Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Mental Game of Business and Sport

“I worked very hard, especially in the mental training. One has to understand that physical fitness alone isn't sufficient. My mental training is very complex and it makes me believe in myself…. To control your mind is more difficult than to control your body.”

--German biathlete Magdalena Neuner.

Neuner came into the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with six world championship titles. However, she also has a history of wildly inconsistency in her shooting that has also left her with some equally poor results.

As in the world of elite athletes and sports, the mental game of business or the inner game of business is the key to improvement, consistency, excellence and success. Interestingly, this is the only area of business improvements that doesn’t necessarily cost anything to implement; however, hardly anyone uses it. The mental game of business – using your mind in a deliberate, orderly, and focused way is the surest manner for achieving business success.

There are several areas of the mental game of business that you can explore, like:

-Using your mental imagery or imagination to plan and to win
-Controlling your attention and your energy
-Finding your strengths, leveraging them, and playing within them
-Curing anxiety and "nerves"
-Learning to develop clearer focus and mental toughness
-Developing clear goals and articulating them concretely and effectively.

It is becoming more clear that accepting and using the inner game of business techniques is what differentiates the top 5% of business executives and managers from the rest of us. The top executives know about and use powerful goal setting and strategic thinking processes, advanced visualization techniques and mental imagery that improve every area of their performance. They understand the importance of, know how to enter "The Zone," and are able to stay there.

Recently, American Olympic women skiers Lindsay Vonn and teammate Julia Mancuso, using mental conditioning techniques, finished in the gold and silver positions at the Winter Olympics.

"Lindsey and Julia are really skilled skiers ... but there are probably 20 other women with talent close to that level. What sets them apart, in different ways, is the mental game."

--Sean McCann, senior sports psychologist for the U.S. Olympic team.

Thus far in the the Vancouver Olympics, Vonn, who lives and trains in Vail, Colo., has won gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G, but skied out in the super-combined. Mancuso, born in Reno, Nevada, collected silvers in the downhill and super-combined.

However, all may not end well. Under difficult weather conditions, Lindsey Vonn spun out of control during Wednesday's Olympic giant slalom, breaking a finger and ending her latest medal bid, while Julia Mancuso -- Vonn's teammate and lifelong rival, not to mention the defending champion -- sped toward that same spot.

The race official waved a giant yellow flag through the driving snow and dense fog to warn Mancuso that she needed to stop. Otherwise, Mancuso would risk slamming into Vonn or a course worker helping her. Mancuso stopped and returned to the start only to ski badly on her next run.

While the race will be re-run on Thursday, Vonn is probably out due to injury and Mancuso certainly must re-group mentally to compete.

Excerpts from ESPN (February 25, 2010) the Christian Science Monitor (February 22, 2010) and The Washington Post (February 22, 2010).

For more on peak performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

For mental conditioning tools and resources, click on Peak Performance eCoach, and request access.

Business Requires Increased Use of Mental Conditioning

As I work with clients and listen to colleagues, it is clear that the old days of business are over and gone. Organizations and the environment in which they operate have changed dramatically. Owners, executives, managers, and employees are caught up in the process of doing more with less, as budgets have been slashed, and many departments have been decimated. Despite the sense of urgency, it seems to take more effort, more communication, more influence, more negotiation, and more time to execute and get results. People endure a great deal of mental pressure just to perform at yesterday's levels and the market is demanding more and more.

In addition, the margin for error with so many businesses is approaching zero. Business at any level has always required mental focus but today with so much competition and so many demands day in and day out, the mental side of doing business has become even more difficult.

The need to think strategically is equally as important. If you look at most industry verticals, the difference between winning and losing business is miniscule. That difference can be equal to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, not to mention the direct effects on employee morale and shareholder value.

You hear many executives talk about staying with their game plan; focusing on results; playing to win; aggressiveness; but without a solid, well-thought-out strategy the difference between winning and losing starts to widen considerably. It doesn’t take much to lose focus, reduce efficiency, alienate customers, and fall below revenue targets.

Though many executives say they do, most of them don’t think enough about strategy, mental focus and conditioning; but they should if only to perform more consistently and effectively; and get more satisfaction, success and enjoyment out of their jobs. Today there are an increasing number of tools and resources to draw from to develop an effective mental conditioning program that is specific to business professionals and management teams; proven mental techniques to help you control your emotions and stay focused on getting business results; and strategic tools and techniques to help you develop and communicate a clear and well thought-out game plan.

Thinking a bit more deliberately and strategically about how to approach business scenarios (based on your particular talents and strengths and those of you team) can make a huge difference in how you ultimately perform.

Ironically, it is the most talented executives that have the most to gain from mental conditioning. Though an average performer may benefit somewhat, with a higher-potential and more talented executive it may be significantly more; and what a difference that could make in anyone’s performance (let alone their enjoyment of their effort).

For more about mental conditioning, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

For mental conditioning tools, click on the Peak Performance eCoach, and request access.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Evan Lysacek Wins Olympic Gold With Pre-Skate Routine

"When I'm getting ready in my room, I drink the same thing, I light the same good-luck candle I have — it's a brand from England called Cire Trudon — I listen to the same playlist, with songs from Jay-Z to the Virgins or the Killers, happy music that will keep my emotions even and not get my heart wildly pumping. I'm engaging all my senses, telling my body, 'Okay, it's time to go to that place.' When I get to the rink, I go through pretty much the same warm-up off the ice every time, so my body is continuing to get into that super-focused mentality. About twenty minutes before I go on, I put my suit and my skates on — that's my alone time — and I talk to myself. Self-talk is very important to me," he says. "I try to conjure really difficult days, days when I was sick or jet-lagged and felt horrible, and then think, If I can get through that, I can get through anything."

--Evan Lysacek, U.S. Olympic gold medal skater, who upset Russian Yevgeny Plushenko.

Lysacek is the first U.S. male gold medal winner in skating since 1988. He attributes his win to a mental conditioning routine that includes self-talk, pre-skating rituals, self-hypnosis, and visualization.

Are you as prepared for your important events?

Excerpts from the New York Magazine, February 19, 2010. For more click on

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

For mental conditioning assistance, click on Peak Performance eCoach and request access.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV: Peak Performance Case Study

"Everyone has such a passion for living. They deserve this so much."

--Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints' quarterback and Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLIV, discussing the city and the people of New Orleans.

Let's take a look at the New Orleans Saints' win over the Indianapolis Colts yesterday and their building blocks of success.


New Orleans Saints were playing for an entire city and state. Brees said the Saints "played for so much more than just ourselves. We played for our city ... and the entire Who Dat nation that was behind us all the way."

"We have a 1-year old son, and we're attached to this community now," Brees said. "We've made it our own, and we need to continue to help in whatever way that we can."

"I feel like we have fate and destiny on our side," Brees said. "We have the strength of not only a city and a community but I feel like an entire country, that there's a piece of everyone who wants to see us win the Super Bowl."

"Four years ago, who would've thought that we'd be here?" said Brees in reference to his signing with the team in 2006, a couple months after Sean Payton had taken the head coaching job. "Eighty-five percent of the city was underwater. People had been evacuated to other parts of the country. But the organization and the city decided to rebuild together and that's what we did. Today was the culmination of all that work."

For the Indianapolis Colts, the focus may have been too much on Peyton Manning's legacy. The media was ready to annoint Peyton Manning as the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time with a second Super Bowl win. From the end of the regular season on, the Indianapolis Colts also appeared to be planning very cautiously, including playing the regular season to avoid injury, rather than preparing and playing for success and victory. The irony being that the Colts sustained several injuries during the playoffs which did not help them in the Super Bowl.

Advantage: Saints

Mental Mindset

"We just believed in ourselves and we knew that we had an entire city and maybe an entire country behind us," Brees said after being voted MVP in New Orleans' 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. "What can I say? I tried to imagine what this moment would be like for a long time, and it's better than expected."

Advantage: Saints


The Colts seemed to be on their heels, particularly on defense, in the second half. They did not anticipate the Saints' onside-kick to begin the second half and did not adjust to the Saints' "fast-break offense."

The Saints' Tracy Porter intercepted Peyton Manning late in the second half through anticipation and preparation. He sniffed out the pass and knew it was coming.

Advantage: Saints


Payton will forever be known for one of the riskiest calls in Super Bowl history. The Saints practiced the onside kick they call Ambush for two weeks, and in their meetings before the game Sunday Payton told his special teams units that they were going to try it in the game; it was just a matter of when. During the long Super Bowl halftime, Payton made the decision to go for it. He was so confident in its success that he scripted the first eight plays of the drive that followed, too.

The Colts' Manning is the king of preparation, but this match-up might have to go to the Saints as well.

Advantage: Saints

Game Plan

"The first thing we cared about coming into this game was taking care of the football," said Brees, whose efforts helped the Saints secure their first championship in team history. "And the second thing was to be patient. We did both those things and they resulted in a win."

"I think they had a smart, patient game plan," said Indianapolis free safety Antoine Bethea. "They didn't make many big plays in terms of long yardage, but they made a lot of big plays in terms of timing. [Brees] was all about location. Their receivers found the open spots and, to his credit, Drew put the ball right where he had to, again and again. He didn't make great passes, but he definitely delivered [the ball] when he had to, and to the right person. He used the people around him really well."

Advantage: Saints


Brees finished one of the most productive Super Bowl appearances ever for a quarterback — completing 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was 30 of 33 in the second half.

Advantage: Saints

The Future

Continuous Improvement

“There is something about what we do that maybe allows you 24 to 48 hours before you start eyeing up the next challenge,” Payton said. “Somewhere last night we talked about Dallas, Texas and one of the greatest stadiums our league knows, and there’s probably never enough in regards to the challenge. When you get a quarterback like Drew Brees in the prime of his career, it’s not enough. Last night was great, and yet still there is something that burns in you to separate yourself more.”

“When you get back into the swing of things, it’s all about that 2010 season,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “There’s 32 teams that feel like it’s going to be their year. We know what it’s like to build something from the ground up. What’s going to be fun is using the term repeat all next year.”

Excerpts from (February 5 & 8, 2010), New York Times (February 8, 2010), (February 8, 2010), Canadian Press (February 8, 2010).

For more on Peak Performance, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.

To download the Peak Performance eCoach, a mental conditioning tool, click on The Peak Performance eCoach.