Every day is the Championship day!
As I mentioned in my last couple of posts, I took a little over a month to go fly-fishing for Steelhead in February / March. I rented a house in Forks, Washington with a great friend and photographer Brett Seng, and we fished together just about every day. For a few of the days, I stayed with a group of friends at Jeff Brazda’s Bogey House on the Bogachiel river. Jeff runs an amazing steelhead lodge with the best guides and chef on the Olympic Peninsula. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend it. Every year, a good buddy puts together a group of anglers and rents out the lodge and guides in for a few days. This is also in Forks, Washington and I blogged about a prior experience here. Our host invited a guest he played football with who is an avid angler and current NFL coach. I am the only angler in the group that doesn’t have their own company but it was the Coach that I learned the most about company culture and taking personal responsibility for your career. The coach was not only the most unassuming guy at the dinner table, he was the quietest and most humble. Coach probably had the most to brag about and yet; he was the most reserved. I really admired his style. The only bling he brought to the table was a newly minted Super Bowl ring. If it were me, you would have seen jazz hands all night long and a guy waving the manicured digits like a newly minted, I mean engaged, Beverly Hills trophy wife showing off her 2+ carat VVS1 Tiffany bauble. Beverly Hill blowhard this guy was not. The coach was your everyday Joe. You would have never known this guy was a celebrity let alone a recent winner Super Bowl. Badass.
Coach retrained my day-to-day mentality
One of the guys in the fishing group is a world-class fly-fishing caster. He literally goes to international competitions where competitors cast for distance. Competitors cast with both their left and right hands and the caster with the longest total combined distance wins. He is extremely good, and he takes casting to a level that combines the balance/elegance of yoga and the power of an Olympic gymnast. In angling circles, casters at his level are referred to as Jedi’s and watching him cast will make you wonder if “the force” really does exist. He can defy gravity with rod and line. That all being said, our Jedi has the occasional tendency of psyching himself out on the day of the competition. The coach said he could “fix” our brother angler and what I learned while listening to the coach was personally life-changing. I won’t be able to do the lesson justice in 1700 words but I will provide the cliff notes.
Coach asked our guy a couple of questions:
Coach: When is your next competition?
Caster: April, San Francisco Casting Ponds
Coach: How far does the number 1 guy cast?
Caster: About 180 Feet
Coach: How far are you casting now?
Caster: About 180 feet
(Note: This is with a fly rod. Most anglers, myself included are not able to cast this far with conventional spinning rods and lead weight.)
Coach: So you can beat this guy?
Caster: Yes, in the prelim’s and the warm-ups, I usually beat everyone.
There was some more back and forth, but Coach’s message below is the loosely quoted meat of the conversation.
We do not train FOR the Super Bowl. We have a saying. “Every day is the Championship day.” We train every day as if it is the day of the Championship. This way, when the Super Bowl day arrives, nothing is different. With this mentality, the day of the Super Bowl day is just another practice day. The day of the Super Bowl is just another “every day.” If you train FOR the day Super Bowl, you can psych yourself out on the big day because that day is the “special day”. It is not just another “every other day”. If you train as if Every day is the Super Bowl, nothing will be different or “special” on the day of the Super Bowl. Every time you make a cast in your practice sessions, take one breath and have one thought. “One breath, One thought.” That thought may be that this next cast is going to be a championship cast taking place at the San Francisco Casting ponds.
“One breath, One thought.” was the mantra of the evening.“One breath, One thought.” I must have heard this 15 times over the course of the evening. He also suggested our angler fly down to the casting ponds and practice a couple of times in the actual environment so that he would know exactly what to imagine and think about as he trained with the mentality that “This next cast is going to be the championship cast”.
Yes, this is essentially the practice of visualization but when the coach explained it, it wasn’t an unbelievable mind trick. His explanation was sound logic.
Later in the evening, Coach said something to the effect of, “These guys are championship players. They need to be championship fathers and husbands. Every day is a Championship day. Not just on the field but off.” This guy was definitely a big picture thinker.
Needless to say, the softest-spoken guy at the dinner table had everyone’s attention and I went into my fishing bag and pulled out my little Moleskin to take notes. Some at the table were staring at me, but I didn’t care. This is the stuff I live for. These are the lessons that you won’t get anywhere else. This is the guy that created Super Bowl mentalities and moved players to believe in not just themselves but in each other as a team. What HR guy wouldn’t want to remember this stuff?
For the rest of the trip, we were constantly asking our brother caster the following:
Q:“What day is it?”
A: “Its championship day”
Q:“What are you?”
When you have everyone in the group, reminding you of how to think about your game and everyone in the group encouraging you, you can’t help but feel better and elevate your game. And that is exactly what I saw. The group dynamic changed. The mood was lighter and more celebratory. I can only imagine what happens at the professional level.
I fished with our competition caster over the next couple of days and saw his casting go to another level. He cast with “style” and “grace” and, he cast with a “street attitude”. His casts were landing right where they should. Even if you didn’t know anything about casting, if you watched this guy, you would know that he was something very different from the rest of us hacks. You could tell he was applying what the coach had talked about the night before. He was a Champion caster.
So, how does any of this casting and fishing stuff relate to the corporate world?
- If you are preparing for an interview, practice the interview questions and think about yourself in front of the hiring manager and in the interview room. See yourself confidently answering the questions and then creating a rapport with the hiring manager. Go through the entire interview in your mind’s eye. Coach explained that before the game, his quarterback goes through the entire game with all the plays on the field. He doesn’t just visualize the game, he physically plays a winning game.
- If you have a big presentation coming up, practice that presentation in full dress rehearsal mode. Practice in the conference room you will be presenting in and practice out loud. When you practice at home, imagine yourself in the conference room with the faces of the attendees looking directly at you and see them on your side vs. against you.
- If you are a manager, treat your team as if they are all champions. Talk to them as if they are winners. Talk to your team as if they are children, you will see the childlike behavior. Talk to them as adults, and you will experience adult-like behavior. It was great to hear the coach talk about this and it echoed my thoughts which I blogged about here.
At the beginning of the trip, I explained to my roommate for the month, catching fish would be great, but the goal for me is to learn. I didn’t catch many fish on this month-long trip, but I learned a lot about fishing, casting, tying flies, and rowing a boat. Just as important, I learned a ton about people, teams, myself, and group dynamics thanks to the folks that I was able to spend time with including the Coach. Next time you are doubting yourself, think about being a Champion.
See you at the after party
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
A quick update. I was able to land a new position and started the new role this week. I wanted to get back to my roots and work in HR vs. a COO role where I am responsible for more than one department. The HR team here is as committed to their craft and as passionate about company culture as any team I have worked with and I couldn’t be more excited. The HR department reports directly to the CEO and has a voice at the table, which readers know is important to me. I appreciate all the well wishes and support I had this past month from all the readers. Thank you.