RIP Robin Williams

RIP Robin Williams

RIP Robin WilliamsRIP 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.

RIP Robin WilliamsThose 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!

Getting past shame

Getting past shame

Mental Training to get past shame in sportsdunce

A while back I wrote a post on shame. It is one of the areas that we rarely address in sports. It got a lot of hits back when I originally posted it. It was uploaded to a site in the UK this month for a new audience and again it’s garnered a good deal of attention. I thought perhaps I would talk about a few exercises people can use to get over issues were they feel shame. For some it is a feeling of failure associated with letting team or family down by not performing to their own or others expectations. In many ways it is associated with fear of failure. In other ways it goes perhaps deeper. Shame affects confidence, motivation and so much more. From an emotional intelligence point of view, along with guilt, it is certainly one of our more useless emotions. Please keep in mind, as usual; I am not talking about people who have really deep seated issues, as I only work with healthy people. There are times when we all have trouble dealing with something however, and these exercises can help.

Using CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy type exercises can help athletes reduce this feeling and perform at higher levels. Some are very simple. Some will take a bit of work. Some come from what are known as Shame Attacking exercises.

My new favorite one however comes from Clown School. Don’t discount this technique because of its unusual origins.  I picked this one up from a friend, Leif Hansen,  who runs a group called Spark Interactions [ SPARK ]. A lot of what Leif helps people do is re-learn how to play through interactive activities. A good deal of which is Improv.   I’ve attended 4 of his clinics, always interested in new growth activities for myself and those I work with. It was Leif who talked about Clown School. I love this one as in part it helps people deal with failure in a way completely removing shame.

Clown Redemption (my name not his).Another approach to dealing with failure

In clown school when a clown makes a mistake in a routine instead of apologizing or telling everyone they are sorry for their mistake clowns are taught to do something very different. After making an error, instead of saying sorry, the clown takes an exaggerated bow and says in a loud voice, Thank You Very Much with a smile. Taking credit for their mistake and rejoicing in the opportunity to learn something from their mistake. Athletes drive me crazy with the two-word apology I hear so often, “MY BAD”.  What the athlete is stating is I made a mistake; I do take responsibility for it. But it is also an acknowledgement that there was something bad in their behavior. This can reinforce feelings of shame, rather than the idea that failure leads to learning and ultimate growth / success. I think if more people would bow and say thank you very much, they would overcome so many inhibitions.

Shame attacking Type Exercises:

The idea here is to do some things which make you very uncomfortable in public some can be done in private too. By choosing small steps in behavior change people come to understand that the consequences they were so afraid of, only exist in their own minds. Understanding this on a real level allows a person to be more comfortable in their own skin. Trying new things that allows them to realize that their shame or embarrassment is not real.  So here are a few non sport exercises to help you understand their impact. You can try them yourself as of course there are no consequences.

The basics are to do something that makes you feel foolish and uncomfortable.

– Start dancing as you walk through a store

– Start laughing while waiting in a line

– Sing while you are waiting in a line

– Tell a random stranger that is in line by you that you didn’t take a shower today.

– Ask a random girl/guy passing by if they would want to do something later

– When you are in a store start running frantically while looking behind you as if something were chasing you.

– Make funny faces to people who are stopped beside you in traffic

In sports it could be something as simple as these.Shame in sport

– Something as ridiculous as trying to kick a soccer ball and falling down on purpose

– During practice make odd faces

– Ask a really stupid question of a team-mate or coach

– Make a funny noise while catching a ball

– Smile during practice – assuming you are one who believes you must wear a game face

Now these are just a few simple things and I’d love some comments back on Shame Attacking ideas in sports. I’ve got some others I’m holding back because I want some creative ideas not variations. You might notice that all of the things I’ve listed are common behaviors at most every practice. But not for everyone. If you were to say to yourself I would never do that, maybe you should.

So if we enter my world of sport and we observe athletes held up by their anxiety and as we lift the veil and help them cope with their sports anxieties and still something is missing, we may need to understand their greatest fear.  I often ask the question, “What is your greatest fear?”  Maybe it is the wrong question.  What is it that makes you feel shame?  Can you talk about it?  We tell people not to put their self-worth in a sport outcome or result.  What if they do that because somewhere along the way, instead of finding joy in sports, they found shame?

If this post fails to help you understand how to help yourself or someone else then I failed to explain it well.  All I can say to that then is:

Thank You Very Much (with a bow of course)

A year in review 2012

A year in review 2012

A year in review 2012a year in review

I’ve not ever felt a need to do this before, to have a year in review. It is a new experience for me. I want to look back at 2012 with clarity and be able to move forward in new ways. So taking my own advice, I am going back over the successes and of course challenges of the past year. You can cut to the chase by going to the last paragraph if you like.

Starting with the Athletes and their sports

A year in review with DeAndre Yedlin and Mike Margolies

Sounders FC U23 Player DeAndre Yedlin with Mike Margolies

I worked with an amazing group of athletes this year including those in the following sports: Golf, football, gymnastics, hockey, equestrians, soccer, tennis, swimming, softball, baseball, track, diving, roller derby, basketball, triathlon, cycling, fencing, water skiing, fitness, power lifting and lacrosse.

Competitor’s ages ranged from 12 to 70+.  Competitive levels were club, high school, college and professional. Seven high school athletes earned scholarships or were accepted to their first choice college as an athlete (Ivy League = no athletic scholarships). One college walk-on earned her full scholarship. Most the athletes, but not all, were starters on their respective teams. In the end all were starting most of their games. I worked with a few teams as well at the club and minor league levels. All in all it was a very good year for the clients I worked with. If I were to put it in baseball terms, I would say that we batted around .900       Read the rest of the post by choosing more…. (more…)

The Water Tower Motivation Analogy

The Water Tower Motivation Analogy

The Water Tower Motivation Analogy

If we look at a metaphorical An Analogy about motivation for mental traininggeneralized model of what motivation might look like it might be a large water tank. I am not in any way removing my supposition that we need to think about motivation as a triangle. This is just another way of generalizing about motivation to help athletes understand more about the simplicity of motivation overall and some of the complexities.

So if we use a picture of a large water tank I think it will help with the explanation. There is no top to the tank and so for many of us motivation, drive, enthusiasm, or the Fury just over flow the tank. The tank is filled mostly and best by a hose that is inside the tank. Sometimes it is filled by other people. Oddly they make us offerings of speeches, carrots and sometimes they use fear which can be a motivator as well. All of these hoses are smaller and are far less effective at filling the tank.

Sometimes our tank develops hoses in it. Normally when we are fully focused out internal hose keeps up with the out flow. Sometimes it is difficult to keep our internal hose on all the time and the leaks sap us of some of our essence. Holes develop for lots of reasons like a lack of confidence, stress, poor team cohesion, outside distractions, etc.

If the hoses cannot keep up with the leak, we see less of the motivation we usually have and performance generally diminishes. We can patch holes of course. Generally what happens when things are leaking is that we lose ourselves and take our hand off our internal hose regulator. If we can’t keep up for the inside it is very difficult for all of the outside hoses to keep up. It becomes a situation as in Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. Eventually you can’t keep up with the leaks and having stopped filling from the inside you end up being no longer motivated, even though it is something you wanted very much to do.

Eventually many people at that point just stop trying to keep the valve open and have to shift. Shifting is one way of closing those holes. The problem is after the shift things are never really the same until the person finds something that re-ignites their passion.

I hope that this makes some sense to you. To simplify it I can have you think of it this way:

  • Internal Motivation = Big Hose (but you do have to keep a hand on the valve)
  • External Motivation = Smaller hoses controlled by other people. It takes a lot of these hoses to top of the tank.
  • Leaks = Stress, anxiety, loss of confidence, fear and many others. You can keep the leaks small or patched by using mental skills like relaxation, imagery and other cognitive behavioral techniques.

I think a huge secret in all of this is understanding your Big Why. If you understand your own triangle you will have a far easier time keeping your hand on the valve or perhaps even think of it as pedal to the metal which ever works best for you. Finding and knowing your why will always help you keep the water near the top. It will allow you to rely far less on all those small hoses. It gives you ultimate control because the big hose you control so when you need to back off, even when your coach is overly enthusiastic, it is in your hands. Same goes for when you develop leaks. Adding a little extra water in will allow you to use your mental game skill sets to seal up the holes, ultimately with a patch that neither requires attention or the little Dutch boy’s finger.

Why mental training?

Why mental training?

Mental trainingWhy mental training?

I was asked the other day and not for the first time why do mental training? I have been a proponent for three decades now that everyone should do mental training and working with someone like myself can help give every athlete a new set of tools or even one tool that will help them get to a new level of performance. I have worked with beginners to world champions and everyone finds something that is useful to them. But the question is still often asked so I thought I would address it here today.

The usual questions start with how does mental training or sport psychology help athlete’s perform at a higher level. Generally before I can answer that question the person will ask; will it help me deal with ___________________? There is a long list usually dealing with fear or anxiety. The answer is yes it will help and in so many other areas as well. Usually people will ask about a certain area.

mental training list

In general I usually work with athletes on some form of the things I have listed below. If you are astute the thing you will notice is that I have listed a combination of training techniques and issues. I’ve done this because over the years I have found that people tend to think about sport psychology in both terms issues and techniques. An example is relaxation training. Athletes may want to learn how to deal with stress and the easiest way for them to talk about it is they want to learn to relax. Whatever way you want to think about is OK. What I want you to understand is that regardless of how you think about sport psychology and mental training it must be in your arsenal as a hockey player. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, and I have worked with world champions, this is an area that you can improve and help yourself get to the next level. (more…)

Fear of Failure or is it the Fear of Failing?

Fear of Failure or is it the Fear of Failing?

Fear of Failure or is it the Fear of Failing?

Fear of Failure or is it the Fear of Failing? I was reading someone’s blog. They are a personal trainer, not a sport psychology consultant. I’m not saying that because I’m academically prejudiced about personal trainers. Just about the best friends I have are trainers and coaches and I borrow concepts from them all of the time. I just want to make it clear that their definition is based on their experience. As I guess you could say are all of ours. Fear of Failure or is it the Fear of Failing?

They were talking about FEAR. Primarily Fear of Failure. It was a decent piece as far as it went. The writer unfortunately does not understand the subtle difference between Fear of failure and fear of failing.

They wrote “FEAR can be scary; it can definitely hold athletes back from accomplishing many great things.  But as a trainer my job is to take that Fear and turn it into a positive.  Turn it into something that the athlete can use to strive to become better.  For example, my Fear is failure, I do not want to fail at anything I do, so I push myself to achieve greatness at all things.  I do not always succeed but I learn many great lessons from my failures.  We as athletes, coaches, parents have to turn the Fear of something into a positive, so we can achieve greatness on all levels.  We need to strive to be better today than we were yesterday”. I do wish it was just that easy, but they made some interesting statements. Most of all it got me thinking about the difference between Failure and Failing. (more…)