The Secret of Champions

10 09 2009
Shaun Goodsell, MA
President and CEO of Mental Edge

For years I have wondered what part innate talent plays in the success of athletes. Growing up aspiring to be a pro athlete I thought on many occasions,  “I wish I were talented enough to be as good as others”. In fact as I have progressed in business I have also believed that success is a by product of the genes you get and some are lucky while the rest of us are scrapping and clawing to rise to the success of others.  While attending the PGA Championship last month I started thinking about the pathway these athletes took to get to where they are. Could there be more to it then simply genes?

Recently, I came across a book that challenges the significance of innate talent in the success of athletes, musicians, and business leaders. Geoff Colvin has written a book titled “Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else”. Colvin makes a compelling case that THE ART OF DELIBERATE PRACTICE is what differentiates world-class performance from others.  He then goes on to describe this compelling concept:

“People who engage in intensive deliberate practice push themselves slightly beyond their current limitations physically and mentally”, writes Colvin. Doing this leads to greater perception, greater knowledge, and greater memory of what they know.  Practicing in this manner over a long period of time leads to the brain and body literally changing. When one learns to perceive more they are able to focus in on vital information that is significant when looking to creatively chart a course of success. For example, being aware of facial expressions in young athletes gives clues as to how they are receiving certain points of teaching. Often times a young athlete’s ability to be coached is closely connected to the closeness they feel to their coach. If a coach is not picking up on these subtle cues they miss information that is vital to their ability to influence a young life. In the same manner, learning to read important cues during a competitive situation gives athletes an advantage on their competition. It is this information that many athletes seem to miss.  Intensive deliberate practice not only improves an athlete’s level of perception but also increases their “working’ knowledge within their sport. It is as though an athlete’s knowledge base grows with each opportunity to play and practice in this manner. This dove tails with other performance coaches who encourage athletes to make sure they are always in the process of learning with each situation. Increasing their data base helps to inform them as to how to predict and approach different situations with greater mastery.  With this increased knowledge making decisions becomes easier and confidence in that process is increased. Lastly, intensive deliberate practice improves an athlete’s memory of what they have learned in past performances. When they intentionally go into situations with this mindset their memories of the working knowledge they have acquired increases and they draw on this to acquire an edge on their competition.

It turns out the mental aspect of performance is vitally important and learning to approach our performance opportunities with a deliberate intensive approach gives us the secret many champions use to create the Mental Edge!
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