A Summit on mental toughness?  Yes, that’s right.  At no cost to you, you can listen to 10 conversations with experts about how to achieve success under pressure.  I am honored to be one of the speakers this year.

There’ll be a virtual face-off between Paul Sullivan who wrote “Clutch: Why
Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t” and Dr. Sian
Beilock, who wrote “Choke: What The Secrets of the Brain Tell Us About
Getting It Right.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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How to relieve that brain traffic jam

Does your brain feel jammed?

Do you ever wish you could push a delete button and get rid of all the junk in your noggin?

Today a client reported feeling overwhelmed and tense because of the  immense amount of work she had to complete within a short period of time.  Sound familiar?

Paying attention to the barrage of information coming at us is costly.  Most of us aren’t aware that there are different kinds of attention; we spend most of our time engaged in “narrow-objective-focus,” zeroing in on one or a few things in the foreground and ignoring the background.

In a book called, The Open-Focus Brain by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins, Fehmi, relying on decades of research, says that the way we pay attention has a measurable impact on our brain waves.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Even if the Red Sox manage to win tonight’s game, it is essential that the organization look closely at what has contributed to their collapse this September.

As an outside observer (and a fan), watching the team dissolve is both heart-breaking and fascinating – kind of like watching a train-wreck – it’s tragic yet you can’t take your eyes off the scene.

So how can we understand the  disintegration of such an excellent team?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Last night’s baseball game between the Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays provided a good metaphor for the uncertainties and challenges we all face in life. For a while it looked like the Red Sox had it in the bag with a 2-run lead but then set-up man Daniel Bard, who usually dispatches hitters with laser-like efficiency, fell apart as he allowed Toronto to load the bases.  It looked like he was going to get away with it but alas, the Jays scored 5 times in the 8th inning. The Red Sox managed to put two more runs on the board in the 9th but it wasn’t enough to win the game. 

I suppose the lesson in this is that sometimes, despite years of experience and hundreds of hours of preparation and a superb track record of peak performance, we can fail.  It can fall apart and no matter what we do at those times, we can’t get it right. 

The mental toughness comes after the debacle.  Do you let it eat away at you? Do you beat yourself up? Do you hide in shame? Do you give up?  Or do you take a step back and objectively evaluate what happened?  Do you use the set-back as an opportunity to learn and grow? Do you seek some help in figuring it out?   

I’m betting Bard feels pretty bad about what happened but I also think he’s already creating a plan to prevent it from happening again.

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Red Sox center-fielder and MVP candidate Jacoby Ellsbury doesn’t hold back.  Criticized by some for his absence last year from the Sox dug-out while he was rehabbing from cracked ribs, Ellsbury has returned to the Sox this year with a vengeance. 

Displaying class and mental toughness, Ellsbury didn’t get caught up in the criticism. Instead he worked hard to build his strength and refine his skills.  It’s paid off big time. 

Hitting .313 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs from the leadoff spot, Ellsbury has been an integral part of the Red Sox success this year. 

Ellsbury stands out in another way and that is his unabashed delight in his own success.  When he homers or gets a hit, unlike many of his colleagues, he actually smiles and sometimes claps his hands.  There is no arrogance in this nor is he showing off; it is sheer authentic satisfaction in his ability to execute.  

And why shouldn’t he feel good about executing well?  Isn’t it the goal of any athlete to achieve success?   Read the rest of this entry »

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Yes, bagpipers.  The Stuart Highlanders of Massachusetts had a big challenge in front of them.  They were one of a few bagpipe bands from the US who were invited to participate in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland this August. Excitement mingled with nerves as they rehearsed their music. They wanted to be focused and mentally tough for this adventure and so they hired me to work with them. 

Although there are many pipers in the US, the British Isles reign supreme and hence, the competition would be stiff. It was great fun to work with this group of fine musicians who quickly took the skills I taught them and put them into practice.  The result? 

In one of the piper’s own words:  

“Wanted to update you on how the band did in Scotland at the World Pipe Band Championships. Out of 23 bands that competed at our level that day, the Grade 2 band placed 5th in the world. Fantastic for a first showing!! The best the band has ever played in a competition. Adam, Matt and all the other people in the band want to thank you for all you taught them at the seminar. They were very well prepared with little to no nerves when they performed.”

 Here is a link to the band playing in the finals in Glasgow.  Stuart Highlanders Bagpipe Band

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Sometimes musicians say that they “always” make a mistake in the same place which they are playing their music. It’s as if they have no control over this unhappy situation.  No matter how hard they focus on it, there it is again – the dreaded passage or phrase that bedevils them and – sure enough, they err again. 

What’s happening is a reaction to an unwitting instruction they are giving themselves.  By saying, “I hope I don’t screw it up again,” or “I better get it right this time, “ they are actually telling their brain “screw it up!” 

Here’s a way around it: Read the rest of this entry »

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In my last post I wrote about a group of musicians who will be traveling to a place overseas that most have never seen.  It was this unfamiliarity that caused some of the performers a bit of anxiety. 

We humans do like familiarity – especially when we have to perform in high stakes situations such as competitions. But we often must perform in unfamiliar territory and deal with less than ideal situations such as lousy sound systems, crummy lighting, faulty technology, noisy crowds and perhaps foreign languages. 

So – what do you do?  Read the rest of this entry »

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I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of musicians the other day who asked me to consult with them as part of their preparation for an international competition.  The band will be traveling overseas in a few weeks and wanted help with “managing their nerves” and “maintaining their focus.” 

In asking them what their biggest challenges were, the immediate response was a litany of things over which they have no control such as the weather (the event takes place outdoors and so their instruments will be adversely affected if it rains); the crowds; the bias against Americans; and the unfamiliarity of the environment. Read the rest of this entry »

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It is quite possible for you to incorporate techniques used by Olympic athletes in order to improve your performance whether you are an athlete or a business person. 

If you’re like most people you overlook mental preparation as part of your overall scheme in improving your performance.  Well, if this is true for you, you may be interested to know that many Olympic athletes said that if they had begun their mental training earlier, they would have been far more successful.  Also, the best athletes worked with a coach to create a customized mental game plan. 

What about those athletes that did not fare well?  It seems that the problem they experienced were as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

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