Recently, I sat down with Dr. Jason Selk, bestselling author and personal development pro, who has helped countless professional athletes achieve winning results. As director of mental training, he helped the St. Louis Cardinals win two World Series and three National League Pennants.
Selk and coauthor Tom Bartow have published Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life. We talked about what holds people back — and how to overcome every hurdle.
You’ve written several books on your own. Why did you decide to work with a coauthor on this one?
Tom, a former college basketball coach, rewrote the book on training financial advisors. His concepts have been used by tens of thousands. When we met, something we both agreed on, for example, is how similarly elite athletes and top business people are wired. With the Organize Tomorrow Today program, we’ve distilled our forty-plus years of shared experience coaching athletes, executives, and salespeople at the very top of their disciplines. Our program condenses those success patterns into a streamlined set of core habit-building principles anyone can use.
In what ways does the book reflect your understanding of how the mind works?
The book is divided into eight chapters, each of which addresses an issue that holds people back. If the reader masters just one chapter, his or her performance will greatly improve. We caution against trying to master too many concepts at once: Humans can only process up to seven simple concepts at a time. Once we start thinking about more than a handful of things, our ability to execute any of them at a high level becomes compromised. Prioritizing is key to learning and to getting things done.
You’ve stressed the importance of being abnormal. Why would anyone want to be abnormal?
Normal is acceptable. Average. But if you want to do great things, you need to be abnormal. It‘s normal to push things off, or to give yourself blanket forgiveness when you slide on a goal or a commitment, if you have a reasonable excuse. To be abnormal requires the ability to accept the inevitability of adversity and stress, and not only survive it, but thrive on it. It may feel better in the moment to come up with a “viable excuse.” But it also prevents you from accessing a powerful change motivator: negative emotion. Fear, disappointment, anger: Many people will do anything to avoid those feelings. But successful people use negative emotions as fuel for improvement.
Your book puts a lot of importance on Self-Talk. Can you explain why talking to yourself is a good thing?
Self-talk regulates self-image. If you believe you’re an average (or terrible) performer, you won’t do much better or worse than your baseline self-assessment. Self-image is determined by what you consistently tell yourself about yourself. So you have the power to change your self-image by changing your self-talk. You’ll probably discover that a lot of what you tell yourself is negative. Berating yourself damages your self-image. You must stop doing it, and stop believing you’re at the mercy of your own thoughts.
Accomplished people know that by working on controlling their thoughts, they get better at it. They also know that talking about a problem won’t solve it. When you focus on something, it dominates your mind, pushing other thoughts aside. With this come attendant feelings and behaviors. Focus on negative thoughts and you feel bad. The human mind is fertile ground where seeds are continually planted. Plant seeds for the good things you want to achieve, talk to yourself about your strengths and ways to improve, and concentrate on solutions, not problems.
It’s easy to begin a personal development program, but not so easy to continue. How do you address this in your book?
In our program, you work toward making good habits second nature. But along the way, you’ll encounter obstacles that will challenge your determination to follow through. You’ll have to decide if you’re going to do what most people do and punk out, or if you’re going to bear down and win your “fight-thru.” Fight-thru is when your initial confidence confronts the reality that winning is going to be harder than you thought and you resolve to go the rounds to win. It will take winning two or three fight-thrus before a habit becomes second nature.
But it gets even more complicated. It’s human nature to think you’ve got this thing licked, and don’t have to work hard anymore when you’ve won the fight-thrus and changed your pattern. You feel unbeatable. This is when you get seduced by your success. That’s why we encourage people to never let up. If you do, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to lose ground. You want to mentally reinforce your ability to win fight-thrus. So when you feel like you don’t have to, push yourself to work harder for a while longer. When you stick with it, winning becomes a habit.
Find out more about Jason Selk at www.jasonselk.com