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September 22, 2008

Goals, Projection and Breakthrough Performance.

I can with full confidence say that there was a moment when my life changed for the better. There are many such moments but one of those is a real highlight. The day I changed myself from a goal orientated person to a process orientated person was a big one. Equate it to finding a new favourite colour, getting a drivers license or moving to DSTV if you want, but this is bigger.

Goals

The big change came when I shifted from being driven by single results and getting to a specific goal. The goal was never big enough that I felt “full” and was always left with a hunger for much more. Whether it was an athletic achievement, an academic achievement or a material object I wanted “more than anything in the whole world”. My competitive drive meant when I got there, I would compare it to other results, other people’s toys or even worse, I’d be envious of other peoples stuff. People I loved. Looking back, not a particularly proud moment there for me.

SO, my shift went to immersing myself in the process of getting to my goals. Making sure I was giving myself the best shot of overshooting that goal, by being right there, in the moment, completely focussed on the whole process. Surprise surprise, but I first applied this to my sports life. I was driven to win whereas now, I am driven to being the best example of setting a goal and living that goal before, and beyond it. Ironman was a great fit for me and this year has been a fantastic one sports wise. I haven’t won a single event, but yet, I am more satisfied that I’ve ever been. I experience daily satiety and a quiet sense of real worth when I’m committed to this goal. I have taken my body places I thought were long gone and experienced mental breakthroughs that exceeded even my high expectations.

I have applied the same process to my work life and its really paying off as well. Opportunities come knocking all the time and people want to help me, because I am more open to wanting to help them in their processes. One of my first questions when meeting new clients is always “So what are your goals for this business of yours?” and they are generally blown away by that. My job is to get money out of people in return for branding opportunities across platforms and most people who do what I do are page pushers. I prefer to really get into their business objectives and help create opportunities for them to really leverage their brands, and in turn, return a sizeable profit.

I take pride in immersing myself in these goals and I am always testing new ways to grow this involvement, trying new techniques, reading up on new developments and equipment, new business structures and the way to get around our global economic crunch.
I read a really great 1 pager on the ability to Simplify. Click the link HERE , read the page, and then keep reading this post…

So, what I’m saying works for me, is to stop worrying about that finish line, as in my experience, the line keeps moving, as our egos are never satisfied with what they have. Here is the great bit… I have found that by being immersed in this process (and the more I believe in myself and my abilities and that I’m capable of so much more), I am constantly running through bigger and better finish lines. There are more people at each following one, and I keep becoming a better competitor, the whole way. Mnandi.

Projection

As South Africans, we have the natural inclination to back down from nothing. Our forefathers had to outrun cheetahs to get to dinner first. We had to face lions head-on in growling matches over buffalo carcasses. Whilst this is not entirely true, you get my vibe.

South African people have naturally aggressive stances. It’s that whole Benoni/Danville/Parow thing of “I moer you wiff a flathand” that has transgressed into a large portion of our society. We try to stand taller, wider and “dicker” than what we perceive as competition. This means every person we come across. Whilst this may not be true in Kommetjie where the hippies congregate, we project this aggressive view of ourselves without really knowing it. Even you girls do it. You are more competitive than us boys. Girls don’t like other girls. You’ll compare clothes (and how trashy hers are) and body type till the end of days. I call it “posturing”

I have the same traits and I examined other areas of my life to see where some posturing might decrease my ability to communicate. As a sales guy and a coach it has been my experience that if I want my opinion to be considered and well received; if I want to widen my reach and strengthen my message, I need to let others know that I am also listening. One step in the direction is letting go of the need to be continually right by assessing my own attitudes. In late 2004 my attitudes were betraying my emotions and insecurities. No matter how I tried to disguise them, they leaked out with the openness of an anatomical chart. As I started searching for reasons for the friction I created I started finding things about myself I was not aware of; some of it I wanted to change. The good news; I can change my attitudes and behaviour.

As well, if I am motivated to learn it is helpful for me to remain open minded. I should present my case and then listen to others who are willing to offer reviews, opinion and personal experience. I am more careful to avoid inflammatory statements than I was back in 2004 but still catch myself reacting instead of thinking. When I am conscious of wanting to communicate rather than be ‘right’ I use words like ‘often’ or ‘many’ or ‘some’ because there will always be someone that notes an exception to my thoughts. When I render an opinion I try to leave room for dissent. Phrases like “reasonably sure” accomplish this and allow a well researched position to stand on its own when others see things differently. The result, hopefully, is that I am less defensive with regard to my own comments and more open to ideas that might strengthen my knowledge base; learning from others that may choose to help.

Making others feel valued means listening, letting folks express their opinion before rushing in to give an answer. It isn’t my job to fix people. That attitude may result in a reaction motivated by what I think over what is true. Considering role reversal, when I have something to say to another, it might just be enough that they hear what’s on my mind or in my heart.

Breakthrough Performance

My breakthrough performances in sport, work and breakthrough relationship stuff (where other people would say “you had a perfect day out there” or “you were unbelievable our there” but where I would say I was perfectly prepared and raced to my ability instead of cutting myself short) have come from achieving a few things:

1. Simplicity – Whether you are considering new project development, sales strategy, or how to complete a stretch week of triathlon training. Increased simplicity improves your probability for success. Remove as much as possible from your life.

Specifically, to achieve top success requires the capacity to outperform your competition, daily, for a very long time. Some of the competition is more talented, more experienced, better funded; smarter… simplicity is an edge that you can give yourself.

2. Balance – every item, thought and obligation added to your life dilutes your ability to fully commit to what is required for success. Single minded obsession is often a recipe for a future crisis — still… if we are having a discussion about performance… then alternating obsession with recovery can be an effective strategy.

For any task requiring high quality, focused output (creative, technical, athletic) the periods when you are doing nothing are equally important to the periods where you are following your vocation. In athletics, periods of unstructured training (easy days, transition periods) can fulfil this role but you will still need some time where you are free to sit in a chair and chill out.

So when you are laying out your plan for breakthrough performance, I would encourage you to plan, and protect, your rejuvenation periods. I have watched some truly great athletes destroy themselves by trying to hold their athletic “high” a few months too long. I am currently watching one going through it again, and it’s almost time for that chat again.

3. Planning – early in your athletic career, your #1 focus should be building your capacity to absorb steady-state training load. If you aspire to be a top Ironman athlete then progress gradually until an average training volume of 25 hours per week can be achieved within a five month span. Just focus on the training, you’ll learn a lot. Once you can handle that load then increasing the average speed will offer a lot more gains than cranking the volume even further.

Note, the time requirements for athletic success imply very flexible part-time employment, or unemployment! With meaningful work obligations (that require analytic capacity), it simply isn’t possible for me to move much past 12-18 hours per week. Even then, I need to be HIGHLY organized.

If I can consistently put these 3 things together, then I am well on track to another breakthrough performance. Other than that, make sure you are having a lot of fun! Nothing kills my vibe faster than when I’m not having a great time.

Wow, that’s quite a post. Enough to keep your minds busy for a few days I hope.

Ciao. Raoul

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