I am not sure if you saw the interview with Michael Phelps coach Bob Bowman but here is the recap: Bob would put Michael in chaotic mental situations so that Michael would learn to deal with those situations. He said he’d stepped on Phelps’ goggles right before a race so that they’d fill with water. (Phelps went on to win a gold medal in Beijing with goggles filled with water.) He’d even hidden his goggles before a race. He’s had the car come late to pick Michael up causing them to get a late start to a competition so that Phelps would feel frazzled by the time they got there.
What is the lesson
At times, Bowman made Phelps swimming life so miserable so that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t deal with. This has helped make Michael into the athlete he is today winning his 19th Olympic medal to officially became the greatest Olympian of all time.
As an Elite Performer if you want to push past where you are into greatness it not only means working hard on the physical and mental aspects of your performance, it means pushing past that, into what’s relatively uncomfortable. You can remain stable in your performances or you can push past stable, through uncomfortable into greatness!
Have you ever had a coach, boss, instructor or mentor who had you do something that you thought was totally insane? To the point of even being angry? If that person was a good coach, boss, instructor or mentor they had a very specific reason for doing that. To challenge you so that you’d grow.
I was a triathlon coach for many years and as a coach I would place my triathletes in (semi) chaotic situations so that they would know what it felt like and what they needed to do. I would take one of their cycling shoes. I would flatten one of their tires. I agree that this does help an Elite Performer make sense of an unpredictable environment and gives them control in situations where they felt they didn’t have control.
In my work now, I occasionally suggest to my clients that they do simulation training. This includes circumstances they know will arise (ones they have trouble emotionally dealing with) and some circumstances they aren’t expecting. For example, one of my musician’s got nervous performing in front of people she respected. Part of our work was having her perform in front of a lot of people she respected as we worked through how to deal with the anxiety and the nerves.
Other adverse moments
Some people ‘fold’ when faced with chaos and/or adversity and some push through. Which are you?
Think about other adverse moments in your life. If you folded, would you do that again? If not what could you have done differently? If you dealt with the situation by pushing through how did you deal with it and what was the outcome?
Over the past few months I’ve been learning to row. It’s been an interesting experience. A month ago I wrote a blog about being new at something and how although it’s a challenge it’s a great challenge with many positive lessons. I’ve been continuing to think about this because as I’ve grown in my rowing abilities and moving into a racing boat I’ve been challenged to balance in a single scull which has toppled me over several times in the last couple of weeks. Yesterday shortly after coach G. and I were headed out my oar caught and over I went. But this time as I tipped over it didn’t feel as uncomfortable and I actually almost caught myself. There has definitely been some chaos and adversity but as I work through I become a better rowing; stronger and more confident.
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