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    #137 Justin Su'a: Peak Mental Performance

    Surrounding oneself with motivated individuals and consistently modeling desired norms and standards can lead to great achievements and drive others to reach new levels of success.

    enMay 17, 2022

    About this Episode

    Justin Su'a calls on more than a decade of working with the world’s top athletes to discuss how to improve your mental performance. Su’a explores the strategies you need to be your best mentally with lessons that resonate well beyond the world of sports — including how to connect and build trust, the relationship between consistency and intensity, the fragility of confidence, the difference between success and talent, how to raise the bar of your own performance, and so much more.

    Su'a has spent the past three years as the Head of Mental Performance for the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, where he works with players to optimize their mental performance and perform under enormous pressure. He has also worked for the Boston Red Sox as well as the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, and as the Head of Mental Conditioning Department for the IMG Academy, which develops star athletes of the future. He’s also written two books on the subject of developing mental toughness in adolescents.

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Training the mind is just as crucial as physical training for success in sports. Developing mental skills and a healthy relationship with our thoughts can greatly improve performance.
    • By consciously examining our thoughts and emotions and seeking external perspective, we can uncover valuable insights and make positive changes in our lives.
    • Mental performance coaches guide and enhance athletes' existing skills, earning trust and respect by evaluating tangible improvements and avoiding the misconception that likability guarantees competence.
    • Justin's role is to provide support and guidance to high performers by creating a safe space for self-reflection and exploration, allowing them to identify blind spots and navigate their own processes for growth and success.
    • Authenticity and genuine presence are crucial for connecting with others, and collaboration fosters a comfortable environment for individuals to explore their own mental skills and tools.
    • Our surroundings, including the people, places, and things we interact with, have a profound influence on our actions and mindset. By intentionally designing a positive environment, we can enhance our performance and well-being.
    • Surround yourself with positive influences and focus on consistent, small habits for long-term success. Be a fountain for others and avoid being a drain.
    • True confidence is not dependent on feeling confident, but on trusting in your skills, bouncing back from failure, and focusing on actions rather than emotions.
    • Athletes who are obsessed with their goals, whether it be winning championships or being recognized as the best, are more likely to achieve success. Monthly performance bonuses are also effective in maintaining motivation.
    • Define your own success, set high standards, trust your abilities, and learn from both winners and non-winners in the pursuit of your goals.
    • Surrounding oneself with motivated individuals and consistently modeling desired norms and standards can lead to great achievements and drive others to reach new levels of success.
    • Being driven can lead to remarkable personal growth and make a lasting impact on our lives. Passion and determination can push us to accomplish incredible things, even when faced with obstacles and skepticism.
    • Encouraging children to pursue their passions and learn from failures can shape their drive and lead to fulfilling success, even in the face of adversity.
    • Both winning and losing can offer valuable lessons if approached with self-reflection and a growth mindset. Analyzing mistakes and acknowledging the strengths of opponents can lead to personal improvement and success.
    • Achieving sustainable long-term goals requires a balanced approach, focusing on physical health, mental performance, self-awareness, and adapting intensity levels to maintain optimal performance.
    • Mastering the fundamentals allows for creativity and new perspectives, leading to success in problem-solving across various aspects of life.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Importance of Mental Performance in Sports

    Mental performance is often overlooked in sports, but it is essential for overall success. Just as physical training is necessary for a strong body, training the mind is crucial for optimal performance. Mental performance involves activating mental skills to achieve a specific task, such as gaining perspective, practicing gratitude, and improving decision-making abilities. A mental performance coach helps individuals and teams operationalize these skills, applying concepts from decision sciences, behavioral science, performance psychology, and other fields. One significant aspect discussed is the importance of talking to oneself rather than listening to one's thoughts. By developing a healthy relationship with our thoughts and discerning between signal and noise, we can improve our emotions, behaviors, and ultimately, our performance.\

    The Power of Internal Dialogue

    Our internal dialogue has a significant impact on our thoughts, emotions, physiology, and performance. Justin emphasizes the importance of talking to ourselves instead of simply listening to our doubts and negative beliefs. He explains that our thoughts and emotions are often operating at an unconscious level, making it crucial to bring them to our conscious awareness. This awareness allows us to examine our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors more objectively, and to identify patterns or areas for improvement. Justin's role as an external perspective provider helps individuals develop this awareness and explore their internal dialogue. By asking questions and priming their minds, individuals can uncover valuable insights and make positive changes in their lives.

    The Role and Impact of a Mental Performance Coach in Athletics

    Being a mental performance coach is not synonymous with being a motivational or inspirational speaker, despite popular misconceptions. A mental performance coach's role is to guide and polish the tools that athletes already possess, rather than providing them with new strategies. It is important for mental performance coaches to earn the trust and respect of athletes and coaches, which is measured by their response and approach when the coach enters the clubhouse. Likability should not be confused with competence, and mental performance coaches should constantly evaluate the impact of their work by asking athletes about the tangible ways in which their guidance has helped them improve. Quantifying the intangible aspects of mental performance can be challenging, but it can be done through surveys and measuring specific behaviors. Ultimately, the goal is to enhance an athlete's performance, but it is important to recognize that correlation does not always equal causation.

    Building Strong Relationships and Nurturing Growth in High Performers

    Justin's role in working with high performers, such as elite athletes, business executives, and special forces, is to build a strong relationship and provide a safe space. He helps them see their blind spots and navigate their own processes by asking questions and allowing them to express their thoughts and experiences. Justin does not claim to have all the answers or dictate what they need to do, but rather encourages self-reflection and exploration. He emphasizes the importance of creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable and supported in order to foster growth and improvement. This approach allows Justin to effectively assist high performers and contribute to their success.

    Building relationships and earning trust for effective communication and support.

    Building relationships and earning trust are essential for effective communication and support. Justin emphasizes that the ability to connect with people stems from organic experiences and observations, rather than learned techniques. He mentions the importance of demonstrating authenticity and genuinely being present in the lives of those he works with. By understanding the limited time and attention individuals have, Justin adapts his approach and collaborates with other staff members to seamlessly incorporate mental performance strategies. This collaboration not only showcases that it is not just the Justin Sewa show, but also helps create an environment where individuals feel comfortable and open to exploring their own mental skills and tools.

    The Role of Environment in Shaping Behavior and Performance

    Our environment plays a significant role in shaping our behavior and performance. Justin emphasizes that the environment is an invisible hand that influences our actions and mindset. He shares an example of a player who lost confidence after being in a negative environment. This highlights the importance of considering our surroundings, such as the people we interact with, the places we visit, and the things we consume. Shane expands on this idea by discussing the physical environment, the people we surround ourselves with, and the organizational culture we are a part of. Both speakers agree that by intentionally designing our environment to support positive habits and discourage negative ones, we can enhance our performance and overall well-being.

    Fountains and Drains: Surrounding Ourselves with Positivity and Consistency

    We all have "fountains" in our lives - people who leverage their values, skills, and perspectives to positively influence our internal environment. These fountains can be sources of zest, energy, positivity, organization, critical thinking, humor, and more. It's important to identify and surround ourselves with these fountains, as they can help us solve problems and lighten the mood when needed. On the other hand, we should be cautious of "drains" - people or ideas that make excuses, complain, or drain our energy. However, instead of labeling people as fountains or drains, it's essential to focus on the fountains and strive to be one for others as well. Furthermore, when it comes to making changes or setting goals, it's better to prioritize consistency over intensity. Starting with small, consistent habits and gradually building upon them can lead to long-term success, rather than overwhelming ourselves with drastic changes.

    Rethinking Confidence: It's not about feeling confident, but about trusting in your abilities.

    Confidence is often misunderstood and misplaced. People tend to overestimate the importance of confidence and rely on it solely for success. However, professional athletes have revealed that many of them lack confidence, yet they are still successful. They emphasize the importance of focusing on actions rather than feelings. A Russian proverb perfectly illustrates this idea, stating that a bird rests peacefully on a branch not because of its trust in the branch, but because of its trust in its ability to fly. Confidence should be based on one's ability to bounce back, learn from failure, and trust in their own skills and preparation. Positive thoughts, past successes, level of preparation, and establishing a purpose can all contribute to increasing confidence. It is crucial to not let poor performance derail confidence and instead trust in one's training and abilities.

    The Role of Drive and Motivation in Athletes' Success

    Drive and motivation play a significant role in the success of athletes. The best athletes, such as hall of famers, are often obsessed with their pursuit and have a clear image of what they want to achieve. They are driven by their goals and the desire to win championships or be recognized as the best. While some athletes are process-driven, focusing on the journey and viewing results as a byproduct, others are results-focused and find motivation in achieving specific outcomes. Additionally, the goal gradient effect suggests that individuals increase their effort as they get closer to their goals. To maintain motivation during challenging times, temporary lights at the end of the tunnel can be created to keep players focused and energized. Monthly performance bonuses may also be more effective than yearly bonuses in incentivizing progress and maintaining motivation.

    Redefining Success and Ignoring Societal Standards

    Success should be defined on an individual basis and not dictated by societal standards. It is important to find your own definition of success and not be influenced by the perceptions of others. Many talented individuals fail to succeed because they allow society to dictate what success looks like. It is crucial to set high standards for yourself and push beyond what is considered "good enough." In the pursuit of success, it is easy to become distracted by short-term goals and incentives. However, it is important to trust your abilities and stick with the process that has brought you this far. Winning may mask deficiencies, and losing may overshadow great leadership and strategy. It is valuable to examine the actions and processes of both winners and non-winners to gain better insights.

    Creating High Standards Through Supportive Systems and Consistent Modeling

    Raising the bar requires a supportive system and consistent modeling of desired norms and standards. It's not enough to simply state the standards or put them on a shirt. The behaviors and actions of leaders must align with the desired standards and be modeled consistently. It takes time for these standards to become embedded in the system and for them to become the norm. People often underestimate the process and the effort involved in achieving high standards. Surrounding oneself with individuals who have a high motor, passion, and drive can be infectious and push others to step up and reach another level. It's important to recognize that everyone has the capacity to be driven and passionate about something, just like elite athletes, and that pursuing that passion can lead to great achievements.

    The Transformative Power of Being Driven

    Being driven is a powerful force that can push us to accomplish incredible things. Justin's passion for his work, despite the doubts and criticism from others, reflects the determination and singular focus that drives elite performers like Elon Musk and Sarah Blakely. Justin's experience as a missionary in Nicaragua further demonstrates the transformative power of being driven. Despite challenging circumstances and language barriers, he learned valuable lessons in leadership, teamwork, and communication that continue to shape his life today. This conversation highlights the importance of finding our passion and pursuing it with unwavering dedication, even when faced with obstacles and skepticism. It serves as a reminder that being driven can lead to remarkable personal growth and make a lasting impact on our lives.

    Nurturing Passion: Parental Influence in Overcoming Challenges

    Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children's passions and drive, even in the face of challenging odds. Justin shares how he and his wife allow their kids to fail, practice autonomy, and learn from their own failures. They encourage their children to pursue their passions, even when the odds are against them. Justin draws inspiration from professional athletes who have overcome similar challenges and emphasizes the importance of love and drive in achieving success. Despite the uncertainties and potential for failure, Justin and his wife continue to support their children's ambitions, understanding that rationality may suggest choosing a different path, but true fulfillment comes from pursuing what one loves.

    Understanding the Meaning of Winning and Losing

    Winning and losing have different meanings and implications depending on the context. In professional sports, there is no room for excuses or tiptoeing around. Losing means accepting that you were beat and acknowledging your mistakes. However, losing can also be a valuable learning experience if you analyze what went wrong and strive to improve. On the other hand, being beaten means giving your best effort but acknowledging that the opponent was simply better that day. It is important to frame winning and losing in a way that works best for you and helps you learn and grow. Success leaves clues, and it is crucial to reflect on both victories and losses to identify areas of improvement.

    Balancing for Sustainable Success

    Achieving sustainable long-term goals requires a balanced approach. It's important to avoid the trap of setting finite destinations or finish lines because once those goals are achieved, there is a tendency to relax and lose momentum. Instead, it is necessary to develop systems and establish fundamental pillars for success. This includes taking care of physical health through quality sleep, nutrition, exercise, and strong relationships. Additionally, improving mental performance involves paying attention to energy levels, focus, confidence, and response to stress. By collecting personal data and identifying patterns, individuals can better understand themselves and seek out resources to enhance their performance. Arousal control is a key mental model for athletes, as they establish their optimal performance level and create balance by adjusting their intensity as needed.

    Mental models for balance and perspective.

    There are two important mental models to consider. The first is the understanding of how diaphragmatic breathing can help control heart rate and promote a sense of balance and calmness. By focusing on the exhale, individuals can signal their brain to slow the heart rate down, resulting in a more balanced state. The second mental model is the concept that the map is not the territory. Just because something appears a certain way on paper doesn't necessarily reflect the true experience or outcome. This applies to situations like a player's performance in a game. Even if they have a bad day on paper, there may still be positive aspects and lessons learned from their performance. The key to success, as mentioned by Justin, is mastering the fundamentals and striving for freedom through that mastery, which allows for creativity and new perspectives in problem-solving across different aspects of life.

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    Newsletter - I share timeless insights and ideas you can use at work and home. Join over 600k others every Sunday and subscribe to Brain Food. Try it: https://fs.blog/newsletter/

    My Book! Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results is out now - https://fs.blog/clear/ 

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    My New Book! Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results is out now - https://fs.blog/clear/ 

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    In this episode, Bryan Johnson reveals the five simple disciplines you can start doing to live healthier and longer. Johnson shares what his daily routine looks like, the ins and outs of his experimentation process, and why he gave his father plasma.

    Johnson also opens up about the constant hate he receives from people online, how he deals with it all, and what he wishes he'd known when he sold his company.

    Bryan Johnson is the world's most measured human. Johnson sold his company to PayPal in 2013. Through Project Blueprint, Johnson has achieved metabolic health equal to the top 1.5% of 18 year olds, inflammation 66% lower than the average 10 year old, and reduced his speed of aging by the equivalent of 31 years.

    Johnson is also the founder of Kernel, creator of the world’s first mainstream non-invasive neuroimaging system; and OS Fund, where he invested in the predictable engineering of atoms, molecules, and organisms.

    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

    Newsletter - Each week I share timeless insights and ideas that you can use at work and home. Add it to your inbox: https://fs.blog/newsletter/

    My New Book! Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results is out now - https://fs.blog/clear/ 

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    Timecodes:

    (00:00:00) Intro

    (00:03:45) On biographies

    (00:08:03) On depression and coping mechanisms

    (00:14:18) Self-destructive behavior and how to pitch Blueprint to someone

    (00:26:50) What a day looks like on Blueprint (exercise and what to eat)

    (00:42:06) How to turn Blueprint protocols into habits

    (00:45:17) Embracing the hate

    (00:49:07) The downsides and lessons of making money

    (00:59:22) The five habits

    (01:05:09) Why does posture matter?

    (01:07:48) Relationship between biological health and sexual health

    (01:09:50) Hair-loss prevention

    (01:15:46) Sunscreen, plastics, and other miscellaneous impacts on aging

    (01:18:30) How will AI help us?

    (01:22:10) On success

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy shares the skills you need but didn't get taught on regulating emotions, setting boundaries, and the best sentence you can say when a partner tells you something difficult.

    While there is an obvious focus on parenting, the most surprising thing about this episode was how much of what we discussed applies to EVERY relationship in your life.

    Learn how to parent more effectively with less stress, repair after a disagreement, regulate emotions, and unlock the next level in all of your relationships. Listen and Learn

    Dubbed the “The Millennial Parenting Whisperer” by TIME Magazine, Dr. Kennedy is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. She also hosts “Good Inside with Dr Becky,” the top kids and family show on Apple Podcasts.

    ---

    Want even more? Members get early access, hand-edited transcripts, member-only episodes, and so much more. Learn more here: https://fs.blog/membership/

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    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner, CEO of Markel Group, reveals the lessons he’s learned from Charlie Munger and Berkshire Hathaway, how he invests, and the specific way he thinks about opportunity cost.

    Gayner shares the difference between good debt and bad debt, where he disagrees with Munger, and why he focuses on the basics.

    This intimate conversation offers a level of insight and honesty that Tom hasn’t offered anywhere else.

    Gayner is currently the CEO of Markel Group and the Director of The Coca‑Cola Company. He also serves as chairman of the Davis Series Mutual Funds board and on the boards of Graham Holdings and Markel.

    Listen and Learn.

    --

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    MetaLab: Helping the world’s top companies design, build, and ship amazing products and services. https://www.metalab.com

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    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone

    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone
    Blake Eastman has dedicated his entire life to psychology and nonverbal behavior.
     
    In 2009 he founded The Nonverbal Group, a  behavioral research and education company in New York City which conducts large scale studies on human behavior and uses a wide range of technologies to systematically deconstruct and improve human communication.
     
    Eastman dives deep into a number of subjects revolving around how we communicate with one another, including the ability to read nonverbal cues, his thoughts on big talkers vs. silent types, how we can communicate with our partners without complaining, the value of watching ourselves communicate on video, understanding the power structures and social dynamics at work, and so much more.
     
    Eastman has also served as an adjunct psychology professor at the City University of New York for six years where he taught General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Group Dynamics. He is also a former professional poker player and the founder of School of Cards, the first brick-and-mortar poker school in New York City.
     
    Listen and Learn

    --

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