Teach me to fail- an honest account from a Coach

So you train 5, 6 or 7 times per week, maybe more? You make sure your body is in peak condition. You eat well and you go to the gym. You invest your time; money and effort into your quest to stand on top of the podium .You want to be a champion. That’s fantastic.

But how often do you train your mind?
Here is a question for you. Would you be able to use your smartphone or computer effectively if you never updated the software? You would agree that the answer is no. So for what reason are you running current hardware (your body) on out-dated software (your mind)? Your body and mind both have performance requirements and continuously need to be upgraded.

Coaches and athletes spend countless hours to gain physical ascendancy or to master a skill with the intention of having the ability to perform on the big day (I could never understand why it was expected to swim thousands of metres every day if my event never lasted longer than a minute- anyways that’s a slightly different debate).The big day comes and you lose focus. You “choke” and all the hours you put into developing your body is irrelevant because your mind was not conditioned to deal with the pressures of performance? It`s heart-breaking isn`t it? But it happens to us all. The sad reality is that when athletes and coaches go back to the drawing board the solution is often overlooked in favour of doing more physical training- what was Albert Einstein`s definition of insanity again? I have been that athlete. I have been that coach.

Imagine training your most powerful asset to unlock your full potential? Picture what could be achieved if we were able to unravel the powers of our minds and effectively utilize all the hours of bodily preparation? Can you hear that little voice in your head telling you about what you can accomplish? How wonderful realising your goals will feel?

Let’s track back a bit first. After a promising swimming career ended without reaching its full potential and left more frustration and disappointment, and with more questions than answers, I found myself next to the pool; coaching. I had completed my studies in sport science and had a strong passion for helping athletes achieve. I wanted to prevent them from going through the same hardships I went through. I wanted to shield them from the limitations that were present when I competed. So I would dedicate my professional life to find the best scientific ways to train the body. I would research tried and testing methods as well as seek new inventive ways of getting the athletes “hardware” to perform optimally. These passions lead to consuming and systemizing knowledge and implementing it into my programs for my athletes and it worked! After a few years I had the privilege of coaching swimmers to national honours, representation on national teams and had represented my country as a coach. The highlight was undoubtedly coaching Cameron Van Der Burgh to his gold medal at the World Championships.
But for every tale of success and achievement there is a back-story and for every victory there is defeat. For every champion there are thousands if not millions that never make it. There are countless people that don’t reach their potential (in all fields, not only sport). Not everyone will be Olympic champion or owner of massive corporation, and that is ok, not everyone is meant to be but the true tragedy is never living up to your unique potential.

Lesson number 1: Defeat is not synonymous with failure, and there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
Sometimes the feedback hits pretty hard. Sometimes the feedback reveals some inconvenient truths. Sometimes feedback requires some pretty in depth soul searching.
What feedback did I get from my performance? What requires the most immediate attention? If I am already investing huge effort and many hours a week the answer is probably not more of the same! What do I need to do differently to change the outcome of my performance? What is missing?
Have you ever wondered what makes world champions and successful people thrive? Are there commonalities between various achievers? What do prosperous business people do differently? How amazing could my life be if I could just have what they have? Or know what they know. Well, what’s stopping you from knowing? What would you need to continue doing or do more of to ensure that you don`t succeed? Think about that for a minute. If you had to teach someone how to be depressed or be unsuccessful, what would you say or do? Or to demonstrate to someone how to perform poorly, what would you show them? What would someone need to hear from you to duplicate your results? Sounds weird right? But if you are the expert in being unproductive you should be a master at teaching others to be the same? Those that say they can and those that say they can`t are both right. There is a flip side to that coin that I will reveal if you read on, but first the feedback I gained from my performance as a coach was that more often than not, the major limiting factor was a mental block, not some missing technique or physical factor. You cannot out-train a weak mind! What a bitter pill that was to swallow. So how do I as a coach live up to my ideals to help people perform to their fullest? I needed to update my software. So I did my due diligence and invested in myself. I furthered my studies and became qualified in Neuro Linguistic Programming.

Lesson number 2: If you can identify the strategy and the structure of human achievement, victory and brilliance, you can reproduce it and you can learn to accomplish anything.
Can you imagine teaching someone to perform poorly? You would tell them something like,” well first you need to walk around with your shoulders slouched and head down, never looking anyone in the eyes. You should never believe in yourself and absolutely believe that whatever can go wrong, most definitely will. Think about all the stuff that you did not prepare for and all the times you did it wrong. You should feel fear, sadness and confusion with everything that you do and feel how it totally overwhelms you. You should submit and believe that you deserve to suck and that no matter what you will always be a loser.” Totally ridiculous right? But what if there was a way to turn this around? What if you could be move from being the teacher of failure to the student of success? What if you could unlock the secrets of people that perform?

Lesson number 3: Your body and your mind are part of the same cellular system and they operate in a cybernetic loop and those that are able to adapt and be flexible will rule the system. Thus the body and mind must be programmed and conditioned concurrently.
If something is not working or isn’t producing the result you seek, will you keep doing the same thing? I learned so much from working with Cameron. He is a master at being able to switch on at will. But the real value lies in also being able to switch off. Can you imagine how quickly your phone`s battery would deplete if the screen was on all the time, and you were running all the apps at the at once? Being able to step up and take the opportunity when it comes is to do exactly that. Step up, meaning rise to the occasion when it comes. It doesn’t help if you are always “switched on” your battery reserves will run out way before the opportunity ever presents itself. So yes, by all means prepare for the opportunity, but know when to be flexible and adaptable and when to give other aspects of your life attention.
So what advice would I have for the younger version of me? Well, definitely the three lessons above and many others that I will expand on in the future. But would I actually want to go back and offer that advice? The answer is no, because otherwise I would not be able give this feedback. I would not be able to give you this story. I would not have been forced to adapt and be flexible and learn these lessons.
What feedback are you getting from your performance in your work, academics, sport, relationships and life in general? What strategies are you implementing now to stack the odds for success in your favour? Are you able to read the signs around you and adapt to what is required?
What if we could show you how to elicit your plan? What if we could tell you how to listen for feedback and adapt at will? What if you could learn and understand how to program your body and mind instantaneously? Would you be interested in becoming a student of success? Or do prefer being the master of disappointment?

Contact us now: emile@meta4mance.co.za
Website: www.meta4mance.co.za
About Meta4mance Coaching
Combining the principles learned from coaching Olympic and world class athletes with sport science, business management, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching, the foundations of Meta4mance coaching is rooted in helping people improve their performance by looking at clients lives from an holistic viewpoint.
Meta4mance is about “The Metamorphosis into Performance” through:
1. Putting the person first (the person’s needs from a physical and mental/emotional perspective)
2. Using the correct tools ( in our case, sport and fitness training and Neuro Linguistic Programming/ NLP)
3. And changing and empowering the key role players and environment (coaching coaches, teachers, social workers, parents etc.)
Meta4mance has a proven methodology and track record of helping people produce the results they aspire to.

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