Team Selection Materials

Following are some favorite posts, coaching tips and articles. This selection has been curated by my readership! Thanks for reading!

Please also peruse the other top tabs, Failure as a Diagnostic Tool, Will-O-Meter, What Makes a Champion. These are the foundational tools of my mental performance coaching.

Curators: Jongria, Bill, Liat, Weems, JLM

Exploring the Corridor of Possibility: Posted on March 11, 2010

I was in Deep Temerity with a client a few days ago. We'll call him John. We got committed, or as an instructor friend of mine would say, "hung".

John froze. He looked down at the terrain-- a steep bumpy funnel that emptied out into some trees for about ten turns-- that he now had to ski, wishing that wasn't the case.

I watched his energy leave his body, I watched him float right up into his head and get swamped by all the terrible "what if's".

This moment in skiing is probably more what my job is about than anything else. Teaching someone how to effectively use the ski in the snow is helpful, but you can't expect to do anything like that if you've left your body and are telling yourself stories about why it's unlikely that you will succeed.

"John, I know you wish that you didn't have to turn here. But wishing you didn't have to make this turn does not change the fact that you have to make this turn. Eventually, you are going to have to ask your body to do what you need to do-- to head down the hill and turn your skis under you," I told him. It was time for some tough love.

He nodded, quietly. He wasn't back in his boots yet, he was still staring, wide-eyed and spaced out, behind his goggles at all the trees he could hit if he messed this up.

Now, this is terrain that is appropriate for John, we've been in short pitches with similar conditions and obstacles. Today, it was time to explore a larger canvas and see how he handled himself.

Right now, he was hanging himself out to dry.

I thought about this place and what it felt like for me to be in steep, high-consequence terrain for the first time. Just beginning to realize that it was appropriate for me to ski something marked double black diamond. I remember standing at the top of Hidden in Bridger Bowl, a steep chute with rocky walls, and thinking about all the possible consequences. I could see myself getting into the backseat and rocketing out into the rock wall, gaining speed and missing the hairpin turn, loosing a ski and tumbling into the rocks, sliding to the bottom and landing on my face... The possibilities for failure were endless.

But none of that changed the fact that if I was going to ski down that thing, I had to concentrate only on the center of the chute, the Corridor of Possibility. The things that could go wrong had to fade into the sidelines, like people standing on the sidewalk as you drive by. The only thing to see, to think was the white space where my skis would turn.

The next most important thing was to make sure that I was asking my body to actively and happily make the movements that I had to make to ask the skis to come around. If I held back, if I skied worried, or defensive, or unsure, something would go wrong, and just like self-fulfilling destiny, into the rocks I'd go.

"John, what do you have to do to make just this turn?" He looked at me.

"Move forward."

"Okay. Do that. Just this turn. Just one turn. Let's get moving. The longer you stare at it, the steeper it gets. Stem if you need to, but ask your body to move down the hill. You gotta WANNA! Show me that you want to make this turn."

He looked at me. He moved his body down the hill, his skis came around. "Wanna" he said under his breath.

Over the course of the run, John got a bit freer, realized that he was able, he was moving. He stopped every ten bumps or so to recollect, and over the course of the run, we talked about intention, about what it was like in that moment of absolute fear to find the thing that you enjoyed about being here. Was it pride of accomplishment? Was it the sensation of your feet turning under you? Was it the one-out-of-every-ten bumps that you skied well that made you feel so excited? Was it suddenly realizing that you could actually ski somewhere you never contemplated you could go, let alone ski well?

He made it. We scooted out of there and onto the cat track, and headed down to the chair. On the way up, it occurred to me as John began to breathe again, as he lifted his goggles up and grinned a slightly teary grin at me, that the Corridor of Possibility is where I'd like to live every day.

John was looking off into the trees, telling me that he hoped he'd never loose this lesson, that he alone has the power to destroy himself or clear the path through to the end.

I feel that I'd like to live in the Corridor of Possibility not just in the snow, but in my life. To acknowledge the things that can pull me off my path, destroy me, challenge me. To see them and to let go of them. In acknowledging their presence I take my power back; they become objects along the way, not menaces poised to take me down. And suddenly, there is a Corridor, a Way Through, and I begin to flow.

I hereby abdicate my responsibility to YOU! You fix it! 

Originally Posted Sept 11, 2011

If its scary to go to yoga because you have a belly, go anyway. Find your place of benefit, get over yourself and get to work Yup, that's me. Yup, my belly goes to Yoga with me. (photo Abbie Wade, Studio: Arjuna Yoga Aspen, Yoga Clothes: Heidi Hat)
Humans want something better. Humans want clarity. Humans want to feel that there is purpose to them. To their being. We all strive for it, but today, we have somehow learned that striving means hiring someone else. To strive well means to hire the best person to help. And while help is good, and educated help is a good path through nonsense into what really works, we forget that we ourselves, ultimately, are the ones that have to do the work.

Most of us want to abdicate our responsibility for healing, our mind, body, soul, energy, lifestyle, contentment, to an outside source.

When that outside source is a pill, the scientist who produced it is the hero. As in, I have high blood pressure, so rather than looking at what I may be doing in my life to cause it, what changes I can make over time to change that, and what healthier choices I can make in other areas that I implement myself, I will go to the doctor and ask him to fix it.  He will give me a pill, which I will take, which will fix it.

Shit. I'm still fat and unhappy.

I can totally take my "make my life better" pills every day. As long as they are easy to take, someone else reminds me to do it, and they don't make me too uncomfortable. Wait, this might be too hard, too.
Perhaps I will hire a personal trainer. And then abdicate my responsibility to that person. I've shown up at the gym for three weeks, three times a week. I have gotten slightly uncomfortable picking up heavy stuff and putting it back down over and over, and then I got slightly sweaty and uncomfortable walking on the treadmill in certified workout clothes for twenty minutes, but I'm still not skinny, so clearly either this doesn't work, the trainer isn't as dedicated as I am, or there must be some sort of medical procedure I can do that will short cut this. Because I've done the hard work and nothing is happening.

Guess what? I play this game with myself all the time. I have a fine pair of running shoes. There is a road right outside my house. I don't need a trainer to get fit. If I can run for 20 minutes a day on the pavement by myself, I will be more fit. This is a free activity. This activity increases "feel good" hormones, reduces stress hormones, raises my heart rate just enough to help ward off heart disease, increases cardiac stroke volume, gets me outside, and I come home feeling like I've really ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING. And yet. It is hard to do.

Because I have to do it alone, because its "uncomfortable" because because its easier to sit on the couch and wish I was fit and then be the slowest person on the hut trip every time we go because I refuse to take responsiblity for my own training, health and happiness. I may even blame my slowness on the hut trip on the weight of my pack or on my neck injury rather than telling the truth to myself, and to my friends, (I sat on the couch all day and ate ice cream instead of going for a run). Its easier than having to look in the mirror and see the fact that I DESIRE to abdicate my responsibility for my health and well being to a trainer who can hold me accountable.

If only I had someone to hold me accountable... I'm sure I could get so much more done...
 And then there is therapy. I'm unhappy, so I'm going to go to a therapist. And because I've paid my money to the therapist, that should be enough, she should do her job and I should feel better. And if I don't after six weeks, months, or years, its either the fault of the therapist, or I'm so happy just to have someone listen to me finally, that I feel better from speaking when I've been silent, but I refuse to realize that there is a deeper level that begins and ends with my willingness to look at me.

And then there is body work. Lay down on the table and have someone else relax you. Have someone else fix the pain. If you leave feeling better, the body worker is good. If you don't, find someone else. A body worker can be skilled in energetics, intuition, physical modalities... but they are still just a facilitator for you to take responsibility for seeing or feeling what you are holding, being willing to look at it, being willing to let it go, being willing to let it heal. A good practitioner makes that easier. Just like a good therapist. Or a good ski instructor. But ultimately, YOU are the one doing the work.

My point, and its not a new one, is that whether its religion, or science, sport, or psychotherapy, or art, or nutrition, when we are wishing for change, we have to put that wish into action.

"Its easy to want. Wanting is the easy part." Kurt repeats this at all the times when I want to kick him in the shins for saying it. Usually because I say I want to be a good enough skier to be a viable candidate for this team of instructors, and I'm not willing in that moment to work hard enough to get strong enough to ski well enough to realize that dream. So he is, of course, right.

Creating change often starts with FEAR.

Cave or learn. Your choice.

You have to look right at who you are. And how clearly you are willing to see who you are will change over time, and with practice. At first, when you look at who you really are, how others see you, what you hide from yourself, you will have a strange and skewed perspective of reality.

Because the reality of who you are, what motivations that you have come from a sound, and true place, a place of integrity, and what of your motivations come from old, deep coping, or a desire not to see what is ugly in yourself, is very heavily influenced in its form by how willing you are to see and accept what is in front of you without judgement.

I see six blades of grass sitting on the closed cover of a book.

I see a willingness to bend the truth in certain, but not all situations.

The grass was most probably pulled from the lawn on which the book sits, its proximity, the freshness of the grass and similarity of the blades tell me this is a probability.

The willingness to bend the truth most probably comes from a proclivity of one of my parents to punish me equally no matter how great the lie or truth was, making it safer to lie.

The lesson I can take from the blades of grass is to see, dispassionately and with clarity, that which is real and true before me.


The lesson I can take from the lie is to LOOK FOR the fear coming up, the deep and subtle signs that have been integrated for so long, catch it as it comes up, recognize it, dispassionately and with clarity, and do my best to own that this is me, my pattern that I now own, no matter how it became programmed in my mind, find that I have choice, and choose differently.

This lesson must be diligently repeated over and over until the pattern, the neuro-pathways that the mind follows when it is challenged in this way that makes it desire to follow the old patterns which appear to be safe, viable options. If you don't repeat this lesson, a willingness to walk down the dark hallway even though you are scared of the dark, over and over and over again until your mind believes that there is no boogey man there, congratulations, you have just abdicated your responsibility for healing to a pathway your frightened mind chose when it was trying to protect you in a moment of crisis.

Just because it is your pattern does not mean it is the only way.

And for real change to occur, most of the time, we have to be more than "slightly uncomfortable". Our bodies, for thousands of years, and even today in most countries, are designed for toil and hardship. Unless you are diabetic, it is not going to kill you to feel hungry.

To feel tired, over exerted, full of lactic acid, full of fear. To be a bit too cold or a bit too hot.

We live in a country, and many of us live in towns, where we are no less than five minutes from a coffee shop at any given moment. The safety net is there. There is a warm, dry place.

Do not become an amalgam of your fears, of things that have happened "to" you, of patterns you follow because this happened "to" you. Let go of your need for it to be someone elses fault. Let go of your need to watch someone who is successfully living the way you wish you could live and assuming it was easy for them to get there.

Wishing is easy. I wish I was as virile as this guy. Clearly, he can leap tall buildings in a single bound because he is fit, happy, independently wealthy and has all the time he wants for training. (Or am I making some assumptions here?)
Now you are abdicating your responsibility for change via blame on someone ELSE for doing what YOU should, could, want to be doing. But because you see someone who is fit and healthy, (emotionally, spiritually, physically, whatever), you chose not to see them as the mirror they can be, the impetus for change. (It IS POSSIBLE, here is proof), but to see them as a barrier.

(I can never be like that, I am fat and they are thin. They don't have kids and I do. I have a job I have to work 16 hours a day at, so I can't go to class.)


The person who is fit is you. You are the same. You are both humans making choices.

Can you become an ultra marathon runner if you are 37 and have three kids? Sure. It might be really hard and throw a lot of the rest of your life out of balance and cost a bunch of money and take some time away from your kids. You have to decide if that's really what you want or not.

But don't say you can't because you work too much, or you are just "big boned" or its too hard.

If its too hard, quit whining that its what you wish you could do. Wishing out loud you could be "like that person" but doing nothing, or something, but really, just lip service, and finding no results is again, abdicating your responsibility.

My step father taught me a lesson that I am grateful to have learned. The buck stops here.

Bonk. Often, this is how we feel in reality, even if we look like six pack guy up top there. This is okay, too. This is part of the human experience. Don't let it bury you, own you, or dictate. Find the lesson this is trying to teach you, recognize that implementing that lesson is YOUR responsibility, and get to work.
No one is going to take responsibility for your mistakes, errors and bad judgements. Ultimately, you decide to man up and stand in front of the board and the investors (in your case the board and the investors might just be your internal critic and your shrink), and say, yes. That was a decision that I made, which caused this series of bad things to happen, and I own the responsibility for that decision, and the actions that followed.

You do not try to shirk your responsibility, search desperately for someone to shed some blame on. You grow stronger standing on top of every decision you make with ownership. This is courage.

Is it incredibly scary to do this? Of course it is! No one said it wouldn't be! Just like lacing up running shoes the first fifteen times is scary. Just like showing up to yoga when you have a fat belly that rolls over your yoga pants is scary. Just like telling the truth when you want to lie. Just like letting someone love you when you feel you don't deserve love.

These are all opportunities for you to own it, to look at it, to absorb it as your own, to see yourself clearly, to be willing to look for, and learn the lesson by getting after it again, and again, and again, until the new truth, and probably the next lesson, is revealed to you through your hard, uncomfortable, relentlessly never ending hard work towards being whole, better, balanced and real.

Let me be clear here. Seek out and ask for help. Be curious. Learn. Hire expert help. And then incorporate and follow their advice. Make it your own. Look at your responsibility in this. Be willing to be accountable. Be willing to suffer. Be willing to be present. Because then you are taking action toward that thing you were "wanting".

Now you are doing. Becoming. Growing. Nice work.

Alright. Rant over. There's more about the religion of touch, food, exercise, and the cult of things that soothe my ego, (everything is religion) but that's another post. Have a nice day, I'm going to take my fat ass to YOGA!

Work is Prayer: cultivating gratitude in everything 

Originally posted June 24, 2011

How do you live this, teach this, and even begin to understand this?
I just finished this painting, (which is painted after and inspired by one of my favorite albums to do massage to). Its in the kitchen over the sink, because we don't have a dishwasher, and I'm not a fan of doing dishes. Three or four or five times a day.

Ethan and Bodhi both asked me, what does "Work is Prayer" mean? Explaining this esoteric concept to myself was dificult enough. Wording it for adults was still a challenge. Eplaining it to a 7 and a 9 year old in a way that they could grasp made it come very clear to me.

I think on the simple level about the problem of the dishes. There are dishes. I don't want to wash them. But there is the fact that I am healthy, my kids are healthy. We have a home and a kitchen and food to cook. We have the means to buy food that is healthy for our bodies.

The dishes exist because of the bounty we live in. There are blessings all around, from the big sloping lawn outside my windows to the stream that flows down it from the trout pond where the kids like to swim.

When I look at the dishes, if I can cultivate gratitude for the task ahead of me, for whatever portion of it I can latch onto, maybe first just that they exist because I've fed my kids and I'm glad to have done that, maybe next that I'm healthy and able to stand and work, and then finally, to find peace, grace, and gratitude in the act of washing.

I think it comes down again to acceptance and wishing. If I wish the dishes did not need doing or did not exist, I'm adding to my suffering. I'm working reluctantly. If I accept that the dishes exist, my wishing isn't going to change that, and so accept the present moment as it is, with neither positives nor negatives, blessings or curses, it is just this moment with everything existing in the world in this moment as it does, I am suddenly free.

Free to call up gratitude for life, for growth, for work, and watch my hands make the dishes clean, taking pride in the thorough job, observing how my heart transforms when I do a task that I'm not fond of with willingness and without judgement.

Work becomes meditation, or prayer. It is a privilege, an opening, a growth, a place of gratitude unfolding.

It is a moment to practice for moments that "really" count. For those moments when you have to wash the dishes of your life, your love, your relationships. When you have to accept the present moment as it is when that present moment may include heart break, loss, love, pain, or joy.

Its a moment of gratitude. Now, if I can just get Ethan to understand that when he has to take the trash out...

Just Show Up. 

Originally Posted May 12, 2011

I was talking with my dear sister (no, the other one. the one you are thinking of is in Spain!!) this morning, and she asked me... "How do you do it? How do you actually get started? And then how do you make a change in your life that lasts? And then, if you go back to your old habits, how do you start again?"

This is SUCH an important question.

She said, "I know Nike says "Just do it." But I don't know how."

We had a beautiful conversation about how to make the change in your life so that it stays, so that you are the change, so that you are growing and becoming. And then I thought I'd better write it down for the rest of us, too!

"Well, I don't have time today."  This is the excuse that keeps it from happening, and while it may be true you may actually not have time today, most likely the reason that you don't have time is because you're used to not having time.

You're doing the best you can to fit in everything.  You're lucky if you actually make it to the post office.  You know if you make it to the post office, the grocery store and you get the laundry folded and put away, then you've done three things that you don't have time for, let alone getting yourself to a 90-minute yoga class which actually takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes including
driving and getting in, getting out and showering, so really who has TWO hours extra?

Nobody. Not one of us. Not even the people that are there, in Yoga. They don't have two extra hours.

This level of awesomeness is not required every time. But it might be the accidental result of showing up. You never know.
The point is is that if you want fitness in your life, if you want your blood pressure to go down, you want to not have insomnia and depression, you want to have extra energy, you want to have clarity and balance and a strong body, not even a super ripped body, just a body that has movement and is functioning well, then you have to make time for it.

And I know everybody says that you have to make time for it, but I mean it.  You have to make
time for it in the same way that you make time for the other things you've decided are indispensible in your life, so if you have decided that as you're making decisions during the day, spending time with your children trumps getting the laundry folded and your kids are there so you spend time with them,
that's decision making.

That's building little pockets of time according to your priorities, and it's true that something has to
give.  You can't just stay up an extra 2 hours because sleep is an important part of fitness, so where does it come from?

If you work a 10-hour day and your house is a mess and you have other obligations, where does it come from?  It comes from making it every morning to that 8:15 class right after you drop your kid off at school whether you're tired or not because it's a thing that you don't compromise on.

If you have a job that starts at 9, you make it to 4:30 class. If your job, like my sisters, is 7 am to 11 pm, you tell your boss you need a 2 hour lunch in order to stay healthy. You go to the one hour yoga at lunch, and you walk there. You eat your healthy lunch at your desk after.

Even if you don't feel like going to yoga, you go. Especially if you don't feel like going. "Ugh, I don't feel like going." RIGHT! That's the signal that its time to get your shit in your car and get going. And park like four blocks away so you get a walk in, too.

This might do just fine today. You showed up.
Because it's not a competitive sport; the point of yoga is to do the posture to the benefit of the body, so you go into the pose and you hold it as well as you can to the benefit of the body, and if this morning you've been crying for three days or you've got your period or whatever it is, or you didn't sleep last night or you just had a big fight or you have 18 million things to do later today, yes you still have to go to yoga.

No, it doesn't have tobe champion of the world workout.  You have to show up.  That's my point. Maybe this blog post should have been called that. Show up.  Just show up.  Get in the first pose.  Don't wish you weren't there.  Don't wish that the class could end.  Don't wish that your stomach didn't hurt.  Just let go of wishing everything.  Just show up and then be there.  Be there in the first posture.  Be there in the second posture.  Be there in the ninth posture.  Be there in shavasana.  Be grateful to yourself for the fact that you took the time to do it.  You don't have to hit it out of the park.  It doesn't have to be the best one ever. You can get there and be exhausted.  See if you can get there and
be exhausted and not have to show with your face or your body or your energy to everybody else that you're here but you're exhausted so you deserve something back.  Just show up.

And go to yoga. Namaste!!

Are you the student you think you are? 

Originally Posted April 25, 2011

I've been having some interesting email conversations today after the post that I wrote thanking my teachers. The conversation has come around to why it is so hard to be a beginner, why it is so hard to learn, why we often need to defend ourselves rather than stay in a place of learning. I thought I'd write a bit about what it means to be a student. 

This is a teacher. But maybe not a student.
I think that often times we have this idea that if we let someone else teach us something, we are admitting that they know more than we do. Advice from other people often is interpreted by us as someone defining our lack, or pointing out their superiority.

This often leads to an internal ego battle which can be ferocious. Especially if the person that you are meant to learn from is younger than you, or not someone who you respect. What if you have more experience in an area than your teacher does? Does that negate their ability to teach you?

What if you are the teacher on a given day. Does this mean that you are not expected to learn anything?

Lets let go of the dogma of what is a teacher for just a moment. The idea of in-charge. The idea of power. The idea that if you are going to learn something from someone you have to subjigate yourself to them in some way, admit your lesser status, grant them some elevated stature...

This is probably a student. And a teacher.
What if a teacher is just another person? What if the teacher is the mountain you are standing on or the river flowing by?

Lets start with the river. It doesn't really have any interest in how smart you are, how much knowledge you bring to the table. It doesn't care if all the other human beings that you hang out with are terribly, terribly impressed with how awesome you are.

The river is just the river. Flowing with gravity from one source to another, where it will become something else, lake or sea or rain or snow.

Its easy to learn from the river, there isn't a power struggle between you and your teacher. You can set aside your need to be right, your need to be respected, your need to roll out your resume, all of the needs which feed the ego, and look at how the river flows. How it has the impetus of movment, how it navigates obstacles, how the force of it wears down the hardest stone. How it dries in the summer to a trickle, or disappears underground, and comes back in the fall with growing volume until it freezes and flows silently under the ice.

You can stand with your feet in the water and let the river teach you how to be present, how to breathe, how to be still, how to see, how to feel. You can do all of these things without worry or fear.

But lets say you come across a person who is new to you. Someone who doesn't come recommended by other people, they don't have a bestselling book, they are just a person.

Neither a student nor a teacher. But maybe both?
Lets say this person is walking on a slackline in the sunshine in a park. They fall off and they laugh. They get back on.

You have an opportunity here to let this person be a teacher. You have a choice, you can take a lesson from afar, learning from the way they seem to persevere, they way they laugh at defeat, the way they play in the sunshine, the way they are present in the moment, taking time to live in the middle of a busy day.

Now lets say you go to a class or a clinic. And the person who is teaching it is abrasive, or unorganized, or unprepared. Can they not still be a teacher to you? Maybe you won't learn what you came here to learn. Maybe you know this material well. Perhaps the lesson you can learn is one of compassion from you to them, or maybe this person is an excellent teacher in another way. Maybe the way they listen to their class is the lesson you are meant to learn. 

When we are really confronted with our abilty to learn from others is when we feel challenged or threatened by the other person's knowledge, whether its direct knowledge of a subject in particular, or just a way of being in the world.

You can take this simple test to see if you are open to teaching: When someone puts a lesson out there, do you feel the need to state things that you know? Or are you able to listen and absorb? Do you only take a piece of the lesson, or are you willing to be present for the whole message, even if you are squirming in your seat, ready to rebut, respond, or try it out? Do you have the presence and patience to be a student?

Is your response to someone who is talking, or teaching (even accidentally teaching) "Yes, I know, because I..." or "I know but..." or "When I do it I..." or "I got it"

The girl with the iPod might be the teacher here.
If this is the case, you are missing a tremendous opportunity. Your opportunity to learn! To become! To evolve! And seperating yourself from your ego so you can first, spot your teachers, and second, accept that they ARE teachers, and third, be open to their teaching without feeling like their knowledge threatens or diminishes yours, is our first job.

A person should not have to prove themselves to you with a resume or a recommendation to have something valid to share with you. You do not give your power away when you learn from all of those around you. On the contrary, you become an open, evolving vessle, more seperate from your ego.

None of us have all the answers. None of us are done growing. In fact hardly ANY of us have scratched the surface of what we can understand. Accepting that, accepting the fact that even those of us with PhDs have a LOT to learn in many areas, even in their area of expertise, makes you suddenly a master student.

And if you want or hope or wish to be a master teacher one day, you must first master the ability to be an eternally humble student.

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