Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Mandatory For Next Level

"I want to take my game to another level, and reach that 1% mindset, but I don't want to seem cocky or arrogant in the process." -100% of the students I've worked with.

To take our game to the next level, we have to know we're the best, and believe no one can touch our skills. Without this belief, we're vulnerable to opponents who do think this way.

As Rory McIlroy said in his press conference, prior to the final round of U.S. Open: "I have to find a cockiness and arrogance tomorrow (in order to win this tournament)..."

To be arrogant doesn't have to mean being an ass to your opponents or fans... it simply means you have a deep, personal understanding of your skill level, and believe you will defeat anyone who stands in your way. To many, this sounds rude, but to the elite in their field, it's a simple fact. They believe it's absolutely mandatory to think this way, as it creates an important mental edge over their opponents.

On the court, Michael Jordan was as fierce a competitor as there ever was. When he put on his Bulls jersey, he knew with every competitive fiber in his body, that he was the best, period! No matter the situation, he knew he could single-handedly take over a game. 6 championships later... Was he cocky? Yep! Was he arrogant? Yep!

During his dominant years, when Tiger Woods stepped onto the first tee, in his mind, there was no doubt he was going to win! No one on the planet could touch him if he was playing well. He knew it, we knew it, and his opponents definitely knew it. His swagger down the fairway showed everyone, as did his blistering, focused stare on the greens, that he was the best. This was a man who, with 100% certainty, knew he couldn't be touched! Is this cockiness or arrogance? Yes to both.

It's more than a simple confidence. Everyone who's experienced a fair amount of success can create, and play with confidence. The type of belief I'm talking about comes from a burning desire to separate from the pack, and not care what anyone thinks about us as we strive for this goal.

This attitude is healthy, as long as it stays ON the playing field. There's nothing wrong with believing we're the best. In fact, without these thoughts, it would be impossible to excel at anything. The problem with arrogance is when it spills into personal lives. Unfortunately for Tiger, he didn't learn how to keep that belief inside the ropes, leaking it all over his life, leaving him where he is today. The arrogance, itself, didn't cause the problem... his inability to control it was ultimately the issue.

This is the "million dollar puzzle," isn't it? How do we become cocky and arrogant while we're competing, yet not allow it to spill over into our personal life? It's taken me over 20 years to figure out, but I finally have the answer. I learned that we, as intense competitors, must create two separate buttons to push. Without these buttons, the line becomes blurry, cockiness becomes a grey area, eventually affecting everyone around us. There's nothing wrong with competing with extreme confidence. Ie: Cockiness / arrogance... as long as we understand it's potential destruction off the playing field.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hold Yourself To A Higher Standard

I wake up every morning, repeating four simple words: 

Never Settle For Less!

If there's more time to practice... then practice.

When you begin to feel average... look for the uncomfortable.

When you think you're finished... do more.

If complacency opens the front door... slam it shut.

Mental fatigue is guaranteed... accept this fact, and ask yourself, "Now what?!"

Strive for perfection, knowing it may not exist. 

Never settle for less... you deserve more!

Monday, June 20, 2011

What Can We Learn From Him?

He's poised. He's articulate. He's thoughtful. He's willing to speak honestly about his shortcomings... and now he's a US Open Champion! He's Rory McIlroy, and he's 22 years old!

We don't have to be golfers to understand how pressure affects our thoughts and actions. Just two months ago, Rory allowed that pressure to dictate, ultimately getting the best of him. The media frenzy that followed his mental collapse at The Masters would've destroyed most people, and definitely all 22 year olds. Somehow, he found the confidence and maturity to stand in front of the microphone, head held high, and, in front of the world, confront his weaknesses. He was sincere, unapologetic, and promised internal change would result.

This post isn't about winning the Open, but instead, the mental toughness, fearlessness, and discipline it took to make such a quick comeback. All of us can relate to falling on our face, and having to make a decision whether to stay down, or stand and risk more failure. We haven't had to look at those crossroads in front of the world, though... making his mental comeback even more miraculous.

The microphone from The Golf Channel was shoved in his face, tape recorders from ESPN, and an infinite amount of global reporters, all asking if he'd ever recover from his Augusta meltdown. How did Rory answer? By literally destroying US Open scoring records, quietly and confidently swaggering down each fairway.

His physical actions mirrored genius, but I'm more impressed with his emotional domination of the field. He made a conscious decision to mentally command his every thought. In his words, he "lost himself in the process of every decision." He focused on his mindset, and the results that would manifest from his thinking. THIS is the genius that was Rory McIlroy.

Some say he's the next Tiger Woods, others believe it's too early, and no one will duplicate that type of mastery. I'm of the opinion that if he decides the reward at the end of the grind is worth the mental discipline, his trophy case will be overflowing with Major wins. The power of the mind is infinite. Unfortunately, not many attempt to tap into it's ability, leaving us with many physical talents, most underachieving. Rory has proven his mechanical perfection, and for a four day stretch, the potential of his mental performance. Will he look in the mirror, smile, and feel the need for more?

When we stare at our own reflection, what's looking back? Are we living up to our potential? Are we pushing through our comfort zones, willing to grimace through the pain of growth? What can we learn from this amazing 22 year old?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Back in high school during a basketball game, I remember trying to make a fancy play, Magic Johnson style, when my coach yelled across the floor, "Keep it simple, stupid!" I'm not a big fan of calling my students stupid, but I do agree with my former hot-headed coach that simpler is better.

One of the biggest traps coaches unknowingly fall into, in my opinion, is making it more difficult than it has to be. As I was recently reminded by a wise teacher, Lance McWilliams (http://www.ZoomBoomGolf.com): "You don't have to explain to me how the watch works... just tell me the time." That statement is as true as it gets. As a student, it's instinctive to think your coach must tell you everything he knows about the subject in order for you to learn. The opposite is true -- the less he tells you, the more you'll comprehend in the long term. 

As I was working out, practicing for a tennis tournament years ago, I was interrupted by a coach on the court next to mine, who was barking out instruction after instruction to his teenage student. "Do this, then that. Then after you finished that, make sure you remember not to forget to do this. When you're done with all of that, remember to check position (A), making sure it's not in position (B)..." I wanted to scream! The kid was struggling, and getting very frustrated. 

I literally walked over to the fence, in the middle of my practice session, and asked if I could add one simple instruction to his lesson. Back in those days, I didn't understand how much of a cocky, inappropriate move it was to interrupt another teacher's lesson. I was young, arrogant, and knew it all. I believed it needed to be done, as this coach obviously didn't understand the concept of K.I.S.S. I suggested that his student try focusing on (X), rather than getting bogged-down in everything else. The coach told me the problem was more complex than the one, simple fix I was offering, but he'd allow his student to try it (probably thinking it would fail miserably, and he'd be shoo-ing me back to my court). As the teenager began working on my suggestion, I went back to my practice session, but making sure I kept an ear on the teaching court. "Nice shot, Scott... you got it" was all I heard for the next 1/2 hour. 

No matter what your goals, make sure to focus on the simple path. It may look more exciting to walk along a complex, more detailed direction, but more isn't always better. Actually, it rarely is! Listen to everyone who wants to help you, but be diligent when trying to decipher who's "talking big" vs. who's talking simple. I've learned the hard way -- the one who constantly talks about how good he is, and the guarantees of instant success, is the one who's the most insecure. The teacher who wants you to focus on less, concentrating on a patient, long term process is the person you should trust. 

In order to achieve anything, action must be taken. Simple, detailed action is the key! If you're feeling confused, look for another way. It doesn't have to be complicated.

Take a peek at your watch. Forget how it works. What time is it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Letting Go...

When we try, we don't. When we let go, we do!

Growing up playing sports, this was a common theme. The harder we tried to win, the less likely it would happen. The tighter we squeezed the bat or tennis racquet, the less relaxed our muscles became, not allowing for a relaxed swing. This same concept plays an important role in every part of our lives, as it relates to achieving something out of our comfort zones.

When we're passionate, our instincts tell us to "try harder" to grab ahold of that goal. Instead, we need to create a new instinct that instructs us to "let go." Let go of the outcome, and hang on to the details needed to achieve the outcome. Let go of the stress associated with the end result, and paint a mental picture of how it will manifest. Let go of the expectations of such lofty goals, and step consistently towards that next level.

When we squeeze that driver, wanting to hit it 310 yards, our muscles tighten, our breathe becomes shallow and constricted, and relaxation becomes an afterthought. "I'm going to crush this ball" is the last thought our mind hears, ultimately producing a drive that my 2 1/2 year old daughter would laugh at. Instead, let go of desired results, see and feel the shot, and accept all possible outcomes. This type of thinking will create and instant relaxation of the muscles, allowing the body to produce the shot visualized.

"I'm going to try and lose 25 lbs" is another common theme among my students. This also creates a focus that doesn't allow long term relaxation. It may produce short term results, but it rarely lasts, and the process can be mentally painful, to say the least. Instead, concentrate on enjoying the long term, daily actions that will create a healthier and freeing lifestyle. Rather than "trying to lose weight," love the opportunity to become a new person, inside and out, and create new habits that will change lives forever. When we think like this, the negative pressure disappears, and shifts the focus from possible failure to probable success. Let go of losing weight. Relish the steps that will create a new future. Let go of knowing you have to eat better and exercise more. Embrace the happiness that will ultimately flow into your life.

Surrender to the process of every challenge, letting go of the pressures attached with results. When we try, we don't. When we let go, we do!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

True Story - I Live It With You.

"It's not what happens to you that matters... it's what you THINK happens to you."

Think of a time in your life where something negative occurred, and instead of changing the perception of it's reality, you allowed it to dictate your next actions. What if, rather, you took the specifics in that moment, and created your own picture of reality? How different would your outcome have been?

13 years ago, 5 years after I began teaching mental techniques, I experienced this exact situation... one that completely changed my life forever! My doubles partner and I were scheduled to travel to Germany to continue our professional tennis careers; a strategic move that would've catapulted our world ranking. A week prior to leaving, I received a message from him, explaining that he'd no longer be playing due to a potential career change. At first, I was obviously upset, very upset! Didn't he understand the opportunity he was throwing away?! I mean, c'mon... we'd undoubtedly be top ranked doubles players within the year. 

After two days of extreme anger and self-pity, I decided it was time to take my own advice. I made the conscious decision to embrace my partner's decision to quit, and EXPECT better things to arrive. I spent the majority of the next week visualizing and feeling an intense celebration of some kind. I didn't pretend to know what I'd be celebrating or why, just that I'd be throwing my arms in the air, jumping up and down, and thanking God I wasn't able to travel to Germany. I did this when I woke up, a few times in the middle of the day, and again as I went to bed.

Literally, 7 days to the day he quit, I was invited to a members party at the tennis club I was teaching. These parties took place at the same time I'd be finishing with my day on the courts, so I'd be exhausted when they began. After nine hours of teaching, I always looked forward to kicking my feet up, most likely with ice on both knees. I was tired, and wasn't looking forward to this specific party. However, I'd be pleasantly surprised this night. My life was about to change forever!

Two hours into the party, and after playing with a few of my favorite members, I was sitting down, two ice packs attached to my knee caps, when SHE walked up. A friend introduced us: 

"Dayne, I'd like you to meet Liane. Liane, this is Dayne."

Two years later, Liane and I were married, and now have a gorgeous 2 year old daughter!

It's not what happens to you, it's what you THINK happens to you. If I had left for Germany... 

Whatever road block hits you in the face, consciously make the decision to switch it's reality. You always have a choice. The 1% separate with their mindsets, realizing it's always in their control. With control, comes opportunity and definite success!