Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Path to Excellence

I shared my Tucson Presentation on Athletic Excellence the other day via my Twitter Feed.

This afternoon, I was talking to Sue and she pointed out that the prez was written in gordo-speak. Good point - here are some notes to go with the prez.

By the way, if you'd like to attend our Boulder Camp (three slots left) and create a DVD of the talks then I'd happily do a trade. Please get in touch with me.


Who Am I?
I'm a former fat-guy that discovered I had a fast ultradistance motor lurking under my skin. What I achieved is outlined elsewhere on this site. The key aspects that I'd like you to know is that it was from scratch; required a lot of work; and I enjoyed doing the work.

I was very strategic in my approach to learning / training and travelled to the best teachers in our sport. I've worked under fellow coach-athletes that have a total of 20 World Championship victories between them. My initial, and primary, motivation was to achieve (not to teach), so I learned from others that did it.

I'm not unique - I have friends (such as Clas Bjorling, Chris McDonald and Justin Daerr) that have come from similar backgrounds. None of us were endurance prodigies as kids.


I didn't get into this in Tucson as the conversation didn't head that way. However, my personal coaching journey followed this pattern - you'll find something similar in most areas you study.

Apprentice Coach -- only one way to do things, the way I was taught
Coach -- a few different ways to do things, but a heavy bias towards what worked for me
Experienced Coach -- many different ways to do things based on the situation
Master Coach -- stepping away from protocol having the athlete focus on process

We focus on middle and long distance triathlon because it's an area where we are world-class. I have the respect of my peers that completely disagree with me, that makes me smile.

All advisors tend to favor protocols that support:

  • Their belief system (consistency bias);
  • Their pocket book (financial incentives);
  • What they said in the past (consistency bias).

By moving the conversation away from protocol, you can help your coach, and yourself, make better decisions about tactics and strategies.

I will give a future talk on the role that bias plays in our lives. It's a favorite topic of mine.

The Five Steps that directly impact performance:

  • The degree of internal/external harmony in your motivation and capacity to execute;
  • Creating a habit of daily action towards your goal;
  • Get the weight off and/or enhance recovery through nutrition;
  • Create the capacity to perform more work; and
  • The emotional maturity to stay the course and deliver results.

You'll see that there isn't a single protocol mentioned above. That's because your protocol DOES NOT MATTER unless it is supported by a habit of personal excellence.

You'll also see that, for athletics, you probably should tackle those steps in order. Looking at it another way:

  • Figure out why and create harmony to execute the how;
  • Do something daily;
  • Get the weight off;
  • Lift your work rate and total work completed; and
  • Learn how to deliver in training, then in racing.

Again, no discussion of protocol. People that are loud on protocol are selling something or trying to convince themselves that they are right.

I should know - I've been loud on protocol!


Do you know what you want?
I do:

  • Live long and prosper
  • A successful marriage
  • A body in good shape to take me on adventures for another 40 years
  • To be an exemplar about how to incorporate life long athletics into a life that is true to my personal values

We all grow old, only a few do it in style.


Do you know what you enjoy?
My list is on the slide -- it doesn't matter -- figure out your own list and write it down. You will need it for...


You should have a list of what you want and what you enjoy.

Are you aligned?

  • Do you spend time on your goals and what you enjoy? How much?
  • Are you living in an environment that enhances your ability to achieve your goals?
  • Does your peer group support and share your goals?
  • Does your inner circle support and share your goals?

I have achieved ambitious goals because I can answer yes to all of the above, year round.


What is Consistency?

105 in 105 - start a streak, see if you can do something daily for 15 weeks that moves you towards your goals. If that sounds daunting then you need new goals. Serious. In my experience, deep results take at least 1000 days.

Unplanned Zeros - folks that miss training, probably skip out on obligations in other areas of their lives. In my life, I tend to either "not bother" or "do it right". I'm pretty binary when it comes to performance.

In sport, your unplanned zeros (injury, illness, sleep ins...) point to overload. Your ultimate success will be limited if you have an inability to learn, and self moderate, from going too far. To be clear, going too far is OK and (at times) essential. However, you want to learn from it.

Again, don't get caught up in what you should be doing. Focus on keeping a simple promise to yourself - "I will do something, daily, to move towards my goal".

Everything flows from keeping that promise.

Because, ultimately, nobody cares about our goals but us! If you don't have the self-motivation to achieve then nobody is going to help you out. If you are powerfully self-driven then your team, your family will be a lot more supportive. Not everyone is born to lead and playing a high-quality supporting role can be very satisfying (check out bike racing for a practical example).


The guys in the photo are Dan Dungan and Ron Ottaway -- they are in Kona and look pretty fit! I chose Dan because years after we worked together he told me that his entire family changed their eating habits to mirror his choices. Why? Not because he forced them! Because he demonstrated leadership in his choices and his inner circle saw the results of his choices.

Forget about meal plans and counting calories. Instead focus on three things:

  • Reduce stress in your life;
  • Pay attention to your triggers and address them;
  • Cut sugar

I've been heavy and the three tips above are what works. All the other weight management tools fail because they don't address the underlying causes of poor nutritional choices - stress, habit triggers and sugar.


Don't Be A Weenie!
Weenies focus on things that are easy to count. You can't count good habits.

Weenies love to measure pace.
When you focus on pace. Learn to:

  • Choose your pace - most athletes have their pace decided by their fastest training partner
  • Change your pace - most athletes start fast, hang on, then fade
  • Sustain your pace - be strong at the end of ALL things

Roll up work and learn to choose, change and sustain pace.

Whatever protocol works to achieve the above is fine with me. Naturally, I think that my way is superior. I need to! I have dedicated a good portion of my life to it.


Life is a long game and honor is awarded at the end, mainly through our students, families and peers. Frankly, I'll be gone so that doesn't weigh on my mind (yet!). What does matter is making sure that I'm not sitting around in a room contemplating lost opportunity.

Consider your life goals when making short-term athletic choices. My other Tucson presentation focused on my take on Lifelong Athletics. I will write that up in due course.

I really like Ironman racing as a metaphor for life. It requires a level of emotional maturity that most will never achieve. When you pull it off... you really learn something!

The performance paradox is something that I heard Mark speak about -- dedicate your entire being to preparing for a single event then... release your mind from outcome. I've had that a few times in my career -- powerful!

I'm good with words. Don't judge me on them. Look through my words and judge me on my actions.
Am I authentic with how I am living my life?
Are my daily actions aligned with what I recommend to others?

The three points above are the foundation of leadership: action, authenticity, alignment.


There are only a few slots available at the Walk of Fame in Penticton, BC. I didn't get my name into the sidewalk. That was a BIG goal for me. When they are old enough to understand, I'll take my kids up there and show them Tom's name and talk about my silver medal.

The best defense for regret is living your life well, today.
How'd you do?


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