RIP Robin Williams
It’s been a hard few days for me. A lot goes on in life. Client needs, family needs and of course business needs, so the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life hit me hard. I am not one to follow celebrity. I rarely watch the news. I am too involved in the present. Too involved with Shifting the Paradigm of Sport Psychology & Mental Training to something that everyone will see as important and use to watch what goes on outside my little window of life. I work with people who are normal to exceptional. I understand genius on the field and off, it has been my life work. How to bring people to the next level. So I look for it in others, not just in sports, not just in business, but where it exists. So I have watched the genius who was Robin Williams intently. RIP Robin Williams.
I’m old enough to have watched Mork from Ork. To have seen him play-off with Jonathan Winters. To have seen him in roles like Popeye and wondered how things would go from there. Good Morning Vietnam was eye opening. Yes there was comedy, the riffs as he was playing the DJ role, but there was much more there, wasn’t there? He could act. He was no longer Mork. Not the stand-up comic, but an actor. Eye opening. RIP Robin Williams.
Then came roles like Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting and the depth of his abilities grew more. He moved me in ways I couldn’t understand at the time. From comic to Soldier DJ to Teacher and to Psychologist (naturally this one hits home) he was remarkable. His family movies came out when I was raising my sons. Their first thoughts of him were from Aladdin and Jumanji. He touched all of the buttons. He played some disturbing roles as well like pervert killers. He played every man and he played villains and comics. There are great actors and he was one. RIP Robin Williams.
There was the other side of him as well. Well documented by the media. He talked about it himself. Battles with drugs, with alcohol, depression. When I have looked at genius and tried to understand it, I am always in awe. It can be the genius of a Tiger Woods, Steve Jobs, Ernest Hemingway or Albert Einstein, it doesn’t matter what their field happens to be. The apparent effortlessness of mind and body. It is what I try to teach after all to those I work with. Not with all geniuses of course, but a disturbing number have suffered from mental illness ( Don’t start, I am not implying anything with woods or the others) as did Williams. RIP Robin Williams.
Here is one thing I know and mental illness is not something I work with, but have a bit of insight with. It has to be worse when you are a genius. When you are aware of every thought, every feeling. When you measure yourself not against other normal people but against the greats. Can you see how hard it is when you are depressed and you know you are in control, that you are the smartest person in the room and you can’t pull yourself out. The highs and lows of Robin Williams life are of what dreams may come. It is hard to go quietly into the night. It is difficult to watch yourself be chased by demons and not be able to remove yourself from the path. I wish to all that is holy that Robin Williams had found another way. RIP Robin Williams.
He was for me not just another actor or comedian. He was genius. He was what I want others to find within themselves. What I want to find within myself. To know you are at another level. This is where greatness comes from. It is a terrible thing to be so smart, to be so aware that you see all and to see the importance of life slipping away from you. I wish to hell he’d have found another way for all of us. To have found a funny way to say good bye instead of what I know he believed as the only way out of the pain. Robin Williams died this week. I will not criticize his way out. I will honor him by remembering his roles and what he gave me in laughter and experience. RIP Robin Williams.
Those who condemn his actions as a selfish act need to walk in his shoes. It would be different I think for me if he was the 20 something Mork who had taken his own life. Then it was the waste of what might have been. He was a few years older than me. He had fought these feelings most of his life. The things that made it better (Drugs and Alcohol) really made life worse. Were there other ways out. Of course there were. There are always options. But sometimes people get tired of the good fight. I am sorry he is gone. I will miss what might still have been. Go not silently into the good night, my friend. RIP Robin Williams. Nanu Nanu!
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
What does an athlete do when they are working very hard and their performance is not improving? The answer of course depends a lot on what they are doing. Let’s assume for a moment that they are doing the right physical training, they are even doing some mental training. We can look at their diet and make sure that is headed in the right direction. We can do an analysis with their coaches and see if it is a mechanical issue or not. If all of these things are in alignment, then what do we do?
I have come across this many times both in sports and in business. An athlete and their support are doing everything the way they should be done. I’ve seen many business approach things the same way. Everything we are doing is right based on research and experience. We just can figure out what is wrong. Einstein wrote that; “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This can be true in both sports and business. Sometimes all of the right things are not right for an individual. Sometimes our best research model does not fit the subject. So what do we do is this instance.
It seems to me we have three choices. First choice and while it is rather negative, sometimes in athletics you have to throw in the towel and say it is time to retire. This is always the hard choice. I spend my life trying to keep people from quitting, but on occasion, given circumstances it is the right choice. Maybe the body just isn’t recovering like it used to. Sometimes life moves on. The same in business can also e true. Sometimes the star business person needs to move on either to another business or to count their money. Maybe they burned out or are so entrenched in their business model that this is a needed step.
Choice two is perhaps an easier one to stomach. Bring in someone new to help evaluate the situation. Maybe an outside set of eyes can help determine the right direction. We see this in both the sport and business world. It is especially prevalent in sports. The solution is of course fire the coach or manager. Sometimes that step alone changes the dynamic of the athlete’s situation and performance improves. It may provide a different sort of motivation or perhaps the communication just changes and everyone hears better. This is often the solution that works. So what is the third choice?
Solution three might just be viewed as different. What it involves is change. Maybe for this particular athlete, team or business the right thing was right after all. Maybe breaking some of the training rules is needed. Reexamining training methods and then going against the norm might be the best thing for an individual. Looking back at diets and saying maybe the body needs more junk (not a popular notion), but maybe they just need a little food break. An athlete might even be too focused. All of the mental training they have been doing (this is of course more on the rare side) may mean they need to take a break. I worked with an athlete whom I won’t name that set a world record for his event in the nude. It was just a way for him and his team mates to blow off some steam. Another world class distance runner I worked with we had to force time off. He just needed a change. He wasn’t over training. He felt good, but he wasn’t making progress. So we did the opposite and shut him down for three weeks. Toughest three weeks of his life he said. Came back and won his next race with a PR. Did his body or mind need the rest? The answer is perhaps. I think more he needed a change. He needed a change to refocus his energy. He needed a change to perhaps rekindle his motivation for running. He trained as hard as any athlete I ever knew, but maybe it was out of habit and not out of passion. Forcing change made him refocus on himself. He had to decide what to do next.
I have had a conversation a dozen or so times with athletes towards the ends of their careers. Performance had leveled off and they were not sure what the right thing to do was. In these instances I forced a mental shift. I suggested that they quit. I forced them to think about change. In the end most of them rededicated themselves and continued till they felt the time was right. On two occasions the athletes retired. Years later they said they knew it was the right thing to do. Of course they didn’t talk to me for years because of my suggestion. They were angry at the forced change. They were angry at having to look so deeply into themselves. Sometimes change causes pain, mostly it brings about enlightenment.
So what does an athlete do when their work is taking them nowhere fast? They look to change as the agent to move forward. Einstein had so many answers to many of life’s issues. Of course he had his issues as well. He loved to sail. He would sail for hours yet have difficulty finding his way back home. Seems the laws of physics and mathematics didn’t apply to little sail boats on small lakes. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.