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 Need to Summon Your Inner Athlete for Business

Why You Need to Summon Your Inner Athlete for BusinessLife can be draining. You’ve got so many things to keep up with that you might feel like you’ll never get ahead. And just when you get close to being on top of things, you get hit with something else that sets you back. Yes, life can feel like a climb up a mountain while you can’t see the top.

When did “busy” become the most popular response when we ask, “How are you?”. I hear it all the time. We have made “busy” is a badge of honor!

Because of all this craziness, we’re run down and tired. Because we’re tired, we aren’t as effective as we should be at what we do. We feel behind, which only adds to the frustration and the feeling of being behind. It’s a vicious cycle. Is it possible to get ahead?

Is More Coffee the Answer?

One answer to getting ahead is that you could have another cup of coffee. More coffee is actually good for you, right?  While studies do show that coffee has some very strong benefits to mental and cardiovascular health, caffeine is an energy “borrower”. You may feel more energy now, but too much will make you feel even slower later. Is this truly the way to go?

There’s An Athlete In You…

We need to have more energy in order to be able to start getting ahead. Once we can master our own energy, then we can make a major dent in that sluggish feeling we have. Professional athletes spend a lot of time working on their bodies. They train hard and push their bodies to the max. Can those of us who work in an office environment learn something from them? Absolutely!

Athletes don’t just train hard… they maximize their energy to do so. And that is exactly the piece that many of us are missing from our crazy schedules.  What are some of the things that we can learn to help us get ahead? None of this is going to be a shock. You’ve heard it before when talking about your health. But these have a major impact on your performance at work, too. It’s not just about your health… it’s about your energy.


“You are what you eat.” When we’re running at such a fast pace, it’s fast food and vending machines that we hit first. That’s the last thing that we should be eating! That sugar and grease slow us down. I’m not saying that you need to go munch on kale and drink veggie smoothies all day long, but even small changes can make a BIG difference to your energy level.

A few tips – Keep healthier snacks on hand – chocolate protein bars in your desk drawer for those mid-afternoon chocolate cravings and almonds for those mid-morning or late afternoon munchies. At lunch, stay away from greasy fried foods! You don’t have to make big changes, just start with these small ones.


We all know that we should be exercising more. When people ask me, “What does your FitBit actually do for you?”, I tell them that it reminds me of how lazy I am during work. Looking down and seeing only two lights on my wrist tell me that I need to get moving. We don’t realize how lazy we really are when we work behind a desk all day. That drains us of energy. Exercise and movement, while it may sound counter-intuitive, actually creates new energy for us. Get up from your desk and walk around the block a few times a day when you have those cravings for another cup of coffee. Your body would prefer the fresh air and extra blood flow. Are you doing enough to move during the day?


I admit that this is the area that I have to focus more attention on. I’ve been doing ok on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. The less I sleep, the more that I can get done! But I have found that I would have a “crash” night every two weeks or so, where I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm. I’m not giving my body enough rest, which means I don’t have the energy during the day to be at the top of my game. Medical studies show that 7-9 hours is optimal for performance. So while I’m not going all the way to 9 hours, I am making a better effort to hit 7 hours and it’s making a big difference.


It’s obvious for athletes to care for their bodies and their energy to enhance their performance. It may be a little less obvious for people in business, but it’s just as important. If you feel like your energy levels aren’t where they should be, start making a few tweaks to your eating, exercising, and sleep. Small changes there could make a big difference to your productivity.


Why Size Does Matter in Success… The Size of Your Hustle

The size of your hustle matters for successHave you ever been told that you don’t have all the tools that you need to be successful at your job? It happens every day for aspiring athletes. There a prototypical “tools” that athletes of any sport are supposed to have in order to make it to the pros. In many sports like baseball and hockey, physical size is among them. That was a filter, at least in my own mind, that worked to push me out of baseball. I could have played division 2 or 3 baseball in New England. I went to college in Florida, where all the guys that were trying out for the team seemed to tower over me. I couldn’t hit the ball 400 feet with every swing at batting practice like most of those guys at 6’3” and taller could. I didn’t want to pursue a career in baseball badly enough and my size (or lack of) was a major disadvantage that I wasn’t willing to work hard enough to overcome.

That didn’t stop Dustin Pedroia from walking on to the team at Arizona State University. Pedroia is listed by the Red Sox as 5’9” and 175 pounds (exactly my size), but those measurements are generous on him. He is one of the smallest men in Major League Baseball where size is very important (just look at all the recent performance-enhancing drug controversy). Yet, Pedroia’s hustle is second to none. He practices with the intensity of a World Series game. His energy and effort have helped him to not only overcome a size disadvantage, but win an American League MVP award!

Along those same lines, Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning is listed as 5’8” and 183 pounds. Scouts used his size against him in scouting reports throughout his career. He was deemed “too small” to make it in the NHL. He has shown the same work ethic and hustle that Pedroia used to overcome his size. In just his second year with the Lightning, he led the entire NHL with 13 playoff goals in their recent run to the Stanley Cup Final. That total includes no goals in the last four games because he played with a broken wrist! His heart and hustle are quickly putting him on the map as one of the NHL’s elite talents. If you missed it, check out my post, 5 Life-Altering Lessons You Need to Learn From the NHL Playoffs.

You have a little Pedroia and Johnson in you…

I often hear people make excuses for why they “can’t” do something. Too many blame the environment or circumstances that they can’t control for not reaching their goals. While some of those things may prove to be a disadvantage, Pedroia and Johnson show us that almost any disadvantage can be overcome with hustle. Why is hustle so important for you in your success?

  • It increases your focus
    Hustling through and working hard helps keep you from being distracted. There will always be things to take your attention away. Hustle pushes those distractions aside.
  • Excellence is an expectation
    When you hustle, you take every project and every task as if it’s your World Series. You don’t have to “turn it on” when the spotlight is on because hustlers always expect the best of themselves
  • You want it more
    It’s often said in sports when a team with inferior talent beats a more talented team that they won because they “wanted it more”. Hustlers want to succeed badly. Success drives them to work hard and is their main motivator. When you want to win that badly, you don’t have to be the most talented… you just succeed.

You succeed because you hustle. As long as you keep striving for success with hustle, you’ll continue to win. Don’t ever let excuses creep in to your vocabulary and keep pushing your way to be great at what you do. Every business needs more hustlers.

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