Reflections on cultivating a process-oriented competitive mindset…
On June 1st, 2018, I was relaxing in my childhood bedroom in Woodland Hills, CA (In suburban Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley) before heading to the golf course for an evening attempt at the Guinness World Record detailed in the previous podcast. I reflected on how I used to do the same thing—relax at home after school and before heading to track and cross country meets. Actually, “after school” often came at midday, as I would ditch afternoon classes on account of pre-race nervousness. Indeed, back then I would feel a profound sense of dread and negativity, fearful of the pain involved in distance racing and anxious about the outcome. Speaking of pain, when I raced in high school I didn’t realize the severe burning of the lungs and coughing for hours afterward was not due to the effort, but due to the terrible smog in Los Angeles at the time. This only became clear after my first collegiate meet on the oceanfront course and pristine air at UC Santa Barbara!
As a young runner, my self-esteem and sense of belonging was strongly tied to my athletic success. While identity-forming peak performance pursuits in career, athletics, parenting or anything else (ahem, politics…) can keep you motivated and boost self-esteem when you do well, attaching your self-esteem to the outcome of what you are doing is not as effective or resilient as cultivating a process-oriented approach. A results-oriented mentality can easily be shaken by failure to the extent you get discouraged and give up instead of persevere. We can all relate to feeling the wind knocked out of our sails after interviewing but not getting a job offer, getting your butt kicked in the athletic arena, or even getting dumped by a lame boyfriend. When you get shaken to the core and doubt yourself when you don’t experience the tangible results you desire, this only serves to drain your energy, divert your focus, and make it more difficult to reach your potential as a person and a competitor.
I relate how, before my Speedgolf effort, I felt the same nervous butterflies as I experienced in high school. However, this time the butterflies were entirely positive–the excitement of striving for a fun peak performance goal with a light-hearted approach. I had trained very hard and was highly interested in breaking the world record, but without the unhealthy dynamics of having self-esteem tied to the outcome. This represents the ideal peak performance mentality, best captured by a beautiful quote from the late Sir Roger Bannister (first man to break the four-minute mile): “The essence of sports is that while you’re doing it, nothing else matters, but after you stop, there is a place, generally not very important, where you would put it.” While I’m committed to getting over myself per the show mission statement, I also strive to keep the competitive fire burning and have ambitious peak performance goals that hopefully inspire you too.
Consequently, the place generally not very important where I put my Speedgolf World Record performance is on YouTube, baby! Hit the link and make it viral!
- Compete with intensity but release the attachment to your self esteem to the outcome. [00:00:53]
- The flashback Brad experienced teaches us how tied our self worth is to the outcome of our activity. [00:02:08]
- Consider cultivating pure motivation. [00:04:31]
- “Give it your all and don’t be afraid to fall on your ass.” [00:06:06]
- “The essence of sports is that while you are doing it, nothing else matters. But after you stop there is a place, generally not very important, where you would put it.” [00:06:38]
- YouTube Speedgolf Record
- Dr. Simon Marshall: Trains the brains of endurance athletes
- Sir Roger Bannister: Broke the 4-minute mile
- “Give it your all and don’t be afraid to fall on your ass.” (Simon Marshall)
- “The essence of sports is that while you are doing it, nothing else matters. But after you stop there is a place, generally not very important, where you would put it.” (Bannister)
Welcome to the Get Over Yourself Podcast. This is Brad Kearns.
“Had a strong attachment of my self-esteem to the outcome. I had great importance on the outcome and this is a whole ton of wasted energy and roller coaster of emotions that did not serve to make me a better runner.”
Hi listeners, welcome to a breather show. This is a follow-up to my recording about my speedgolf world record and all the life lessons and insights I obtained in my excitable state, relating the account of what I considered to be a miracle performance. Where I got a birdie while sprinting full speed on this Par 5 at Woodley Golf course in Los Angeles, breaking the Guinness World Record for the fastest hole of golf ever played. And the main important point I was trying to make was the importance of cultivating a pure motivation and a process-oriented mindset for your peak performance goals. Where you can compete with great intensity but release the attachment of your self-esteem to the outcome.
So, I explained how I was doing this with a light-hearted approach. It was “just for fun” but not really, because I realized that it’s really important to maintain those passionate peak performance pursuits. Not that they have to be life or death when you’re in the adult basketball league or the adult lunch league pickup games, and guys are about to get in a fight because it’s so important. I’m not talking about misplaced competitive intensity, but rather maintaining healthy competitive outlets, peak performance goals, focus discipline, leveraging all those things into all different areas of life; thanks to your passionate pursuits that are outside of your core daily responsibilities. Sports being such a wonderful example, especially for people who were athletic back in their younger days. And sometimes, kind of those things drift away and we become spectators, watching our kids and screaming too loud from the stands accordingly because we don’t have our own competitive outlets.
So, that was my message on the longer recording. But I did want to talk about this flashback that occurred in my childhood bedroom in the afternoon prior to the record attempt, and relating that to my high school experience as a runner. So, there I am in my childhood bedroom where I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and I was busy with a regular work day getting ready for this record attempt in the evening, this highly orchestrated record attempt with moving parts and many people showing up.
So, I said, “You know what? I should just kind of take a break, go lay down and take a little nap, relax, get my mind right.” And when I laid down onto my bed that afternoon, I got this flashback to high school when I’d come home from the classes and lay in that bed and try to rest in advance of the track meet that was coming up or the cross-country meet.
I remember when I’d lay down before these competitive efforts, I would feel this incredible sense of nervousness and dread, almost feeling sick to my stomach. One reason was because I knew just how much pain was coming forth in the next couple of hours when you’re racing in the mile, two-mile, double in a track meet or going out there on the hilly cross-country course at Pierce College and just suffering, and your lungs are burning and you’re coughing up phlegm for hours afterward. That was my experience of high school running.
I was in the situation where my social circle, my self-esteem, my identity as a young person was really quite tied up in how I performed as a runner, as you can imagine, when we’re mixed into that high school experience trying to figure out who we are. And so, part of that dread and that nervousness and those fears was because I had a strong attachment of my self-esteem to the outcome. I had great importance on the outcome, great fears and anxieties accordingly, and this is a whole ton of wasted energy and roller coaster of emotions that did not serve to make me a better runner.
Now, when you have those outside sources of motivation, oftentimes, negative motivation, the fears and the anxieties, it will get you to perform on the final two intervals of your workout when your pain and suffering, but it’s not the ideal way to perform as an athlete because it takes so much energy and stress.
In contrast, consider cultivating that pure motivation where you appreciate the experience of competition and laying it all on the line and pursuing a passionate peak performance goal without the attachment of self-esteem, without the dread and the fear and the anxiety.
So, the flashback that occurred was the pain of those stored emotional memories of fear and anxiety. But this time, I realized, I still had the butterflies going. Sort of had that nervousness and fidgety feeling that happens before you attempt a peak performance effort. But this time around, what’s this? 35 years later – it was a far more pleasant sensation. It was exciting. I was putting myself on the line. I had trained for months for this effort and I just couldn’t wait to get out there and enjoy it with my support crew and just go for it. Try to throw down and put the clock on and run as fast as I can and play a hole of golf.
So, it was a distinct difference from my high school days when I was all wrapped up in it, and so much more healthy and I believe indeed more effective for peak performance. Because you’re not all up in your head and getting nervous, anxious, possibly making bad decisions in training and in the competitive setting when you’re too full of yourself.
So, trying to get over myself in a great state of mind, getting ready for that golf event, win or lose, going to have a lot of fun. It’s not going to last that long either. That’s a good part about going for a single hole world record.
Dr Simon Marshall, noted sports psychologist and fine athlete in his own right and coach, author of the book “The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down” – that’s the title of his book. We’re going to have him on the podcast in the future. Very interesting guy with great insights. He says, “Give it your all and don’t be afraid to fall on your ass.” That’s representing the ideal peak performance disposition.
So, that’s what I was feeling, shaking my head, realizing the difference between those high school days and also coming to mind, a beautiful quote from Sir Roger Bannister, the first sub four-minute miler who passed in 2018, but left us with some amazing insights and a wonderful book that he wrote way back in the 1950s right after he retired from track and field competition to pursue a career in medicine, even though he was at the top of his game at age 24. And he wrote this amazing book. You can still find it on Amazon called “The Four Minute Mile”. And one of the great quotes he put in there was, “The essence of sports…” And you can fill in the blank there if you want to fill in parenting or your career pursuits or any peak performance goal that you’re pursuing in life. But Bannister was talking about his running of course. And he said, “The essence of sports is that while you’re doing it, nothing else matters. But after you stop, there’s a place generally not very important where you would put it.”
I’m thinking about my triathlon career, where for nine years it was my living, breathing, soul focus, priority focus as a human being, was to go faster and faster on the race course in the three disparate challenges of swimming, biking and running. And it was a wonderful time in life to give it my all and go all in with those peak performance goals and to wake up every single day and have this compelling challenge in front of you, that you’re going around and you’re working at the absolute limit of your physical capabilities, traveling around the world, racing the best guys from all over the place and just into this really exciting intense endeavor. Where while you’re doing it, it’s very, very important, nothing else matters – of course during the racing time.
Then today, I think of all those triathlon race results of the 130 races that I did on the pro circuit, and they now reside in a brown manila folder. Dark Brown, not light brown, like the usual ones. A brown folder in the very back of my file cabinet. And they have almost complete insignificance for many, many years since I finished racing a long time ago. All you have are the life lessons that you’ve learned, hopefully applied in day-to-day life. The growth experience that occurred because you were consumed by something interesting and focused on that.
Again, it could be parenting because you’re going to parent in a certain way during the childhood years, and then one day your kids are going to become adults and you just have to look back and reflect and be content with the idea that you went all in. You did your best. You had that pure motivation to give your kids the love and support they needed to be the best that they could be. And again, everyone releasing their attachment to the outcomes, especially in the age of helicopter parenting and high over pressurized youth experiences in sports and academics and everything.
So, that’s my breather for today. I hope you enjoy it. Go find a peak performance endeavor to go all in on and while you’re doing it, act like nothing else matters. But after it’s over, file it away. Talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the breather show.
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