Patterns of Performance: What We All Can Learn From the Practices of Elite Athletes
The further along I go in this coaching thing, the more cross-domain connecting becomes. When we start out, the fundamentals and basics are necessary to give us a base of support, not unlike a base in running. It’s why learning about the X’s and O’s of coaching, the science behind it, and the history of great coaches cannot be skipped. But as we grow as coaches, the innovations in training shifts to seeing patterns in ideas that may not come directly from our specific discipline.
All of that being, said, Brad Stulberg and I wrote a piece recently on how we can take what elite athletes do, add in a dash of the latest research, and translate that over to lessons that reach beyond sport. It’s part of a project Brad and I are working on that hopefully will result in some really interesting and thought provoking work. For now, enjoy the article below:
Specialization, a bedrock of our modern economy, is generally held in a positive light. The notion of gaining expertise in a specific field is widely celebrated, and our fascination with the “10,000 hour rule,” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell (i.e., it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert), is based on this premise.
But with specialization often comes tunnel vision, and we fail to recognize what other disciplines can teach us about how to excel at our own. As world-renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in his book Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, “It is important to keep in mind that most breakthroughs are based on linking information that usually is not thought of as related. Integration and synthesis both across and within domains.”
Through our (i.e., Steve and Brad’s) collective experience working with elite performers in sport and intellect, we have recognized two practices common in great athletes that can also be used to enhance more cerebral work: (i) taking control of personal evolution; and (ii) cultivating a self-transcending purpose.
Personal evolution, be it physiological or psychological, results when a stressor challenges the body or mind and then is followed by adequate recovery, yielding a positive adaptation. The hard part is striking the right balance between stress and recovery.
Steve, thank you for your contributions to a few trending articles (David Epstein,etc) about what we shouldn't learn from the practices of a few certain suspicious elite athletes. Your transparency has always shown your commitment to clean sport. You've followed a path that many of us envy and I can only imagine your disappointment with landing dream jobs in the past that may have disillusioned you. As it pertains to this article, clearly some people aspire to supernatural fitness when committed to personal evolution and self-transcending purpose. Thank you for trying to give us a more level playing field.