Advance Leadership

by Rich Bishop – Stop accepting mediocre!

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How to Find Competitive Calm in the Spotlight

How to Find Competitive Calm in the Spotlight | Advance Leadership by Rich BishopThere were just a few seconds left, and the opponent was on the verge of scoring to win one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The end seemed inevitable. The crowd knew exactly what was about to happen. The millions watching at home knew it, too. Everyone expected the game to come to an end on the next play. They just didn’t see this coming…

The offense lined up with the ball in a formation that Malcolm had seen before. In fact, he had practiced defending a play that looked like this countless times… and was burned every time. He knew in his heart what was coming next and wasn’t about to be burned this time, even though millions of people watching were expecting it. Nerves can stop anyone’s body from performing the way they expect. Would the spotlight be too much for this rookie?

When the ball was snapped, Malcolm was calm because he thought he knew what was coming next. He sprinted to the spot where he had practiced for the last few days. If he was right, he might have a shot at stopping what seemed to be an inevitable touchdown. A few steps into his sprint, he wasn’t surprised when the ball was fired right to where he was going. He leapt into the air and felt the ball hit his chest. He held on for dear life as he was hit immediately. He hoped he could just hang on…

 

Last week, we introduced you to the idea that preparation, experience, and focus create a competitive calm that separates a great performer from a good one. We’re using the illustration of sports, but this is just as relevant in your business as it is on the football field. Have you ever been thrust into the spotlight? Maybe you’ve been asked to present a critical topic in front of an influential group or a potential customer at work. When the spotlight is on, your level of competitive calm will determine whether you flop or flourish.

Experience

Experience is a major contributor to your ability to generate competitive calm. Experience is actually the best kind of preparation, because it’s much easier psychologically to draw on past experiences in the spotlight than it is to rely on practice alone.

Your brain build muscle memory just like your other muscles do. When you first start to run, it may feel awkward and you may struggle to make it very far. However, continuing to run over time will make your muscles become accustomed to the motion and will make running easier. The same is true in big-time situations at work. The more you are in it, the easier it gets.

Focus

Focus is another area that can create competitive calm. Our brain goes into a state of hyper-focus when pressure is put on us, but too often we use that focus on the wrong things. We have to ask ourselves, “What is the most important thing to focus on?” Without asking that question, our brains will focus on what’s most familiar rather than what’s important.

What do you focus on when times are stressful? Psychological studies on focus have been conducted over the years that all point to the same answer – we will create what we focus on, both good and bad. Have you ever heard the comment, “don’t look down” if you’re standing at a height? If you focus on what’s below, your body will subconsciously work to move in that direction. The same is true for your business goals. If you focus on what could go wrong, then something inevitably will. (Important note here – having contingencies for things going wrong in a plan and focusing on things going wrong are two totally different things!)

Don’t believe the power that focus has on your body? Try this little experiment:

On a blank piece of paper, draw two lines crossing from one end of the paper to the other like a giant plus sign. Then draw a circle around the center about 6 inches wide. Next, take a paper clip and tie it to the bottom of a string about 6-10 inches long. Place the paper on the floor. Rest your elbow on your knee and hold the string between your thumb and forefinger with the paper clip over the center of the crossing lines. Focus on the paper, and in your mind, picture the paper clip moving along the line that goes from top to bottom. Hold your arm and hand completely still. Simply focus on the paper and imagine the clip moving back and forth along the line. What happens?

Next, do the same thing along the line going from side to side. Then, imagine the clip moving around the circle. What happens? Try to tell yourself “the clip is NOT going to go up & down along the first line.” Say it to yourself over and over again. Does it make a difference if you say something will happen or won’t happen?

Now do you believe in the power of focus?

 

Malcolm Butler not only had the preparation that allowed him to defeat the Seahawks’ attempt to win Super Bowl XLIX, but he had the experience of being in the spotlight all season. When the Patriots needed him to step into big situations, he did. His focus was outstanding in the world-wide spotlight too.

As he fell to the ground, all he could do was think, “Hold on. Just hold on.”. He knew that if he could just grasp the football all the way to the ground, that the Patriots were going to pick up their fourth Super Bowl victory. When he reached the ground, his teammates picked him up in celebration realizing that they had just done the improbable. The Seahawks were inside the Patriots 10 yard line with seconds left on the clock, and Butler had shattered their dreams of an inevitable last-second win. The competitive calm that Butler demonstrated in the biggest moment of any football player’s career shows that big things can happen in big situations when you exercise your competitive calm.

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What Separates Great Leaders from Great Doers?

What Separates Great Leaders from Great Doers | Advance Leadership by Rich BishopThere were just a few seconds left, and the opponent was on the verge of scoring to win one of the biggest sporting events of the year. The end seemed inevitable. The crowd knew exactly what was about to happen. The millions watching at home knew it, too. Everyone expected the game to come to an end on the next play. They just didn’t see this coming…

Every day, leaders in business are put under pressure to win just like leaders on the sports field. There are deadlines to meet and goals to achieve if they expect the company to be a winner. Just like in sports, business leaders have to manage complex plays by their competitors and stakeholders in order to stay ahead. Emerging leaders show a knack for getting things done. The most productive employees are often the ones that get the most opportunities to advance. Chances are that you’ve seen the golden child of the organization… the one that rises quickly from one rank to the next because they can produce at a high level. But being a great doer only gets you a chance to be in the spotlight. You still have to execute under pressure.

The offense lined up with the ball in a formation that Malcolm had seen before. In fact, he had practiced defending a play that looked like this countless times… and was burned every time. He knew in his heart what was coming next and wasn’t about to be burned this time, even though millions of people watching were expecting it. Nerves can stop anyone’s body from performing the way they expect. Would the spotlight be too much for this rookie?

Competitive Calm

What separates great leaders from great doers is competitive calm – the ability to stay calm and perform under pressure. Stress and pressure on your body makes it go into a flight-or-flight mode. Extra testosterone and adrenaline shoots through our bodies and activates certain biological responses that help us in times of need. Picture the caveman being chased by the saber-tooth tiger – every little boost was needed. That caveman (or cavewoman) still lives in you today!

Competitive calm comes from preparation, experience, and focus.

Preparation

Preparation allows you to anticipate what’s next and helps you to keep the situation in perspective. This new perspective calms us in times of stress. Athletes practice plays over and over again so they can overcome that fight-or-flight mode even when the spotlight is on. Being confident in what is coming next helps reduce the stress that the body is feeling. When the spotlight is on you, do you get nervous, or does your performance suffer or reach another level?

When the ball was snapped, Malcolm was calm because he thought he knew what was coming next. He sprinted to the spot where he had practiced for the last few days. If he was right, he might have a shot at stopping what seemed to be an inevitable touchdown. A few steps into his sprint, he wasn’t surprised when the ball was fired right to where he was going. He leapt into the air and felt the ball hit his chest. He held on for dear life as he was hit immediately. He hoped he could just hang on…

Preparation is a critical component to competitive calm, but it’s not the only one. Next week, we’ll look at the importance that experience and focus had on Malcolm’s play. Understanding it could just be the difference between you getting that promotion or being stuck in the same position.

In the meantime, ask yourself:

  • Am I fully prepared to reach my next goal?
  • Do I know exactly what is needed in order to reach that goal?
  • Have I anticipated what could go wrong in pursuing that goal?
  • If you have a major presentation coming, have you rehearsed it for at least 5 time the length of the presentation? For example, if you have a 10 minute time spot, have you prepped for at least 50 minutes? It may seem like overkill, but this is the type of preparation that separates great leaders from great doers.

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How to Begin Biohacking for Improved Performance

How to Begin Biohacking for Improved Performance | Advance LeadershipWho doesn’t want more from life? We could all use a little more energy, a little more excitement, and the list goes on. Last week, I introduced you to the concept of biohacking – understanding what works for your body and then doing more of it. We asked ourselves these questions:

  • Am I happy with my energy level throughout the day?
  • How many days a week do I grab a little extra coffee to get me through a lull?
  • Do I often wake up to the alarm, or am I up before the alarm goes off?
  • Do I find it hard to concentrate during the day?
  • Do I feel like I could be getting more from my mind or my body?

There are many different aspects that affect the way your energy and spirit. We’re going to tackle a couple of the first few that you have TOTAL control over and can give you an introduction to biohacking. First, let’s start with exercise:

Exercise

In January, I decided to make exercise my first biohacking priority. It was the thing that I was most familiar with, and I set out to find how much I needed in order to get a bump in my energy levels. I have never been a run-in-the-morning kind of person, but work demands have squeezed my lunchtime workouts while the Florida heat has made it impossible to run at lunch without sweating bullets at my desk afterward. I knew that I probably had to exercise 4-5 days a week in order to have the energy benefits all week, so I had to force myself to become a morning workout guy. I set out 2016 with a goal of running 5 days a week and have succeeded almost every week so far. That way, I had a little buffer to allow for a late night or two. I use the Endomondo app to track my exercise, and it syncs well with my Fitbit app.

It took me a little bit to get used to it, but it has done wonders for me with the other changes that I’ve made. My energy levels are way up from where they had been. My first experiment in biohacking worked exactly as I had hoped – I figured out how much exercise I need on a weekly basis in order to keep my energy levels high all week.

If you have a Fitbit or similar device, you’ve already started biohacking. But are you just using it to look at how many steps you’re taking, or are you using it to change your behavior? The primary key to biohacking is gathering information so you can change your behaviors in order to get what you want. The Fitbit app is great for tracking activity and exercise, but that’s not all it does! Its sleep tracking feature is becoming more and more sophisticated.

Sleep

Your sleep is just as important to your daily performance as your exercise is. I started getting into managing my sleep by using the Fitbit app. It does a great job of tracking movement at night to see how long you actually slept, as well as how often you were restless or awake. I used this for a few weeks and experimented with how much sleep I needed. Was it 6 hours? Was it 8? Every day, I asked evaluated my energy and how I felt. My number was obvious within a couple of weeks – I need about 7 hours of sleep a night. There were times (like when I was writing Child-Like Leadership) that I was consistently getting as little as 5 hours of sleep. I knew that 5 wasn’t enough. With 7 hours, I feel awake and energized when the alarm went off, and I even started waking up just before the alarm.

A few months ago, I wanted to take my sleep-hacking to another level. I downloaded the app Sleep Cycle and have been very pleased with the results.

The app uses the microphone on your phone to monitor the quality of your sleep and allows you to use variables to create reports on what impacts your sleep quality. For example, I’ve learned that eating late decreases my sleep quality by 7% and being on the road for work decreases it by 9%! Armed with that kind of data, I can then make changes so I can feel better in the morning. If I have a presentation to give early the next day, I will make sure I eat early to improve the chances of getting a good night’s rest. You can track any variable that you would like to (I track about 10).

One thing that has always been an energy suck is the alarm going off while I’m in a deep sleep. It’s hard to wake and get moving when you were in the deepest parts of your sleep cycle. The other cool thing about the Sleep Cycle app is that it will wake you up to a half hour early when it senses that you’re at the lightest sleep stage. That way, you’re not going to dive back into deep sleep right before the alarm. You’re up at your body’s optimal time to wake. This can create a BIG boost to start the day (that is, if you’re getting enough sleep to begin with!).

So Much More

There is so much more to biohacking, but these two are part of what I consider the Big 3 of biohacking – exercise, sleep, and eating. We’ll cover the diet aspect next week.

I’m only at the beginning of my biohacking journey, and I have a long way to go before I can be an expert. If you’re interested in learning more from the biohacking gurus, I would suggest that you look to Dave Asprey and Tim Ferriss. They can be pretty advanced at times, but there’s a ton of good stuff in their blogs and podcasts.

Until next week, happy biohacking!

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