One of the biggest lessons emphasized by my coach Mark Divine (and incidentally repeated in different iterations with every significant coach and mentor I’ve ever had) is that when you are in service to something greater than self your output can increase – often significantly. That if you can quiet the ego and, “Monkey Mind,” in times of great duress you can exceed perceived limitations. Frequently, during our Mental Toughness days we specifically work on a tool that Coach Divine introduced to me and now I’m passing on to the best of my ability: “Other Orientation.” Simply put, the idea here is to shift the focus from self (especially the self that gets caught up saying things like “This sucks” “This is hard I can’t do it…”) to a focus of actively and intentionally uplifting those around you and/or something bigger than the temporary pain you are feeling.
On Friday I witnessed one of my athletes – Matt Cipolla – suspend his physical discomfort, quiet his mind, and go WAY beyond himself at the end of particularly tough workout named “Hotshots 19″ (a hero workout honoring the 19 Hotshot firefighters lost in Arizona’s June Wildfire tragedy). Matt was beat (and I mean strained faced, defeated body language, cross eyed, drooling, might have forgotten English, ask him where he’s at and he’d say, “the state fair,” kinda thing,) going into the last round of 19 cleans. And then he, slash we, got really clear: 19 men died fighting that fire! Something so infinitely larger than the pain he was feeling and I was witnessing. Organically, I called the names of these hero’s lost to Matt. One by one he would grab the barbell and powerfully shout the name of each man lost,: “Jesse, Wade, Joe, William, John, Clayton, Scott, Dustin, Sean, Garret, Travis, Grant, Travis, Andrew, Kevin, Anthony, Eric, Christopher, and Robert.” Again, Matt was hurting badly, until this point. This perspective – gave Matt clarity, focus and strength. His last round of cleans were faster than previous rounds. Instead of shrinking in the last round Matt’s world and universe got bigger… There’s a lot that can happen between the ears and in the heart when we hear, “3,2,1 go!” Letting ego go as a dedicated practice can open up potential but more importantly it can be a conduit to qualities like humility and appreciation… qualities I believe that serve.