Advance Leadership

by Rich Bishop – Stop accepting mediocre!


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 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 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.


Why You Have to Learn How to Learn

Why You Have to Learn How to Learn | Advance LeadershipI’ve been accused by people close to me of diving into new things too quickly. When I see something that I am enthusiastic about and want to learn more, I jump into it like there’s nothing else worth my time. I LOVE to learn. I am a lot like a little kid who sees something for the first time – I am completely mesmerized by all things new. John Maxwell once said what he wants on his tombstone, and I completely agree with him, “Here lies a man who learned something new every day of his life.”

I realize that most people don’t share this enthusiasm for doing something new. In fact, some people are completely scared away by the thought of it. It’s hard to learn “new tricks” for anyone, not just the old dog. It’s always uncomfortable to put yourself into new situations that you haven’t experienced before. You don’t want to feel like a fish out of water. Most people would be perfectly happy to live every day of their lives from the comfort of knowing.

I had a recent conversation with a close friend of mine who was trying something new with her health. She is the type that shies away from things that are uncomfortable. She was getting so frustrated at not having the answers that it brought her to tears. “I feel so stupid,” she said through the tears trickling down her face. Feeling “stupid” will either be your motivator or it will deter you. Which will it be?

Not Knowing Is A Motivation

Those that advance are motivated by not having the answers. Those that truly leaders in life are not the types to sit on the sidelines because their seat is comfortable. One of the greatest perspectives that I have ever heard came in one of my opening conversations with a coaching client. He and I were discussing a start-up idea that he had and we were talking about how his business was going to stretch him to do new things that he hadn’t yet in his career. He said, “I don’t know everything about how to do this, but what I do know is how to learn.” Knowing how to learn is probably more important than learning any other topic.

Here’s what a curious (sometimes obsessed) guy like me knows about how to learn:

  • Dive in. Find all the material that you can about the new subject and read as much as you can. Want to eat healthier? Read all that you can about proteins, amino acids, and carbs. Want to start a blog? Study the most successful bloggers out there and find out what they do. Many of them will even tell you how they do it! The key is to dive into the info and purposely feel overwhelmed. This is how you start to truly absorb new things.
  • Be comfortable with not knowing all the answers. View it as a game to unlock the puzzle pieces. You can put it all together piece by piece, but you won’t ever start with the full picture. Be ok with gathering the beautiful picture one small piece at a time.
  • Just do it! The best way to learn something is to just get started. Too many people will research something to death, but wait until “the perfect time” to get going. There is no perfect time. You just have to go.
  • Learn from your mistakes (and you will make mistakes). Your one year old doesn’t one day find himself running up and down the hallway. He had to take an awkward step by himself and then fall. Then he got up again, only to fall again. This repeated itself over and over again. Sometimes he fell so hard that it hurt. He learned something new each time and made adjustments until he finally got it. It’s no different for you.

Learning is essential for anyone that wants to advance in their lives. Learning how to learn is probably the most important skill that you will ever teach yourself. Spend almost as much time learning how to learn as you do learning new skills and you will grow by leaps and bounds. If you like living in mediocrity, stay comfortable.


Why The Way You Talk to Yourself Matters More Than You Think

Why The Way You Talk to Yourself Matters More Than You ThinkIf you’re a parent, you know how important it is to encourage your kids. They are constantly looking to you for validation and approval of what they do, and there is nothing more effective to enforcing good behavior than showering them with praise.

When your child is learning how to walk and takes their first step… you encourage & praise them
When your child rides a bike for the first time… you encourage & praise them

The same continues throughout their lives. It also holds true for your spouse or other family members. That’s why we have graduation ceremonies from school. You want others to be proud of what they’ve accomplished or have added confidence in times of doubt.

Turn The Praise Inward

We spend all this time encouraging others, but do we speak that way to ourselves? If you’re like most, you wouldn’t dare talk to others the way that you talk to yourself. Could you imagine saying the things to your spouse that you thought of yourself the last time you did something wrong? Would you say the things to them that you said to yourself when you felt heavy and out of shape? Would you really come down on your kids when they make a mistake the way that you come down on yourself after one? Pause and think about that for a second. What words do you most often use to describe yourself, to yourself? “Fat?” “Stupid?” “You’ll never amount to anything?” You wouldn’t dare repeat those things to anyone else, so why is it ok to talk to yourself that way?

There is a great deal of research that points to the effect of self-talk on our performance. It turns out that the things you say to yourself will in fact come to be true. Not because you are fat or stupid, but because you SAY that you are. This isn’t a bunch of new-age psycho-babble, either. What you continue to say to yourself about yourself – both good and bad – will become true.

It can be a vicious cycle if you’re not aware enough to pull yourself out of it. You mess up, talk down to yourself, then mess up again because of what you said to yourself. The other side of that is that success breeds success. Perfect case-in-point is this amazing example is Michael Jackson.

Becoming The King of Pop

In 1979, Michael Jackson was 21. He had been a child star for years, but was struggling to be accepted as a relevant adult artist. If he was like most people, he would have said “I can’t do it” or “Maybe I am just a child star”. But that’s not what he said. In fact, he wrote himself a manifesto on the back of a tour flier:

“I should be a new, incredible actor/singer/dancer that will shock the world.
I will do no interviews. I will be magic.
I will be a perfectionist, a researcher, a trainer, a masterer.
I will be better than every great actor roped in one.
I must have the most incredible training system to dig and dig and dig…
I will study and look back on the whole world of entertainment and perfect it, take it steps further from where The Greats left off.”

You know the rest of the story. Did MJ talk to himself the way that most people do? No! Did MJ’s career look like most people’s? That goodness that answer is “no” too.

Perhaps there’s a correlation?

Maybe it’s time for you to start talking to yourself the way that Michael Jackson did. You ARE capable of amazing things. You DO have the ability to be much more than your family or financial situation would say you should. You CAN be great. You just have to say it to yourself first.

If this doesn’t come naturally to you, try talking to yourself positively for one week. That’s not much of a commitment. Just dedicate one week to being a “positive self-talk” week. Stop yourself when you have those negative thoughts and replace it with a positive. 7 days is all it takes to start building a habit that could dramatically change the course of your life. If you could change your life by giving it only one week of effort, would you do it? Now’s your chance. You can do it…

%d bloggers like this: