Champion Choices: In-Game Focus

02 Jun Champion Choices: In-Game Focus

Champion Choices: In-Game Focus


Concentrate your thoughts on the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus. ~Alexander Graham Bell


Welcome back and happy June! We’ve been setting up the keys to success based on a presentation by Tom Ricketts, chairman and owner of the Chicago Cubs. Over the last month, we’ve talked about how adaptability comes into play, and what trendy terms like “mindfulness” can mean to you. Last week we all took a lesson in ways to cope when things don’t go according to plan. Now, let’s get our head back in the game. Yes, entrepreneurs are playing in a competitive field. Put these ideas into practice before your next presentation, pitch or interview.


One of the top clichés in sport is 90% of performance is mental. The issue is that 90% of coaches and athletes spend 100% of their time working on the physical and fundamental aspects related to their sport. Many neglect the key factor that ultimately separates successful athletes from those who do not reach their full potential.
What if sport…or performance…is 100 percent mental? Our thoughts influence our actions and our actions reflect our thoughts. A vicious cycle such as this frequently leads athletes and coaches to attribute inferior performance in practice and competition to thinking too much. Athletes hear comments all the time like: “Stop thinking and just play” or “Concentrate! Pay Attention! Focus.”
When someone tells you to concentrate, focus and pay attention, what are you supposed to focus on, concentrate about, and pay attention to? Research shows that those with the better mental skills are more consistent.


Let’s look at some significant preparation before stepping up to the proverbial plate in sport or in business:


1. Pre-game mindset
Pre-game or pre-performance nervousness may come from several sources: how good your competition is; the size of the crowd is (as well as who is watching), and how much time you’ll get in the game.
In fact, the true cause of nervousness isn’t any of the things that we’ve just mentioned above. The real cause of your nerves is you! What you say to yourself in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the pitch or performance matters. When athletes or performers allow their focus of concentration to leap ahead to the future, or drift back to the past, the result is always an increase in their nervousness. Yes, your racing heart is all too real. If you’d rather play loose and relaxed, you must learn to keep your concentration in the present moment.


2. Bring yourself back
It’s easy to understand that you need to focus in the now, but much harder to put it into practice consistently! Bring yourself back by immediately becoming aware whenever your focus drifts to the past or ahead to the future, then quickly return your concentration to the now. Losing your focus won’t make you nervous. What will make you nervous is losing your focus and not bringing it back right away. It’s the break in concentration that you don’t immediately catch that will drive your stress level through the roof and sabotage your play or performance.


3. Focus on the job at hand
Staying focused on you and your job will keep you confident and calm. Are you pitching or performing on your own? Do you need to communicate with anyone on your team?
Last summer I interviewed members of ORACLE TEAM USA when they were in Chicago for the first race on fresh water (sailing on Lake Michigan). ORACLE TEAM USA certainly fits our champion bill as a two-time America’s Cup winner preparing to win a third America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017 [].
On a qualifying race, we watched Team USA capsize right in front of us. When we asked about the incident, Matt Cassidy and Jimmy Spithill admitted that the team was not communicating, and members assumed that they had all seen the other team coming in close to their bow. With a last-minute adjustment to avoid a crash, Team USA’s catamaran went over. At least it was only a qualifying race. As I write this on June 1, Team USA is leading the board in Bermuda to in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs.


4. Leave your goals at home
You’ve prepped. Maybe you crashed. Either way, it’s time to let go of the weight of your goals. One of the worst mental mistakes that you can make as a player or performer is to take your goals with you into the performance. For example, leave these off the playing field or stage: “I want to prove everyone wrong,” or “I need a standing ovation or perfect score”, “I want to prove that I won’t crash again.” Focusing on outcomes such as these will make you too nervous to play well and put your goals further from reach. Focus on the action, on this pitch or move, one moment at a time.


5. Choose healthy distractions
Thinking too much can get most performers and athletes into trouble and stir up the nerves. In the days and minutes leading up to a big performance or pitch, stay busy. Don’t give yourself too much free time to think. Try rush writing to get thoughts on paper. Read a book, or watch a movie, listen to music, have conversations that do not center on your upcoming performance. Choosing healthy distractions will help you stay calm and cool in the days and hours leading up to your BIG performance.


6. See the big picture
Sure, there are a great deal of things that happen in your field or entrepreneur journey that you don’t have direct control over. Any time we focus on an uncontrollable factor, we will stir up nerves, lose confidence and add pressure.
Make a list of all the things about this upcoming competition that you can’t directly control. This is an example of rush writing. Get your thoughts down on paper about your competition, the audience, judging, the future, and the outcome of the game. Post you list in a visible place in your room or office. Remember that these are mental traps. They are lying in wait for you and every other person stepping up to the plate, or pitch or performance. The only way to avoid a trap is to know that it is there.


7. Have fun
Performing well under pressure means that you must be having fun. Fun is a key factor in remaining calm and doing your best when the heat of competition is turned up high. If you make a game, match or race too important, if you put too much pressure on yourself, if you get too serious, then you’ll start getting nervous and your game will do a major disappearing act. When fun goes, so too will all your skills. If you really want to perform well, then you must get into the game, enjoy the competition, embrace the challenge, and have fun with your friends before, during and after the performance.


We believe these ideas will help you as you get ready to step to the plate, whether in a pitch, interview or performance. In short: “Always hang on and stay in the game!” as Matt Cassidy, from ORACLE TEAM USA puts it. [Photo during Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, Chicago, by Akasha Garnier.]


We wish you the best this week with your in-game focus!
We’ll be back next week to continue the journey as Future Entrepreneurs.
Thank you for reading and we welcome your comments below.


Cheers & fair winds,


Akasha Garnier
Author, Branding Expert, Producer for The Wishwall Foundation

  • Michael G.
    Posted at 15:43h, 09 June Reply

    I really want to thank you for this series. It has really blessed and encouraged me in so many ways. Please keep up the good works as I look forward to the day I will be able to meet you in person to say ‘Thank you’.

  • Jake B.
    Posted at 15:45h, 09 June Reply

    As a football coach, I have learnt over time that players that focus too much on trying to impress the audience or their fans often eventually lose out of the game. Sports are more than just actions; it goes as far into what the players think. Same also goes for Entrepreneurs.

  • Jane
    Posted at 15:46h, 09 June Reply

    My first job interview would have being a complete flop if not because I have promised myself to just go in there, do my best, and have fun; it doesn’t matter the outcome. So I totally agree with you that to perform well under pressure simply means one must be having fun.

  • Harry
    Posted at 15:48h, 09 June Reply

    I really learnt a lot from this piece. Thanks for letting me see the way out of my usual nervousness. I will simply bring all those freighting thoughts to paper. I look forward to posting a testimonial here too. Thanks so much.

  • Cynthia Carey
    Posted at 15:51h, 09 June Reply

    Choosing healthy distractions? I think am going to try that out. I just hope it won’t derail me of my real responsibility ahead. I keep looking forward to learning more from this corner. Many thanks for the updates always!

  • Akasha Garnier
    Posted at 21:30h, 09 June Reply

    Thanks so much for reading Future Entrepreneurs! I appreciate your comments about in-game focus. 🙂
    Cheers & fair winds, Akasha

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