Focus in 3-Steps: Executive Coaching John Wooden Style

In a previous post, I talked about the acronym F.O.C.U.S.S. and how a person can create greater levels of purpose, self-confidence, and direction. Today, I’m going to approach the concept of “focus” from the perspective of one of the greatest coaches in basketball history, John Wooden.

“In 1948, I began coaching basketball at UCLA. Each hour of practice we worked very hard. Each day we worked very hard. Each week we worked very hard. Each season we worked very hard. For fourteen years we worked very hard and didn’t win a national championship. However, a national championship was won in the fifteenth year. Another in the sixteenth. And eight more in the following ten years.” ~JW

My question is this, “Did the teams develop to a point where they could finally win a national championship or did Coach Wooden develop himself into a national championship coach?”

 

First Step: Be clear who you are and what Skill you choose to pursue excellence in (internal focus).

If you are going to become a master at a skill or craft, make sure it is one that you love and will emotionally support you for the next 20 years. Then, work to be the best!

To support this assertion another quote, “I am not what I ought to be, not what I want to be, not what I am going to be, but thankful that I am not what I used to be.” ~JW   Focus on being your best now in this moment, every moment!

“For an athlete to function properly, he must be intent. There has to be a definite purpose and goal if you are to progress. If you are not intent about what you are doing, you aren’t able to resist the temptation to do something else that might be more fun at the moment.” ~JW

 

Second Step: You must set goals that align with the expression of who you want to become and the skill you are choosing to master.

Set BIG, HUGE GOALS (external)!

For example, I chose a skill set of running many years ago. After thousands of miles of mastery, there was room for growth to always set the bar higher in terms of external goals: a 10K, half marathon, marathon, Goofy Challenge, 50-Miler, 100K Ultra and the pinnacle…100-Mile Ultra. Those goals took 20+ years of focus. As I took yoga along the way to keep flexible and train, I didn’t set a goal to become a yoga guru.

Big Goals provide the impetus to learn to perfect yourself in the execution of becoming more. They create the pressure to become meticulous because every detail counts. A hot spot on your foot in a 10K or half marathon is not big deal, on a marathon it becomes a little more important but during an ultra-marathon it means the difference between success and epic failure. Large goals are critical because they provide motivation to be diligent, prudent, and sustain a heightened level of awareness; internal and external. That creates focus.

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” ~JW

 

Third Step: Large goals create large obstacles to overcome.

This scares other people away from you so you have more time and energy to focus on your pursuits and not be presented with their problems.

How often during the day are we interrupted, distracted and presented with other people’s problems and life issues? People tend to conspire with others who will give them solace, empathy, and commiserate with them on their problems. The more a person commiserates with another, the more they keep coming back for more commiseration! If a heavy set person starts telling you how bad they feel, most people think it is OK to say, “I’m sorry, you know, it’s not really your fault. After all its genetics, thyroid issues, etc.” What happens when they get that response?  They keep coming back!

Granted it’s not polite to say to them, “then get off your fat buns and do something about it.” BUT, if you are setting a high goal of health for yourself, that person will naturally shy away from you. They know intuitively, as they see you pack your bag for a lunchtime workout, they won’t get much sympathy. You scare them away by setting higher standards.

 

BIG Goals scare people away because they suffer internally by comparison.

This cuts down in interruptions, distractions, and people telling you their problems. FOCUS comes from setting a higher standard than your peers. An added benefit is that the only people who will interrupt you are the people who have high standards and the exchanges will be more in the form of support, encouragement and sharing of tips that help you refine and master your craft. These can be good because they actually boost your energy, efficiency and the time spent for the interruption is time saved with what is learned by sharing.

Welcome the adversity and feelings of “being alone” in your singular pursuit. This creates focus. Here’s a supportive quote.

“When everyone is thinking the same, no one is thinking.” ~JW

 

Let’s recap these three steps:

1. Be clear on who you are and what skill you want to master (internal mindset)

2. Set Goals in that skillset that are HUGE, stretch yourself as high and far as you can go!

3. Get comfortable with scaring other people away and being alone…set a higher standard. Your only interruptions will be from others with high goals. Those interruptions will be fewer but very supportive!

 “The road to real achievement is usually bumpy and long, but you do not give up. You may have setbacks. You may have to start over. You may have to change your methods. You may have to go around, or over, or under. You may have to back up and get another start. But you do not quit. You stay the course.” ~JW

To your continued success,

James, Executive Business Coach

Learn more about Coach John Wooden here:  www.coachwooden.com

To Reach Your Goals, Sometimes the Trick is to Underachieve!

Easter weekend is almost always filled with sunshine here in Raleigh, NC. The warm Spring weather usually leads to planting a myriad of trees, bushes, and annuals. Keeping true to form, I spent most of Saturday creating a rose garden in the back of our home.
As I was working, I found myself enjoying the thoughts of running again. The gorgeous weather urged me to put on my running shoes again and hit the trail. After the last six months of training, it was nice to think of going for a nice leisurely jog for three or four miles with no specific outcome, just running for the sheer joy of running — no expectations.
I so often talk about dreaming big, setting a huge goal, and taking massive action but sometimes, big goals lead to huge expectations, which can get the best of us. Huge expectations can often lead to being more overwhelmed or drained of energy than motivated and energized. 
When that happens, switch gears entirely and seek to underachieve! You read right: lower your aim. If you decided back in January to get in shape and lose twenty pounds but now you’re spending more time telling yourself you have to get to the gym than you actually are, change your approach.
Decide to go walk or run 20 minutes each day. One of 2 things will happen: either after the successful small workout, you’ll feel terrific and conclude this was doable. In which case, grabbing your running shoes tomorrow won’t seem so daunting. Result: total success; you have stopped thinking about what you have to do and you’re moving! Or, after 20 minutes, you will be so into it that you will continue running for another 5, 10, or even 20 more minutes. Imagine how pumped you’ll feel then! All the extra time spent exercising is a total bonus because you have only committed to 20. No one is expecting you to do more. Everything you have done above that is for the pure joy of the experience and creates feelings of massive success.
Success has a momentum all its own and will build on itself, just like the expectations. Sometimes what you need to get you started (and get you out of procrastination mode) is setting a goal that’s achievable right now. The initial outcome is not your ultimate goal, but sometimes to jump higher you need to lower the bar a bit. High jumpers don’t go for their personal best without warming up first! Once you’re in action and the adrenaline takes effect, you’ll gain momentum and naturally move toward succeeding at your bigger goals. 
So maybe if I hit the trail, I’ll only run 3 miles, for the sheer joy of feeling alive and vibrant. But in all likelihood, I’ll keep going a bit longer. And if I don’t, that’s all right, I’ll be out running again the next day because I can fit those miles in without pressure, and experience true feelings of success.
To your continued success,
James

Do You Have a Success Plan?

The gun went off at 6:00 am, Saturday morning, April 2, 2011. Twenty seven hours, 44 minutes and 34 seconds later, I crossed the finish line completing my first 100-mile Ultramarathon. What allowed me to succeed? Two things: a plan and my word!

It seems surreal even now. As I have gone over the event in my mind for the last few days, I think about the key factors that enabled me to reach my goal. It certainly was not all due to my training because in all reality, I trained harder and more consistently for the fifty mile race that I completed last year. It was not due to my superior health because I weigh a little more than I did last year at this time. So what was it? 

First, I got clear on what my outcome was.  I decided I wanted to complete the race in under 30 hours.  I did some research and I found a plan I could follow to do just that. Provided I ran the first 50 miles in less than 13 hrs, I could complete the race in twenty eight hours with two to spare for unexpected emergencies. I printed out the plan and put it in my race belt. It became my bible during the race. It broke down the lap times so that I had smaller goals to accomplish on the way to the bigger picture. I set small steps and overachieved each lap by about fifteen to twenty minutes. I used these minutes to take care of my body: changing shoes, shirts, and socks, using a full jar of Vaseline, and getting medical support. When I lost the map after the 6th lap, I felt like I had lost my best friend (I later found it). The plan saved me from destruction. It allowed me to focus on the small consistent actions that made the difference between success and failure: filling the water bottle each station, eating at each aid station, taking my electrolyte caps each hour, and consistently checking my watch to measure my progress versus the plan. 

The second thing that kept me going was my word. I created a tremendous amount of leverage for myself to accomplish this goal. I told my friends, my family, my clients, and everyone on every social media network I am involved with, that I was going to do this! Most importantly, I told myself that I was going to give this everything that I had! I did not give myself an escape route anywhere. 

There were times I could have quit. Before starting lap seven (after 75 miles) the Red Cross Medic looked at my feet and told me there was nothing they could do for my feet since the pain did not come from an external blister but an internal separation of skin. If I wanted to continue, all I could do was to slap on some Vaseline and suck it up. There were also several times in lap eight when I actually stopped and told my pacer that I wanted to quit, period. I was done. And, even as I said the words out loud, doubled over in pain, I knew that I could not look at myself in the mirror when I got home if I didn’t give it everything I had. And, unless I blacked out and they took me away in an ambulance, I could not stop. In those moments, I looked down deeper into myself than ever before, checked my handwritten plan, pulled myself together, and kept on going. 

It is ironic as I look back on my life, that 21 years ago, I could not run a mile.  It’s clear that if a person wants to have a full life they are proud of, success takes work and effort. It took just as much work and effort emotionally 21 years ago for me to push myself to run 8 laps, walk 4, run 4 more; to tell myself that I could run three miles and then keep on doing it every other day for the next 6 months. The only difference between then and now is that I have conditioned myself to take on bigger goals. My first 10K seemed like an eternity.  The first marathon I signed up for I never ran, but I signed up again and the next year I ran my first ˝ marathon followed by my first full marathon.  The first 100-miler I signed up for I cancelled but the following year I ran 50 miles. This year, I learned everything I needed to learn to complete a 100-mile race and accomplished something that had enormous meaning for me.  The road to succ ess has not come in a straight line.  I’ve tried and “failed” at times, I have fallen on my face and come short on some of my goals.  Yet, I have gotten back up and tried again, and again set in the conviction that our past does not equal our future.  By having a plan for success, a system to follow, and by putting enough leverage on myself to accomplish my goal, I put all the chances for success on my side.

Whether you are reaching for a small goal or a big goal, whether it has to do with your personal life or your business, success will always take work. To achieve all that you want in life remember that having a good plan that you can rely upon and keeping your word –to yourself and others– will always serve you well, even when all you want to do is quit!

To your continued success,

James 

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Fear, Anxiety or Excitement –which is it?

You will have to forgive me again for talking about running this week! This weekend is my big 100-mile race that you have all been reading about for the last six months, so bear with me one more time.  Well, perhaps I will give a recap on what I get from the race next week and then I am done talking about it, I promise!

Anyway, I as I was packing enough clothes and food for the entire crew of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier tonight, I am feeling a mixture of excitement, fear and anxiety. I always tell my clients, “If you are looking for financial planner, get one who is debt free and works because they choose to”. Same for a coach, “Get one who says I am my own best client.” 

I have been coaching myself hard tonight. On the eve of big life events, it is just like a ride on a roller coaster. There are only two main emotions on a roller coaster…fear and excitement. Picture the people on the ride…clenching onto the shoulder harness in fear and putting their hands up and screaming, “Bring it on!!!” at the top of their lungs.

What allows a person to let go of the shoulder harness of fear and scream with excitement is letting go of expectation and the “What if’s…”, along with having a little bit of faith and trust. Trust that the ride will end safely, faith that it will stay on the track, so you can enjoy the rush of adrenaline that each new exciting experience in life brings. 

Some fear and anxiety is healthy. It is what motivates me to remember to run upstairs and pack my rain jacket just in case. Being able to manage those emotions and put them to good use is critical. It allows you to feel prepared for the ride so you can let go, enjoy it free of expectation and trust that it will be a great ride. 
  
In the end, you will be living a life of events and rides that are thrilling. AND, you may find that you are addicted to the ride. So, I may have to go back on my word that this is the end of my writing about running for a while. After all, there is the Marine Corps Marathon in October with one of my Marine clients who will have just came back from a tour in Afghanistan (Stay safe brother!). And, I just planned for another possible marathon in France in 2013 with another fantastic friend. They serve wine at every water station and everyone dresses up! Life is full of such wonderful rides! 

Enjoy your life since you only have one. Live it fully doing what you love. Have a life full of wonderful tales to tell your grandkids as they sit on your knees! I hope you continue to ride the ride and remember that it is only a slight adjustment to go from fear and anxiety to excitement and fun. Enjoy the ride!