What Does It Mean To Give Your Best?

Give me your best! I want your best! You’re not giving me your best! This phrase in its many forms and fashions can be heard on the field, track, and court by coaches and parents. But, what does it really mean? And when an athlete hears this phrase, what should they be thinking, and what should they do next?

basketball player with arms in the air

In working with elite amateur and professional athletes on the mental side of their game, this is a phrase and question that I have used in talking to my clients. To me, giving your best is a call to bring everything you have to a given moment.

Specifically, giving your best involves the following:

  • Play with Energy and Effort – This is one of the core values of our basketball academy and for any team I have ever coached. Above all, I demand that my basketball players and the athletes that I work with in other sports bring energy and effort to everything they do! When an athlete in any sport brings energy and effort to their practice, game, event, or match, they greatly increase their chances of success. An athlete must be mentally and emotionally engaged in order to physically impact their performance, and energy and effort engage the mind and heart. Great athletes don’t just go through the motions; they are fully committed to the moment!
  • Unleash Your Talent – In order to give your best, you can’t just timidly unveil your talent; you must relentlessly unleash your talent on the competition. Athletes who do this well know their strengths and trust them in a fearless way to deliver their best performances. They don’t hold back in terms of things they can do to impact the outcome of a game. They bring all of who they are creating value and impact in the process.
  • Compete Fearlessly – When you give your best, you don’t worry about what the competition is doing. You become so focused on YOUR best that you don’t concern yourself with THEIR best. The goal is to compete with a fearless spirit, which means to trust more and fear less. The whole goal of a game, match, or event is to compete. Sometimes, I see players and teams melt down mentally before the game is even played due to the perceived talent of the other team. They lose before they even begin the game, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We teach our athletes to have a mindset of competition and to compete fearlessly in every situation, which helps them focus on something they can control versus an outcome they can only influence.

Whether you are an athlete, a business leader, or an entrepreneur, I encourage you to “play your game” with energy and effort, to unleash your talent in everything you do, and to compete fearlessly trusting your talents over your circumstances. In short, bring your best…today and every day!

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4 Leadership Lessons From Houston Astros Manager A.J. Hinch – Podcast: S02E009

Congratulations to the World Series Champion Houston Astros who defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in 7 games in one of the best World Series in history! In celebration of that accomplishment, which we are still cherishing in Houston, today’s podcast episode focuses on 4 leadership lessons that we can learn from Astros Manager A. J. Hinch. These leadership techniques can be applied in any realm of life and can help you be a better leader and inspire your team to perform at its best!

Episode Outline:

  • Connect with your players/team.
  • Maximize their potential.
  • Believe and trust in them to “do their thing.”
  • “Be the consistent heartbeat in the room.”

 

Houston Astros with trophy

Congratulations to the Houston Astros for an incredible season, playoff run, and World Series Championship! Your perseverance, grit, determination, and teamwork have been inspiring to a city that needed it after the effects of Hurricane Harvey! Thanks for the moments!

3 Lessons From The 2017 Houston Astros – Podcast: S02E007

Congratulations to the Houston Astros who defeated the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees to advance to the 2017 World Series! We have been through so much in Houston over the last several months including the damage and effects of Hurricane Harvey. This Houston Astros team has been a breath of fresh air and an example of what it means to be Houston Strong. Their resilience and grit has been inspiring! In today’s episode of Monday Morning Moments, we focus on 3 lessons that we can learn from the Houston Astros in their pursuit of another trip to the World Series including their epic Game 7 win over the Yankees!

You can apply these lessons or principles in any area of life:

  1. What you choose to focus on magnifies in size
  2. Have an I Will Mindset
  3. Be Process-Focused

 

Peak Performance Nutrition With Catherine Kruppa – Podcast: S02E005

In today’s episode of Monday Morning Moments, I am honored to interview my longtime friend and peak performance colleague Catherine Kruppa. Catherine and I have delivered workshops together, referred clients to each other, and also shared advice and counsel as we pursue our athletic goals. Catherine is one of the top nutritionists in the country and works with elite athletes, age group amateurs, and everyday people seeking to live a healthy lifestyle. I know you will benefit from today’s podcast.

Catherine Kruppa (MS, RD, CSSD, LD) earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and Master of Science in Nutrition from Texas A&M University. She is a registered, licensed dietitian, and wellness coach.  She is also Board Certified in Sports Nutrition and specializes in weight management, sports nutrition, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, endometriosis, heart disease, and pediatric nutrition. She served as the Director of Nutrition for US Diving for 11 years.  Catherine was a member of the Texas A&M Varsity Diving Team and is currently an active member of the running community in Houston. She has competed in 6 triathlons, including two ½ Ironmans, 16 marathons, 3 ultramarathons and is a 12 time Boston marathon qualifier. Catherine provides nutrition tips for Houston’s KSBJ FM 89.3 and nationally syndicated KLOVE radio.

Catherine is a frequent speaker for many organizations and businesses. She speaks on various topics in the area of nutrition such as: healthy eating, weight management, disease prevention, nutrition and exercise, and osteoporosis. She has also presented programs for Channel 13 News Health Beat, Channel 2 News, Channel 8 Midday Show and Fox News. She appears regularly on the LiveWell Network, a home, health and lifestyle channel owned by ABC. Catherine worked as the local dietitian for the Dr. Phil Ultimate Weight Loss Program and the dietitian for the 2004, 2008 and 2012 US Olympic Diving Teams as well as for Former President George H. W. Bush, Olympic Gold Medalists Laura Wilkinson and David Boudia.

You can learn more about Catherine and her incredible team of nutritional coaches at Advice For Eating.

Thoughts-Actions-Behaviors

Overcoming Fear

Coach, that guy’s huge!” There have been a few times in coaching my 5 boys and their teammates in different sports that I have heard this comment or some variation of it. Sometimes, it was a feeling that I sensed was in the hearts and minds of some of my players based on what I saw in their eyes and how they were looking at the other team. Other times, it was an actual verbalization of what they were thinking before game time. Comments like “That team is really big/good/nationally ranked, etc.,” do not help in moments like these, and fear becomes a major distraction keeping us from performing at our best.

No Fear Sign

In his excellent book, Goliath Must Fall, my friend Louie Giglio uses the story of David vs. Goliath to share how we must face the giants in our lives. Whether the giant be fear of an opponent or other things like rejection, anger, comfort, and addiction, he implores the reader to not lose sight of the promise and purpose that God has for our life…in anything you do! Based on advice that he received during a moment of frustration about something that was said about him, he offers this wisdom to us: “Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table.”

When we fear an actual enemy or opponent or the pressure of a big moment, we are giving a seat to that enemy at our table. Our focus becomes misguided by fear, and we become paralyzed from performing at our best. The table that is reserved for us with the invitation of an opportunity that we are uniquely designed to discover, embrace, and seize in that moment, and we get to choose who we invite to the table. I understand that ultimately we may have to face that giant through competition or perseverance, but we should not invite the giant to sit at our table or in our huddle or in our minds haunting and taunting us with comments that we do not have what it takes to accomplish the goal. This kind of thinking leads to defeat before we have even had the chance to compete.

Instead of fearing our giants, here are 3 reminders that you can apply from our work with elite athletes, entrepreneurs, and business leaders to overcome fear:

  • Confidence Comes From Within – Many athletes try to derive their confidence from external things or forces. It is an “outside-in” approach to confidence, and it hinges on the word “If.” “If I win this match, I will feel good about myself.” “If I make this shot, I will feel confident about my abilities.” “If my coach says I did well, I will feel good about my identity as a player.” Confidence should be based on an “inside-out” approach and center on the word “Because.” “Because of the preparation I have done, I will feel confident about my abilities and the opportunity before me.” “I will compete and feel confident about this game because of my strengths, gifts, and talents and the hard work I have put in.” And for me, it all begins with the confidence that I have because of the life I have in Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus and what He has done for me, I will feel confident about my purpose in life and the opportunities I have before me. Faith provides the foundation for my focus.
  • Focus on What You Can Control – I always tell the teams that I coach, the athletes that I work with, and the business leaders and entrepreneurs that I coach to focus on what they can control. Many people spend so much mental and emotional energy worrying about things they cannot control. My 7th grade basketball team just completed their AAU season, and we faced many teams that outnumbered us and were bigger than us. Literally, we faced a lot of giants, but we took them down, because we focused on what we could control which was dictating a fast pace, playing an aggressive defense, and moving the ball and trusting our teammates. At the end of the day, we had an excellent season winning many games, because we remained focussed on process-oriented things that we could control and trusting those factors to facilitate playing our best basketball. In any area of life, it is important to identify if you are worrying about things you cannot control and to invest your mental and emotional energy in the things you can control based on your strengths, gifts, opportunities, and people around you that can help you maximize your potential and achieve your goals trusting God in the process.
  • Be Present and Compete – If you have read my blog or heard me speak, you are probably familiar with this quote from Fulton Oursler: “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” It is so true when it comes to competition or achieving goals in any arena of life. Regret for past moments and fear of future moments can paralyze us from being engaged in the current moment and performing at our best. The key is to Be Present – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and Compete – bring your best to the occasion whether it be sports, business, or life.

Katy Raptors Picture - 2017

Never let fear decide your future. The best leaders don’t shy away from the moment, even when that moment requires them overcoming the obstacle of fear, facing literal giants, and fully engaging in what brought them to this moment in the first place. As you think about your roles in life and the opportunities before you, don’t back down from being the best version of yourself. Others are counting on you and the impact that you can have when you overcome fear and exhibit faith.

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Resiliency Is Found In One Swing Of The Racket

Rafael Nadal was in a fierce battle on the grassy courts of the All England Tennis Club against Gilles Muller, an underdog in this battle. This was Wimbledon, a tournament where championships are earned, heartbreaks abound, and greatness is achieved! They were well into the 5th set of the match when the announcer boldly proclaimed: “The distance between triumph and disaster is just a swing of the racket.” The final set in a match at Wimbledon cannot be decided by a tiebreaking game, so they played until Muller eventually won 15-13 games in the 5th and deciding set.

Gilles Muller beating Nadal

Gilles Muller (Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

For many people, the quote from the Wimbledon announcer represents their life. I work with many athletes where success or setbacks hang in the balance of one play, one shot, one game, or one race based on the decisions and choices that they make. Pressure is often at its greatest during these moments, and they must be present and focused in order to bring their best to the competition at hand. Sometimes, they are competing against someone else. Other times, they are competing against themselves wondering if they have what it takes to overcome a misplaced doubt or random negative thought that decided to enter their mind at the most inopportune time.

Triumph and disaster do often hang on the swing of a racket, the follow through of a shot, or the kick of a ball. The key question is: What do peak performers think about in moments like these that will help them achieve triumph over disaster? Here are 3 things that you can learn from elite athletes that will help you consistently perform at your best in any area of life:

  • Be Present – If you want to perform at your best especially in pressure moments, you have to be present not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. This skill is one of the top priorities that I work with athletes and business leaders on in my coaching. We live in a hyper-stimulated world, and our focus is often affected by distractions that direct our mind and emotions down the wrong path, which leads to less than stellar results. I am sure you understand what it means to be present in a place physically, and you also probably know what it feels like to be absent mentally and/or emotionally. As Fulton Oursler said, “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” The thieves of fear and regret often kill, steal, and destroy our opportunity for triumph, meaning, and impact. You must be present to be your best!
  • Be Outcome-Driven and Process-Focused – I have written about this technique in other places, but this is one of the top ways to both be present and also achieve the outcomes and results that you desire. In this epic Wimbledon battle, Gilles Muller never lost hope and kept focusing on serving well, moving his feet, playing with energy and effort, and mixing up his shots. He was not obsessing about the outcome to the point of desperation or worrying about the circumstances of who he was playing against or the crowd who was cheering for Nadal. He stayed focused on process-oriented things that he could control, which led to playing his best tennis and winning the match. No matter what your role is in life, set challenging goals and desire incredible outcomes. Just remember that to achieve these inspiring goals, you should not consume your mind and emotional energy overly obsessing about the outcome that you want. You must simplify it and focus on the process-oriented things that will lead you to the outcome or result.
  • Be Resilient – Peak performers are resilient and have refined their resiliency through the fires of competition and challenges. People ask me all the time whether resiliency, grit, and determination can be learned and developed, or do some people just possess these qualities while others do not. Based upon our research and experience in working with elite athletes and high performing leaders in business and life, we believe 2 things about resiliency. First, some people possess an innate ability to be highly resilient and possess a stronger will to win than others. Second, no matter what level of resiliency or grit you have been born with, you can grow and develop your ability to persevere in pressure moments. As Angela Duckworth said in her groundbreaking book Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance, “When you keep searching for ways to change your situation for the better, you stand a chance of finding them. When you stop searching, assuming they can’t be found, you guarantee they won.” Our research and experience confirm what she discovered through her own process of discovery: Truly resilient people get into possibility thinking very early when facing a trial or pressure moment. They ask “What’s possible?” instead of saying “Oh, this is bad!” and they strive to find ways to persevere. To grow your grit, focus on having a growth mindset, rely on positive “self-talk” from yourself and others, and seek out and discover what’s possible.

I encourage you to apply these techniques in your life as you pursue your goals and persevere in pressure moments. Don’t be fearful or distracted by the weight of the moment. Be present, unleash your talent, and bring your best in every situation inspiring others to do the same. You may just discover, like Gilles Muller, that resiliency and success are found in one swing of the racket (i.e. taking the next step toward the direction of your dreams)!

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Surpassing Setbacks: What I Learned From Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth found himself in a playoff. Just moments before, he was leading the 2017 Travelers Championship Tournament and just needed to finish strong. As he gathered himself and focused on his tee shot, he attempted to clear a tall tree and instead hit the tree, which yielded a fortunate bounce into the fairway. He could have been wondering what happened – not only on this shot but the shots and holes that forced him into this playoff hole. Why did he hit the tree? Why couldn’t he finish the deal? What was happening?

It’s in these moments that we truly discover what we are made of! Character, grit, and resiliency are refined in the midst of setbacks and struggles. We can either become determined or disillusioned, and it only takes a moment to tilt the balance of confidence one way or the other.

In the midst of challenges in sports, business, and life, here are at least 3 things that we must do to accomplish the goal:

  • Clarify the Goal – When something happens that you did not expect and “perfection” is not achieved, you can tend to react with dismay and disillusionment, because your expectations are misguided. You try to control the outcome of everything you do and forget that there will be moments where you are less than perfect. You press in to control, which leads to being tight, tense, and terse. This is not the way to win a golf tournament, lead your team, or accomplish your goals. It is in these moments that you need to reassess and clarify the goal. For Jordan Spieth, the goal was to win the playoff hole and the tournament…not hit every golf shot perfectly, and he re-focused his energy and effort appropriately to achieve this goal instead of worrying about past failures, which he could not change.
  • Simplify the Process – Especially in moments of strife, I often tell my golfers (and other athletes) the following mantra: “Sometimes, it’s just about getting from point A to point B to point C.” In other words, when things are not going your way, simplify the process to achieve the goal. If a certain part of your game is not going right, play to your strengths and what is going well for you on that particular day. Don’t overanalyze what is not working and why. Also, consistently ask: What am I trying to accomplish? This question can help you get back on task and on target. Finally, be present and process-focused which should lead to the best result you can achieve on a certain day.
  • Stay Engaged – When a bad moment happens, the result can shift our attitude into a superlative mindset. “I can’t hit my driver.” “I never play well in these situations.” “The people I lead don’t listen to me.” “I will never accomplish my goals.” I have a superlative rule that I use with my athletes and business leaders that I coach comprised of a superlative: Never use superlatives to describe your performance or limit your potential. Stay engaged and dedicated to the process with energy and effort. Anything can happen even in the midst of challenging circumstances, and you must live your life with a possibility mindset.

So what happened next for Jordan? After hitting the tree on his tee shot, Jordan sprayed his approach shot into the sand trap next to the green. Daniel Berger, his opponent, hit his shot onto the fringe of the green but far away from the hole. This hole was not going according to plan for Spieth. Or, was it? Jordan had hit a great up and down shot out of the bunker on the 18th hole just moments before to save par and assure this playoff hole. The reality was that he had confidence hitting out of the sand – a place that no one wants to land – and he just needed to be present in this moment and hit a great golf shot.

Jordan Spieth

Jordan assessed the situation, developed a strategy, and visualized his shot as he grabbed the appropriate club for this moment. He trusted his shot and the ball lifted out the sand trap and softly bounced on the green and rolled into the hole. He tossed the winning golf club out of the bunker and chest bumped his caddy, as the crowd cheered in excitement and amazement!

An incredible shot that ultimately won the tournament for him!  In the article “Why Jordan Spieth’s Tee Shots Didn’t Matter,” the Wall Street Journal chronicled his day in this way:

“The result was Spieth’s 10th victory at the age of 23. Since World War II, only Tiger Woods got to double-digit wins at a younger age….The lesson isn’t that power off the tee doesn’t matter, or that it matters less than what a player does on and around the green. It’s that there is more than one way to win in golf, and to lose….There is no disadvantage that can’t be countered by enough excellence in other parts of the game. Especially if you can hole a bunker shot in a sudden-death playoff.

Whatever your role and your goals, there is a lot we can learn from the example of Jordan Spieth’s tournament victory including playing to your strengths, developing a growth and possibility mindset, and staying focused on the right perspective and process to achieve success and impact even in the midst of a temporary setback.

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3 Lessons I Learned From Magic And Bird

I grew up watching and loving basketball in the 80s! They were formative years for me as I was playing high school basketball and watching my beloved Lakers battle the Boston Celtics throughout the decade. It was one of the fiercest rivalries of all time! Two dynasties who hated each other and at the same time loved playing each other just so they could show who was the more dominant team. ESPN just recently created a 30 For 30 film about this rivalry, and it took two nights to tell the whole story.

Magic and Bird

What made this rivalry even better was that the two best players in the NBA were leading their teams into battle: Magic Johnson for the Lakers and Larry Bird for the Celtics. This rivalry began in college and climaxed with the two of them facing each other in the NCAA Championship, which was the most watched game of all time! I was a Magic Johnson fan when he was at Michigan State and became an even bigger fan of his when he joined the Lakers. While I was a foot shorter than him, I was a point guard like him, and I tried to emulate his moves, passion for the game, and his incredible no look passes.

At this point in time in basketball history, you chose a team and rooted for that team, which meant that you despised the other teams and players that were trying to beat you. While I have come to appreciate Larry Bird over time, I did not like him at all when he was competing against Magic and the Lakers, because he was a Celtic! He and his team were trying to take out “my team” – sometimes literally – and I hated that! After watching the ESPN 30 for 30 film and reflecting on almost every moment that I remember watching intently during those championship years, here are at least 3 things that both Magic and Bird taught me about Race, Competition, and Resiliency:

  • Race – The emergence of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson brought out feelings, emotions, and conversations about race during a very fragile time in the history of the NBA. Attendance numbers were horrible for NBA games, and they could not find sponsors or even get the NBA Finals shown on live TV in prime time. I watched many Lakers playoff and finals games on tape delay, meaning they were previously recorded and joined in progress because the network decided the TV show M*A*S*H was more important than my team. Both Larry and Magic entered the league at the same time and brought energy and passion to the game that renewed interest from the fans. The unintended consequence is that part of their rivalry split the country along racial lines. This was never the intent of the two players. In fact, both Bird and Magic saw themselves as great basketball players, not players of a certain color. Growing up in Memphis, I had always seen basketball as a way to transcend race. When we played, the key question was: “Can you play?” If you could play basketball, you were accepted and respected regardless of the color of your skin. Bird and Magic taught me to understand this even more and showed that you did not have to put an extra adjective in describing a player that was of a certain color or race – they were “great basketball players!” Period! I have always applied this in my life when I see people, similar to what Martin Luther King articulated in his “I Have a Dream” speech and definitely what God intended when he created us all!
  • Competition – Magic and Bird pushed each other to be the best they could be. Based upon their passion for the game and their incredible work ethic, I learned how to work hard on my game and compete, loving every moment in the process. Every time I practiced, played a driveway pick up game, or played in a real game, I treated it like Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I also learned that in order to compete well, you focus on what you do well and not the strengths of the other person or team. Competition is all about bringing your best on game day and not worrying about what the other team may or may not do – a lesson the Lakers learned through defeat in 1984 and then success in 1985 and 1987 against their bitter rival.
  • Resiliency – For some reason, I never saw height, speed, or any other physical trait as a limitation to what I could accomplish on and off the court. I know a lot of this mindset was reaffirmed in me by watching Bird and Magic play the game. Bird was doubted at different times in his life, including by his own teammates when he first joined the Celtics, based on the color of his skin and his “perceived” lack of speed and jumping ability. Larry quickly dispelled these perceptions and myths to become one of the greatest basketball players ever! And Magic was called “Tragic” at one point in his career based on a couple of failed moments in the 1984 Finals. Yet, both of them had a courageous heart and an indomitable will to win! Bird was famous for telling the other team the exact play the Celtics were going to run and what he was going to do to win the game and then going out and doing it. And Magic came back to beat the Celtics twice after the bitter 1984 defeat and win 5 overall championships in the 80s by demonstrating leadership and a mindset of “I’m not going down like this!” In fact, Magic won both the league and finals MVP trophies as well as the NBA Championship in 1987 based on a resilient mindset.

There are many things that we can learn from Larry Bird and Magic Johnson both individually and collectively. I am grateful for their passion for the game, their desire and pursuit to be THEIR best and THE best, their work ethic, and their intense will to win. I am also grateful for the life lessons they taught me and the love of a sport that has helped me develop as a leader on and off the court.

My encouragement to you is to apply these same lessons in every part of your life to be the best you can be, to show mutual respect to others, and to be resilient when setbacks say you can’t have a pathway to success!

Finally, being a Magic Johnson and Lakers fan, I could not resist ending this post without including this clip of Larry acknowledging Magic’s greatness after a Finals win for the Lakers!

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