Why Great Performance is Off the Cliff

I was listening to Terry Gross interview Jeff Daniels and his comments about acting made me stop running and replay them. He was talking about the style of great actors: Clint Eastwood, James Cagney, Meryl Streep

Why You Don’t Quit

We strain to improve, each of us separately and all of us, as a species. You’re motivated to get better, pushed by forces inside and often outside of yourself: Hunger, thirst, your dad, your mom, your coach, your deep fear of what happens if you fall short of your goal, your hatred of the bite of losing. It’s obvious to talk about motivation in sport because the goals are clear and discrete. The score tells the world if you succeeded,

The Fifth Set is Tricky

I’ve found myself at 4-4 in the final set and could barely hold my racket, so unnerved about making the critical mistake that would cost me the match. I was so physically and mentally wound up that I looked anywhere for relief to escape the incredible stress I’d put on myself. I’d take huge swings at the ball or simply fold, two very effective ways to bring the match to a quick end, I discovered. Image via Wikipedia Compare my

Choking: You are what you think

Sian Beilock posted an interesting commentary on what’s going on in the brain when you’re choking. Dwelling on a negative outcome actually shows up in an fMRI brainscan: your flight or fight amygdala lights up and your motor controls drops. So you can’t run as fast, make the delicate chip shot or get a damn first serve in. You give up unconsciously. On the flip side, focusing on a great outcome, the brain doesn’t pre-emptively hit the panic button and

Fearing the page

I wrote 1800 words yesterday. Today: zero. The irony of it all is that I’m trying to write about fear and performance and I can’t get started because I’m afraid it will suck. I should just write it so I can read it and get through this. Getting over myself and just getting started applies to almost EVERYTHING. Related articles by Zemanta Why you fail at writing (scottberkun.com) The despair of the blank page (gointothestory.com)

Raising the Stakes

Image via Wikipedia You read about athletes artificially raising the stakes when they practice or are playing at other sports. Michael Jordan would bet thousands on a single round of golf, had a well-documented love for gambling and was known as being the most competitive person you’ll ever meet. While he was enjoying the thrill of high stakes bets he was exercising his tolerance for performing well under pressure. Michael Jordan had a reputation as being the one player you

Peformance Anxiety

The stress and nervousness that you feel coming up to and during a performance is vital to elite performance. This arousal is your body’s way of preparing to deliver a peak performance: dry mouth, sweating, wanting to throw up and shaking are all physical preparations by your body. We often confuse this physical state of readiness with anxiety, a fear of performing, of failing, of not producing our best game. Why do we get anxious? Consider a ten year old


“Self-consciousness is the enemy of accomplishment” – Philip K. Howard, TED 2010, referring to the complexity of the American legal system. Even an attorney realizes that over-thinking hurts performance.

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