Short book extract

This week has been interesting: It started with a meeting with an elite team that just needed to remind itself that it was one and refresh the behaviours that made it so in the first place.

What was great about this team is that it did not take long before they were back in the correct zone (the red zone) where they just trust themselves to perform at the correct level. Adversity once again is where any team needs to remind itself of what it needs to perform well.

We will always come back to basics.

Jumping ahead to Thursday I worked with another group who need to be elite all of the time as they work at the far right hand edge of resilience where the decisions they make are the difference between life and death.

What was great about this group was once again they were able to really identify their current start point, and examine what they need to do to improve their performance as individuals and as group. I am now in Dubai working on multiple projects.

This means that I have to stay in the zone for a prolonged period so as to not drop a ball. This is one of the times that I will be out of balance with work taking the priority of my time. On Wednesday I climbed Pen-y-fan and it was tough because I did it at a fast pace to assess my start point once more. My legs were tired for two days afterwards. At least I know how fit I am and the work I now need to do to get to where I want to be.

There is also a squash match looming and the loser pays for the champagne and dinner. Could be an expensive evening. I thought I would tie this blog in with an extract from the book that I am writing with RC at the moment. Happy for any comments.

Physical Resilience

The Greek ideal emphasized physical prowess and accomplishment in the arts as an important component in developing its citizens. Fitness was almost as important as learning itself, Mens sana in corpore sano a healthy mind in a healthy body. The body was ‘designed’ with the presumption that it would experience a certain amount of movement, and when this movement doesn’t take place, the body doesn’t perform up to spec.

There’s always been a tradition in any training that I have undertaken with elite performers that optimum performance needs peak physical and mental resilience. All should be in harmony, – the mind and body should be as one. For me it is really important I am physically fit. I want to give myself a possibility to win from weakness (the fitter I am the longer I am in the game, my opponent may be better but will he be there at the end of the day?). Arguably this is another basic.. Your ability to keep going when all those around you have given up is severely curtailed if you feel constantly jaded, tired or ill.

It’s impossible to give your all if you are suffering from poor health. Eat well, exercise regularly, get sufficient sunlight and enjoy fresh air. Then you will have the health, balance and vitality to take life’s stresses in your stride. A great way to look at health is to look at your strength, your aerobic ability and your flexibility as well as eating a healthy diet. It’s that straightforward.

Frank Hu, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health Good nutrition is essential for health but once-promising discoveries, including antioxidant supplements like beta-carotene, have turned out not to be magic pills. The single thing that comes close to a magic bullet, in terms of its strong and universal benefits, is exercise. Let your body go, then, and your brain will follow. Furthermore there is increasing proof for this folklore.

A groundbreaking investigation into the transformative effects of exercise on the brain, from Harvard psychiatrist John J. Ratey, Spark the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain backs this up. He provides a wealth of Neuroscientific evidence that provides a metaphorical shot in the arm to keep exercising. It draws together emerging findings that correlate exercise with a wide range of brain-related benefits—improving attention, reducing stress and anxiety, and staving off cognitive decline in old age.

Three-time winner of the Tour de France Greg LeMond calls it a turning point Having experienced symptoms of both ADHD and mild depression, and personally witnessed the powerful effects of exercise, he always suspected that the health benefits go way beyond just fitness. Exercise is not simply necessary, it’s medicine. You know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat?

The seemingly incontrovertible evidence: shows how. Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance. Even moderate aerobic exercise is seen to supercharge mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen thinking, enhance memory. Let’s be honest scientists are still not entirely sure how exercise primes the brain for learning but they have some good ideas.

There’s no way to say for sure that improves learning capacity for kids, but it certainly seems to correlate to that. The exercise itself doesn’t make you smarter, but the likelihood is it puts the brain of the learners in the optimal position for them to learn. Could be this another reason why sport brings out the best in people and helps transform and enrichen the lives of so many ? Ratey first noticed the link between exercise and mood disorders because he had a number of patients who ran marathons.

They told him they started to feel depressed after they stopped training. One of the first book to explore comprehensively the connection between exercise and the brain he shows new research that you can literally pick up a jump rope or go for a run and short-circuit the stress response. After a fast-paced workout, the muscles relax and often the worry or agitation eases as well. People who work out on a regular basis find they’re resistant to the stress response. They’re more likely to remain calm even in situations that would have triggered a toxic stress response in the past. In some cases, a regular exercise program works as well as medication typically used to relieve anxiety or mild to moderate depression. It’s at the early stage and it’s substantiating what many have recognised for some time.

The evidence is if you activate your brain with exercise, you’re going to release a lot of the neurotransmitters aimed for in psychopharmacology, you know. Serotonin drugs, dopamine drugs, norepinephrine drugs all tend to try, we think, elevate the levels of these neurotransmitters. Aerobic exercise does that pretty quickly. When you’re moving, you’re doing better. You have more dopamine circulating, more epinephrine, and eventually more serotonin. So, this is one of the quick ways of thinking about how we, all these things work in the brain.

There’s more elaborate effects and scientific support but if I go back to my early training days when people were put under immense physical and mental stress, the two tended to go together. Try testing someone completely exhausted after climbing Pen-y-fan (a 2,900ft peak in Wales.) on their mathematical skills or test their ability to navigate and it’s rather obvious.

In one study, that relates closely to my experience the effects of aerobic, weight, and no training on responses to a fiendishly stressful situation were compared. Participants had to answer mental arithmetic puzzles, which flashed up on a screen too fast to complete, while listening to distracting conversations involving numbers. Those who had undergone the aerobic training had reduced heart-rate and systolic blood-pressure responses relative to the control group. So it seems apparent that exercise builds physical and psychological resilience to the other event. We don’t fully understand why but it may by primarily due to improvements in general cardiac performance – the cardiovascular system becomes more efficient and doesn’t need to do as much work to mobilise resources in reaction to a stressor. In effect then exercise effectively raises the body’s natural ‘trigger point’ for the stress response.

On another occasion I put a top international sportsman in a stressful state, by simply wiring him up to a computer in front of his peers. When I asked how he was feeling now that I was about to test his intellect, he said “I feel fine”, his heart rate however showed he was at 175 beats per minute, even when we appear to be in control our internal self may be in over drive. The key thing is that he was still able to work at this high rate due to his physical fitness. How many people that are unfit would be able to operate with their heart rates above 80% or the norm? .

The benefits of physical health, particularly aerobic fitness are well proven. There’s another impact arising out of the status of being classified as being an elite performer that adds another dimension. In the UK Marmot knighted for services to epedimiology and health inequalities addressed the question of why do people of higher status have better health and live longer than those of lower status. We might think in binary terms of rich and poor high status low status but actually there is a gradient, the CEO lives longer than a head of department.

When he first examined the mortality from heart disease among British civil servants, he noticed an interesting fact: The lower the employee’s civil-service grade, the higher the age-adjusted mortality risk. Related to this he cited studies of primate communities that show higher status monkeys have reduced day-to-day cortisol levels, are healthier, and live longer. Longitudinal studies showed that it is status that matters; moving a high status monkey to a low status group raised stress hormones. Marmot and his colleagues found that only about a quarter of the observed variation in death rates could be accounted for by rank-related differences in such things as smoking, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Follow-up studies measuring the degree of control people had over their jobs found it to be a good predictor of the incidence of and mortality from heart disease five or more years later. In fact, job control and status accounted for more of the variation in mortality from heart disease than physiological factors.

These findings shouldn’t come as a shock . Not being able to control you environment produces feelings of helplessness and stress, and study after study has demonstrated that stress can harm your health. So it follows that being in a position of low power and status is literally hazardous to your health, whereas having the perception of and reality of power and the control that comes with it could prolong your life. There we have it scientific evidence supporting the virtues in climbing the ladder and elite performance. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Aerobic exercise helps the heart pump more blood to the brain, along with the rest of the body. More blood means more oxygen, and thus better nourished brain cells. For decades, that has been the only scientific link between athletic and mental prowess. People have been slow to grasp that exercise can really affect cognition, just as it affects muscles. Now, armed with brain-scanners and a more sophisticated understanding of biochemistry, neuroscientists are realizing that the mental effects of exercise are far more profound and complex than they once thought. The process starts in the muscles. Every time a bicep for example contracts and releases, it sends out chemicals, including a protein called IGF-1 that travels through the bloodstream, across the blood-brain barrier and into the brain itself. There, IGF-1 takes on the role of foreman in the neurotransmitter factory. It issues orders to ramp up production of several hormones, including one called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This is called by some this “Miracle-Gro for the brain.” It fuels almost all the activities that lead to higher thought. With regular exercise, the body builds up its levels of BDNF, and the brain’s nerve cells start to branch out, join together and communicate with each other in new ways. This is the process that underlies learning: every change in the junctions between brain cells signifies a new fact or skill that’s been picked up and stowed away for future use. BDNF makes that process possible. Brains with more of it have a greater capacity for knowledge. On the other hand, according to UCLA neuroscientist Gómez-Pinilla, a brain that’s low on BDNF shuts itself off to new information. In his experiments, rats were put through weeks of running on a wheel, a workout that increased their BDNF levels. Half of the animals were left alone; in the other half, the hormone’s effects were blocked with a drug.

Then he subjected both groups of athletic rats to a test of wits, encouraging them to find an object that was hidden underwater. The first group easily pinpointed its location, but the second, BDNF-deprived group wasn’t nearly as quick or sharp. Nature has conducted a similar experiment on humans. In unlucky people with a faulty variant of the gene that makes BDNF, the brain has trouble both creating new memories and calling up old ones. Most of us maintain fairly constant levels of BDNF in adulthood. But as we age, individual neurons slowly start to die off. Until the mid-’90s, scientists thought the loss was permanent–that the brain couldn’t make new nerve cells to replace the dead ones.

Animal studies over the last decade have overturned that assumption, showing that “neurogenesis” in some parts of the brain can be induced easily with exercise. A study, published in Science, extended that principle to humans for the first time. After working out for three months, all the subjects in the study sprouted new neurons; those who gained the most in cardiovascular fitness also grew the most nerve cells. This, , was the work of BDNF. Its second job is to transform stem cells into full-grown, functional neurons; more BDNF equals a bigger brain. “It was extremely exciting to see this in humans because it defied dogma,” says Scott Small, a Columbia University neurologist who co-authored the study with Salk Institute neurobiologist Fred Gage. As far as scientists know, adults can grow new neurons only in the hippocampus. But other parts of their brains benefit from exercise in many secondary ways. Kramer found that exercise caused overall brain volume to increase in older men and women. The same is true for blood volume, says Small: “Wherever you have the birth of new brain cells, you have the birth of new capillaries.” Active adults have less inflammation in the brain. They also have fewer “little bitty strokes that can impair cognition without the person even knowing,” says University of California, San Francisco, neurologist Kristine Yaffe. Still other scientists have found that athletes have more astrocytes, or cells that support neurons and mop up neurotransmitters after they’re used to send messages from cell to cell. And even the levels of those neurotransmitters are higher in people who exercise frequently. “Dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, all of these are elevated after a bout of exercise,” says Ratey. “So having a workout will help with focus, calming down, impulsivity–it’s like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.” Unlike neurogenesis, which can take weeks to occur, most of these additional effects appear almost immediately. Get off the treadmill after a half-hour workout, says Hillman, and “within 48 minutes” your brain will be in better shape. Alas, these benefits are somewhat transient. Like weight, mental fitness has to be maintained. New neurons, and the connections between them, will stick around for years, but within a month of inactivity, “the astrocytes shrink down again, and then the neurons don’t function as well anymore,”.

Advanced Basics

The human mind is without doubt the most powerful element in the World today. I have studied it in detail and looked at multiple research documents on how it works many of those documents are from leading psychologists and scientists who still can’t fully understand all of the connections/relationships within it. However from what we know and from my own findings, research and study in many different environments there are a number of themes, which without doubt if followed allow us to truly push the boundaries of our potential.

 

We are limitless, if we actually take control of our minds.

 

“Let me tell you why you are here reading this blog, you are here because you know something. What you know you cant explain, but you feel it, you’ve felt it your entire life, that there is something wrong with your World, you don’t know what it is but it is there like a splinter driving you mad”. 

 

The statement given by Morpheus to Neo in the film the Matrix is an interesting one, when we almost know that something within us needs to be understood or needs to change.  How do we ensure that we are open to new realities to see the World with new eyes?

 

If I could offer you the red or blue pill a pill that was offered to Neo to change his reality and would enable you to be in front of time and give you a clear strategic overview of your life, something that would enable you to be in front of the competition, to win, would you take it? I will ask you the same question a little later in this document.

 

I like this poem because I believe it is true, “our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure, it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the World. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us it is in all of us and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Marianne Williamson

 

The key about this poem is that when we realize that we are free to make our own choice and our destiny does in fact lie within our own hands this becomes a powerful responsibility.  We are not able to blame the world, outside events, other people for where we are.  We can only look into the mirror and take that responsibility ourselves. I can’t dictate what happens to me due to events outside my control but I can certainly dictate how I react to those events.

 

Plato captures this perfectly:

 

Here’s a little story from Plato’s most famous book, The Republic.  Socrates is talking to a young follower of his named Glaucon, and is telling him this fable to illustrate what it’s like to be a philosopher — a lover of wisdom:  Most people, including ourselves, live in a world of relative ignorance.  We are even comfortable with that ignorance, because it is all we know.  When we first start facing truth, the process may be frightening, and many people run back to their old lives.  But if you continue to seek truth, you will eventually be able to handle it better.  In fact, you want more!  It’s true that many people around you now may think you are weird or even a danger to society, but you don’t care.  Once you’ve tasted the truth, you won’t ever want to go back to being ignorant!

[Socrates is speaking with Glaucon]

[Socrates:]  And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: –imagine human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way;  All their life they have only seen the shadows of people passing behind them and heard voices that could only have come from the shadows on the wall.  Imagine if one of those prisoners escaped and realized that they were actually prisoners and outside there is another World not the darkness of the cave but a World with a sun and people not shadows, A world of freedom.  What would happen if he came back to explain this new World.  Would people actually believe him?  Or would they prefer to stay in the World they have always lived in?  I wonder.

When I look back at things I believed or ideas that I dismissed I sometimes cringe at my attitude and lack of understanding.  Strong opinions weakly held is always a good statement to remember and one I shall explore later.

So if I offered you the choice the Red or Blue pill, one to stay as you are now or one to enable you to really push your potential which one would you take.

The work I am writing at this moment seeks to give you the tools and processes to help you realize your true potential and it will be ready very shortly.

Work has been manic of late, I am currently working with the England under 17 team, the team has been coached by an enormously talented person AB who returns to his native SA shortly and will be a loss to the programme.  I have learnt a lot from him and wish him well in the future.  We are in Scotland to play their under 19 team.  Lets hope the weather holds up.

It is also a pleasure to see the First team take their slot as the number one team in the World.  Andy Flower the head coach must take the lions share of credit as he has created a culture that will last for the next decade and even if he leaves he has enabled a clear succession plan for the future. Simply outstanding.

Last week I was in South Africa and worked with an enormously talented company who really want to be number one in their chosen market.  I often hear of companies that state they want to be number one but do not put the training in place to become so.  This one has, it was a pleasure to work with the presentation team who delivered an outstanding programme.

We are a mirror of our behaviors so I hope to see them implement all of the changes they want to make.

Once again the term basics done well has been a key theme.  Defining the basics and what you actually need to do consistently well is something we should all strive for.  Advanced training is simply the basics done very well.

I can still recall the words from AS one of my first mentors:

He was one of the most authentic people I have come across in my life and his teachings on how to be a soldier have stayed with me my entire life. He was without doubt an excellent soldier and he once told me the following.  “to be good in life all you need to do is the basic of any task very well.  Advanced training is the basic things done exceptionally well. Never cut corners”, this last statement  I was to hear it many times was always said with intent (we never did cut corners). Al Slater  as a formative influence inculcated into me the maxim that under pressure doing the basics correctly will ensure success. Certainly what I learned from him has stood me in good stead for a long period of time because it was about the discipline of soldiering.  Advanced training is simply the basics done exceptionally well. Such a simple phrase, “just do the basics well”. In everything I have ever seen in life in any field the most talented do the simple things consistently. They follow a simple code that is so engrained in their psyche that even under the most extreme pressure they do not falter. Whenever you see someone perform at the highest standards you will generally see them applying simple strategies to their thinking and their doing. If their teams are also doing the simple things you will see a strong and powerful team that is difficult to beat.’  The sad thing is that most companies and people do not know what their basics are.

I am off to Dubai later this week for a few days to catch up on my work with Britam.  I am looking forward to this as we are in moment in time with multiple projects on the go.  We are fortunate that we have a number of key people in very important management positions who are performing at the highest levels.  Selection of the individual another key component of success.

Have a wonderful week.

Basics done well

I have just been thinking about basic things done well and what this actually means.  I have always believed and nothing has changed my mind that if you do basic things well in any activity be it sport, the military or any business you will succeed.  Advance skill in any arena is simply the basics done exceptionally well.

When I ask groups what are the basics an individual or indeed team has it is rare people are able to define what their basics are.  I believe there are three to five things that everyone needs to be in place to perform at their best.

I thought I would outline my own basics and what each element means to me.

  • Mind and body in harmony – My health is very important and there is no doubt that I perform at my best when I am in good shape, I eat well and my body does not have lots of aches and pains through neglect. I also work well when I have a positive frame of reference and no negative thoughts stealing my energy.  This first basic would be a priority, if this is in place I have a great start point.
  • Vision – knowing where I am going this week, month, year. Making this clear and unambiguous so that I can explain it in one minute with detail and most importantly that I actually believe it.
  • Visualisation – being able to see every element of my journey and anticipating the pressure spots. Most importantly working out solutions prior to the pressure spots and knowing how I need to perform and what support I need.
  • Practice – I practice and practice until I get good at something.
  • BALANCE – I have put this in capitals because it is so important to realize what you actually need to make you happy.  Family, friends, relationships, will be the most important things in your life. Money and man made things will not. Make sure you spend the majority of your time/thoughts in this area.

As I reflect on my basics I realize I need to work harder in one or two areas.

What are your basics I wonder????????????