Trust is a very valuable asset, and even though we commonly know trust as a perception (as in trustworthy) of an acquaintance, or a loved one. Most of us don’t do not know how to trust our bodies.
The human body is an incredible machine that records movements, patterns and thoughts into itself. With a lot of practice, the movement, habit or thought; which might have seemed inconceivable at first, became like an app that runs in the background, while you’re actively thinking of something completely different.
A perfect example is driving, when you were learning to drive, you had to actively remember to adjust the mirrors, push the brake pedal, turn the key (or press the start button) then put the transmission into drive. If you’ve been driving for a while, I am certain that every time you get in your car, you’re most likely thinking of a matter that has more urgency in your life, while your body almost automatically takes care of the rest. You can even relax your mind while you’re driving. Your car becomes en extension of you.
In the 1976 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Alpine skier Franz Klammer won the gold medal with a final run that skiers still talk about with awe. At the time the Olympic champion was Bernhard Russi of Switzerland; numerous times, officials had to halt the skiing due to dangerous, icy conditions on the course, and even though the event was allowed to continue, the course still seemed to slick to permit the kind of double-poling usually required for a fast start. Klammer, however skated hard out of the gate, double-point wildly. The ice didn’t give way, throwing his weight to one ski. To regain his balance, he tried to shift tot the other ski. He lost his balance in the other direction.
The key to wining in Alpine is to run the strightest line from start to finish, staying in a low, aerodynamic tuck while keeping your skis gliding flat, almost frictionless over the hill. Klammer was anything but aerodynamic. He whipped around the sheered corners first on one leg and then the other, clipping gates, just missing the out-of-bounds fences, his arms and feet flailing, his skis slipping and clattering as he hurtled down the mountain.
Most ski fans were praying for Klammer not to get killed. His own coach, Toni Sailer, later commented, “I closed my eyes and thought this was the end of the gold medal. I only dared reopen them when I didn’t hear the sound of a crash.”
Somehow defying physics, Klammer barreled over the finish line, careening to a stop, snow flying. He barely avoided piling into the crowd of fifty thousand who all seemed to be waving red and white Austrian flags. Klammer looked for the scoreboard: Russi 1:46.06. Klammer 1:45.73—the fastest time of the day and the gold medal!
The press was all over him. ABC’s Wide World of Sports, famous for dramatizing spectacles such as the “Agony of
Defeat” wanted to know
“How in the world did you do that?”
“What?” Said Klammer, as a battery of microphones stuck in his face.
“Well, I’m a pretty good skier you know,” replied the charismatic Austrian with a wink.
“No, how did you clock such a fast time with such a terrible run?”
“What do you mean terrible? I think gold is a pretty good color.”
One journalist pointed out that he was clearly off balance, his arms wind-milling, catching too much air, yet somehow managing to ski faster than competitors who turned in nearly perfect runs. Then came the classic reporter’s question: “ what was going through your mind?”
“What was going through my mind?” Klammer repeated, as if trying to understand what the guy was getting at. Nothing, I was just trying to get there [pointing to the finish line]. Fast!” Evidently Klammer was not thinking about the right biomechanics nor technique to maintain flat skis. He wasn’t thinking about gold medals either. Franz Klammer was just racing. Where? To the finish line.
How did he manage to keep skiing without thinking the same things that all the “average” performers (and reporters for that matter) in the audience were thinking.
How did he keep from thinking about crashing, breaking a gate, eating a gate, or surely lose his number-one World Cup ranking?
Those would’ve been better questions, the answers to those questions would provide the secret of high-stakes performance not only in sports but also for actors, musicians, business executives, doctors, and performers in every other field that requires someone to step into the limelight and excel under pressure.
Fortunately over the last decade there has been new research and hundreds of interview with people who are at the top of their game. It was found that they are not practicing what their teachers, accountants or attorneys advised. They are able to engage in a task so completely that there’s no room left for self-criticism, judgement or doubt; to stary loose and supremely, even irrationally self confident; step up and dod what they’re good at, concentrating only on the simplest nature of their performance. Superstars perform so naturally and so instinctively that they seem to be able to enter a pressure-packed situation that would terrify freeze most people as if nothing matters. They let it happen, let it go. They couldn’t care less about the results.
They play with their eyes. They just look at the target and shoot. And the ball goes in, the deals get closed, the stage performance is thrilling. The results are often works of art. Asking Franz Klammer to re-create his gold medal winning run would be like asking Leonardo Da Vinci to draw another Mona Lisa.
The good news is that research and experimentation have proven that this kind of exeptional thinking is within everyone’s reach. Before you can master this superstar’s mindset, you first must understand why, when people ask great performers
“What was going through your mind?” They are inclined to answer “Nothing”
Journalists tend to take such responses as displays of arrogance or coyness, or as rehearsed sound bites. But the neurobiology of High Performance confirms Klammer’s answer. At a cognitive level he was truly thinking about “nothing”.
If you and I were in the same room—about 6 feet away, and I'd ask you to toss your keys to me. You'd be able to handle that right? I bet that if I asked you to do it ten times in a row without any other instructions, you'd toss those keys right at me, chest-high, every time.
Most people would be wondering "What's so amazing about throwing a set of keys to someone six feet away? That's not hard"
You're right. Key tossing is a skill that we all seem to have. I bet that you could do it sidearm, left and right handed, or even behind your back. Tossing an object a few feet is so easy that, as the saying goes, we don't even think about it. To perform exceptionally—wether it's closing a critical deal, pulling off a big sale, moving an audience with a violin concerto, or even transplanting a heart—requires you to be in the sane state of mind, empty of any doubt, without any thought about the mechanics of what you're doing. You cannot pull up all those years of education, training, and experience in your memory as you perform—that's the "Training" mindset.
In the Trusting Mindset, you have to let all the expertise be there instinctively. Our skills are maximized when we let our skill do the work. Not our heads. As professional golfers like to say,
YOU HAVE TO TRUST YOUR SWING
Check in tomorrow for the neurobiology of high performance.
In good health,
Efrén Guerrero Rodriguez
High Performance Personal Training
The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine (3 ed.)
Principles of Neurobiology (2 ed.)
Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance John Eliot, Ph.D.