plate. That’s the residual emotion. Also I step in, I dig into the batter’s box and all of a sudden I look, I see the first two pitches, they’re strikes, right on perfect corner, now I’m scared to death of what this guy’s going to throw me and this guy’s got me beat again. How do you refer to that? Integral?
Integral, it’s integrated into the actual challenge of the moment.
When I hear you talk about the micro moments of decision, for athletes, it’s about preparing yourself on how you are going to react on those moments. That’s where the principles come into tie as well as tools like visualization or affirmations. If you’re preparing for either one of those, are they different in how you prepare or are they the same?
They’re different in so far as the residual emotions, we don’t even know that they’re there most times, unless we’re highly attuned and highly aware and we develop that capability. But in the moment, you don’t want to get that intense. Let’s say you’re at the plate and you’ve got two strikes thrown at you. There are a lot of ways you can respond but the two emotions that might come up would be fear, “What’s going to happen if he throws another strike? Am I going to hit it?” Fear usually results in not taking action. You actually pull back. Whereas if you get angry, “I’m going to get that,” you will attack it. The emotion that you trigger in that moment actually drives your decision to how you’re going to behave. Are you going to swing the bat? Are you going to aim for it? Are you going to knuckle down? What are you going to do for it?
Anger is very analog where there are various degrees of how you react. If you have too much anger, you might go and swinging at a pitch way too far out of the zone. If there’s just a right amount of anger, you sharpen your skills and you’re ready for the next pitch. I never thought of it, you either rack it with anger or fear. That’s pretty cool.
What’s fascinating is, when you start thinking of this, if you’re going to the plate and you’re already in a state of fear, you may engage in a high-risk behavior because you’re afraid of what the fans are going to say, you’re afraid of what your coach is going to say, you’re afraid of going back into the dugout without hitting again. You’re 1 for 16 for the week. You may take on high-risk behaviors and act an inappropriate pitch because you’re trying to hit the ball too hard. That’s where the visualization, calming yourself down, using RESPA, relaxing and evaluating and strategy and really just bringing yourself present to the moment. That’s what really helps people because then you calm yourself down, you allow those emotions to dissipate. The beauty is, any single burst of emotion only lasts for about 90 seconds. You may get waves of emotion upon each other. If you can calm yourself down and let that emotion just subside over about 90 seconds, then you can get back into it and you can start over and reset yourself.
What exactly did you mean though specifically by risky behaviors?
You might start reaching to go after something that you shouldn’t go after. Let’s say the pitch comes across, it’s a ball. It’s way out of the range, you shouldn’t even be looking at it. Or let’s say you do get on the plate and you want to steal a base or whatever, you may, in fear, trying to make your place on the team, you may go for second base or third base and steal when it’s not the best time to do so. It clouds your judgment and has you take on something that’s riskier than you really should at that point.
Riskier, almost inappropriate?
Yeah. The likelihood of failure is much higher than the likelihood of success.
When you talk about clouding your judgment, I definitely see that on plays. It’s more of a poker term but we use it in baseball as well and I’m sure some other sports, when you get off tilt. You sit there and you start doing things that just is not wise to do in the situation. Now I understand the risky behavior. 90 seconds, that’s a scientific analysis of our emotional experiences?
Yes, scientific. All emotions are basically what we’re aware of. The feelings we have are the result of chemicals in our body plugging into the different cell receptors. If you think about that, it’s just a chemical reaction in our body that we become consciously aware of. As an example, you could be sitting out in left field standing there waiting for the game to progress and you feel, “I’m hungry right now.” That emotion is there but as soon as that ball gets hit or the pitch is thrown, you turn off the hunger and you go focus on what’s happening in the moment. We can tune in to what we’re feeling but those emotions are still there. We’re still hungry. That’s not going away. Our body is still processing the need for food but here we come back to, “I’m in the game. I’m focused right now.”
This is why I love talking to you because I always learn something. If you’re aware of your emotions or if you’re experiencing how you’re feeling in the moment, basically you’re out of the present?
If you’re aware of what you’re feeling in the moment, you are present because that’s that moment. But if you’re, as an example, fearful, usually you’re anxious or worried about the future, about what’s going to happen and you’re actually moving yourself into the future. You’re feeling in the present but you’re thinking about the future.
You’re saying, you’re in the present, I go, “I feel hungry.” I have that physical sensation of hunger. That’s the present. But then you start going, “What am I going to eat later?”
Yes. Then you start imagining. This is the beauty part of visualization which is you and I have talked about a lot. Let’s say you’re hungry, you’re standing on left field not paying attention to the game because it’s not moving in your direction. If you’re sitting there and you start imagining, “Do I want pasta? Do I want red sauce? Do I want butter sauce?” You start imagining and you actually start tasting it more or less on your tongue. You start feeling, “How would I feel if I ate this?” That’s projecting yourself in the future in your thought and then feeling what it would be like. We do this all the time. It’s the same thing as what happens if you’re at the plate and you can’t see the ball because it travels so fast between the pitcher and the plate. You can’t see it so you actually make a decision the moment the wind up happens of what you’re going to do. You’ve run through scenarios in your brain so fast that you’ve made that decision. It’s all emotion-based because your reason cannot move fast enough. Your emotions are telling you this is a good one to swing at or not and you feel it more than you actually think it.
The ball gets up there really, really fast, the deception and the speed of off-speed pitches, stuff like that. It comes down to anticipation and pattern recognition really. That’s a pretty impressive insight.
It’s all the same though. You take a professional sales person. I was thinking about this morning. A lot of professional sales people played sports. I don’t have scientific evidence for this but my hypothesis is they got so good at recognizing patterns and recognizing what was going to happen in the moment by reading faces, reading social cues and things like that, that when they just adapted that same skill set now, when they’re in the boardroom making a sales call or they’re on the phone and they’re hearing someone’s voice, they adapt that ability to read patterns to their ability to engage and make the sale. For them, it’s a competition, just like on the ball field or on the basketball court. They’re trying to outdo the competition and outmaneuver them. They turn it into a game mode in competition. They set to read all the cues that they can. They recognize those patterns faster than what the average person would or the non-athlete would potentially. They can read it and give back on them. That’s how they get the sale.
Pattern recognition, if you get into visualization and you’re using visualization, you’re watching a film, as an example, of the guy you’re going to compete against or you stand in front of the plate long enough and you see enough pitches come across you, you’re going to begin to recognize the patterns. There’s a limited way that people are going to throw a ball at you, as an example, as a batter. You’re going to recognize those patterns over and over again. You’re really just exposing yourself to that frequently over and over and over again and then beginning to visualize it. What will happen is you’ll actually build the neurons and the pathways in your brain, so your brain is wired to fire faster when those patterns come up, when you see that pattern, recognize it. If it’s a new pattern, if it’s novel, you’ll pause and you won’t swing at it because you’ll be like, “I don’t recognize that particular pattern.” You’ll throw in that oddball pitcher. I was watching Moneyball. The guy that wound up and threw down low, he would throw the batter’s off because he threw so weirdly, people couldn’t figure out how to hit off him.
You’re 100% right. At that time very, very few people had ever thrown a baseball like that. Like you said, you had to have the experience of seeing that pattern over and over again. When he releases the ball, you’ve got to decide so early, you didn’t know where the ball was going to end up.
What will happen there is, going back to emotion, if you don’t recognize a pattern, that emotion in you is surprise because it’s novel and you don’t know what to do, you don’t know if you should swing or not. It actually stops you from doing anything. Some people may say, “I don’t know what to do,” so they will just swing for it. They’ll just go for it and they’re totally off, they miss widely. Pattern recognition is hugely important in all that we do because when the brain is operating, basically we can think about something very deeply or we can use what are called heuristics, which basically are if you recognize a pattern you go into automatic processing and you just do something. We use a thin slice of information, a couple of data points and we say, “I see this. I see this. I see this. I’m going to act this way.” That’s the value of pattern recognition. If you think about it, our brain is amazing because we run at about 98.6 degrees in our body temperature. That computer that you’re on, the computer that I’m on, is probably 150 degrees or 200 degrees right now trying to process all that information. Yet our brain can process so much more than that. We use pattern recognition to keep the brain cool so that it doesn’t overheat. We actually don’t think. Thinking is actually dangerous to our health.
It’s interesting too because when you’re in the batter’s box and you’re hitting, like you said, you could either not react, which I do think is usually the case when it comes to baseball, or you could overreact and swing wildly when you don’t recognize that pattern. I really think it comes down to you don’t react. That’s why you have these sensations sometimes with two strikes, or maybe even before we lock up, we freeze. When I was trying to break it down in my mind when you’re talking, it’s like if you don’t recognize the pattern, by the time you realize you don’t recognize the pattern, it’s too late to swing. That’s why when it comes to hitting, it happens so fast. If you don’t recognize it, by the time you realize, your body tells your brain or your brain tells your body, “Wait a minute. I don’t know, something’s not right,” the ball’s already by you.
That’s such an important thing in athletics. It’s important for people to realize, you’ve got to expose yourself again and again and again to the patterns. What makes a great athlete is a person who’s exposed themselves and really memorizes those patterns in a way that they can react automatically to them. That’s also how they get into the state of flow. Once they just allow things to happen and they allow the emotion to move their body to allow them to react automatically, then they get into the state where they just become one with what’s happening. They’re just monitoring the patterns that are out there and they’re not even thinking about it. They’re just going with the flow. That’s why they feel one with the game and one with the crowd, the audience. There’s nothing that’s separating them from that moment. They become the bat, the ball, everything that’s in play.
How very Phil Jackson of you. I’ve seen you talk for 90 minutes about flow. Can you share a little bit, breaking it down? With all the stuff you talked about previously, shifting and how as athletes can we give ourselves a better opportunity to get into that flow state where, like you said, we become one with the bat and the ball and everything that’s around us in our sport.
There are really three key things that you need to do to move into a state of flow. Some people argue that you can’t actually put yourself in a state of flow. I agree with that to some extent but you can make it more likely to be in the state of flow. Everyone knows what flow is but just to give you another term, is being in the zone. The three criteria really are that you have to have a clear goal. The second one is that you have to get immediate feedback. The third one is it has to be a challenge that is just outside of your skill set. In sports, a lot of times what happens is we practice for hours and hours and hours and master a specific skill set. For me, it was rebounding. Actually, I was the rebounder in high school and in college. That’s what they put me on. I would just go up and just touch the rim 100 times in a row, just jumping. That rim was mine. Anything that came off that rim was mine. It may sound like a very stupid thing to practice but I’d put on 30 or 35 rebounds a game. That was my job, to take the rebounds off the rim.
Just tuning into that and practicing it again and again, what would happen is I know if I touch the rim or not, so I had a clear goal, I want to touch the rim every single time I was practicing. If I didn’t touch the rim, I know I missed my goal. That was the immediate feedback. How many times could I do it in a row was the challenge. Am I going beyond my skill set that I’ve developed already? Then I would bring in a basketball and I would literally just bounce the basketball off the backboard for five minutes in a row and have to jump every time and put it back up before I landed on the ground. Doing things like that, it gets you prepared for it. But the practice in advance can be painful. Most of the time, we don’t get into the state of flow when we’re practicing because we’re building the skill set, we’re mastering something. When we get into the game, that’s when we just let go and we allow it to happen.
In every sport, that’s the beauty, that’s why athletes get into flow so quickly, because they’ve got clear goals. They know exactly what they’re supposed to do at a specific time, they get immediate feedback on whether they’re on course or not, and the challenge is usually outside of their skill set because they don’t control everything. There’s some uncontrollable element to the game. The more you put yourself in a position where you master everything that you’re going to be facing, you’ll get into the zone faster in the game and then you’ll perform at a higher level. When you get to that level, what happens is your ego or your self-awareness, you don’t care what the audience thinks of you, you don’t care what the fans think, you don’t care what other people on your team think. That all just goes away. Time stops because you can’t process. You don’t have enough brain power to process time. You’re just into a pattern recognition mode. That’s what actually allows you to get into that state of where you feel like you’re one with everything because you can just move effortlessly.
You mentioned master everything you’re facing. How do we do that?
If you’re at the professional level, you master it because you’re watching a lot of film of the game. If you’re going to go up against a new pitcher, you’ll watch that film again and again, you practice that. You go out there and you try to practice hitting off of that type of pitch again and again. That’s the element of mastering it. If you’re in basketball, you’re trying to shoot the free throws, you’re trying to shoot the three pointers. You’re just going again and again and again. Michael Jordan as an example, he would practice for hours after everyone else left the gym. It wasn’t just shooting 100 free throws, he would practice fixing one part of his shot, one little hitch that he had in his shot. When he mastered that to a point where he would not make the mistake, then he had it. He would move on to the next thing. You want to master the challenge that you believe you’re going to face, because then when you get in the game it doesn’t surprise you. It becomes part of your normal way of doing things.
You’ve got to put the time in practicing. No matter what you do, you’ve got to put that time and you’ve got to practice. When you’re practicing, pushing yourself beyond what you’ve ever done before, that’s a great way to get yourself in the flow; getting excited about it, taking it on with a positive emotion of, “I’m going to get up and I’m going to do this thing.” Then working through the frustration that’s going to follow. If you’re going to push yourself, you know that frustration is going to follow because you’re not going to do it perfect. You’re taking on something and you’re mastering your skill set. In the practice field, when you’re practicing, you push yourself, you push yourself, but you allow yourself, as we say, you enjoy the battle. You enjoy that process of growing and learning. You keep focusing on the fact that, “I’m not doing this to be perfect. I’m doing this to gain progress, to become better, to master this thing.” It becomes effortless in the game.
The effort is put in practice so that it could be effortless in the game. That’s also where you get into your mental side. Before and after you’re practicing, then you get into visualization. What they have found with visualization scientifically now is that when we visualize, we build the same neural pathways that the actual practice would give us. However, we’ve got to do the practice first because we’ve got to get the muscle movement, the muscle memory down. Then the imagination or the visualization of that again and again after practice will help us to improve those neural pathways and basically make those neural pathways like super highways that the information flows down.
You brought up a lot of great principles there that do tie into the Beast system. One specifically though I wanted you to maybe elaborate on how you mentioned the challenge has to be a little bit further than what you’re already capable, especially when it comes to practice. Maybe you can elaborate too on why it’s so important that it’s just a little bit as opposed to taking on a way that you’re chunked.
If you think about any moment in time, right now, your audience is listening to this audio, they may be driving their car, they may be sitting in their recliner, I don’t know where they are doing this, but if they’re doing nothing other than listening to this, they’re paying attention. The challenge is not that great. They’re trying to understand what I’m saying. They’re trying to engage in the conversation by listening to what you’re saying. They’re trying to get that. On the other hand, let’s say, they’re out there driving on icy roads or they’re out there driving on wet roads because it’s raining. They’ve got us tuned in, they’re listening to us on their iPhone, they’ve got it plugged in their car driving down a highway, they hit a rainstorm. It goes from being a pleasurable, relaxing drive listening to us, to, “Oh, crap. We’ve got to do something.” They turn us off and they focus on driving. At that moment, they believed the challenge that they were about to face or that they were facing with the rain coming down needed more focus. The moment that they need more focus, they have to eliminate distraction. We automatically focus our mind but sometimes distraction gets in our way. That’s why they turned the radio off or they turn us off and stop listening to us.
In that case, now they help themselves focus more. In that focus, it allows them to narrow their field of vision to only see what matters so they can achieve that task right there. When you bring it in to the concept of flow, in flow, we’ve had to eliminate all these distractions. Literally, we actually don’t know we’re in the state of flow until we reflect back on it. That’s one of the challenges, is that the moment you feel, “Wow, everything is effortless,” is the moment after flow. Once you recognize it, you’re now feeling what it felt like to be in flow but you couldn’t realize it at the moment because you can’t even feel anything, you’re just so tuned into what you’re doing. You wouldn’t hear the fans. You may only see the pitcher, you may hear the catcher, you may get the signals that they’re going back and forth with. You tune in to such a narrow, narrow area to get the information you can, to extract every bit of information you can from that, the patterns that are coming from that. You tune everything else out. Your mind is tuned for that.
Now if you try to stretch too far, let’s say you’ve only ever mastered a 70 mile an hour pitch and now you’re standing up against someone who throws 80 miles an hour. The likelihood is you’re going to miss. The odds are you’re not going to do that well because you’re stretching yourself way beyond what you’ve done before. That’s about 15% faster than you’ve done before. You might hit it but it’s not likely because you pushed yourself too far. That’s where frustration sets in because you’re like, “I can hit 70 miles an hour pitches. How come I can’t hit 80?” You just get in a state of frustration. Whereas if you say, “Let me move up to 71, 72, and 73,” you just take a gradual step forward. The science shows that the average person can handle about a 4% push beyond what they’ve mastered already. It doesn’t sound like a lot but if you do 4% and you master that 4%, you master that and you build, in a month, you’re going to make huge progress.
I teach that same idea with high school age kids. For me, it’s like lifting weights. Those numbers, they’re very accurate in terms of the physical body, not just the mental but emotional too. When you’re lifting weights, if you’re doing the standard deadlift where you’re just picking up a bar and weight off the floor and say you could do 200 pounds, but you’ve got a goal that you want to be able to do 300 pounds. The amount of weight that you can add on to that bar and be able to build your strength, you can’t just throw on 275 pounds, you won’t be able to move the bar. You can’t throw 250 pounds, which is 25% or so, you can’t throw more than 25%. You want to be able to budget. If you can’t budget, you’re not building up any momentum or any strength to get to that goal of 300. If you go down to five pounds or maybe even ten pounds, you’re going to struggle, maybe you don’t get it the first time but you’re building new strength and refining your technique. That falls under that 4%. When we speak about it, we’re usually talking about the mental side of it but it really applies to the physical side as well.
My daughters were tap dancers. They started at the age of five and they finished around the age of twelve and fourteen. They were doing it competitively. What was interesting there was that when we would work with them, we’d help them recognize it’s not about learning a whole new dance in a week, it’s about learning how to move your foot one little step at a time. You learn one measure of the song and the movements that go with that or you learn it slowly and then you gradually speed up the music and you learn the step faster and faster. Breaking it down is one of the key components. One of the other things that matters too is when people understand how do kids learn, if we’re talking about kids but it applies to us as adults too, do we learn by seeing the whole picture?
I have one daughter who needs to see the entire dance routine done and then you teach her the components of it as she goes. If she doesn’t understand how the whole thing fits together, she’s like, “I don’t get why you’re teaching me this. How does this fit? What am I supposed to do next? Where do I go?” She struggles. Whereas the other one, if she sees just the little component right now, she learns that and then she’ll add the next piece on. She doesn’t want to see the whole picture because it’s too overwhelming for her. Knowing which style of learning someone has is really important. Do you need to teach someone about the whole game of baseball or the whole game of basketball and then teach them the components of it? Or do you just need to teach them how to throw a free throw?
I guess only one daughter could work well with Mr. Miyagi. “Why do you have me doing this? What do I do? How does it all tie together?”
That’s a great example right there. I haven’t thought about that movie in years, but that’s a great example of practicing fundamentals over and over and pushing yourself a little bit. That’s the 4%. Paint the fence. When he finally demonstrates why that fundamental matters, he gets into a state of flow and his hands are just flying all over the place and blocking every punch. That’s the example that we should actually look for, is study the fundamentals, master those, and then let them flow.
I really enjoyed that metaphor about driving in the rain. What a great description when it comes to LASPRO. Removing those distractions is really what increases our level and ability to focus.
One of the things to recognize is that our human body can bring in, there are different estimates, but roughly between the information processing inside our body with all the organs and everything else and what we bring in, in a given second, it’s something like 400 billion bits of information. Whereas our conscious mind in the same second can only process 2,000. That means we can process about one out of every 200 million bits of information. Whether you know what a bit is, it doesn’t really matter. I can process about one in 200 million of what comes in. When we get into a state where we need to focus like you said LASPRO, we need to get rid of every distraction we possibly can. That’s why a lot of people put music on. Michel Phelps, when he was in the Olympics, you’d always see him with his headset on. He’s sitting there putting the music in and listening to get rid of all these distractions so he can focus himself and get ready so that he’s in the state of flow the moment he hits that water.
If you’re working with athletes, what are some specific things that you would try to either instill upon them or teach them or have them do to create their peak performances on the field?
The first thing I would do if I was a coach is I would look at how the child gets rewarded. I’ll give you a couple of examples of that. Does a child get encouraged and rewarded when they learn something new, when they take on a challenge that they know is bigger than what they’ve done before and they achieved some level of success? Or do they get rewarded when you push them? Let’s say as an example you’ve got a child who wants you to push them and can take the critical feedback of, “It’s not right yet. Let’s get it right.” But you may have a child next to them who needs you to tell them what they are doing right. It’s really important to tap into that. Most kids operate best when you tell them what they’re doing right and to be able to know how to reward them. Because when you build in the reward system, it becomes addictive for kids. It really is. Dopamine has the same reaction that cocaine has. When someone gets rewarded, the pleasure system kicks in. In other words, it’s not about praising kids for accomplishing something, it’s about praising them for the effort that they put in. That’s probably the best way to say it.
One of my daughters as an example, I know that I have to praise her for putting in the effort to do the fundamentals. The other one I praise when she completes something. One’s praised on the front side, I say, “Good job getting your shoes on. Good job doing this. Good job doing this.” It seems like why should we have to do that? Because that’s how she’s rewarded, and then she takes off and she just goes. She’ll go for 30 minutes without a stop, but I’ve got to praise her into the activity. Then she’s rewarded and she goes forward. The other one, she gets started fine, no problem at all. But afterwards, I have to praise her. Knowing which way they need to be rewarded or praised for the effort involved. I don’t believe in praising them for what they achieved, I believe in praising for the effort.
We have this fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset is one where it says, “I can only do the things I was born with the capabilities to do. I can’t grow. I can’t change,” whereas the growth mindset takes on new tasks and new challenges because of the excitement of growth. That’s why the reward system is so important because if you start to reward them and praise them for good job getting your shoes on, good job getting on the dance floor, good job doing your hops. I came from a very small town. I went to a very, very small private school. Literally my sophomore year, because we had a great qualification, half the season, there were only five guys on the varsity basketball team. We had to learn how not to fall out of the game. We did play one game with four guys and we won the game. It was my best year. I was focused that year.
It was fascinating because we did 50 laps. Before we start every practice, we did 50 laps around the gym then we did our suicides and we do all that stuff. I remember after about twenty laps, I just wanted to die. I struggled with asthma as a child. I was born missing a bone on my foot so I didn’t walk until I was five years old. For me, every freaking lap hurts, but I would reward myself after every lap with, “Another one done, another one done.” I just kept doing that over and over and over again. It would push me to the next lap, into the next lap, into the next lap. I went from the beginning of the season not even being able to run probably ten laps to being able, to do the 50 laps and then be one of the top finishers in the suicides that followed that. That’s just how I did it with myself. I pushed myself continuously to do that and I would reward myself because I knew what would motivate me forward.
A simple example of that that I do today, and this is something that applies at any point in life, when I have one of those days when I don’t want to get up and do anything, just like, “I’m not in the mood today,” the first thing I do is I make a list. The first thing on that list is making a list. If I’ve got ten things to do today, I’m going to make my list. The reason being is because I can check off that I made a list. I’m done with 10% of my list for the day. It seems crazy but the fact of the matter is, my brain doesn’t know differently. It’s just going to reward me because I finished something on that list. “Now I’m motivated, let’s go get something else done.” Maybe the next thing on the list is eating breakfast. I can eat breakfast, I can make coffee. I can do that. I may give myself two or three easy things.
I know you had Shane Austin on a few weeks ago on your podcast here. One of the things I love about his teaching about goal setting, is go after and set four or five easy to achieve goals then go after three or four goals that are Stretch goals; things that you really have to push for, and then set that Big Kahuna, the one that if you achieved, it will be just freaking awesome. I think the same way about it. When you’re practicing and if you’re a coach, set some goals that you know your athletes can achieve. Reward them for achieving those goals, about the effort that they’ve put in to achieve that, and give them some bigger goals that they really push for. If you get that growth mentality going of, “Look at the effort you just put in, you just wrote a list of ten things to do today. Now you just made breakfast. Look at the effort you just put into making breakfast, you can do that.”
I know it sounds crazy but the beauty of the human mind is and probably the curse at the same time is that we are really simple beings. We can fool ourselves, just like as we fool ourselves into being afraid of doing something, we can fool ourselves into being successful. That’s the beauty of it. If we understood that we can fool ourselves into being successful, there’s no excuse that none of us should fail. We just keep going forward. We just keep fooling ourselves into success and eventually we’ll get there.
I’m glad you brought up the idea of coaching and the growth and the fixed mindset because that’s something that really radically changed how I parent my own sons over the last several years as well. When you were talking about your daughters and the differences between them, most people, if you’re not really aware of these ideas, most people, it’s how do they treat their children, how do they treat their players, and it’s what they would be rewarded as. As opposed to what the individual, the players, how their brain, how they like to be rewarded, but instead they just reinforce whatever they like. That might not be the right call for the athlete.
There’s a great book, Love Languages. That book ties into five different ways that we feel that people love us. That’s really important for coaches and parents to understand. Is it acts of service? Is it words of encouragement? Is it a touch on the shoulder? What is it that really drives people? If you get to know that really well, you will get a team that you may have a different way of encouraging every person on that team or every one of your kids is a little bit different. But if you know how to do that, those kids or the team members will go above and beyond for you every single time because you’re talking to them and you’re showing that you understand them. They’re not even consciously processing but they just know they love doing things that earn them that reward.
You feel understood when someone speaks to you in your language, whether you’re aware of it or not, or they treat you the way that you want to be treated. When you talked about all that psychology stuff at the very beginning, that stuff that you don’t spend too much time, it’s hard to understand, but you hit the nail on the head with that one. Where’s your stance on confidence? We talk about the energy of the emotion and when it comes to being confidence and how we can create it so that one, we learn faster, or two, we actually do go out there and perform better.
Going back to my Liberal Arts background, confidence means with faith. How do you act with faith? This is high individualization and game-ready is in that of course because you want to build that confidence up that I can do something. But it’s important that when athletes are really learning and getting on the field to do something, they’ve got to see themselves. They’ve got to see themselves doing the thing. They’ve got to see themselves as not just being successful, again that’s important, but they also have to see themselves building and doing the activity that’s going to lead to success. In other words, when I do visualization with my daughters, I don’t just imagine or have them imagine and have them visualize getting to the award ceremony. I have them go through the whole process of the day. What’s it going to be like? We’re going to go in and we’re going to put our shoes on, we’re going to practice this way and we’re going to do this thing, we’re going to do the warm-ups. Take them through that process. As I said they’re Irish tap dancers, they get on stage. I actually take them through visualization. I’ll pause and just let them go through each of their dances. They may have three, four, five dances. I take them through the day and then we go end the day by going into the place where they have the medals and the awards and all that stuff.
I have them build that because it builds the routine in their mind that when they actually get on the field, in this case on the stage, they get there, they’re just doing what they’ve already done before. A part of it that I’ve come to realize, and I’m really doing a lot of work in this area now, and it’s really the edge of my exploration, is that concept of, “I am.” What I’m finding is that before we change our mindset, before we go from a fixed mindset of, “I am this type of person,” for athletes, “I’m a person who can do this level of game versus the next level,” you’ve got to be able to say and to believe. For me, it’s like there’s a sense of feeling in the gut of knowing that I can do this. When I get that feeling in my gut of knowing, it’s like a warm, calm committed feeling. When I get that feeling, I know I’m going to accomplish something. That’s the confidence that I can go do it.
This is probably a little bit out there and some people may not understand this. Imagine for a moment, remember the best day you had in your sport and bring it to mind. If you’re driving, don’t close your eyes. If you’re not driving and you can do this, close your eyes. Bring to mind the best day you had playing the sport you’re playing. You just breathe it in, just breathe through it, and allow it to come up. Remember those things that you were seeing and the things that you were feeling. Remember it was happening for you that day. Explore your body and see where you feel in the zone, where you feel like, “I know everything’s moving. I got this day.” When you feel that, I want you to amplify it. Imagine you have a little dial that you can turn and right now it’s on one. Now you start to turn it up and you intensify that feeling. You turn it up to four. As you turn it up to four, you start to examine. Is there a color that you see associated with that feeling? Does it have a shape? Is it round? Is it square? Is it like a cone? What is it shaped like? Is it intense or is it weak? Is it large or is it small? Is it smooth or rough? Is it cool or warm? Get really familiar with what that is.
I want you to gradually grow it so it fills your entire body. As it’s growing, continue to grab that dial and turn that dial up a little bit. It gets a little more intense as it’s growing through your body. Keep turning it up, keep turning it up. Turn it up to a ten. Just feel it radiating through your body. Feel it go beyond your body. Remember you’re there playing your sport. Let it reach out to your teammates if you’ve got teammates. Let it reach out to the fans and the audience. Fill up the entire space that you’re in. Turn up the intensity even more. As it spreads out, keep that intensity at a ten. Spread it even further, go beyond, go outside of the arena that you’re in, to the parking lot, to the city. Fill up the entire city with this feeling. Intensify it. Turn it up even brighter. Fill up the state. You’re looking down, your energy is just filling everything up. Fill up the entire world with that energy. Turn up the intensity of it, turn it up. Don’t let it go down, turn it up. Keep it on a ten. Feel the entire world filled with that intensity. Memorize that right there. Now bring yourself back to the room and take a deep breath, open your eyes. First, I want to get your reaction, Jason.
I love that stuff. My purple triangle, I’m still in trance. That was awesome.
Here’s the magic of that. I’ve done this with sales people. I’ve done this with athletes. I’ve done this with the military. Literally, the brain grows in four ways when you make new connections and you grow. The first one is repetition. That’s the one that all the teachers go to, coaches go to. It’s good, it’s reliable but it takes a long time. The second one is intense emotion. I just took you through an intense emotion. I had you intensify it. The third one is surprise and novelty. This was different, this one’s new. You’ve never done this before. I tapped into that one. I’ve got repetition, I’ve got intense emotion and I’ve got novelty. The fourth one is focus. I definitely had you focus on that and expand it. I basically took all four different ways that the brain actually grows and builds new neural pathways and built it in there. Now what you can do, and this is why I use this for sales people all the time, the next time you go in there to play your sport, whether it’s practice or whether it’s the game, you know what that feeling feels like, you’ve memorized that feeling. Go back to the memory of that feeling, the memory of the moment we just had. Your body will operate automatically at the same level that you performed on that best day ever. Because you’re emotionally set there and when you’re emotionally set in that way, the thoughts and the behaviors flow from your emotions.
I’ve had sales people that I’ve done this with who’ve gone out and they’ve had their best sales day ever and they come and I do this exercise with them. These guys could’ve been in a slump, the equivalent of a player in a slump athletically. They go out the next day and they put themselves in the state. I’ve had people come back and say, “In three hours, I did more than I’d done ever in my entire life before. My best day ever.” They get out there and they sell like you wouldn’t believe because they’re so in the zone. They’ve tapped into that feeling and they just focus on staying in that feeling and bringing the memory of that feeling up. If they feel a little bit off course, they come back to the memory of feeling. It’s not so much focusing on the game because you’re ready for the game, you’ve practiced. It’s coming back to that feeling and holding the feeling tone, that frequency, and just going and playing and doing what you want to do.
I really appreciate you being on the show. I want to ask you if it would be alright, because being an Extreme Focus coach, I know you’re familiar with the game-ready and that’s something I’m starting to do more and more on this podcast. I wonder if maybe you could do something similar, you’ve already locked us in but maybe you can expand it through a game-ready visualization and get us all ready for the next list of the day?
Just relax, and if you’re able to sit back in your chair. You’re driving again, you can do this but don’t close your eyes. Bring to mind your intentions today. Bring to mind three intentions, things that you would absolutely who you want to be, what you want to express. When you bring those to mind, it could be being more focused than ever before, it could be being grateful. What is it that you want to be today? My intention today, especially being on this podcast, is to be thought provoking, triggering new ideas for you. Now that you’ve got your intention, fill yourself with gratitude. Just bring to mind three different things that you’re grateful for this morning. Really feel that gratitude in your body, just let it fill you up. Gratitude is such a powerful thing. We know it improves our health and our well-being, it improves our creativity, it improves our focus. We can see more. We just allow that gratitude to fill us up with good things in our life whether it’s family and friends and what’s happening for us right now, maybe something you’ve just learned on this podcast.
Now we’re going to walk through a gate. This is your gate. Whatever kind of gate you want it to be, walk through that gate. Now you’re in a place of nature, beautiful nature. For some of you, it’s probably a place you’ve been before. For others, it’s some place that you can make up right now. Imagine what you see; the trees, the flowers, the waves. Look at the sky. Look at the wildlife around you. What do you see? What kind of plants are there? Take a deep breath and smell the air, that fresh wonderful air. You can almost taste it. It’s so clean and crisp.
Walk to the back of the garden of this place of nature. You see another gate. As you walk through that gate, you see yourself in your life today. You see yourself being the person you intend to be. Take a moment and just step outside of yourself and watch yourself being the person you intend to be. You’re about ten feet away, watching yourself engage with other people, watching yourself do what you want to do, maybe it’s practicing your sport, whatever you have planned for the day today. Watch how you be the person you intend to be as you’re doing the activities of your day. Observe yourself being successful, more successful than ever before. People around you are congratulating you. They’re seeing how you’ve achieved something beyond which you’ve done before. You can tell it feels really good inside because you can see your facial expressions, just in awe of what you’ve been able to do.
Now I want you to approach yourself. Walk up to yourself. With every step, you’re closer and closer. Merge with yourself and become the person who is feeling that way, the person that’s just achieved the success that you’ve watched and observed happen. Become one with that person. Be that person. As you’re that person, you look around you and you see what you’ve done for the day. You’ve seen the success you’ve had. You’ve seen all the people you’ve helped out by what you did. You take in and embody and feel all of the congratulatory, the words that are coming to you from other people, the ideas that you’ve had as a result of this great day today, the ideas of how you can improve tomorrow.
Take a moment and imagine writing down these ideas along with the success you had today. Write it down. After you finish that writing, just take a moment and breathe in the success. Feel it. Now we’re going to turn and walk back though the gate into your place of nature. You get to observe and see the beautiful nature again and smell that air again. Look at the trees and the flowers and the wildlife all around you. It’s exactly what you want to create. You see a fountain there. You go to the fountain and the water is cool and crisp and clear. You take a drink of it and you feel it just flow through your entire being. From the fingertips, you can feel them tingling with that cool water, your toes, and your head. You feel it in your stomach. The confidence is growing. You walk as a person who’s just had the most amazing day of your life, being exactly who you intended to be and achieving more than you imagined possible. You walk with that confidence to the first gate. You walk through that first gate and you open your eyes in your life right now, being that person.
It was an absolute honor and pleasure having you on the show today. It was awesome. I learned so much. Thank you very much, Tony.
Thank you for having me on the show. It’s been a great pleasure to be here with you as always.
That was a great game-ready.
I hope you guys enjoyed. Until next week, I want everyone to go out there and do their best. Aim high, swing hard, smile often and play full force.
Tony is constantly seeking to understand the nuances of human experience that separate the high performers from everyone else. His discoveries have led him to publish two #1 best-sellers and to found or co-found five companies ranging from customer experience consulting to small business training to television. He is an international speaker at personal growth seminars, as well as, business, analytical and technology conferences. Tony is an award-winning coach certified by both the Life Mastery Institute and Extreme Focus. He’s built the customer experience programs for some of the world’s most respected companies and has provided highly-acclaimed mental performance training to the Olympians, CEOs, professional athletes, the US Army (including the Army Rangers), and Navy SEALs.