Ever been in the gym and looked around at the other people and wondered what motivates them to be there? I do, regularly. Maybe it’s a little judgmental, but sometimes I even tell myself that my reason for being there is more important than their’s. Sometimes, even that thought is motivation for me. A mini competition that goes on inside my head to push myself harder in that workout. Now, that might sound petty, selfish and shallow (kinda is), and that’s why I usually don’t share that with others.
The reason I even bring it up is because the other day in the gym I had that same thought. Comparing another gym patron to me and giving myself an extra pat on the back for how much harder I was training than he was. In that moment, yeah it felt kinda good. Finishing the workout with a burnout core set, I carried that feeling of accomplishment all the way home.
I sat down with my post workout lunch and pulled up my Facebook. Literally, this was the first post I saw.
Let’s just say it hit home and that feeling of accomplishment wasn’t as strong.
I started rethinking my own motivations and what was the driving force behind my own goals and ambitions. Thinking back to the post, was I guilty of the exact opposite of each of those suggestions at times? Yup.
It’s been with me ever since and something I’ve decided to work on in my own life. The message applies to all aspects of life, not just the gym. It’s a statement about the world we live in today and our roles in creating a world based on positive experiences and growth and not shallow comparisons that make us feel good.
Ever heard/seen this?
If you haven’t, consider this your wake up call. I’ve seen it a thousand times and still need a refresher.
We all have those that we look up to or that motivate us in our own way. But have you ever thought people look up to you? They do. Everywhere you go, you make an impression on people, whether you realize it or not. In a world with so much turmoil and negativity, is it really that hard to spread a little positive?
I realized that I was letting my own insecurities get the best of me. I was using other’s as motivation in a negative way because I thought I needed reassurance that I was working hard. A quick Google, and I found this,
Again, it hit home in a very personal way. I’ve always been a comparison guy. Coming from the sports world, comparisons are everywhere. This guy runs faster than this guy. He is stronger than I am. I’m better at catching than him.
That’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality of sports at a high level. It is what it is. But, you don’t have to live your life that way. We all have the choice to make our lives what we envision, and I promise, putting people down (even in your own mind) isn’t the way to achieve.
Be warned, it’s not easy. Every time you open Instagram or Facebook or turn on the TV, you’ll be faced with content that begs for comparison. He’s doing this or she’s doing that, what does that have to do with you? Nada.
When it all boils down, we’re all just a grain of sand in the universe. Don’t worry about what others think of you and don’t pass judgement on others to lift yourself up. The man/woman in the mirror is the only person you should compare yourself too. And your only goal should be to be a better person than you were yesterday. Be a giver. Lift someone else up and appreciate the people that look up to you.
I’ll leave you with one last parting thought.
It’s not that hard, but sometimes you need a reminder. Grind to be a good person.
You’re in the locker room before the first game of the year. Head phones on, bumping your pregame playlist, getting ready for battle. The moment you’ve been working towards for the last 9 months is here and the anticipation is mounting. The countdown clock in the locker room is moving but not fast enough.
Butterflies jump around in your stomach and you can feel your whole body tense with anticipation. Pacing the room, sweat already beading on your forehead from the warm up which felt like hours ago. “Just get me on that field!” The energy in the locker room grows as the rest of the team starts to get antsy. The beast that is the team is ready to be unleashed.
Then it starts. One person on the other side of the room let’s out the first scream. “Let’s F@$&#&$ GOOOO!” And the room erupts. Yeeeees and Yaaaaas echoing from every corner of the room. Head butts and face slaps galore, whatever you need to get on that right level.
The walk through the tunnel is a blur. All you can hear are the thousands of fans in the stadium pulsing as they wait for the team to run out. The smoke starts pouring and thunderous applause and cheers explode as the banner breaks and it’s an all out sprint to take the field. In that moment, there’s no other feeling like it. The adrenaline pulsing through your body, the crowd getting fired up and rowdy and you standing on the field with your brothers. Flying around the warm up, bouncing on the sidelines as kickoff nears.
Finally, it’s time to get your first series on the field. You’re so amped right now you can barely stand it. It’s time. But the first play doesn’t go right. Mental mistake. Then another. You feel slower than you should. Decisions aren’t as fast, you’re thinking too much. “What the fuck?!” You think. “I’m ready, I’ve prepared, why aren’t I playing good?!”
It’s happened to us all if you’ve been in athletics. After waiting for so long to get in a game or event that you’re really excited for, your performance isn’t what you want it to be. You know your skills are there but when it matters, you underperform.
But what causes this? Why, after all the training and practices, do people still fail to perform?
It wasn’t until an evening meeting during my first fall camp at Boise State that I learned about the Performance Anxiety Curve. If you’ve taken any statistics classes or had any experience with Bell Curves, it should be pretty self explanatory once you see the graph.
Basically, the Performance Anxiety Curve illustrates the “zone” that will reflect optimum performance of the participant, based on stress. As with all Bell curves, the extremes are on either end of curve, but notice, performance is lowest at these ends. The middle, or “optimal performance” is achieved when the participant has a good balance or stress and focus. See the graph below.
As you can see, there’s that sweet spot that yields the best performance. And the key, is finding a way to stay in that sweet sport for the duration of your event. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Looking back on my athletic career, there are many instances where I’ve found myself all over the Performance Anxiety Curve. Even in my business experiences, I’ve found the same effects to be true.
Don’t peak too soon. It was a mantra around Boise State during my career. In part because we were a good team and expected to win every game we played in. That confidence, although a powerful tool, definitely lead us to some times on the High Stress end of the curve.
The specific instance I can remember most was during our opening game of the 2010 season. We were playing Virginia Tech at Fedex Field in Washington DC, for the Chick-Fil-A College Football Kickoff game. It was a matchup of 2 Top 10 teams and everyone was going to be watching. The 2010 Boise State team was arguable one of the best ever at BSU. And we were all juiced about playing the Hokies on National TV in with the whole country watching and 85,000 fans cheering in person.
We were all so hyped that during warmups, guys were going bananas. Flying around like we were already playing the game an hour before kickoff. Guys were soaked with sweat after warmups and it wasn’t a particularly hot evening. The atmosphere was unforgettable, especially being that VTech’s home field was only a couple of hours away. Home field advantage was an understatement.
But it didn’t matter to the Broncos. Once the game started, we were firing on all cylinders. We came out explosive and took an early lead. But even in the first quarter, we noticed some of our guys were dragging. By the second quarter, guys were cramping up, calling for substitutions and even though we were winning, we weren’t playing with the fire we came out with. We had peaked too soon.
All the energy from warmups and all the anticipation leading up to the game had drained us. As a unit, we were partially spent before the game even started. And it showed. We allowed Tech to get back into the game, giving up a large lead and almost giving up the game. Luckily, we held on by some spectacular individual plays and efforts.
When we got back to the locker room after the game, Coach Pete looked at us all and reminded us of the Performance Anxiety Curve. The coaches could see it before the game. We were all so hyped up and excited, we let ourselves get overwhelmed. Needless to say, after learning our lesson, the rest of the season had much different approaches to each game.
The cool thing about the lessons I’ve learned from the amazing people in my life and especially from football is how many different applications they have in life. The Performance Anxiety Curve isn’t just sports related. It applies to any event or engagement you might be participating in.
My advice is to slow down. When I controlled my own energy levels and didn’t get too amped up before the games, the natural adrenaline that you feel will help boost you the the right level. When I felt that I peaked too soon, there usually wasn’t a good way to recover and get back to the optimum level after the fact.
Next time you have something to prepare for, remember the PAC and think about your own levels or stress and performance. Find the right mix and balance for you so that you’re able to maintain a high level of performance throughout the event. Don’t let the energy drain you before you even start and don’t peak too soon!
Before you get too into the Sunday vibe, don’t worry, this isn’t a preachy post. I’m not going to shove scripture in your face or anything. Frankly, I’m not that well versed in the bible or religion. In fact, the first time I was introduced to Iron Sharpens Iron was in college and I had no idea it was a verse from Proverbs.
It was the first week of summer conditioning of my Junior year at Boise State. We were preparing for our first long conditioning day of the summer out on the Blue. We had just had a massive leg day in the weight room and everyone knew this run was about to be a beast. Coach Socha, our strength and conditioning coach, called us up in a circle before the run to give us the breakdown of the workout.
He pulled out a piece of paper and read the verse from Proverbs. “As Iron Sharpens Iron, So One Man Sharpens Another.” He asked if anyone knew what that meant. A couple guys raised their hands and said it was a verse from the bible, but there wasn’t a lot of depth added after that.
“Iron Sharpens Iron,” Socha continued, “is our theme for the summer. Just like the swords of old used in combat, you all standing here are the iron of this team. We have everything we need right here in this circle to be great, but it will be up to each of you to sharpen the man next to you. Be ready to compete.”
Compete was an understatement. That summer was one of the toughest that I went through in my 5 years. We had shirts made with “Iron Sharpens Iron” on them and you earned your shirt by being a standout in workouts throughout the summer. Whether you won every rep in sprints or were blowing your Rx weight out of the water in the lifts, we were always pushing harder to earn that shirt. After a brutal summer, we stood as a team, all wearing our shirts that we had earned over the past 8 weeks and we knew what it took to get there. Together we had sweat and bled just to prepare for what was about to come, the season. Together we were ready.
In the moment, the simple verse from Proverbs was just an excuse to bust ass and destroy our summer workouts to get the shirt as the prize. But subconsciously it created a new level of competition between the team. Each and every rep was an opportunity to show you were competing harder than everyone else. No one was going to let themselves be outdone either.
Now, years removed and looking back, “Iron Sharpens Iron” carries a similar meaning, just a different application.
The Bible explains that just like iron blades, believers involved in one another’s lives will experience mutual edification and stronger belief.
The same is true in the non-Biblical sense. When you “rub against” another person, you’re not only working on bettering yourself, but you’re helping that person better themselves as well. Together you both achieve more than if you had been alone.
That’s what Coach Socha was really talking about that day on the Blue. Not just winning sprints or squatting more than others. Pushing yourself while pushing others.
The office, relationships, and everyday life are filled with instances that could use someone pushing us to grow. That sense of competition creates an added layer of motivation to push past your previous best. The other person pushing you as much as you are pulling them.
The point? Find the other Iron in the different arenas in your life. Use that person as your sharpening stone to push yourself. Surround yourself with those that are farther in their journey than you are. Learn from people that know more than you. Push forward with your own goals to show others it can be done. Competition breeds excellence. And while yes, your competition is your partner or group or team, your true competition, as always, is yourself.
Sharpen Yourself. Sharpen Others. Grind On.