Archive for December, 2011

How’s The House Tonight?

How’s the house tonight?

After I had wandered through club entrance, past the bar, across the dance floor, around the stage, through labyrinthine hallways, and into the dressing room, one of the first words out of Rob’s mouth were, “How’s the house tonight?”  He knew my journey had taken me past whatever freaks, geeks, fans, and college-kids that had show up for the show.  Rob Fried was a gifted percussionist, filled with creativity, love, and passion for tying songs together by whatever musical means possible.  After he had completed his sound check and his pre-show warm-up, he would sit backstage amongst the sundry and silly of the rock and roll lifestyle sipping a bottle water anticipating the show.

How’s the house tonight?

In performance psychology one is so often encouraged to focus on themselves and let that which surrounds them fall as it may (i.e. decent advise when tryouts are on or scouts are in the stands).  A focus on the audience at a concert seems to contradict such a tenet.  Yet, perhaps the tenet is a bit wrong or at very least short-sighted.  In her book The Shelter of Each Other,  Mary Pipher alludes to the potentially misguided wisdom of focusing on one’s self during the therapy process… when considered, it’s a bit narcissistic.  High performance psychology leads to narcissism… that seems a bit depressing.

How’s the house tonight?

Concern and care about “the house” may highlight a core aspect to motivation at its deepest levels.  Self-determination theory is widely accepted as a good guide to understanding motivation for high achievement and a fulfilling life.  A quick look at the theory leads one to notice that intrinsic motivation is the preferred form of motivation.  The novice eye stops there… “Be internally motivated if you want to perform well.”  It seems straight forward enough, but motivation, like much in life, is more nuanced than that.  Dig a bit deeper into the theory and notice the concept of “relatedness.”  The feeling of a deep, genuine connection to others – feeling part of something greater than one’s self alone.  This is an incredibly valuable motivator and supporter during the challenges and opportunities that arise during the journey of life.

How’s the house tonight?

I never got the slightest sense that Rob asked this question from any place of ego.  It was not out of a need to have a full room  to play to or a “hey look at me” desire.  It was a question that came from a thirst for connectedness and community.  A passion to share the joy he felt with every cymbal clash and drum beat.  Truly a great performer because he stepped on the stage to share.  Not to beat, but to share the energy of performance and play.

Outside the Box High Performance Reads

It’s Christmas time and books are always a great gift. I’ve commented on books that I felt were good reads for anyone trying to learn more about high performance (see 5ish Good Reads and No Secrets, No Shortcuts), but this time around I want to get a bit outside of clear cut sports or clear cut psychology books. The following three books were terrific and explored high performance experiences in some interesting ways:

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson (2005)

The story of deep sea scuba divers discovering a German U-Boat off the coast of New Jersey. In the life or death sport of wreck diving, it’s made clear how thirst for adventure, a quest to be the first to discoveries, and the thoughtfulness of preparation come together.  Diver John Chatterton’s “indisputable truth” list on page 81 can translate well to most endeavors. It begins with, “If an undertaking was easy, someone else already would have done it.” Get the book, read the rest, and read it all.

The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman (2001)

From the smothering pressure of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) master chef exam to Michael Symon’s creative kitchen of Lola (Cleveland) to Thoms Keller’s care, treatment, and precision that elevates dining to heavenly levels, this book paints clear pictures of high performance. The CIA is all about performance under pressure. Symon typifies creative excellence. Keller’s kitchen combine the two. Throughout the pages one gets a sense of the athleticism of culinary pursuits.

West of Jesus by Steven Kotler (2006)

“Surfing, science, and the origins of belief,” a sub-title that really says it all. Written with a voice that is witty, self-aggrandizing, and insightful, the pages fly by. This is well beyond a, “Dude, surfing is a spiritual experience,” book. Kotler artfully blends neuroscience and a world wide pursuit of a theological understanding of flow. Whether it is the brooding about “the weatherman” or thoughts on the brain science of dropping in on a big wave, it’s worth a read.

Enjoy them all. Give them as a gift… or get them for yourself. Happy holidays.

 

Time and Space = Victory

Offensive players that have time to set up and space in which to execute get points.  Defenders who force attackers to speed up their play and give them little space within which to play prevent points.  This is true in many, many sports – basketball, rugby, hockey, soccer, football, to name a few.

Time allow players to settle themselves and find optimal targets.

Space gives players a sense of comfort and freedom, and allows full energy to be committed to the task at hand.

These are basic principles that when understood and execute reap huge benefits in the win and loss column.  Time and space allows players to be their best.  Perhaps an iteration of these principles should be adopted for the development of mental toughness.

Between practices, games, injury management, meetings, social commitments, and all of the business of life (student-athlete class demands and professional athlete professional obligations) there is not much place for time and space in athletes’ lives.  Hustle and bustle are staples of the competitive and deadline-laddened lives many of us lead.  Hustle and bustle often robs us of time and space and there are costs as pointed out in a recent Boston.com Child in Mind health and wellness blog – When Time and Space Is Treatment (take a moment to read over the article and substitute in “athlete” for parent, “coach” for doctor, and “performance” for child).  There’s nothing wrong with hustle and bustle, but time and space needs to be created regularly if most positive outcomes are to occur.  This sounds a lot like sports – a lot of hustle and bustle, but when time and space found great things happen.

sports – a lot of hustle and bustle, but when time and space found great things happen

During the course of a season is time and space deliberately set aside for athletes or does hustle and bustle reign supreme?  If any player is to max out his mental game, time and space needs to be found in the midst of travel, taping, playing, and all the rest.  It is the difference between going through the motions and making the motions competitive.  So often mental training is thought of as executing a mental skill or doing some mental exercises… perhaps a bit, but in truth it’s about applying the simple principles of time and space to practice habits.


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