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!
Build your company using the athlete within you
I get this question a lot during presentations to companies or associations, so I thought I would dedicate some time to it. I get asked or told, depending on the person asking the question. Why sport psychology and what does it have to do with business? Now generally I answer with a series of metaphors like making a big sale is hitting one out of the park or you know that question is a real curve ball. Mostly people get that our business language and sports language often dovetail. That’s when we can focus on how to build your company using the athlete within you
Sometimes I talk to them about working with their customers especially after a big NFL or college game. What used to be talk around the water cooler now takes place there, on Facebook and any place people communicate with each other.
After I have done this we proceed to talk about the Mental Game and how it will help them. Right now however I want to go a different route, a more direct route if you will. If you don’t understand why sport psychology works for you in your business world, please ask this of yourself. Why wouldn’t you want to be an athlete? Train like an athlete and succeed like an elite athlete? You see, elite athletes are your best example of who you want to be like.
Let’s try this for logic. If you looked at your job as if it were a sport, what would change? Certainly it would be more fun. You would want to win the Super Bowl or World Series every year. You would prepare for everything with passion (The Fury). You would prepare for each meeting and there would be no question that you would strive to be the best.
Work ethic would be great. You would train for success. Mental preparation and even physical preparation would be critical to your success. Right now I am doing some work with a training company, reviewing their business mental toughness program. I review the online test answers their students are giving. I am somewhat shocked how many of their employees see this course work as meaningless because all they want to do is sell like they have been doing for years. They don’t want to prepare, they don’t want to learn anything new. An athlete would be shocked by their attitude.
Great athletes are always in the game. They are focused and don’t get distracted. The best of them handle stress and even use competition to bring out the best in themselves. They also practice a lot. They practice everything they do that occurs in a game or might transpire in a game. How about you? Do you prepare for your presentation like a champion? How about sales calls or negotiations? Do you rehearse until it is perfect or just good enough and then wing it? Athletes are the best prepared individuals I know.
I’ll give you just one more important factor in why I focus on the mental game in business. Athletes make great team mates. Great teams are made up with great athletes. So in building your team, in creating an atmosphere for success within your company and maybe even more importantly leading the team like a great coach, wouldn’t you want everyone to at least have certain attributes of an elite athlete? Building your team with the mentality of a great coach with people who have the drive for success of elite performers will produce tremendous results for you and your business. Be the coach and provide the leadership to train your athletes, so that they have the mental game for success. Of course if you would like some help, you know where to find me.
How to prepare your mind for competition and success
When it comes to getting ready for competition, your mental preparation means more than you might realize. I often call this the “game within the game.” If you have been a competitive athlete at all in your life, you can probably recall a time when your mental state caused you to perform better or worse. What you might not realize, however, is that you can achieve peak performance more consistently through mental preparation.
As a sport psychology consultant and mental trainer, I often ask athletes to consider the best and the worst games they ever played. After they’ve done this, I ask them what they think the differences were between the two. Was the other team flat-out better, more fit, or coached by a genius? Almost always, the answer is none of those things. So to win the mental game, training makes a difference.
Instead, people often look internally. Talking about their worst performances, they point to anxiety, fear, or a lack of focus. The words differ, but the meaning is essentially the same: It was a “mental thing.” My next question is this: How much time do you spend practicing the mental game? Whether we’re talking about sports or business or personal affairs, if your answer to this question is “no time at all,” then it’s time to rethink your approach.
The game within the game is the mental contest we play as we prepare for competition, whatever form it may take. It’s about what we tell ourselves before, during and after competition. It involves managing stress, setting goals, and visualizing success. How we play this mental game determines how we perform when it counts.
These are the five tenets:
3. Carefree approach
Although each of these carries its own importance, they are also interrelated. Improving one area can lead to improvement in the other areas. Here’s a closer look at each.
Calmness: If you aren’t relaxed while playing or performing or working, you’ll more easily lose the feel for what you’re doing. Although learning to relax may seem simple, it’s actually a skill that must be practiced. Before you go to work tomorrow, try sitting on your couch for three minutes. Breathe slowly and just relax. The next time your stress level picks up on the job or during competition, take a deep breath and talk yourself down from the ledge. Refuse to get stressed out. It does no good.
Confidence: If you don’t feel confident that you can handle a competitive situation, you’re setting yourself up to fail. When you don’t believe in yourself, how is anyone else supposed to believe in you? Whatever it is you’re trying to do, tell yourself you can and believe it when you say it. Picture the success you are about to achieve.
Carefree approach: This is all about staying loose and knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll come out better for it. When the pressure mounts, refuse to let yourself get tight. It’s also important to make sure you don’t let worries from other parts of your life affect the task at hand. Stay mentally relaxed regardless of what you face. This goes hand in hand with staying calm.
Motivation: If you don’t have motivation, you don’t have much. Think about the things success will bring you. If you win the game, what will that mean? If you nail that presentation, what effect might it have on your career? Find your motivation and think about it often.
Focus: People often remind athletes of the importance of concentration. But what does that mean? Quite simply, it means focusing on the task at hand, avoiding distractions, and remaining fixated on what must be done. When players are off their game, it’s often because they’re thinking about something else. You can’t just go through the motions. By staying in the moment and avoiding mental interference, you can keep your mind where it needs to be.
STRENGTH FROM WITHIN
We all deal with stress. Life isn’t easy for competitive athletes, surgeons, lawyers, investment bankers, writers, or anyone else who’s trying to achieve great things. But it sure is fun. Remember that when you’re faced with long odds and the prospect of
failure. Enjoy the ride and know that you are doing exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing.
Live for exhilaration and learn to deal with pressure. It makes you special and it sets you above the competition. You didn’t get where you are in life without putting in the work. And you won’t continue moving up by quitting or giving in when things get tough.
Instead, look within for strength, envision your success, and practice your mental preparation. Professional athletes typically spend 20 years perfecting their game on the way to reaching the highest level of their sport. By committing yourself to your own mental game and practicing often, you too can achieve greatness.
Asking Important Questions
Every decade or so I feel the need to clean out a file drawer, and this morning I did. What caught my eye was the first published magazine column I think I every wrote. It was for a monthly tennis magazine called “Tennis Talk” in Southern California. The copy I found was untitled so I’ve dubbed it “Asking Important Questions”. I found a few others and I will post them later.
From Tennis Talk Magazine June 1980
For sometime now I have been asking questions of athletes i meet at various competitions. The major question I ask is “What do you do get ready for competition?” In a recent meeting with a group of junior players this was their reply:
- X number of hours on court practicing serve, ground strokes, etc.
- X number of hours in competition
- X number of hours running, stretching and weight training to get in shape
This appears to be a good, solid program I said, but aren’t you forgetting something, I asked. They all answered pretty much the same. “We think we are doing what needs to be done.” I then asked what they do for the mental part of the game. At first I got blank stares. “One player said he sometimes tries to psych himself up or psych the other player out, is that what I meant?” I then asked how important was the mental side and they all agreed it was the most important, but that it was what it was.
As a Sport Psychology Consultant, I have run into this set of circumstances constantly. It seems ridiculous to me that athletes neglect the most important part of their game. [though of course I did as well when I was a player] While tennis players spend hours getting in physical shape and improving their strokes, they will not spend an hour and a half a week to improve their mental conditioning.
Reports from the Soviet Union (remember this was written in 1980) have stated that some world-class athletes are spending as much as 75% of their time on mental conditioning. Why? Because it can have a tremendous effect on you game. You can increase your potential by working on some very basic concepts. These Include:
- Relaxation – Knowing how to relax your body
- Attentional Focus – Knowing how to concentrate
- Self-Confidence – To see yourself with a positive self-image
- Avoidance of CHOKE – How to effectively deal with stress
Try working on these areas I urged them. Know that Awareness is the first step in learning how to relax. Learning the skills will help you play at a higher level.
One question they asked right away was what did I mean by attentional focus? Attentional focus is the art of concentration. More precisely, it is the ability to focus your attention from one thing to the next as quickly as possible. In tennis this is the ability to go from knowing where your opponent is to seeing the rotation of the ball to thinking what to do next. If you master this art, you improve your game.
There are many exercises you can use to improve your attentional focus. Here’s one that is fairly simple to do. Close your eyes and get an image / picture of your tennis game. Look at your opponent, then see the ball.Learn to do this as quickly as possible, making sure to see the image as clearly and vividly as you can. Remember if you condition your mind as well as your body, your game will improve rapidly.
It’s hard for me to believe that I wrote that 34 years ago. At the time we called our company Inner Sports. I struggled at the time to write which is why it took another 31 years from when this column was written to write The Athlete within You which by the way for June the Kindle version is now on sale here at Amazon.