What Skydiving taught me

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It’s been a busy last month, full of traveling (to Washington DC) to provide some coaching/training to a client company in partnership with other coaches and with also new local adventures, and this took me away from writing. It’s time to get back to it, and today I want to take you up in the air.

At the end of the summer/beginning of the fall, I decided to skydive again after a 14 years break. I had done more than 50 jumps when I was between 21 and 28 years old. I had always been attracted to this, to the sensation of flying and had followed through with this dream in my young adult life. Then I stopped and had not really considered jumping again. Until last year. I started to feel a strong desire to go back up there, and to experience these sensations again. It started without really being too serious about it, but then the idea made its way and I got more and more determined to go for it, despite the fear. Because indeed, after 14 years, I had a lot of fear.

The way we show up somewhere in life is usually representative of the way we show up everywhere, and due to the intensity of the moment, which amplified everything, it got me present to some very insightful things that I want to share with you. And if you just want to enjoy the jumps without the insights That’s Here (these were the 3rd and 4th recovery jumps, from a bigger plane than the 1st and 2nd jumps which I mention here below).

  • The more you do something scary, the less scary it becomes.

    And the less you do it, the scarier it becomes again. This is obvious, but worth remembering though. My first 2 jumps after 14 years, I was super nervous and scared. And progressively, I got more confidence, my skills came back pretty quickly, my awareness during the fall increased (I could even see my neighborhood in the distance 😊) and I could really enjoy the last 2 jumps in October. Whatever it is that you want to do but are scared of doing, do it, again, and again, and again and the fear will fade away (although it won’t completely disappear and it’ OK).

  • Trust and Commitment:

    As I often tell the athletes I coach, once you have prepared and have done all you need, you have to trust and commit (and go have fun).

  • Trust others: I had to trust the person who had packed my parachute, I had to trust my instructor, I had to trust the pilot of the plane. It’s the same for you: in any adventure, project or work, at some point you have to trust your colleagues, your partners, your friends, etc…And it’s not easy specially when you like to be in control. Trusting others is a practice.
  • Trust ourselves: I had to trust that I knew what to do and how to do it despite the stress, trust that I had listened carefully, trust that in case of malfunctions, I would know how to react, etc…  And it’s not the easiest thing to do either.
  • Commit: commitment is the fuel that helps move forward through the fear and challenges. How much are you committed to whatever you are moving toward?

     In skydiving, all this comes to one singular instant, when you lose contact with the plane. This is the point of No Return, which can be the worst or the best moment depending on your perspective. In that particular moment (which is such an intense feeling), Trust and Commitment are at their peak. I like to think it’s the same in life: the moment you click to send an important email, the moment you start a difficult conversation (before that you still have a way out but once you have said the first words, you’re all in), the moment you go on stage to speak, the moment the gun goes off in a race. I invite you to bring trust and commitment to those key moments and see how that changes your experience.

  • The importance to have someone by your side

     When jumping from a small plane, the worst part (or best part once you are used to it) is when you make your way onto the footboard of the small plane, holding to the wing, 12000 feet (4000m) above the ground, with the wind pressing on your whole body…When I was on that footboard, ready to go for my first recovery jump, I gave a look at my instructor. I can still remember the eye contact, and seeing his reassuring face, smiling and confident. In that particular instant, I measured the importance of having the support of someone in the face of fear, adversity, challenge. My “Hercules” syndrome which I talked about in a previous post usually tends to take over and make me think that I don’t need support, but in this moment, I was able to see that I actually needed him to be here for me. And in some way, that’s what a coach does with his clients: be there for them, with an unconditional support, in the face of fear, adversity and challenge.

  • Take a deep breath, Relax, Smile and have fun!

     That’s what my instructor told me to do right before my first jump, and as I was on the small footboard, ready to let go of holding the wing, that really helped me go and enjoy (plus if you want to be stable in the air, you have to be relaxed). And I highly invite you to do the same whenever you do anything scary or stressful: a competition in sport, a presentation at work, any new thing that scares you. Seriously, do this: Take a deep breath, Relax, Smile and have fun!

  • “If you are willing to feel everything, you can do anything” (Peter Bregman in Leading with Emotional Courage)

     Part of my coaching journey has been to develop my ability to feel (and invite my clients to feel too) because what often gets in our way is our avoiding some feelings. And I must admit that skydiving is a great way to feel: the fear of course, the excitement, the shame/guilt of doing something dangerous, the joy when the parachutes opens properly, the feeling of being intensely alive…. And beyond the Fear, the feeling of Bliss and Freedom of flying.

  • Take responsibility, YOU are in charge

     The instructor made it clear when going through the course. He could teach, recommend, be close at the beginning of the fall, but in the end, it’s the skydiver’s responsibility to pull the handle and then fly the canopy. Once you leave the plane, you are by yourself. You are the only one in charge And some decisions were not obvious, like if the canopy opens and have a small hole but you can fly and control the canopy. You might want to leave it this way because it’s flying, or you might want to cut away and open the back-up parachute because you are not sure how the hole is going to evolve. The instructor shared what he would do, and that it was our decision. And I don’t like that… I prefer to be told that “this is the way you have to do”.During this process, I got really present to my usual tendency to try and find a way out of taking responsibility, maybe someone or something to blame if things don’t work out the way I planned, find excuses and reasons why it didn’t work, etc… I think it is related to not willing/accepting to fail. But in this case, it was clear that there was no way out. I had to take full responsibility; I was in charge of pulling the handle, I was in charge of flying the canopy and I was in charge of making the decisions in case of malfunctions. Period. That’s probably my biggest take away. It was both challenging/scary AND very empowering. I believe if we are willing to take the risk and feel the fear of owning who we are as a whole and take full responsibility for our actions and decisions, that will not only improve our experience but also improve our leadership.

  • A world of possibility

    Eventually, a big part of the coaching process is inviting us to live in a world of possibility. Instead of letting our usual thinking and rational analyzing kill any possibility as soon as we don’t see the exact path to our dream/most important objectives, we learn to leave that possibility open and take tiny steps toward it. A part of my brain still doesn’t believe we can jump out of an airplane and fall with only a small backpack with a piece of fabric that will almost magically unfold and hold you in the air. So skydiving, in a way, illustrates perfectly what a world of possibility is. If I can jump out of an airplane with only a backpack, what could get in the way of my achieving my dreams if I am really committed to them.

And you, what possibilities should you keep alive?

Take care,

Questions to ask yourself to achieve your greatest potential

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Note: this post is focused on sport/athletes but also applies to any business person or anyone with ambitious and challenging projects.

Becoming a top athlete, achieving great performance, playing/racing to one’s full potential requires a lot. And it starts with readiness and commitment. Readiness to do what it takes, and commitment to follow through no matter what happens, no matter the obstacles. Here are a few questions to help you gage your level of readiness and commitment to your sport. Note that there is no right or wrong answer here. Just be honest and see what new awareness comes out of it. Then make a choice to adjust things according to your goals.

  1. Your VISION: What Vision do you have for yourself as an athlete? What is the strength of this vision? How much do you want this? How badly do you want it? How much desire do you have to be good or great?

  1. Your WHY: Why do you want to do your sport? List your internal and external reasons. Do you want this to outdo yourself and push your limits, do you want this to have a strong experience of friendships and adventure, do you want this to be well-known, or to get some recognition and be respected, maybe so you can help others, or to get a scholarship, or to make money, or maybe to travel, or to make a career of it? Whatever it is, you need to know, WHY you do what you do on a daily basis? This will get clearer non your goals and fuel your motivation.

  1. Your WHAT: What do you need to do on an annual/monthly/weekly/daily basis that will move you toward your ultimate goal? And, even more difficult, what are you willing to sacrifice? Saying YES to high level training and competing means saying NO to other things like going out to parties, watching a movie, staying up late at night, etc… Many athletes or high achievers say they want to play professionally or get a college scholarship. However, do you know what it takes now for you to get there? To be a great at anything takes a lot of dedication. \Which areas of your life are you willing to focus on, or cut back on? How much time do you put into practicing? How much time do you put into refining your technique and mental training so that you can master your sport? Be honest with yourself. Are you ready to invest the effort and time necessary to be the best at what you do? There is no substitute for hard work and smart work.

  1. Your COMMITMENT: How committed are you to make it happen? How committed are you to continue to practice, to give your best, even when the results won’t be there, even when you might be on the bench, when the doubts and negative self-talks will try to convince you that you are not god enough? It takes time to be great at anything and it requires to be able to “survive” negative periods. It’s easy to be motivated when things go well, much harder when things are not going as expected. Commitment is what will keep you going when times get tough.

  1. Your CARE: Do you truly love what you do? Is this your deepest desire? Your passion is what is going to drive you. Caring will help you keep your commitment. Things will not always be easy. There will be many obstacles, and if you do not love what you are doing, it will be hard to overcome them. It’s important to love what you to do to pursue it with excellence. And when you really care for your sport, how can you bring more of fun and passion to it?

 

Commitment vs Attachment / Resignation

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Photo by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator

Attachment

Often when we set a goal for ourselves (get a certain number of clients or a certain income, achieve a certain performance, take a project to completion on time and on budget), we become very attached to achieving it. Some people don’t even set goals out of fear of not achieving them which is an extreme version of attachment (you are so attached that you don’t even want to take the risk to not achieve it). We then start to take action toward achieving this goal, we are excited, motivated, inspired. Then, at some point, we start to doubt that we will achieve it. Progress is not as good as we had expected, obstacles show up on our way, we start to run out of time, etc…

Resignation

That’s when we start to fall onto the other extreme, Resignation. We start to be resigned to not achieving our goal, which translates into less energy, less motivation, feeling bad, feeling like a looser and we give up.

Then we will set a new goal, with some doubts about our ability to achieve it already from the start, we will get inspired, motivated again to take action, and then fall back into resignation as soon as we will see signs that our goal might be out of reach in the timeframe we set. And we’ll start again, with a new goal and even less confidence in our ability to achieve it.

Globally, most of us oscillate on this Attachment / Resignation line and that is, at least for me, not very pleasant nor empowering.

Commitment

Rather than oscillate on the Attachment/Resignation line, I would like to invite you to come from a different place. It might be tempting to aim at the middle of the line, not too attached, not completely resigned. But what I am talking about is not even on that line, but rather outside of this line: Commitment.

What are you committed to in life?  The thing is, most of the time, our goals, at least our outcome goals, depend on external circumstances and although we would like to control everything, we can’t. Your commitment depends on you and only you.

I see commitment as threefold:

Commitment to your bigger goal/vision/purpose: a six figures business, going to the Olympics, creating/growing a nonprofit, making the organization you run the best place to work, creating an extraordinary life whatever that means to you, etc…

Commitment to your daily “blue collar” work: do the things you have to do on daily basis, even the unpleasant ones, no matter how you feel: give X number of calls, write, do your personal routine, train hard, serve people, etc…. Setting up a routine might be hard at first, just like when you start to pedal on a bike and start moving, the resistance is high. But then, as you keep going, you gain speed and momentum, and it becomes easier and easier. It is during that first part of setting a routine, when it is hard, that commitment can really help. Commit and don’t let any other option open. That’s how I started to meditate 4.5 years ago now and never stopped since.

Commitment to your thing in the moment: Set a strong intention to be 100% present to what you are doing and to give your best: with a potential client, instead of being attached to get that person as a client (or resigned when she doesn’t seem to want to become a client), stay committed to serving her the best you can. When you coach, lead or manage, rather than being attached to “perform” or have an answer for everything, be 100% present to what’s going on, connected to the other person. In a race, before the gun goes off, instead of being attached to winning/qualifying/doing a PR, simply commit to give it all, to push through when it is going to hurt, because if you are not clear on this, as soon as the pain will arrive or things don’t go as expected, you’ll be tempted to fall into resignation, which limits your ability to perform.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals and aim at them, just that you might get benefit from identifying what the bigger purpose behind this goal is, what the actions you want to take on a regular basis are and what it means to be 100% focused on your thing, and then committing to those and coming back to that commitment when you catch yourself falling into resignation. This will help you move forward and be in a much better place in the end than just being attached/resigned. This might also show you that those things are more important than your goal itself, that if you stick to your commitment, you will grow and become a different, better person no matter what happens. In the end, it might well improve you whole experience of goal setting and goal getting.

Take care,

Over Confidence vs Ultra Confidence

Thermometer - Confidence Level

Photo by VIC on Flickr

Do you have the right type of confidence? This applies to sport (primary focus of this post) but to any other area in life.

Confidence is a key factor in sport and when competing (and in life in general). One of the most common mental roadblocks I see in athletes (and in business) is a lack of confidence. I personally lacked confidence when I was a teenage swimmer. I was doubting that I belonged, I had negative thoughts about how I would swim poorly once again, and so on. And it really got in my way to perform at my full potential on a regular basis.

Developing a realistic healthy self-image is key in your ability to perform at your best. The good news is confidence is a learned skill that you can improve with regular work. Confidence and Self-esteem give you the ability to create and sustain an optimal performance regardless of the external conditions.
Some say that confidence comes first, other that confidence is a result. I believe it’s both.

  • You can build your confidence with some techniques I often speak about like positive affirmations or mental imagery (which send to your brain the message that you are confident and good no matter what happens or has happened), journaling your victories, remembering where you come from, etc… This builds a part of your confidence
  • Then, as soon as you achieve one important thing that you consider a success, your confidence skyrockets because that’s the proof your brain has been looking for.

Then you will forget about it, focused on the next goal, next obstacles. That’s when you want to bring back your past achievements as proof that you have been successful and that there is no reason why you couldn’t be successful again and use mental techniques again.

Now, there is a distinction I want to draw your attention on today, which is Over confidence vs Ultra confidence.

Over confidence is believing that you WILL succeed (win, score, etc…) NO MATTER WHAT you do and may be followed by disengagement and lack of focus. Over confidence looks like arrogance. Over confidence has you attached to a successful outcome and makes you forget about the important tasks. That happens a lot when you face a weaker opponent, whether in an individual sport or a team sport.

Ultra confidence on the other hand is a strong belief that you CAN succeed (even when it doesn’t look obvious) IF you give it all and perform to your full potential, and is followed by intention and strong focus. Ultra confidence is independent of external circumstances, even independent from the outcome (you are willing to accept to be defeated, or fail).

Tennis player Stan Wawrinka is a great example of Ultra confidence.  He is one of the rare players who tend to be better against the best players in the world during the most important matches (in grand Slam) than against weaker player in less important tournaments. And he defeated Djokovic in the last US Open. “In my generation, a lot of players, when they play Novak (Djokovic), Roger (Federer) or Rafa (Nadal), already have 10% less chances to win”, did he say. “I have seen a lot of matches like that. Mentally, I arrived to a point where, there are days I know that, when going onto the court, I won’t let the match go. I’m not saying that in an arrogant way, like “I’m going to win”, but mentally, I know I will be stable and that I will produce a very good tennis. Then, you may still lose, but because the other has been better.”
That’s exactly what I am talking about: knowing you can do it, based on YOUR ability, not in an arrogant way, just present to your full potential, and be OK with losing.

Develop your confidence, aim for an Ultra confidence that external circumstances won’t be able to shake, and pay attention to not fall into Over confidence.

2 takeaways from the Tour de France 2019

Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash

I rarely write or speak about cycling, but I think it’s really worth some words. This sport, at least the road biking, with the main big tours like the Tour de France, the Giro (Italy Tour) and the Vuelta (Spain tour)  combine a lot of various aspects of sport: it is both an individual AND a team sport, with more strategy than we might think, it requires a huge amount of ungrateful endurance training and it is one of the most painful sports I know, putting in some intense effort for hours, feeling the muscle pain in the legs, and the intensity pain in the stomach and heart. And in addition, it is a very dangerous sport with lots of falls, broken bones, torn skin and once in a while some deadly accidents. You need to be really motivated and committed to give it all despite the pain and to stay really focused when going down hills after intense efforts.

After this year Tour de France, in July, I wanted to share 2 things I have been present to:

Team Dedication over individual recognition:

This sport is a great illustration of what it means to give it all for a teammate. Even more than in a team sport like soccer, lacrosse or basketball, where the whole team gets the same result/score in the end, road cycling sometimes requires a cycler to give it all for his team leader who will get the main result in the end (victory, podium, points, etc…). A cycler will for instance lead the peloton at a high pace in the mountain to distance other teams, while the leader will stay “protected” behind the teammate (the one leading a group is putting in much more effort as he is in first place, mainly due to aerodynamics factors and the impact of the wind). It’s often that you will see a teammate literally give all he has until the tank is empty and he just can’t anymore and then leave the leading position to either another teammate, either the team leader, dropping at the back of the race to recover and end the race as he can. For him, no victory, no points, for recognition from the general public. His only goal is to pull as much as he can to put his leader in the best conditions, sacrificing all personal goals to his leader. Same things with sprint arrivals. Teammates will lead the group to a really high pace so as to “launch” their sprinter in the last hundreds of meters and then let him go for the sprint and the victory or podium. Whereas in a team sport the whole team will be recognized for winning, the teammates in cycling get far less recognition and the leader gets most of the light. I have a lot of respect for the dedication these teammates have and I think this could be used in any team as a great example of giving all for the team, beyond one’s personal goals, not letting the ego get in the way of the team’s objectives.

 

Resilience:

French win pretender Thibault Pinot showed and will have to show a great deal of resilience:

  • After losing 1min40s (which is a very important loss) when he got trapped in a second part of the peloton that couldn’t keep up with the leading part (because of the impact of the wind) in the first of the three weeks, he bounced back and attacked in several stages in the mountain and came back very close to his opponents, showing clear signs of strength and of a possibility for him to win the Tour. He was able to turn his big frustration of his 1min40s loss into positive energy, into the fuel that enabled him to retake this time in the mountain. And it is not sure at all that shouldn’t he have lost this 1min40s, he would have attacked this much and demonstrated such strength. This is what Resilience looks like. And you too can bounce back every time you get a bad start or have a bad result.

 

  • Then, 2 days before the end of the race (out of 3 weeks of racing), he had to give up because of an injury in his leg’s muscle, which he seems to have got by hurting his handlebar when trying to avoid people falling in front of him in a downhill. I found this heartbreaking, because he is French of course and no French has won for 34 years 😊. But even more because it feels so unfair. Last year he had lost the podium on the last day of the Giro (Italy Tour) because he fell really sick (sort of pneumonia). And this year, as he seemed to be in his best shape ever, this injury popped up 2 days before the end… He is still devastated and can’t accept it. Such strokes of bad lucks are unfortunately part of sport. You have to deal with it. It is painful, it takes time. And your ability to bounce back will determine what sort of athlete you are. Once you gave room for the frustration, the disappointment even the distress to express (better to let these feelings be rather than cover them up and pretend they are not there), you can bounce back and use this as an extra motivator to fuel you with even more determination and commitment. As Pinot said lately: “Only winning the Tour de France will help me forget, a podium won’t be enough”.

 

Take care,

 

 

5 tips to go into Tryouts

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Tryouts are often a stressful moment for athletes and I wanted to share 5 (+1 extra) tips on how to go into the tryouts to help you or your kids increase your/their chance to succeed and have a better experience. 

  • Detach yourself as a person from the results of the tryouts

No matter if you make the team or not, you are still a good person, with more than your sport in your life. If you can see that clearly, this will relieve the pressure. It doesn’t mean to not want to succeed and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your best, it means that you are not defined by your results. You are more than that. And this helps move on when the results are not as expected. 

  • Focus on the Process, Not the outcome

Worrying about whether you are going to make it or not and have “what if” thoughts (what will I say if I don’t make it, what will my parents/friends/coach think if I make a mistake, etc…) will only take some mental space and energy for nothing. Instead, focus on the task at hand. Remember that Where your Attention Goes, the Energy Follows. The Future doesn’t exist, the only moment you can have an impact is the present, Right Here, Right Now.

  • Focus on yourself, not others

Tryouts are a little special in the sense that the main objective is to compare athletes to select some of them. So, it is even more tempting to compare oneself to others… But you can’t control others and the way they play. You can only control yourself. Wondering if this person is better, looks better, will be better etc… doesn’t help at all. Like focusing on the outcome, it only distracts you from being focused on what is important: your game, right here, right now.

  • Trust your skills

Now is not the time to wonder how to improve your move, your shot, your swing, your pass. Trust that you are well prepared, that you know how to do it and avoid overthinking.

  • Have a good attitude

The attitude is very important and sometime even more important than the skills. A player that will bring a hard-working attitude, positive mindset and team spirit (for team sports) have an advantage compared to an equally skilled/talented athlete.

Now that we have seen the 5 tips, here is the extra one: 

  • Have Fun

The reason you practice a sport in the first place is to have fun. Reminding yourself to have fun will help with all the above: it will relieve the pressure, have you focus on the process rather than the outcome, focus on yourself and not on others, trust your skills and have a good attitude.

Eventually, all the techniques I regularly share to deal with nervousness, refocus, like taking deep breaths or using visualization, will be very helpful too, just as in any competition.

If you need some support going into the tryouts, reach out and let’s work on it.

It would be absurd to be afraid of things we’ve dreamed of

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Rolland Garros is approaching its conclusion and it’s pretty exciting if you love tennis. The big 3 (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) is back in a Grand Slam semi-final all at the same time, joined by one of the best man on clay, Dominic Thiem.

But I what I want to talk about today is a message that was insightful for me as I read an interview from a young French tennis player, Antoine Hoang, who is completely new to the main professional circuit, having played challenger tournaments only for a year and participated to his first Grand Slam tournament at Rolland Garros, having benefited from an invitation. He won his first 2 matches, the second against Verdasco, one top player on clay, in front of thousands of people which was not usual for him and could have added a lot of pressure. But he didn’t let that interfere with his game. “I am happy that I haven’t been overwhelmed by the event”, he said. I thought that it was what I had been dreaming of for a long time. So, I told myself “don’t start to freak out, it would be absurd to be afraid of things we’ve dreamed of. You are where you wanted to be, so there is no reason to be afraid”.

Although it’s not really absurd to be afraid (it’s a normal physiological reaction ingrained in our primitive brain which helped the human beings to survive through millions  of years), I really love this reframe, this shift in perspective and I believe this can be useful for any athlete undergoing fear in an important competition. It’s OK to be scared or nervous. What you don’t want is to be paralyzed by fear and instead keep trusting yourself and switching that nervousness into positive excitement. Remembering that at some point, you dreamed to be in this situation helps do this and go beyond the fear of this new situation. If you are afraid to not be good enough in a new team (high school, college, next level league), remember you dreamed of it, if you are scared to fail at an important competition (state Meet, Nationals, Junior Olympics etc…), remember than you dreamed to be there. And If you are there, you belong. Trust yourself. It would be “absurd” to be afraid of things you’ve dreamed of.

By the way, this applies to any other area in life: a professional promotion, a next level in business, a new relationship, etc…
Take care,

2 tips to deal with stress from a Rollerskater World Champion

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Taïg Khris is a rollerskater,  X games winner and triple world champion and an entrepreneur. I listened to an interview last week where he shared how he used to deal with pressure and stress during his roller competitions (and also when speaking in front of thousands of people). Here are 2 things he said:

  • When his mind kept getting out of focus, with a lot of negative thoughts and doubts (what if I miss my figure?, what if I fall?, will I succeed?, will I get injured? etc..), he then repeated to himself only what he had to do (which figures, etc…) and positive words (It’s going to be OK, I will perform etc…), without stopping, constantly. This prevented his negative thoughts to come in by keeping his mind busy with the task at hand (the process) and the positive things. He is using the same technique when speaking in front of 1000 of people (repeating what he has to say and incorporating positive words). This is a great illustration of what I often speak about: focusing on the process (rather than the outcome), focusing on the positive and on what you want to see happening rather than what you fear can happen, and using power words to reinforce this message. And it works. You can do this whatever your sport is.
  • When the fear was very intense like when he jumped from the 2nd floor of Eiffel Tour and landed on a roller ramp (40m high) in front of 5000 people, his legs were shaking (Note: even the best champions get scared, so you can get scared), he played down by asking himself what was the worst that could happen. He thought he might break his arms or legs (he didn’t really think he could die) and that would be it (not a big deal for him since he broke his arms, legs, ribs, shoulders several times for some of them…). And it helped him relax and go for it. Now, I’m not suggesting to do anything risky by telling yourself you might just get a broken arm or leg, but that everyone can find a way to play down what’s at stake. And usually, in many sports with no big risk like jumping from the Eiffel Tower, the main fear is to fail, make a mistake, lose, etc… And it’s simple (not always easy) to realize that in a bigger picture (the whole season, the whole college years, the whole career, and eventually the whole life), it’s not such a big deal.

So, how can you apply this in your next game, race, school exam or public speaking?

Take care,

Why Mindset is key when going into a soccer game (and in any sport)

Photo by Jannes Glas on Unsplash

Photo by Jannes Glas on Unsplash

Over the past 2 weeks was the round of sixteen of the Champions League (European main soccer competition), where the best out of 2 legs advance to quarter finals (when there is a tie after the 2 legs, the one who has scored more goals away (at the other’s venue) wins).  Here is what I noticed when it comes to the mental approach or the Mindset:

  • On one hand Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to mental approach. Since Quatar invested massively in this club in 2011, they tried to build a top level club, bringing 5 stars players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham and more recently, Neymar Jr and Kylian Mbappe. And yet, it doesn’t seem to make any progress in this champions league, never able to go past thee quarter final and eliminated in the round of sixteen in the last 2 editions. 2 main events are symbolic of this lack of mental toughness:
    • In the so called “Remontada” in 2017, PSG had won 4-0 against Barcelona in the first leg, and was leading 3-1 after 88min in the 2nd leg despite a feverish way to play. There was no way they could be eliminated since Barcelona needed to win 6-1 to qualify with the “goals away count more” rule. And yet, Barcelona scored three times in the last 7 minutes to get the qualification out of PSG. PSG had gone into the game with fear, backing off instead of playing their game. When fear leads your way to play and you focus more on what you don’t want to happen, it’s actually more likely that it will happen. All had failed, from the coach to the captain and the seasoned players.
    • This year, PSG had won 2-0 against Manchester United in the first leg in England, which was a great result considering they were missing 2 of their strikers (Neymar and Cavani). PSG had shown some character in the first round of the competition, being present, focused and competitive in risky situations, which seemed to indicate they had improved on their mental approach. When Manchester came to Paris for the 2nd leg with 10 main players missing due to injuries or suspensions (so with a C team so to speak), PSG had all the cards in their hand to qualify for the quarter final. And once again, they didn’t put the right intention, the physical impact and the required focus that is mandatory at this level. And at 93min, in the overtime, Manchester obtained a penalty and ended winning 3-1, eliminating PSG. When you can’t rub it in, you are putting yourself at risk.

  • On the other hand, Ronaldo proved why he was the best player in this competition. Transferred from Real Madrid to Juventus Turin last summer, Ronaldo was criticized for his lack of impact in the beginning of the competition. It got even worse when Juventus was beaten 2-0 by Atletico Madrid in the first leg. But Ronaldo is Ronaldo, like Lebron James in the past years. He was super confident that they were going to win and qualify in the 2nd leg at home. He shared that with other players a week before the 2nd leg and in the media a few days before the game. And he amazingly scored three times in the 2nd leg and qualified Juventus almost on his own. The whole team had a great game of course but he was decisive. Not only does he seem to be pressure proof (I’ll talk more about this in a next post), he seems to find ever more motivation and determination when the stakes are higher.

 

There is a key difference between how PSG and Ronaldo approached their games. On one hand, there was a lack of clear intention, lack of focus, lack of the needed fire to get things done, lack of commitment. This might have been due to some fear because of what had happened in the past. And this might have been due to over confidence, as PSG has often been accused of in the past years, which is the belief that you will win without needing to give it all (with some sort of arrogance). On the other hand, there was (ultra) confidence that it is possible AND that you will give it all to make it happen. It’s followed by commitment, intention and focus.

Of course, it’s not all about this, of course not everyone has Ronaldo’s talent, but the more you can put yourself into a confident AND committed, intentional, focused mindset before a game, the better your play will be, the more likely things are to turn to your advantage. And this is true to any sport.

Take care,

Only 10%

Photo by HENCE THE BOOM on Unsplash

Photo by HENCE THE BOOM on Unsplash

This week, I want to illustrate that sometimes, although we might we feel like there is a world between us and what we want to achieve, the gap is not that big.

US tennis player Danielle Collins was the revelation of the women Australian Open Grand Slam tournament, reaching the semi-final for the first time in her career. In quarter final, she managed to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 after losing the 1st set 6-2. In this 1st set, Pavlyuchenkova broke her 3 first serves and Collins was down 5-1. But she didn’t give up nor panic:

Honestly, I lost that set pretty quickly,” Collins said. “But what was going through my mind was that I think I had at least two break points that I didn’t convert. Even though the set was 6-2, it took an hour. I felt like it was very close, regardless of the score. I told myself, ‘Hey, if I can just give a little bit more, 10 percent or 15 percent, I have an opportunity.’ Yeah, I stayed positive through that and kind of weathered the storm.”

I really love the way she didn’t let the score of the 1st set (6-2) mean anything (it could sound like she was hugely dominated) but instead relied on her sensations and analysis.

Lots of us see things as all or nothing, black or white. When it’s not white, it means it’s black, when it’s not all, it’s nothing. No surprise that the gap often feels very big, close to 100% and therefore impossible or at least really difficult to bridge. But if we can see that the gap may be much smaller and ask ourselves what tiny change can I make, where can I give 10% more (energy, focus, calm, determination, precision, …whatever it is that we need), then it’s easier to make the necessary changes, we have more confidence in being able to do it and in the end we can make what feels impossible possible.

If you are racing (running, swimming, cycling) and are used to mentally or physically giving up at a certain point, can you go just 10% further instead of trying to hold the whole race right away?

If you are a golfer, can you manage your emotions 10% better instead of trying to manage them 100% and be even more frustrated if you don’t do it?

Lots of team sport games are very indecisive and focusing on giving 10% more rather than thinking you don’t seem to be able to and won’t find the solution can make the difference.

So, where can you give only 10% more to make a difference?

Take care,