Time Travel: Mindset, Methods, Management and Mastery of Elite Performance

During Sunday football, I was captivated by the story of T.J. and Derek on ESPN. Growing up, I loved playing sports. I truly loved every aspect of it. I not only loved the sports football, track & field, soccer, golf and basketball, but I loved the actual discipline of preparing, nearly as much as I enjoyed the performance. I especially enjoyed the sports football and track and field that I played on high school teams.

Perhaps because I had to work extra long hours and during the summer months when others took time off, I came to appreciate the methods of mastery. I was naturally gifted with speed and strength. And I had accumulated quite a bit of stamina growing up. Its what happens when you run around outside from sun up to sun down 365 days a year in the Deep South.

As a kid I looked up to inventors in history, movement leaders and athletes. As history took my young and imaginative mind to the past, it painted a portrait of potential. In some of the athletes I watched on television it shaped a potential for what I might be able to accomplish.

When I arrived in High School, I did not know a single person. I spent the first few weeks eating alone outside of what seemed like an enormous hall full of strangers. I eventually found my way to some Freshman table and suffered my way through the year with every other Freshman.

By the time I got to my sophomore year things had changed quite a bit. My Grandfather had me work long, hard hours building a house with him and I spent time working out, playing basketball, riding my bike and working. I was always busy. Always on the go, sun up to sun down.

When I left the freshman football team, I found myself in the “land of giants”. I was 5 foot 7 inches and weighed about 118 pounds soaking wet. But, I was strong, had stamina, speed and could leap high enough to grab a standard 10ft. basketball rim with both hands. And, most importantly of all, I was unaware that odds were not stacked in my favor.

One of the things that quickly caught my attention was the mindset of the best varsity players on our team. I observed their focus. I admired their determination. I remember a free safety who was an exceptional athlete. I remember how serious he was about the game. I remember that there was the game, our game and then there was his game within. He was serious about his game and passionate about our game. I remember asking him questions and his simple, to the point, matter of fact answers. He never seemed to mind answering my questions.

Every high performance I have ever attained in life has always begun with a mindset. A mindset is not just a belief, but a set of behaviors that reinforce the belief. In order for high elite performance outcomes there have to be three main components in the culture.

The first is the mindset of the Coaches. If the Coaches do not believe in the athlete, then the athlete will not achieve high performance sustainable on that Coach’s team.

The second is the mindset of the athlete. If the athlete does not believe in their own capability to achieve high performance, then they will not.

The third is the mindset of the team. If the team does not reward and reinforce the mindset consistently throughout the team, then it can not be attained.

All that said, mindset alone is not enough. Proven methods of planning, preparation and performance must be mastered.

I read Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and The Exceptionals by Dr. Kumar Mehta. In each of the books the role of proven methods used by management is an essential ingredient to elite performance.

What this means is an experienced Coach, trainer and manager can accelerate the path to elite performance. This means that as the science of the planning, preparation and performance improves, so the time required to mastery decreases. Now, it still takes time. In fact, in the case studies by Colvin, the only difference between the very best piano players and the level below was the number of hours per week they practiced.

Derek Watt became an elite performer, in part, because he secretly read his big brother’s pile of notebooks. Within those notebooks was a treasure trove of mindset and proven methods of preparedness.

In order to accelerate elite performance, the mindset, methods and management must align to accelerate mastery. In order to shorten the time to achieve mastery, more time must go into practice, planning and preparation.