Sports Psychology

I was in a nine hole golf match last week in Westport, Connecticut not LaQuinta, California where I took this picture last month. On the ninth hole with the individual and team matches all squared I was casually talking with my playing partner, a retired finance guy, and really enjoying the moment especially the camaraderie of playing with a really nice guy. I asked him to range find the distance to the stick after driving the ball down the middle. He told me it was 138 yards to the back left pin placement. Choosing a pitching wedge, I recall going into pure focus mode, completely empty of all thought. I took an effortless swing and hit the ball directly into the setting sun having that flush feeling of striking it solidly. A moment later, my opponent yelled from across the fairway that the ball was “In The Hole!” I held my hands up, did a little salsa waggle and high-fived my playing partner having effectively ended both matches. Afterwards, we decided to play up 16 to play the last three holes before dark. On 17 my partner said he didn’t make his usual two birdies. I asked him if that was his intention and he said that he tries to make two birdies every time he plays. I shared that I intend to have at least one experience of Magic every time I play! He responded by saying I had clearly pulled it off holing out from the fairway!

Magic is possible for all of us in business, life, and sports if we learn how to get crazy present and enjoy the experience as opposed to the outcome. The key is present moment time which enables us to get into the zone where Magic happens! To become more and more present practice following your breathe and bringing yourself back to the here and now as often as you can. The more you do this the happier and more focused you become, a great way to do intimacy, business, and sports!

Excluding the Takers from Your Life

Each week I do a quick little blurb on Adam Bryant’s interviews in the New York Times Sunday Business section. This week he interviewed Jody Greenstone Miller, the co-founder and chief executive of the Business Talent Group, a provider of project based talent. I enjoyed her open and honest style but what stood out for me most was her desire to hire optimistic people who are problem solvers not just problem spotters.

I often say that anyone can criticize and judge but it takes strength of character to be understanding. In a similar vein, anyone can point out a problem but it takes strength of character to resolve the problem. Ms. Miller also prefers hiring people who “give you energy, and not take energy from you.” I believe this is very important when it comes to success in life and business. It’s what I refer to as eliminating the takers from your life, minimizing the neutrals, and inviting the givers!

Success Is A Skill

According to Amy Chua and Jeb Rubenfeld, Yale law professors and authors of What Drives Success? A New York Times Sunday Review feature article, success in certain ethnic groups has to do with three underlying principles: 1) A superiority complex 2) An inferiority complex 3) Impulse control. For instance, believing that certain groups are chosen, better than or more elite can add extra confidence for individuals to persevere when times are tough. Feeling not good enough, not smart enough or not successful enough can add extra drive or motivation. Without the ability to delay gratification or learn to control one’s impulses, people won’t work hard enough in the now to secure longer term success. This article is very interesting and worth considering. Some statistics are especially interesting like Nigerians who make up less than one percent of the Black population in the United States yet in 2013 nearly one quarter of the black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry.

Having been raised Jewish I can relate to this article personally. On the one hand there was a sense of pride bordering on elitism on behalf of my parents in their cultural beliefs and yet there was always this feeling of not enough as well. Learning to delay gratification, a skill or trait that parents can enhance by teaching it to their children is was a quality my mother instilled in us with her patience and nurturing. Motivation too can be taught, especially at early ages. There is nothing about success that can’t be enhanced through good parenting and proper training. Remember Trading Places with Eddie Murphy – perhaps an exaggeration but nevertheless it makes a potent point – success is a skill that can be taught and learned like many others! I often refer to myself as a high end teacher. I teach success in life and business!!

College Tuition Costs

Sitting at a sports bar at JFK watching Seattle dominate the Saints I found myself in a conversation with a bright young woman who just graduated from Occidental University in Southern California. I had asked Mia what her tuition was at this small liberal arts school and she replied 55 thousand. I told her about this article that I read in the Wall Street Journal Review section addressing the easy availability of student loans through government backing had allowed universities to raise tuition beyond reasonable levels. As a result, far too many coeds graduate with excessive debt in a soft job market. Suddenly, a former Tufts professor interrupted politely agreeing with me that the system was indeed broken but he argued that the primary cause was related to prodigious course offerings that make individual per student costs as high as 75 thousand at many private universities. I added that administrative bloat was clearly an issue as well as non facility costs have soared too. This professor was en route to Brussels having taken a job for NATO in large part because the system is now making it harder to enjoy teaching as well. He told me that tenure is more challenging than ever and schools pay increasing numbers of adjuncts less.

Much like our bloated medical system, the cost structure of college tuition is simply unsustainable. This professor was an exceptionally bright and talented guy who found a creative solution for his own life. Others, less talented or less driven might not be so fortunate.  One of the keys to success in life and business is to never ever stay stuck or believe that you are struck. With enough ingenuity and chutzpah, there is almost always another way! And sometimes hiring a coach to help you find that way is a no-brainer!

The Foundation of Success

It’s been an amazing year of tight finishes as the Sports section of the Sunday New York Times highlights! Tom Brady is on the cover for a reason. The Patriots have been especially good at winning in the last seconds or on the final drive! I love watching football on tv for a variety of reasons: players play hard, coaches work hard, careers are short, greatness is rewarded and great finishes make it all the better! I often use football analogies when coaching clients, even non-athletes. I talk a lot about the foundation of success: eating right, exercising, meditating, and being proactive! The more we focus on what we want and do the necessary work involved, the more likely we will achieve it. This is what Tom Brady does!

A Different Approach

After years of watching the Yankees sign high priced superstars to long-term contracts I feel strongly that they did the right thing by letting Cano go by passing on his demands. At 31, it’s hard to argue that another 10 year two hundred plus million contact is worth the risk, especially given the A-Rod situation. It takes courage to change course and do things differently and the Yankees are finally showing some – good stuff! I teach clients what I call fluidity or the flexibility to do things differently, especially if what they have been doing is not working. The Yankees have had a lot of success with high priced superstars in the past but the world is changing and the numbers are getting out of hand for guys that are already in their prime and may only have a few great years left. Only time will tell but again congrats for trying a different approach!

Leadership Lessons

I love reading the Corner Office section of The New York Times Sunday Business section. This week Mr. Bryant interviews Lynn J. Good, the CEO of Duke Energy. Her sense of responsibility and dedication to others originated from parents who were educators with a tremendous work ethic. For instance, while growing up her neighbor was a widow and the family always called this neighbor before going to the supermarket or mowed her lawn as they did their own. Working at Arthur Anderson, the failed accounting firm, taught her that family, friends, and relationships are just as important as work and perhaps more important for happiness. I see a lot of executives whose lives are out of balance. I teach balance, harmony, and flow as fundamental to long term success in life and business! Ms. Good also addresses the value of communication for effective leadership. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I would suggest that great communication is essential to happiness as well! People who form close ties and do intimacy well tend to be far happier than those who communicate poorly and struggle with relatedness.

Being Proactive

An article in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times by Mary Lou Jepson, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, is fascinating. It took years of increasingly desperate and bizarre symptoms for doctors to finally discover a pituitary tumor that decimated her body’s ability to produce hormones, especially cortisol, a stress hormone key to immune function. Being proactive, she took it upon herself to get the proper treatment when many doctors dismissed her needs or didn’t get proactive enough themselves. As she writes: “without the ability to fine-tune my hormones and neurochemicals I believe I would have been trapped as a near-imbecile, wheelchair-bound, in my mother’s basement for an abbreviated and miserable adult life.” I coach everyone I work with to develop and trust their instincts, and be proactive and engaging! Clearly, Ms. Jepson’s ability to do so has been a huge part of her recovery and success. Great job!!

never give up

Diana Nyad succeeded in her 5th try to make the 110 mile swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West. Amazingly it took her nearly 53 hours – that’s over two days and she is 64 years old. Her advice: never, ever give up! I agree: my advice on success in life and business: never, ever give up! Sometimes, we need some outside coaching and guidance to get perspective but giving up is never an option for those of us who truly want to live!!

 The Corner Office page in the Sunday Times business section

This time Francisco D’Souza, the CEO if Cognizant, a large IT company, was interviewed by Adam Bryant. Two aspects of this article stand out for me: that before he became CEO, Mr. D’Souza hired a business coach and got feedback from 20 of his peers, underlings and those above him. He learned that his feedback was too intense and critical at times. This was important to his success as a leader. Hiring a coach, especially the right coach, can be life altering! Also, his intention to hire based on passion and talent, both being necessary, especially in a business where new learning is so important and essential!