Professionals & Entrepreneurs: Stressed Out? Tiger Woods & Andre Agassi Reveal 3 Secrets To Help You & Staff Succeed In BusinessStress. It’s a killer – mentally, physically, emotionally.
If you’re a professional or an entrepreneur, whether solo or with a staff, you know full well how the intensity and negativity of stress can kill off success.
And if you’re in business, you also know stress, at some point, is unavoidable.
Today, I want to share with you some techniques gleaned from the sports world to help you prevent stress from derailing you – no matter the circumstances. There is no better mental school of business, no clearer lessons than those learned from the warriors on the playing fields and sports arenas.
I’ll start with a few examples from some favorite films. Agreed, they are not the best movies but they surely demonstrate powerful examples of how pressure and stress can hinder the finest athletic talents. They also uncover some remarkable solutions.
Now I am a sucker for baseball movies. I love them all – good, bad or indifferent. As Brad Pitt says in Moneyball, “Its hard not be romantic about baseball.” But for me, it’s way more than that. Baseball movies reveal the mindset of sport – and it’s in the mind that all games are won – and lost.
So let’s look at For The Love Of The Game starring Kevin Costner.
Kevin plays an aging baseball pitcher with a stellar career battling back from a devastating injury and a driving passion to end his career on a high. As he stands on the pitcher’s mound for one last time, he squashes down his fear and stress with his long-time mental mantra: “Clear the mechanism.” The roar and jeers of the fickle crowd are silenced in his mind as he focuses on the task at hand.
Next: While I’m not a golfer, I found this flick to brilliantly express the path to clearing the mind and forging a pathway to success.
In The Legend Of Bagger Vance, Matt Damon plays a washed-up golf prodigy filled with self pity. Enter Will Smith as Bagger Vance, the inspirational coach who helps Matt Damon get back into his zone allowing him to overcome negative thinking, the stress of playing in public, and overcoming all odds once more.
OK that’s the movies.
But what about real life, real everyday, garden-variety S-T-R-E-S-S where there is no magic, and no let up?
This is where we as business owners and professionals go completely OFF THE TRACK.
Your mind is the control switch for all success and all stress management.
You are not doing yourself any favors or your staff a bit of good if you don’t learn to master stress in the mind first.
Case in point:
Back in the early 90’s, tennis great Andre Agassi was in a super slump. Every time he went out and played he struggled and slipped from his former winning rank. Then he suffered a wrist injury.
At his wits end, Agassi sought out Tony Robbins for coaching. Agassi told Robbins that he’d been spending time working on his swing mechanics, especially in relation to his recovering wrist.
Tony: “I sit down with him and I said, ‘Andre … think of a time you hit the tennis ball perfectly,'” Robbins continues: “I got him in that state … and I said to him, ‘You feel that?’
Tony: ‘Listen, are you thinking about your wrist?’
Tony: ‘How the hell did you think you’d ever get back to that peak form by focusing on your wrist?'”
Robbins references the science of habit formation, in which the brain creates paths for certain repeated actions. He was getting Agassi to tap into this pattern and ignore distractions, like focusing on how his wrist moved, which is something he had never done when he was playing at his peak.
The next year, 1994, Agassi made a comeback under a new coach and with renewed confidence.
And what about the ultimate fall-from-grace slump-story of all time, Tiger Woods?
Just last week, Woods returned to the game he so loves in the Hero World Tournament after 16 months off. Three back surgeries and numerous other physical injuries layered in his mind onto the depressing series of failures and humiliations over the last several years.
But Tiger did something amazing. He patiently progressed and finished the tournament.
Woods played four straight rounds of respectable, often impressive golf, showing flashes of the spectacular play that was once routine. While he also showed the effects of 16 months away from the course, fading hard at the end of every round, he has mastered his mind sufficiently enough to get back out there in spite of the stress and make an admirable showing of perseverance, patience, and progress.
How does he do that? After YEARS of failing and criticism? (often well-deserved obviously).
I looked to some sports mental skills experts for answers.
Geoff Miller, a mental skills coach for the Atlanta Braves developed an assessment called TAIS which refers to The Attentional And Interpersonal Style inventory to identify players mental game strengths and weaknesses.
(San Diego Sports Psychology, Jan. 30, 2010)
And Jenny Truman, mental skills performance coach for athletes, says that very often, when stressed, players can take too much time before taking action and that this can actually reduce results as opposed to upgrading them. (Tennis mega-star Rafael Nadal is infamous for this when serving and has acquired many penalties for time violations).
So what can professionals and business leaders do, tactically, to overcome the negative effects of mental stress when it comes to business performance?
The Way Out Starts With The Internal
Every athlete knows that there are two arenas he or she must master for success:
Mastery of external/physical skills and mastery of the mind (Internal mental skill).
Both arenas are essential.
In business, however, leaders and entrepreneurs focus almost solely on the external – technical actions to produce successful accomplishment of goals.
The internal challenges impacting outcomes are usually overlooked.
This is a huge error.
The three essential secrets Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, and dozens of other successful athletes have learned:
- Develop an unshakeable belief system and foundation of self confidence.
Successful professionals and business owners often want to rely on tangible evidence before establishing belief and confidence.
No! It actually works the other way around.
Learn and teach belief and self confidence-building practices first to set a foundation to your performance.
2. Learn how to quiet the mind to develop focus and tune out negativity (“Clear the mechanism”).
Think this is a bunch of woowoo?
Although there’s no question that the Seattle Sea Hawks attribute their astonishing Super Bowl win in 2014 to the great leadership of Pete Carrol, intense training, and pure athletic talent, the team’s top players also recognize the power of meditation. In 2011, Carrol brought in a sports psychologist who recommended meditation and yoga. Offensive tackle Russell Okung said, “Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice. It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment.”
Many CEO’s and business leaders are now incorporating meditation into their daily practices to improve focus and successful results.
3. Use Positive Visualizations Before Key Events Or Performances
I’ve got a great real life experience of this I’m going to share.
I was giving a keynote address to a professional association recently. I’ve done this many times before and had prepared carefully and faithfully.
Still, I was unusually anxious and nervous.
I decided to apply some of the tools I have in my tool kit.
I did a visualization of the audience laughing (with me of course) paying rapt attention to my stories, applauding, and coming up to me afterward with appreciative feedback.
I’d like to say it went exactly like that.
I was still very nervous and uncomfortable.
Before the presentation, a colleague kicked off the event with his presentation. Something amazing happened. Within a minute or two of his starting his talk, he started to have a panic attack.
He got sweaty, short of breath, had to ask for a glass of water and told the audience they were making him nervous!
I felt so awful for him.
As soon as I focused on my empathy for him, my nerves evaporated.
I went on and my positive visualization materialized almost exactly as I’d pictured it in my mind.
We are moving into holiday season and the start of a new year. These are often highly stressful times in business.
As professionals and business owners, it is, without question, imperative to have the right strategies and tactics for success in your business. However, without you and your staff having the right mental skills and fitness, it is like driving a car with only 2 wheels.
Is it any wonder you’re feeling stressed?
Got a sports psychology story that has inspired you for your business? Please share it!