Magicians and mechanics

Magician's and mechanics.

That's how Paul Annacone (former American touring professional tennis player and then coach to Pete Sampras and Roger Federer who need no introduction of course!) categorises players.

Somewhere on the spectrum between a Magician and a Mechanic.

It's not a description or measure of 'talent'.

It's just the idea that the magician doesn't feel the need to hit so many balls to find their groove.

The mechanic, on the other hand, wants that volume of practice, particularly in preparation for match play.

You'll find when you arrive that the journey was the prize...

Interesting descriptions of happiness - outcome v process.

Outcome is the happiness generated by achieving the goal, winning the event, buying the new house/car/whatever.  Often fleeting and having no lasting nature.

I'm reminded of Boris Becker's response on winning his first Australian Open title in 1991 beating Ivan Lendll - he described an emptiness of sorts, almost a let-down in the achievement of the goal.  Jonny Wilkinson's joy in kicking the winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final was momentary, or perhaps even momentary relief in his (at the time) pursuit of perfection.

Process happiness is the happiness/joy based more on the 'journey' and the 'getting there'.  In this way, happiness has been described as more of a 'verb' - a doing thing.  And so by definition 'happiness' must include failure, mistakes, let-down, struggles.

We're always in such a hurry to get 'there' - wherever there is.  But of course, we so often find the old maxim is true:

You'll find when you arrive that the journey was the prize...

Make sure to enjoy the ride.  Today, in all that it brings, is part of that journey.

The inner game definition of 'performance'

Tim Gallway's book 'The Inner game of Tennis' first published in 1975 still stands the test of time in and amongst all the modern thinking around sport psychology.

I often refer to his definition of 'performance':

Performance = potential - interference

'A tennis player first confronts in Inner Game when he discovers that there is an opponent inside his head more formidable that the one across the net.....The Inner Game is that which takes place in our mind, and is played against such elusive opponents as nervousness, self-doubt and lapses of concentration.  It is a game played by your mind against its own bad habits.  Replacing one pattern of mental behaviour with a new, more positive one is the purpose of the Inner Game.'

'It takes years to change behaviour if that's what you're looking for.  But behaviour comes out of how a player sees things.  If he sees a tennis ball as a threat, he swings as if he's defending himself, and he does 33 wrong things.  In this way, you can make radical changes in performance with only a few sentences on perception.  See what he sees before you start coaching.'

The 'rules of results' and the things you can positively influence today

What things can you positively influence today?

List them.

And pin them up.

Then articulate the things you can't positively influence today.

List them. 

And then bin them.

It's just that trying to influence things you have no influence over equals stress/anxiety/worry, and it makes sense in my own mind to positively avoid unnecessary disturbance (in the force if you're a Star Wars fan!)...

I love that concept, 'positive avoidance' - almost contradictory in nature, I'm sure there's a posh word for that!

I also choose to use the word 'influence' over 'control'.  Control holds too many pitfalls - it's so absolute, particularly when fortune and fate come into play.

This all reminds me of the rules of results (results can be defined as any 'outcome') that I was introduced to many years ago:

1.  The results you are getting are the results you should be getting - fact.  Let's take responsibility for them, no excuses, no blame.  Whether at home, relationships, school, business, or sport.

2.  You can't control your results, only influence them.  I can have a 'say' in the result by focusing on the things that will help me give my best performance - hence why so many athletes constantly talk about 'my processes'. 

3.  If you want to improve your results, first try doing what you are already doing, but 10% better.  Then consider doing something differently. 

The old definition of insanity comes into play here: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.


The difference between banter, zingers, and humour

Banter is exclusive.  You have to be on the 'inside' and when you are not 'in on it' you are pushed out and onto the back foot.

A 'zinger' is designed to elevate the deliverer and demean, belittle the receiver.  Often disguised as banter, but you know when you've been on the end of a zinger - it hurts a little, but we tend to swallow it, smile and keep going.

Humour on the other hand is inclusive.  Everyone is in on the joke.

Choose humour, it promotes a great culture.

What's your energy source today?

What's your energy 'source' today?

What can you tap into to bring about the motivation to turn what might be another normal day into something more - particularly on a rather cold, grey, misty December morning!

I only pose the questions.

No answers, not for you at least.

Because your 'source' will be different to mine.

But in asking the question, at least we have to consider it.

For me, today, first and foremost it's that I reflect on the things for which I am most grateful.  My family, friends, health, work to name a few.  In just spending a few minutes with a world class 'attitude of gratitude' can bring a shift in mood and energy.

I've also spent some over the weekend re-connecting to the 'why' I do the work that I do, and when we re-connect with our deeper values and purpose this also shifts energy.

Not doing what I do out of desperation, because I 'have to'.

Not doing what I do out of rationalisation, because I 'should do it'.

But doing what I do out of inspiration, because I 'want' to do it.

In re-connecting with the 'why' I reviewed and tweaked the 'everyball' ethos, for perhaps the 20th time in as many years:

'We are committed to fight for everyball, to run down everyball and to play everyball with courageous purpose. We see everyball as an opportunity to explore, with curiosity and creativity, our potential to become all we can. We know that everyball extends beyond our sport as we learn the fundamental life skills & values of respect, responsibility, reflection and resilience that enable us to thrive in an ever-changing world' 

Fight for today, not yesterday or for tomorrow, just for today.

Make it a courageous fight, not seeking to be fear-less, but by overcoming our fears, particularly the four fatal fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of being wrong
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of emotional discomfort

Be curious and creative (going as far as you can using all you have got) as you seek to become all you can.

And when it all comes down to it, respect yourself by taking responsibility for 'every ball' that comes your way, and some time to reflect on the things that will help you to harness the energy to continue to 'bounce forward' and make today a masterpiece.

Have a good one ;-)

Leeds Captain Liam Cooper takes 'responsibility' head on as Chelsea go top of the league

Sir Chris Hoy's 3 non-negotiables (as described in his interview on the High Performance podcast).

1. Be on time

2.  Never refer to yourself in the third person

3.  No excuses - take responsibility

On the subject of no excuses and taking responsibility, I enjoyed listening to Leeds Captain Liam Cooper in his post match interview after their 3-1 loss to Chelsea yesterday.

Speaking after the game, Cooper said: “It was difficult and fair result in the end I would say.

“In the second half we weren’t at our best, we will go away and analyse that and improve in the next game.

“Chelsea are a good team, they will be up there at the end of the season.

“We are disappointed, I don’t think we got into the game as much as we should have and as much as we have.

“As a group we’ll stick together and look to improve next game.

The Whites did not manage to enforce their pressing game onto Chelsea as much as they would like.

When asked if he was unhappy with that part of the display, Cooper gave his thoughts.

“That’s something we will work on,” the captain explained.

“Chelsea have got very good players on the ball and sometimes it’s hard, they wait for you to come and drag you out then pop it off to the free man.

“We struggled with that and when we’re not getting there to anticipate the ball it’s always going to be difficult, because we put a lot into that, that’s a massive part of our game.

“They’re world class players, I’ve said it in the past and I’ll say it again, we’re learning on the job.

“We’re an honest team who will run and run, go to the last second but sometimes these teams have that extra bit of quality and Chelsea certainly had that.

“We’ve got to improve, we’ve got to be better and we know that.”

The 3 D's of learning - Sir Clive Woodward




Which then reminded me of the 4 'I' development process:

Immersion - Being deeply involved and engaged in an activity

Incubation - Step away completely from it and just allow things to incubate in the unconscious.  Often the hardest piece, particularly if you are a 'do-er'!  Lockdown might have presented such an opportunity?

Insight - Much like the distilling in Sir Clive's 3 D's, after a period of incubation you can draw new and greater insights into the activity you were so immersed in

Inspiration - The get back out there and 'do it' bit, inspired by the new insights you have gained

(Sorry, don't know who/where to attribute the 4 I process.  I originally read it as the 3 I's, but then added the inspiration to the equation)

Fountains and drains

Heard this on the 'High Performance Podcast' - The Shaun Wayne (England Rugby League Head Coach) episode.

Same concept as multipliers and dividers.

Adders and subtractors.

Is it time to explore getting rid of people who aren't good for you, the team, the organisation? Who drain you, who divide, and subtract. 

Be around people who fill your cup and be that person who fills their cup.

The room for improvement

That's the skill of the coach.  To discern what door the player/athlete/learner is presenting.

For we are all different.

We learn at different times.

In different ways.

At different speeds.

But can the coach discern what door is being presented?  

Because through that door is the 'room for improvement'!