Starting with Why
This is a second excerpt from The Athlete within You. It is where perhaps I should have started this series, because as with a lot of things, it is the very foundation of who we are. It is the beginning of Chapter 2- in many ways it was my beginning as well as a person and sports psychologist. When you understand your Why, you will find it much easier to motivate your self to succeed. You could find out that your Why is not so useful once you start looking at it. If that is the case, the answer is simple. Change your Why. Is it easy. Yes and No. Hitting a golf ball isn’t easy either. But with practice, it is something most can accomplish. Discover your Why. So please enjoy the short excerpt.
2 Starting with Why
The Little Engine That Could
Growing up one story that was a favorite of my parents was the Rob Lee story “The Little Engine that Could.” It is a story that’s been read generation after generation for the last 40 or 50 years to illustrate the value of effort. The story of “The Little Engine that Could” seems odd to me when I hear people tell the story today as it seems to have a different message and mixed into it are other stories like Thomas the Tank Engine or something like that. But as I remember the story it was truly about a little engine that was trying to get over the hill and it took all of his effort all this effort to be able to get over the top of the hill. He kept saying “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” and eventually he got over the hill to the other side where he stated “I knew I could, I knew I could.”
I got my belief about the value of effort from that story, reinforced of course by both my folks. The real importance of the story shouldn’t be lost on any of us today, because for our children or the kids that we work with, thinking you can and taking action is critical to success. Everything we do in life is based on “I think I can I think, I can I think I can.” Confidence is based on “I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could.”
All things in their Time
I have been looking back into the past to understand myself. I am doing this so that I can better understand how to help those I work with. I firmly believe that our performance, while built on past experience, is not governed or controlled by it, and we can learn to move forward despite our past experience. There are times when it is important to acknowledge that we do have a past to deal with.
For every athlete or person I work with, one of the initial conversations is directed at “Why” do you want to do what you are doing? What is your Why? Simon Sinek‘s book Start with Why is a great example of the importance of understanding your why. His book is a best seller because it demonstrates how it is we find inspiration to achieve our goals. It is based on achievement in business, but certainly applies to athletic success. I begin with talking about my “why” when working with athletes.
I was the athlete who kept failing at the next level, basically until there were no more levels to join. I also lacked a good understanding of how to be a successful athlete from a mental perspective. A good friend, Deborah Drake prompted me, as good friends often do, to think a little bit more about my “why.” I had started to share a story about my father, and as the deep listener she can be, she quickly saw past the surface level of its significance to me and my work and she has encouraged me to finish the story here. My dad was a teacher.
Actually, he had been a lot of things in his youth. He was a boxer, a push cart peddler, a roofer, a hobo, a migrant worker, a panhandler (someday I’ll write his story of panhandling in front of one of Nevada’s more famous houses of ill repute, but that is for another day.) During the 1950’s he was a successful traveling salesman. (Insert joke here if you want.) After I was born he decided to become a teacher so that he would be home and he said he wanted to make a difference. So he taught elementary school and coached on the playgrounds from the late 1950’s until retirement in 1987 at age 70. He was burned out by the system. He had spent his entire academic career teaching in a lower economic neighborhood teaching kids to read and trying to keep them out of trouble. He was in the same building for 27 years. He was an institution in his school district. He was Mr. Margolies. That he was Mr. Margolies is one of several reasons I prefer to go by Mike to everyone.
In the end, he retired from teaching, in part due to administrative broken promises that took their toll on him. But there is another side to his story that I want to focus on. It is the origin of my own “why” and it is important. A few years post retirement I was visiting my father and I went grocery shopping with him. Grocery shopping was one of the retirement tasks that he enjoyed. We were walking in the shopping center of my youth in Monterey Park, California when a youngish woman approached us somewhat shyly. She looked about my age of 35, at the time. She had a kid in tow and also a baby stroller with a little girl. She hesitantly asked my father if he was Mr. Margolies. He said yes and why (with a hint of paranoia and mistrust, which was unlike him. She said her name was Maria and that he had been her teacher when she was in the fifth grade. She couldn’t read then and he taught her to read, just as she was now teaching her kids to read.
She said she was the first person in her family to be able to read and write and she thought of him often. She said when she recognized him she had to come thank him. She said she was thanking him more for her children than for herself. After smiles and a friendly handshake, (I got the feeling she wanted to hug him, but was afraid he would not want it), we wandered away.
When she was out of ear shot my dad asked me why she had done that. I was genuinely stunned. I had been so proud of him listening to the conversation. How he had changed at least three people’s lives. It made me think how many lives had he really touched over the course of almost thirty years of teaching and coaching. We spent the next twenty minutes with me trying to explain to him the significance of this former student’s acknowledgement. At the end of the conversation he said “Hmm.” That was it, “Hmm.”
I of course retold the story to my mother when we got back to the house and a couple of other times to others with him present of course, hoping eventually it would strike him as to how significant a contribution he had made to that former student, now a young mother. He really didn’t get it. He thought of his life, his working life, I should say, as a failure. He was a retired teacher, which was almost an embarrassment to him. Telling the story to others in front of him only upset him, so I soon stopped. He never seemed to get clear on its significance. I would tell this story occasionally when giving talks to coaches about understanding that coaching is always more about the people they worked with than it was about wins and losses. It helped to me accentuate an important point with them. I didn’t really understand that I was hoping to convince myself internally, as much as them, my audience. In some ways, I had become the teacher my father had been before he burned out—unaware of his full value.
Post script. I mentioned that my dad’s retirement was not what I would want for him or anyone. Around 2000 he had a small stroke and that impacted him greatly and his remaining days. It brought on some dementia that greatly affected his memory. Not Alzheimer’s, where he lost his self, just day to day difficulty. The year he passed away was very difficult. He lived with us and conversations and care were harder than he deserved. I do remember one night that I will share. I was talking about a young athlete I was helping. This was at dinner. He interrupted the conversation, as a thought came to him with great clarity.
He said to everyone at the table like it was yesterday. Turning to me he said, “Do you remember when Maria told me I had taught her to read?” He then went on to tell the whole story, except the end was different. He said it had made him so proud to have been a teacher. He said if he hadn’t taught a single other person, he felt like he had been really happy to have had that chance. He had tears in his eyes. It wasn’t long after that that I lost him. It is one of my best memories, understanding in the end that he got it.
Lecture and Hypnosis Demonstration for the Issaquah High School Psychology classes. History and use of hypnosis and how it is applied to sports. As I have been mentioning I recently made fourteen Hypnosis / Guided Imagery for Sports mp3s for a company called Best in U. I’ve already written that my involvement in hypnosis goes back maybe 40 years. I have used hypnosis with athletes and others individually and in groups. But until two weeks ago I never had done an active demonstration with an audience. So here is the story.
The day before Thanksgiving I did a lecture and demonstration for the Issaquah High School Psychology classes. My son is in the class and I have known the teacher for 10 years or so. This was the first time that I had volunteered to come into his class. I wanted to provide the students with something interesting that would get them thinking about how important psychology is to sports and other types of performance. I knew from talking with my son that this would be of interest to his class. His teacher Josh Moore was excited to have me in to provide a real link to his students on applied psychology. I asked him if as part of the presentation he would like to be hypnotized.
He had seen stage hypnosis before, but had never had a directed experience. I thought I would be just coming into class one day and do a short demo. Instead Mr Moore asked me to come in on a short day prior to Thanksgiving. This gave him control of time and place. So instead of meeting in the classroom he set it up that I would do the lecture in the brand new Issaquah High School Theater with three sections of students instead of one. Instead of 40 minutes I would have 90.
This was interesting for me as I said because with all of my experience I never had an occasion to do a stage like show using hypnosis. This was going to be fun, and in truth a trip for me into the unknown. Could I do a rapid induction on a single subject in front of my sons friends? Just have to see I guess. So here is the rapid induction.
If you go to my YouTube channel you can see more, including the teacher laughing, singing and demonstrating other aspects of hypnosis. My YouTube channel is SportPsychConsult . Just click on the link and like magic you are there.
This is of course only the demo. The first part was a lecture on hypnosis with class participation so they understood important concepts like relaxation, suggestibility and concentration, all critical aspects in performance success in sports and life. The video is grainy because we were negligent in asking someone to light the stage for video. We ended the session with a great Q & A session.
Imagery-more than fantasy II
I’d like to give write today on Thanksgiving a few notes of gratitude to some good friends. Some that help me day to day, and others that pop in and out of my life. I can’t name them all, but I will call out a few by their first names and perhaps they will know that I am thinking of them. I imagine us all one day sitting around the table drinking good wine (or tequila) and celebrating our friendship. In no order, they are Kindra, Deborah, Ken, Michael, Don, Jon, Tiffany, Toni, JoLynn, Bobby, Matts, Ellen, Marg, DJ, Fancy and of course my family. To my extended family I want to also wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving.
So why is this post titled Imagery. We use imagery every day all day. It is critical to our process as human beings. I thought that I would offer up on this Thanksgiving Day part of one of the chapters from The Athlete within You. I have been thinking so much about how imagery is intertwined in what we do that I wanted to write something today. So what follows is an excerpt from my book. My thoughts in this area are becoming clearer than they have in years as I prepare more mp3 programs for Best in U. After over three decades of study maybe it’s about time.
This is from the middle of a chapter on Imagery.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot . . . and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why . . . I succeed.” Jordan was always willing to get back up. He was always willing to take the last shot. Moreover he had the extreme confidence to know that he would in fact make the shot.
What if we could practice more shots every single day? What if we allow that it takes 10,000 repetitions to groove a movement to a level of expertise? If Perfect Practice really makes perfect through the use of imagery and visualization, we can learn new skills and perfect them faster by using our minds. So let’s use the time wisely that we have to find success. Utilize this visualization technique for both learning and accelerating your performance–in everything you do.
The subject of imagery fires me up. I read about another sport psychologist doing a radio interview on imagery. As imagery is one of the most important skills an athlete can utilize, I decided to listen in. I am always more than willing to learn about new techniques (borrow) to help athletes.
So why am I so fired up? Because I heard the same perspective on sports psychology, I’ve been hearing for years. The techniques lacked creativity in application and thought. Maybe I just didn’t listen close enough, or there was a lot I didn’t hear. The most important part of the interview came from the host and he was dead on in my opinion and the sport psychologist seemed to dismiss his ideas. So let me see if I can lay this out in an easy way for people to assimilate. The interviewer talked about when we were children and we used our imagination when we played.
We didn’t just do it with sports; we did it when we were learning most everything that was important to us as a toddler as well. We pretended to be animals and we moved like them. We pretended to be cowboys and cowgirls. We were astronauts and pilots and race car drivers and much more. We imagined pitching in the World Series, and winning NBA titles. For many, somewhere it seems to me around puberty, we stopped using our imaginations around sports. Maybe our focus shifted to academics or the opposite sex, but we got away from dreaming about playing games.
In most sports psychology programs an important skill taught is the use of imagery. Call it imagery rehearsal, visualization, mental rehearsal, or guided imagery, the process goes by many names. We teach this process both with and without a relaxation procedure. We have athletes imagine a shot prior to taking it à la Jack Nicklaus and we have an athlete go into a deeply relaxed – hypnotic state to do their rehearsal and many things in between.
We use internal images asking the athlete to see things through their own eyes and on other occasions we suggest they watch themselves on TV. Both are valuable in their own time. I think the essence is about understanding when to use one or the other. I teach imagery both ways.
I am very NLP about this, as I have said before, in that I think it is important to use all of the senses. I want an athlete to see, hear, feel, smell and even taste their rehearsal. When they are learning something I would like them to watch it on TV. As they become more accomplished, I think they need to shift to seeing through their own eyes and I have of course research to back this up that I conducted at the Olympic training center and at the University of Wyoming.
I do link this process most of the time with deep relaxation. There is a synergy of body awareness and an opening of the unconscious that is critical to success. Adding affirmations, suggestions about self-confidence, working on coping behaviors are all additional benefits. Imagery more than fantasy is a hugely important tool for success in all that we do. Paying attention to negative images is also important and I’ll address that later.
It’s a funny thing. I was so jazzed to have finished my book “The Athlete within You” that I’ve gone over three months without really talking about where anyone can find it. It seems that just writing the book is just part of the story. If you want people to read it, you need to tell them where to find it. I knew this all of the time of course. I’d planned how to market it and everything. But as with so many of us that are good at doing what we do (in my case working with others to help them achieve success) that we often forget about someone else who is very important to the project; ourselves.
So it is that I have been negligent to really shout at the top of my lungs that this is where you will find my book. I should even scream, that is if I were someone else, that you absolutely should order it online right now. So I’ll just say please it would be very helpful if you would order my book and tell other people about it. People that have done so already tell me they like it. I had one coach that came all the way across from another practice field I was at to tell me how much he liked it.
Please click on the book and it will take you to my book store and you can purchase an autographed copy for yourself and friends.
As always I like to thank those that helped me with this project. I am grateful to Deborah Drake for coaching me through the process and editing. To Jon Knight of Sound PnP for the cover design. And Don Burrows who helped edit. And my friend and publishing coach Patrick Snow for his support through the entire process.
OK, so it’s my birthday today. October 8. I’m well let’s just say I am perhaps older than I look (at least that is what I am told). A lot of the time I feel and act young. A few have told me too young. I played flag football a few weeks ago. Pulled my hamstring pretty bad as I ran past a few twenty something’s on a QB run. My hammy tried to remind me to act my age as did many of my friend’s right after the event. But, damn it was fun. If I don’t lose my memory I’ll get back to this point in a bit.
This week we lost two icons. Steve Jobs and Al Davis. Very different people with an important similarity. Beep…. thank you for playing: the similarity was not that they spent most of their career in the Bay Area. Both of these men while very different were rebels with a cause. Both were visionaries. While most will celebrate Steve Jobs life, and what he brought to the world via Apple like the Mac, iPod and iPhone more I suspect view Al Davis differently. I’m not as good at describing the impacts on technology envisioned by Steve Jobs as I can about sports. But I can say I got Steve Jobs. I get Apple products. I understand the Why behind Steve Jobs and Apple Computer (read Simon Sinek “Start with Why”). I’m just not sure I can articulate it as well as many have done this week. Both showed great mental toughness that would make any sport psychologist proud.
Football I’m a little better with… Check out the rest (more…)