When we look at winners, in any field – business, politics, sports finance, art, music, fitness, etc., we tend to see only the success. But there is more to achieving success.It’s human nature to fail to see the prolonged grind it took to get there. There are no overnight success stories. Humans don’t want to look at that part, mostly because we want to be successful and enjoy fulfillment without going through the prolonged grind.
It easier to attribute more talent, more resources, more opportunities, and more luck to the winners in life, than it is to face the cold hard facts that becoming a winner can be a frighteningly tense and laborious slog. Sticking to the same regimented routine, over and over and over again. And the again and again. And when you are tired of that, you engage yet again and one more time. Most of us would rather delude ourselves and credit fortune, luck and fate, than pay the price to become a winner.
The very first step in the process is to clearly define and outline what success means to you. You must state exactly what that success is and how you will measure it. The problem with most of us is that we don’t know what success looks like for “me”. If we don’t take the time to nail down definitively what success means, how will we ever know if we’ve achieved it or not? Don’t let anyone define success for you. Your success is yours alone to define.
Don’t panic if your current definition of success is to just make budget this month, or to not consume sodas and snacks today. We each grow from success to success, and small successes multiply like rabbits into bigger ones. Start small and build momentum. Leap forward from one success to the next, and then rinse and repeat.
He built on that success and leaped to his next personally defined success of actually winning medals – a lot of them. He won 6 Gold and 2 Bronze in the 2004 Olympics. Not a bad swim meet by any standards, but Michael, having reached that level of success, launched himself to attempt the highest level of success ever by any Olympic Champion. If you watched the 2008 Olympics, you saw Michael and his coach huddled over the slip of paper that defined his success. Anything short of the record-breaking 8 Gold Medals would have been a failure – not for anyone else in the history of the games, but for Michael personally.I like to use Michael Phelps as an example of this concept. The first time he went to the Olympics in 2000 he won exactly zero medals. He was, however, the youngest male to ever make the U.S. Olympic Swim Team at age 15. He was successful. Can you imagine Michael Phelps going to the Olympics and NOT winning a medal and being considered a success? For him on that first go-round, just making the team was his definition of success.
You never start out with a record-breaking performance – you must get there the same way Phelps did. It takes years and years of building on small successes to reach the heights of great successes.
In today’s stressful and fast-paced environment there is not a single person that doesn’t worry about something. Learn how to overcome worrying by building your mental toughness.
What happens when we worryWorry is paralyzing. It’s an insidious and treacherous malady. We’ve discovered through the field of cognitive neuroscience and fMRI brain mapping and imaging that when a person is in fear or anxiety or even worry (which is just baby fear), that half of the brain shuts down. The creative problem-solving half of your brain goes completely dark. No electrochemical pathways lighting up, no neural net traffic, no genius creative problem-solving ideas or thoughts generated. All you are left with is fight/flight or freeze. The part of your brain you need to get out of whatever problem you are facing is SHUT DOWN.
Worry can be defined as focusing on the things we have no control over. Focus is possibly the single most important factor in achieving Peak Performance, and it can only be attained through Mental Toughness. Wasting energy, physical, mental or emotional, on anything outside the scope of our control, is one the biggest issues clients need help to overcome. It’s a self-perpetuating downward spiraling cycle, and it takes an enormous effort to shut off, once it starts.
Focus and prepareAs a trainer, for high-threat diplomatic security contractors and agents, teaching students that focusing on what you can control is paramount. This is the only way to mitigate and manage the risks the protective team takes, not to mention the safety of the principal. Do everything you can do, double and triple check it, and then do the mission. Is every mission a success? Nope, but if the team has focused their efforts on everything that they can control, then they can sleep well, knowing there was nothing left undone.
Spend your time, energy, and resources on those things in life you can control. One of my favorite quotes is from Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” I like to take it a step farther, chance favors the prepared, and being prepared means focusing on the things you can control, not worrying about the stuff you can’t. The rest is up to “Chance”, which favors those who took the time to prepare, not worry
“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” Muhammad Ali
Selena Gomez has a song called Like a Champion, which starts with the chant, “Walk like a champion, talk like a champion”. As a Mental Toughness coach, I incorporate this concept into a 3-minute drill that my clients practice prior to a performance event.
Whatever your chosen field, find the person at the very top, find the champion. If it’s sales, find the top sales rep in your industry. If it’s management and leadership, find the best manager and best leader. If it’s sports, find your sport’s top performer. If it’s fitness and nutrition, find the person you want to look most like. If it’s teaching, find the best teacher of the subject, at the best institution. If it’s coaching, find the best coach, etc.
Whatever the subject, whatever the arena, the point is to find the very best champion(s) you can find. Once you chose your champion(s), now study them, watch them perform, watch their interviews, read their blogs, articles, books, and biographies. Choose three or four more champions, repeat and rinse.
Why? You have to dig a well from which to draw, prior to your performance event. Enter the 3-minute drill, during which, think of yourself as an actor starring in the role of a champion.
Minute 1: Ask yourself to say only the things a champion would say, prior to performing (be it a sales call, board meeting, teaching a class, or playing the big game). Hey, superstar, you are cast in the role of “The Champ”, rehearse your lines.
Minute 2: Walk like The Champ would walk. Imitate The Champ’s body language. Are The Champ’s shoulders slumped? How does The Champ carry himself or herself? Now, act that way. (Hint: STRUT)
Minute 3: Breathe like The Champ would breathe just prior to going onto the mat, into the ring, or onto the field. The Champ has full control of his/her breathing, in through the nose – out through the mouth, steady and calm, with full command and confidence.
Now, go sick ‘em, Tiger!
By Andrew D. Wittman, PhD
“Chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur
Previously we looked at anticipation in pressure proofing. Preparation goes hand in hand with anticipation. In fact, without preparing for what you anticipate, there is no point in wasting any time or energy “keeping your eyes up” or trying to glimpse that bird’s eye view. Why bother to recognize a collision course if you aren’t going to take evasive action? Unfortunately, the vast majority of folks do this very thing, and then cite “how lucky” the ones who avoided the crash were.
Well, luck, chance, or happenstance favors the ones who are prepared. When I was the lead advance agent for Senator Joe Lieberman’s security detail, my job was to precede him, by two days, to every city in which he travelled. This was especially challenging during the lead up to his presidential run. I had to not only anticipate the scheduled events, any contingencies and all possible threats, but to prepare an action plan, in the event exigencies became realities.
I literally had to learn each city and venue like the back of my hand, or more accurately, like a local native of the area. I remember one trip to a large Midwestern city that was a last minute add on to the Senator’s itinerary. I landed late in the afternoon, the evening prior to his arrival. I never did go to sleep that night. I advanced each of the event venues first, and pushed off the route planning to each site until after midnight. I made arrangements for marked police escorts to lead the way, but what if the escorts were late or didn’t show up, or there was construction along the way, or a wreck? I had to prepare, and the only way to do that was to stay up and learn the routes myself. I spent the grave-yard shift driving the primary routes and multiple alternates.
Sure enough, the next morning, the police escort made a wrong turn. I didn’t follow him, the Senator noticed and asked about it. I reassured him with a calmness that only comes from the confidence of the prepared, and drove to the next stop.
Can you imagine the pressure I would have felt if I hadn’t prepared for that contingency, and just went to sleep instead? My anticipation of such a turn of events led to my preparation, and boy, was I lucky…. Not so much. My preparation directly fed into my level of confidence. I had no second guessing, I wasn’t “winging it”, and therefore didn’t need luck.
You don’t need luck either, just some good old fashioned prep work.
By Andrew D. Wittman, PhD
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” Wayne Gretzky
Previously we looked at pressure proofing by raising our level of confidence. Today, let’s focus on anticipation. A large part of reducing stress and inoculating yourself against the kind of pressure that stymies performance, is being able to see ahead and execute. In order to anticipate problems or mere course changes, one must raise their perspective to the 50,000 feet level.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be trained in vehicle dynamics and evasive/protective driving skills. One of the primary axioms of my driving instructors was to “keep your eyes up”. The effective and proficient driver must keep his/her eyes as far into the distance as possible. Taking the long view helps the operator to anticipate problems or mere course changes.
One of the training evolutions I participated in, was in fact, a racing school. The instructors taught us some wild moonshiner-type moves, the kind seen in the movies. They also taught us that during high-speed progressions, if there was a wreck in-progress, to drive towards the wreck. At high speeds, when cars collide, they will keep moving beyond the point of impact. In steering toward the point of impact, my vehicle would clear the wreck, and make continued evasive/protective action possible.
The same is true for the deer hunter. The rifle must be aimed at where the hunted game is going. Shooting where the game is, instead of anticipating where it’s going to be, makes for an empty freezer.
When you get up out of the weeds and get a bird’s eye view of things, you give yourself an enormous vaccination against pressure and stress. Why? Seeing things in the distance gives you tons of reactionary time, so much so, that you actually become proactive instead of reactive.
By Andrew D. Wittman, PhD
“Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what you’re doing.” Peyton Manning
Let’s look at pressure proofing ourselves, or answer the question, “How can I be more stress resistant?” Have you ever felt the washing machine effect of getting wiped out by a large wave at the beach? What about in life?
I have experienced both, the physical wave and the stress wave. A large wave, usually brought on by a storm in the distance, can be exhilarating or devastating. In either case the wave is the same, which result it brings depends on you. Have you ever seen those crazy surfers riding 80 foot waves? How can they do that and survive? They have studied waves, how they break, their characteristics, their power and force. The big wave surfer has supreme confidence in his/her own knowledge, skills, and abilities. The big kahuna has enormous respect for the wave and its destructive force, yet has learned how to ride the thundering power, bringing a thrilling experience that can only be understood by those fellow surfers with a comparable level of confidence.
Bringing it to the shore, one of the fastest ways to raise your level of confidence is by knowing what you’re doing. As a Marine grunt, training in firearms, tactics, self-defensive, first aid, and an extremely high fitness level, did wonders for my confidence. In fact, my confidence in my training was the key to pressure proofing myself when under fire.
The same holds true during my time as a federal agent. Being responsible for the safety and security of high ranking government officials (i.e. targets), required supreme confidence in being able to handle whatever threat or situation popped up. I didn’t start out with supreme confidence. I spent hours of my own time (beyond the required training), reading, studying, watching footage of assassination attempts, bombings, terrorist attacks, and even natural disaster responses.
Amazingly, when the stress levels go up, and the pressure cooker of crisis starts to spew its scalding steam, I get calmer and my performance actually gets better. Why? Because I know exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to do it….I have supreme confidence in my training, my knowledge, my skills and my abilities.
Go to work and build upon your current confidence level. Start with fitness, then read for professional and personal development. Put the chips down, turn off the TV, and invest some time into pressure proofing yourself by raising your confidence.
By Andrew D. Wittman, PhD
“The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.” John Wooden
Worry is paralyzing. It’s an insidious and treacherous malady. Worry can be defined as focusing on the things we have no control over. Focus is possibly the single most important factor in achieving Peak Performance, and it can only be attained through Mental Toughness. Wasting energy, physical, mental or emotional, on anything outside the scope of our control, is one the biggest issues clients need help to overcome. It’s a self-perpetuating downward spiraling cycle, and it takes an enormous effort to shut off, once it starts.
As a trainer, for high-threat diplomatic security contractors and agents, teaching students that focusing on what you can control is paramount. This is the only way to mitigate and manage the risks the protective team takes, not to mention the safety of the principal. Do everything you can do, double and triple check it, and then do the mission. Is every mission a success? Nope, but if the team has focused their efforts on everything that they can control, then they can sleep well, knowing there was nothing left undone.
Spend your time, energy, and resources on those things in life you can control. One of my favorite quotes is from Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” I like to take it a step farther, chance favors the prepared, and being prepared means focusing on the things you can control, not worrying about the stuff you can’t. The rest is up to “Chance”, which favors those who took the time to prepare, not worry.
By Andrew D. Wittman, PhD
Regardless of whether I get a W-2 or a 1099 (status as an employee or an independent contractor, for my international friends), in my mind I work for ME. I am the CEO of Andrew Wittman, Inc.
It might sound a little kooky at first but if you look at your job/career from the perspective that says, “My boss is not my boss, but my customer or client,” everything changes. Suddenly, I’m in charge and in control. Once that happens, the manager or supervisor that is overbearing, or got their position through the “screw up & move up” principal, you won’t get so wrapped around the axle, every time you come in contact with the fallout from one of their decisions.
I work for me, and only me. I provide my customers with extremely ridiculous value. Before I take a job, whether as an employee or a consultant, I weigh out the salary with what solutions I can provide. My goal is to always provide solutions that far outweigh the pay. After that goal is accomplished, I have firmly established that “Andrew Wittman, Inc.” is a resource and vendor that provides the highest quality product at a great price. As such, I leverage that status to further establish myself as someone who operates above and beyond the scope of the clock-punching employees, who need constant supervision.
The last job I took as an employee; this was done within three weeks. I had solved a problem that was worth more than the combined pay of the entire executive and management team, (for the next 5 years). I put all my efforts in providing the very best service and value added solutions to every problem they would allow me to work on. I’ve done this since my days in the Marine Corps, and it neutralizes any thoughts and feelings of being trapped and subservient to the pay check, the economy, or the company.
I know that I can take my knowledge, skills, and abilities anywhere, and provide extremely valuable solutions to any company, in any economy, at any time. Whatever company is my customer, they can cancel my services at any time, and I can fire them, as my client, just as easily. Don’t be trapped by a job, a pay check, the economic conditions or a company, any more than you have to be. Work for yourself, run your own business, and start being your own boss right now.