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Process

Winning The Mental Game Of Life

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The Urban Monk – Life as a Sport with Guest Jonathan Fader

We’re all competing

We are lucky to have a top Sports Psychologist with us today named Dr. Jonathan Fader. Now it’s pretty obvious that there’s only an elite few out there who make a living at being a professional athlete that competes with intensity and high performance every day. However, there are many skills and ideas that we “normal” people can take from that group and apply to our own lives to help us thrive and be successful.

In sports psychology, of course the goal is to win, but there’s also winning in life. We all want to be succeeding at something be it our careers, our families or our personal goals.  Jonathan says that just because we’re not competing in front of 40,000 fans, we’re still competing. We’re competing certainly against the people in our jobs and we’re really competing with ourselves. He thinks that performance psychology can be one of the various tools that you can use to find greater fulfillment in your life as well as having hopefully better results with what you are trying to accomplish.

Jonathan wants his clients to approach the winning/losing part of the game in a different way. It’s more about “if I got results that I didn’t want, what can I learn from it? What can I learn about my experience? What can I learn about the world?”  It’s about changing the mindset and the words we tell ourselves.

Mindfulness

We all know how to go down the rabbit hole of negative thinking and sometimes it’s hard to climb out and stop ourselves. Jonathan says he likes to think of having mindfulness about our thought patterns is like trying to fight a rip current in the ocean. You don’t want to swim against it, you want to swim sideways and find the path of least resistance. Then the next step in this process is shifting those thoughts with grace and focus on your breathing. When you do this, grace lets that moment pass and then you don’t end up fighting it…just let it go by you.

And you have probably heard this one before, but gratitude is a gift that you can give yourself, not just others. If something bad happens to you, there’s usually always something that you can find, even when things might seem awful, to be grateful for. If you can shift your thinking and allow that gratitude to move within you, you can go through the failure in a graceful way.

Our minds are like fish tanks

We do what we’re accustomed to do. Jonathan says that routines are essential, be it a high performance athlete or the dad dealing with his children. The more you are able to drill a routine, the more it’s going to come quickly in a moment of adversity. We’ve all heard that practice makes perfect since we were kids. Well, if we practice ahead of time as to how we are going to react to something, you learn that you are actually planning for that contingency.

Mental conditioning in performance psychology doesn’t wait for things to be broken before the problem is addressed. The whole point is to condition you so that you will be ready for the adversity. Jonathan says “people’s minds are like fish tanks, and that if you just wait and you don’t add a PH balance and add the correct water and filter it and all this stuff, it starts to build up gunk.”  And that even really healthy, happy people can build up the gunk. We need to be using those tools to keep the gunk out by using tools like meditation, breathing, thought restructuring, building a routine, visualization, running…doing things that help you to clean out that fish tank. Really great stuff here!

Be sure to check out Dr. Jonathan Fader’s book called Life Is Sport or jonathanfader.com or you can follow him on twitter @drfader.

Notes from the show:

Pedram Shojai:
Welcome back. Glad to have you here. This week I got a gentleman by the name Jonathan Fader, Sports Psychologist extraordinaire. Works with big teams, works with big people and works with the mind. How do we look at winning? How do we look at being at our best and staying sane, and loving ourselves, and all the things that go into this kind of binary world of winners and losers, and how we can learn from our mistakes? Powerful stuff, really great interview. I know you’re going to enjoy it. The following week I have Angel Henstrum  talking about getting our kids out in the dirt, near and dear to my heart. I’ve been on a [tear 00:00:45], getting some great interviews for you and I know you’re going to enjoy ’em. Enjoy Jonathan Fader.

It’s one of those things I was pretty high on the philosophy when I came down from the mountain and I realized that people got normal lives. What does a normal person got to do to just not freak out and loose it, and duck out for 40 minutes from their kids birthday to handle business? It’s life. You know what I mean? That’s life. Basically, we’re just going to roll straight in here, I’ll do all my bumpers and stuff later. I’m so stocked about the work that you do because you get to see it, with high performance individuals, like they actually care and they need to care. They’re like the thorough bred horse that everyone wants to make sure performs. The fact that performance psychology has made it into that realm doesn’t surprise me at all. Who are the front runners? How did we get into all this?

Learn To Excel For At The Mental Game - via @DrFader via @PedramShojai

Jonathan Fader:
I think it depends where you’re looking. I think some of the front runners are people like Harvey Dorfman, who really psychology into baseball, Charlie Mayer, Ken Ravizza. They are guys that really said “Hey look there’s an upside to focusing on the mental game”, and really learning how to be really present in the present moment. That really helped high performers to not only achieve their best, but to have the higher satisfaction in a very high pressure environment. I think those guys are guys that really inspired me.

Pedram Shojai:
This world of sports psychology is interesting because the goal is to win, but there’s also winning in life. Not everyone listening to this or watching this is a paid athlete, but we all have this dopaminargic system, we all have our success metrics, we all have things that we need to count on the score board. What can we learn form these top athletes and how they roll and bring that into our lives?

Jonathan Fader:
I love what you said. What I love about it is that you really understand that just because we’re not competing in front of 40,000, 50,000 fans, we’re still competing. We’re competing certainly against the people in our jobs, we’re really competing with ourselves. I think you put it well. Yeah, part of it is winning, but part of it is really feeling like “I have this gift, this time here, this time to connect with people. This time to be with others.” Winning for me is a lot about using that time in a way that feels fulfilling to you and that for some people it feels fulfilling to the world. I think that performance psychology can be one of the various tools that you can use to find greater fulfillment in your life as well as having hopefully better results.

Pedram Shojai:
It’s a hell of a roller coaster ride because you also lose, so that why a lot of these guys get tripped up. It’s amazing to see how much the mental game will impact every facet of our lives. In these guys you see it because it’s like “Here I am, I’m on the line, I got the game winning free throw do or die” … Let’s not talk about pressure, that’s much as you could put on a person. These people have to dismiss all that and stay in that zone, whatever we’re going to define as that zone, if you will, and just do what it is that they’ve trained to do, and putting aside all of the nerves, putting aside all the psychological noise that comes up. That ain’t easy. We admire them. We have the same challenges every freaking day of our lives with every single thing we do.

Jonathan Fader:
No doubt. No doubt. The challenges are that we get put in these positions where we’re really stressed out about the results, stressed out about losing … sometimes what I use with players is I try to use different kind of language. For example, I’ll talk about instead of losing or … I’ll just talk about unwanted results. Reason I say that is because losing is a idea that we put on ourselves. Most athletes get a chance and most of us get a chance to play another game, to meet another person. I think actually what I try to so is I try to teach a mindset to people that says to people “if I got results that I didn’t want, what can I learn from it? What can I learn about my experience? What can I learn about the world?” Rather than saying what I’m going to learn from it by default is that “I suck,” or “I’m unable.” I try to work with people to cultivate that mindset.

If I flood this interview with you, I feel like I did a terrible job, I misspeak, I’m lost in it, I don’t understand your questions, I could just say “I suck” or I could say “Okay what can I learn from it? What could be different about my preparation next time? What could be different about the way I listen to your questions about losing and winning? Rather than saying “Hey let me just sit here and judge myself” because we’re naturally judgmental. We really look for the things that are wrong a lot, and a lot of … the utility in a show like yours, and focusing on the limitless and on the meditation and all these things that we do and on what makes people great, it helps you to take your mind off of what’s wrong and focus on what’s right.

Pedram Shojai:
I love it. I love it. There’s this element of mindfulness that we’re talking about that like an undercurrent of just observing what is and observing where were at cut the charge of judgement; Win, loose, we succeed, they fail, that kind of stuff. That allow us to then grow. I’m assuming you’re working with your athletes to then understand that they’re their own worst enemy, but that’s an opportunity versus a failure. I think that script is just so strong in so many people. I have thousands of people in my online communities, and that script right there is just the punisher. Like “I’m such a loser I failed.” How do we get out of that mess? It’s such a ball of twine, but you do this with some of the top athletes in the world, so you see it at the razor’s edge.

All Thoughts Have A Beginning, Middle, And End - via @DrFader via @PedramShojai

Jonathan Fader:
Yeah. You put it well. We all have that script. I really believe that script is a foundational part of being human. Our nervous system evolved over 600,000 years and it was designed to notice what’s wrong. We needed to notice what’s wrong to climb out of that primordial gunk. To run away from the saber tooth tiger you got to know that it’s there. We’re looking for that tiger. We’re always looking for what’s wrong, “Oh my God, how am I going to get hurt here in this relationship, in this job, in this competitive event? How am I going to get hurt?” I think fundamentally as you said it’s about accepting that, number one, accepting that I have that flaw, that human flaw. It’s a beautiful flaw but it’s dangerous. Accepting it and saying to yourself … having self-compassion.

One of the analogies that I borrow from the acceptance of commitment community and mindfulness is the idea of quick sands, that to fight those thoughts is like battling quicksand, you sink deeper into it. Another way to think about it I work with surfers, so it’s like fighting that rip curl, fighting that rip current that’s dragging you out. No you don’t wanna do that. You don’t wanna swim against it, you wanna swim sideways. Find a way where there’s less resistance. For me and for the high performance athletes, and performers in other fields, I find that there’s less resistance when you first accept it and say “Okay, I’m having that.” Then trying to shift it, but shifting it with grace. The grace is by focusing on your breathing. Grace is by allowing it to pass and noticing that all thoughts have a beginning, middle and an end, not fighting it.

Practicing an act of gratitude, taking a moment to say “you know as much as this hurts I’m thankful to have this moment. As much as this hurts, and as much as this is a disappointment, I’m grateful for my team, I’m grateful for my physical health.” It can shift things. “I’m grateful for my relationship with my child, for my ability to compete at the highest level. I’m grateful for these fans. I’m grateful for the fact that … despite the fact that I’ve failed my boss that they’re supportive of me. I’m grateful for the fact that I have a challenging career.” To be able to find a shift in your thinking and allow that to move you. I think those are ways that you act with failure in a graceful way.

 
Pedram Shojai:
Do you pre-program that when someone … say automatic kind of negative thoughts pop up, it’s just like “Ah shit I chunked it, I failed. They’re all going to judge me.” Where does that mindfulness come in when they go “Ah ah ah, no close that window, open up the gratefulness, open up the gratefulness app. I need to shift this script.” Their mindfulness and their awareness needs to be there at a certain place to intercept that and then bring on some other programming. I’m just curious about what level they get it and how you train it for your athletes? They’re all just people, right?

Jonathan Fader:
I think that’s a really sophisticated question because that shift is a delicate one, I think. It’s hard man, it’s really hard. It’s easy for me to say on the sidelines of a game where 50,000 are watching and maybe millions are watching on TV, like “Hey, just shift it.” I think a lot of coaches in my field and other coaches just say “Hey, just shift it.” I think you’re pointing out that it’s really difficult. One of the ways I think about it is if you’ve ever surfed or you’ve ever ridden a bicycle or a motorcycle, and you’re trying to turn. What most coaches will tell you is “Look through the turn. Look to the place that you want to go. Don’t look at where you [inaudible 00:11:07] look at where you wanna go and your body is going to follow.”

The first precept I try to work on with athletes is, first of all, lets not focus on what we don’t want you to do or think about, let’s focus on what we do want you to think about. If we can focus on what the adjustment is that we’re trying to make, it’s much easier than trying not to do something. In other words let’s not focus on trying to not think negatively, let’s just try to focus on a center that you’re going to direct your attention to.

For me I’ve had a lot of success with athletes and high performers in medicine and finance on focusing on teaching very, very basic breathing techniques. The same ones that you know work in yoga and meditation, because when someone is really focusing on their breathing and as you said drills it, has a routine around it, it’s really hard to do that and at the same time worry about what might go wrong. You’re really getting good at being in that moment and practicing that breath. Practicing a routine doesn’t have to be breathing. It could be for example picking a focal point, having a mantra … things that really, a routine that become fast all and easy to do, it helps. If a guy is at a shredding desk and he’s calm, a woman in there trying to trade and all of a sudden something turns, and the market turns and everything goes to crap. It’s helpful to know ahead of time what are you going to do to keep yourself from letting that moment capture your soul and drag you. To know “Okay when that happens, this is how I center myself. This is what I do.”

I don’t advocate for any particular thing. I know there’s somethings that work like I’ve suggested, but people have surprised me. Some people go to the bathroom and flush the toilet and watch the water go down the drain. There’s many ways to do this that can shift people. Some people get up and look at a picture of their kids. I think what’s important is it has to be portable and it has to be directed the kind of environment. If you’re a navy seal dropping into a different country, you can’t look at a picture of your kid. It has to be all in your mind, it has to be quick. If you are a fire fighter … I work with a lot of fire fighters, you don’t have time to really investigate your breathing. It has to be a routine that’s very, very clean. For example it could be just unhooking something that reminds you of what your focus is. Those things in my experience I’ve had a lot of success with people about that. The success is not just high performance, it’s that they enjoy their experience more in there job.

 
Pedram Shojai:
How much of this is on the court versus off the court? By court I mean whether you’re a Wall Street trader or a fire fighter, or any of this. For me when I teach meditation it’s like “Look, if the shit’s hit the fan and that’s the first time you’re going to try meditation, chances are it’s going to be a little iffy. The reason you sit on your cushion and you park your ass there and do all the things that you do is so that you know that state and you could recall it when it comes.” How much of this work do we need to do? Anxiety is there, stress is there, that stuff isn’t going away, right?

Jonathan Fader:
I love that question. The reason I love it is because if you don’t have something that’s natural for you you’re going to react in the way that you’re accustomed to react. If you’re in a relationship with a person, you’re partner, and you just learned a way of reacting when they do something you don’t like, unless you drill another way to react, you’re going to just do it the same way. I definitely believe that. I believe that routines are essential. The more that you’re able to drill a routine, the more it’s going to come very quickly in a moment of adversity. If I know and I’ve practiced, this is how I’m going to react and the scenario. Whether I’m on a basketball court or whether I’m at home talking to my kids. If I practiced it ahead of time and I know what I’m going to do ahead of time, it’s really contingency management. You’re really planning for that contingency. We do what we’re accustomed to do.

One of the things I say and I think it’s related a little bit to what you’re talking about is performance psychology and what we call mental conditioning is different than traditional psychology. The difference is that in traditional psychology a lot of times we wait for things to get broken before we attempt to fix them. We wait for stuff to get messed up and for us to be really stressed out, and performance psychology isn’t about that. I don’t wait for athletes to feel off their game to start working with them. My idea is “we’re conditioning you to really be ready for adversity”. That’s a big difference.

I actually talk about it .. one of the ways I talk to athletes about is I say “people’s minds are like fish tanks, and that if you just wait and you don’t add a PH balance and add the correct water and filter it and all this stuff, it starts to build up gunk.” Even the healthiest brains are going to build up gunk. We all have a little gunk in our fish tank. If you’re going to be wanting to perform at a high level, either in sports or any aspect of life, it’s important to be conditioned, to make sure that water in the fish tank has the right PH balance. That you’re really working to purify, that you’re … whatever way that works for you. Meditation, breathing, thought restructuring, building a routine, visualization, running, but doing things that help you to clean out that fish tank. When you get to that moment, and it’s your chance to be at the free throw line, to bat, that you’re really ready for it.

Pedram Shojai:
I love that. I love that. An example I’ve used which is similar but different is flossing. You do it so you don’t have to go and get drilled in the mouth and get to that place where your hygiene is messed up.

Jonathan Fader:
Exactly. Exactly. This is proactive. Shows like yours are excellent because they’re really … I think your listeners are listeners who are saying “Hey I wanna enjoy this time, this gift. I really want to. I wanna enjoy this gift. This is a gift and I wanna find resource that are gonna help me to enjoy this gift.” That flossing analogy or the fish tank is really about saying, “Hey, listen, there are skills” and I call them “curls for the brain”, there are exercises that I can do, very simple things that are gonna keep me flossed, they keep all the gunk out of my teeth. Not only do I avoid the dentist, but I have a bright smile.”

Pedram Shojai:
Totally. Totally, which actually takes care of all my other success metrics that attracted me a good mate, it got … you know what I mean. All the other things that people stress about.

Jonathan Fader:
Totally.

Pedram Shojai:
It’s great. This is like pay-it-forward-so-that-you-don’t-get-into-crisis mode thinking. I think a lot of people are just waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time and so it’s-

Jonathan Fader:
Aha. 1000%. 1000%.

Pedram Shojai:
You mentioned something in your book, and there’s so many things. I can talk to you forever, called motivational interviewing. You work with a lot of doctors, law enforcement on this. It’s about motivating others. I’d love for you to unpack this because a lot of us in … Like for me as an ex-physician, there’s all of these things that you can impart on somebody and you could tell ’em what to do, they’re still not doing it. There’s this huge dissidence there.

Minds Are Like Fish Tanks - via @DrFader via @PedramShojai

Jonathan Fader:
I am honored that you read the book in that detail. I have to say of all the things that I entered in that book, one of the things I’m most passionate about is this technique or this way of being called motivational interviewing. The reason I’m really passionate about it is because it is very much a scientifically supported way of talking to another person of change. Fundamentally, the ideas behind it are these; when someone’s ambivalent about changing, whether that’s about smoking, drinking, using drugs, or about exercise or even what you want them to do at a work, the more that you instruct big, tell them, message them about your agenda, why you want them to do it, generally speaking what that does is it elicits psychological reactants. Our urges when we see something that’s wrong, as a physician, or as a counselor, as a boss, as a dad, as a husband, as a partner, we wanna say “Look, you need to do this because”.

Motivational interviewing says actually it’s just the opposite. What helps people to change when they’re ambivalent about change is number one, to really show them you understand how difficult it can be to change. If you can do that as a beginning to a conversation, that person is going to wanna talk to you, and talk to you honestly about change. Number two, is to figure out what’s in it for them? What’s their intrinsic motivation? Why would they wanna change? Not why you think they should. Bill Miller and Steve Rollnick developed this technique. They’re 2 psychologists and they imparted first to addictions, but as you’re saying it really has been applied to things like law enforcement.

Steve Rollnick is now beginning to think about it and apply it to sports as well. I’ve definitely used it in sports as a way of saying “You know what, what I want this person to do isn’t as important as what they wanna do.” I fundamentally believe that. Even if I know I’m right, it’s their life. If I know that mental skills training or mental conditioning is going to help this athlete, this basketball player, this football player really up their game, help them to achieve their goals, it doesn’t matter if the guy in front of me or the woman in front of me doesn’t think it’s important. This is his evidence-based way of talking to people about their ambivalence. Resolving their ambivalence to accept change or to engage in a conversation about the possibility for change.

Pedram Shojai:
Statistically speaking how much better are we doing with this technique? You’re meeting them where they’re at. Number one subject in everyone’s life is themselves. You’ve already crossed the bridge, you’re over there, and then you walk back over with them, are you seeing it like is this a slam dunk? Is it really changing the game in sports psychology?

Jonathan Fader:
It’s definitely changing the game of life. Just to even you ask the questions and hear you start using the words motivational interviewing and sports psychology is exciting. I’ve done a couple of presentations at the Association for Applied Sport Psychology about it. There’s growing interest, like I said Steve Rollnick the founder is starting to talk about it more. It’s really appearing in sports more. As far as the science behind it, where you’re asking about, there’s a ton of scientific evidence that it’s an effective technique in a wide variety of disciplines, law enforcement and medicine, and psychology in general. There’s emerging research about using in sport. Really at an exciting forefront of using it in sport and then sports psychology, because if someone doesn’t wanna do what you think is right, you’re stuck.

If you’re a coach, you’re a boss, and someone doesn’t really fundamentally doesn’t wanna do you certainly can impose your will. You know it’s going to get done with less gusto and less commitment, than if you really find a way to help someone to talk about why they would wanna do it. It’s an art. It takes practice and it’s difficult. I found it to be clinically effective and just effective in conversations. Also it’s allowed me to enjoy conversations with people. I’m big about enjoyment. Life is too short to focus just on winning. Winning’s important and [inaudible 00:22:46] important if you’re in sports, but you’re not going to be a player for your whole life.

Everybody I talk to when they finish their career talks about “I wish I’d enjoyed it more.” Soon as I get off this podcast I’m going to say “Hey I wish I really had more time to [inaudible 00:23:01] that. That was fun.” I really try to encourage them. I think motivational interviewing has helped me to do that because it’s allowed me to focus on the relationship, as you said at the beginning of our discussion, humans first.

Pedram Shojai:
It’s a heart to heart connection, in an interaction meeting someone where they’re at, so there’s didactic … “here me and listen to me I’m the doctor, I’m the teacher, I’m the whatever.” It seems like … for me, you’ve got me tripping on that actually. As I was thinking about it, I’m a filmmaker and so it’s like “How the hell do I do this with an audience of millions?” The question is you can still use social media and engagement to get their sentiment. This is the future of two-way communications and I think it’s changed a lot. There’s another part here, and I know we’re low on time and I really wanna unpack this.

Jonathan Fader:
Listen man, I’m happy to talk you you more. This could just be … hopefully it’s the first of many opportunities we get to exchange ideas. Your questions are really sophisticated. I think you really … clearly I knew this about you, but I really feel like your questions come from a part of really wanting to help people to enjoy things and to be connected. I’d love to continue our conversation.

Pedram Shojai:
Cheers brother. Cool. Awesome, then lets flow. Thoughts and feelings, and the separation of thoughts and feelings, you get into the differences and we wanna talk about how to separate those to understand the inner anatomy psychologically so that then we can actually stand a chance to effect change. If you could tease that out a little bit, let’s play there in that sandbox for a minute.

You can Learn When You Get Results You Don't Want - via @DrFader via @PedramShojai

Jonathan Fader:
Fundamentally, what I hear more than anything from humans is “I feel like I can’t do it.” What I say to everybody is “that’s not a feeling.” A feeling is an emotive word; sad, scared, angry, overwhelmed, consider that a feeling. Then what is it? “I can’t do it” is a thought, and that’s important because you can’t directly change a feeling. I can’t say to someone “Don’t feel sad. Don’t feel overwhelmed.” When I joke around with people I say “That’s for your friends and family to tell you that. I’m never gonna tell you that. I’m never going to tell you don’t feel sad.” What I will say is “wait a second, you can’t do something? That’s a thought.
Thoughts are subject to investigation, and subject to looking at where were getting data for these thoughts. We have thoughts all the time and a lot of them are baseless. They’re just a result of … I call “monkey brain”, that scared part of ourselves that’s looking for what’s wrong and not for what’s right. Someone sells me “I can’t do it” I say “wait a second. Let’s look at the evidence that that may be wrong.” Most of the time people can point out things like “Well, this is evidence that I could do it, or that I could succeed, or that I could challenge that thing, or I could look at it differently.”

It’s really helpful in life to establish the difference. When someone says “well, you know, I feel like they don’t like me.” That’s not a feeling. Maybe you feel scared but feeling like someone doesn’t like you … you’re saying “I think they don’t like me” well that’s great, we can investigate that. What makes you think …? Sometimes we find out that you’re right. There’s evidence that the person doesn’t like you, and then we think about what can be changed in terms of a behavior. It’s dangerous to look at a thought and say it’s a feeling, because feelings can’t really be changed. They’re an outcome, fundamentally when you think about it. They just are. They just exist. Whereas thoughts are ones that we can look at and really have much more direct control. They’re subject to our executive functioning, where feelings sometimes come from a deeper part of our old brain.

Pedram Shojai:
When you say this, it makes me think of how little internal literacy we have as a culture to even be able to separate those two, and be able to stand a chance against the barrage of shit that’s constantly swarming up there, and trying to stop feelings, and bottle feelings, and all these type of things that we know don’t work. In a performance sense you got a guy that’s going out on the court, he’s up to bat, this is the game, you got all these types of things and then the feelings come up. I could feel anxious, I could feel nervous, there’s all sorts of feelings that are going to come up naturally. Then there’s the negative thoughts as well. Is there some sort of formula, like you get in there and you have them dissect that at the moment of? How do you disarm that when its already … the blood starting to boil?

Jonathan Fader:
First of all, the question’s helpful to me. I think I can illustrate a distinction that I have experienced with the league players on the court, of the court, it’s that when someone is in a state, where they’re really feeling very overwhelmed, I don’t think thoughts are very helpful. I think behaviors are more helpful. If someone is in a state where they feel like the game is on the line, or they’re doing a presentation … I don’t think it’s helpful to actually add stuff to your brain, basically. I think it’s helpful to make your body do things.

What I mean by that is let’s say you are at the basketball court near the free throw line and the game is on the line, you’re feeling a sense like overwhelmed. I think it’s much more helpful to focus on things like blinking your eyes before you take the shot, like focusing on reducing your chest breathing. Sometimes adding thoughts can actually make it more complicated, like that quicksand feeling I talked to you before. I think it’s really helpful to look at your thoughts later and make sure that you’re not creating a story about yourself, that’s compounding, and building a way to have self-esteem or lack thereof.

I think at game time or in the moment it’s really as we talked about to have routines, to have things that can quiet your mind and take your brain away from the thinking world and into just being in yourself and having self-compassion. If I recommend any thoughts, it’s a more a centering thought. For example I suggest to people just this moment, is a thought that can help people to clear off the, as you said the morass of things that go on, or even just this ball, this pitch, this … whatever they’re doing, this trade for a person in finance, helps them to simplify things. I’m not going to worry about what’s going to happen 10 minutes down the road, I’m in this moment. For me I use this [inaudible 00:29:51]. My mantra is “This moment.” I can’t show you because it’s on my phone right now but I have my phone and my phone screen it just says “This moment.”

I have things that remind me everywhere to just try my best to be in this moment. I think simplifying language can really be helpful in that to get rid of all the gunk that’s there rather than adding more concepts in the moment.

Pedram Shojai:
I like that. I like that because I think there’s a lot of narrative around layering and trying to get into a virused system with more programs. If the emotions are overwhelming you, good luck, you don’t stand a chance. I’m personally like a visceral hack guy. I’ll do lower abdominal breathing and maybe even tap my abdomen and just step in … just trigger parasympathetic, and then that works for me. That’s my orientation. That might not work for everyone else. I love that you have different ways of doing it.

Jonathan Fader:
If someone was willing to do it, I think that would work for most humans, a bit of my experience. The things you talked about, it’s a matter of going back to the motivation, if the person is willing to try those things. Yeah, I think that’s great. Anything that gets your sympathetic nervous system to calm down, your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in is great. I think the things you described, belly breathing, that kind of stuff, that’s great. If someone’s going to be willing to do it I would recommend that. What you’re talking about is combining the breathing and something physical.

I’m going to misquote … Thich Nhat Hanh I think said “Is it that you smile because you have joy, or is that your smile is the source of the joy?” In other words which comes first? Are you running because you’re afraid, or are you afraid because you’re running? What you do a lot of times dictates how you feel. If you’re the kind of person, which I know you to be, clearly because you have this show and because of the questions you’re asking, that does things that are about actions and centering yourself you’re likely to feel more in the moment. The more that we can help other people to understand that that’s viable, and that’s really effective and has a lot of both spirit and true science behind it, I think the better off people’s lives will be.

Pedram Shojai:
A, thank you for that and B, awesome. I love the fact that some of these ancient old stuff is just as relevant, just as applicable in modern day everything. I got a question about the alchemists, you got guys like say Michael Jordan, or … some of these people that just feed off of it, they actually metabolize it. They eat that shit for lunch. When they’re in those moments it actually brings out the best in them. Have you noticed a different kind of trait in them? Is there a specific thing that they’re doing? Is it just their orientation towards stress? Those people are fascinating to me.

Jonathan Fader:
The reason I’m pausing, I’m just thinking about your question because … They have a lot of respect for the fact that, I think what you like you do, and I love this about your questions, is you’re trying to figure out what’s the map here for humans? There is no map for us. We’re born, we don’t get a map. If were lucky we get one parent, maybe two that’s going to show us the way, but we don’t get a map. We’re trying to figure it out.

When we look at these people, these unbelievable titans of performance, I agree from what you’re insinuating that we can learn from them like what do they do? How do they get there? There are 2 things i think about when I work with these people. One, I do believe they’re people that are born with this, it’s just magic. There’s a term that we talk about in performance psychology and you can read about it in my book, Life as Sport, but also in books like The Sports Gene, books like Bounce. The iceberg effect. When you see this titan, the Steph Curry’s, the Michael Jordan’s out there just doing their thing, you’re like, “My God.” You’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg, what you don’t see is all the work that went into the mental conditioning. All the work that went into helping them to face adversity.

I think there’s something special. Some people talk about this, and some theoreticians have about talked about this as the rage to master, this indestructible desire to be the best. When I work with people like young protegees in different … violinists, things like that, the level of frustration that they have when they’re not at their game, I don’t have that. I don’t have the talent to be as frustrated as they get. I think part of it is also working at it and developing what Carol Dweck calls “A growth mindset” this idea that … we were talking about it, “if something goes wrong I’m going to learn from it.” Not “if something goes wrong I’m going to just fold up in my tent and go.”

Another example I have for this is sometimes I lose my keys, or my phone, or my wallet, or my keys and my phone and my wallet, and I’m running in my house looking for them. Sometimes I get orientation word that says “Ah god I’m not going to find them” and that hurts me. That makes me less proficient at finding them. If I really with the orientation, I’m going to find these keys. Changes the way I look for them. It doesn’t create magic, it’s not going to make them appear but it changes my approach. I’m more eager. I’m turning over stuff I might not turn over. I’m looking faster. Great titans of sport and business they have that orientation all the time. They’re always looking and they’re always saying “I’m going to find these dang keys.” That’s a big difference.

Pedram Shojai:
They’re problem solvers and they look at this thing in front of ’em and they have to get the solution set, whether it’s where the keys are, whatever. Would it be fair to say that we can’t all … Maybe Michael Jordan was born with some special magic genes and he has that thing, and he’s grown into that, maybe he’s done hundreds of thousands of self-discipline and work and we haven’t run his miles, so he’s who he is. The one thing we could all commit to is being learners in this game of life, and using that for performance and self-improvement, is to look at these opportunities as a way to learn about ourselves, and learn adversity, and just make this the game of life.

Jonathan Fader:
1000% I love that. The word you used “learner” such a hard word man. God that’s such a hard word. The Japanese philosopher Suzuki once said, and you probably know this quote, I think it corresponds to what you’re talking about, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.” “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” I consider you to be an expert, and what I mean by that is forget about your other podcast, your questions alone reveal a level of expertise about what it means to enjoy life and be at your best. You also have what I would call beginner’s mind, you’re open to learning from people in all kinds of fields and sharing with your viewers different philosophies and thoughts.

I think if you decide every morning and say “Everybody can teach me something, I’m going to have a beginners mind,” whoever they are, guy in street, woman in the clothing store, guy I bump into on the bus, wherever it is you just say like “everybody can teach me something” the 5-year-old, 85-year-old. Having that beginner’s mind, however smart you think you are, I think is a tremendous asset in life.

Pedram Shojai:
Thank you. I think it’s also the recipe for healthy ageing, because the ego really wants to ride in be like “Listen man, I got this shit. I got this. I understand everything now …” When Steph Curry has that thought that’s when he misses the game winning shot. You empty yourself to be in that space and so … Dude, you see it all the time.

Use Your Time In A Way That Feels Fulfilling - via @DrFader via @PedramShojai

Jonathan Fader:
No doubt. Yeah. I see it all the time. I see it all the time on the basketball court. I see it all the time in my kid’s classroom. It’s really hard. It’s hard to remember how small you are and how big the universe is, and how we’re all really looking constantly for fulfillment and sometimes it takes us off track.

Pedram Shojai:
Yeah. We have all these cultural accolades and things, and badges, and medals, and white coats, and degrees, and all sorts of shit that pull us out of that and put us into this expert place and as soon as we go there we stop learning. That’s dangerous. Man, [crosstalk 00:39:13] I love, I love where you’re coming from, I love your brain, I love this work. I would love to have you back on the show. The book is called Life as Sport. doctor Jonathan Fader. I’m going to put it up there. I’m assuming it’s available everywhere books are sold, how can people get a hold of it? How can people get a hold of you?

Jonathan Fader:
You can get a hold of the book on Amazon, and you can get a hold of it wherever books are sold, it’s at most bookstores. You can find more about the book and about me at jonathanfader.com or you can follow me on twitter @drfader.

Pedram Shojai:
Love it. Love it. Man, I know you got a kid’s birthday and you stepped out for this. I know what it is like to be a dad at a kid’s birthday, so I’m not going to hold you from that anymore. You’ve already [crosstalk 00:40:00]

Jonathan Fader:
It’s my daughter’s school’s potluck. They are having this like big potluck and I stepped out. It’s great to talk about the book and it’s to have the opportunity to get the word out there, but I learned from talking to you and from thinking about your questions. I think you know it’s very much to the thing that we are both working towards, which is to get more satisfaction from life and to teach each other, and to teach others. I appreciate the opportunity to come on.

Pedram Shojai:
Love it man. You’re always welcome. I love your head and where’s your brain’s at and all of it, and your heart. You’re in there and you’re real. Keep up the good work. Enjoy that potluck. If you’re listening to this or watching this, check out the book. I think the stuff is amazing and I think it’s cutting edge. We’re out of this pathology model and now moving into this other dimension of what we can be? How we can be? The conversation’s really opening up and you’re part of that conversation. You’re a voice in that, so thank you. Thank you for doing the work that you do.

Jonathan Fader:
Thank you man. Thanks for having me on and inviting me into your conversation, and your world. I really appreciate it.

Pedram Shojai:
Cheers. Honored. Hope you dug it. I love that guy. We had a great rapport and I really think that he’s going to be on the show repeatedly, because I love his message. Check out over here to my left if you’re watching the video, some previous episodes, you could subscribe here below me. If you’re listening, get in to wherever your feed is and subscribe and check out what you’ve missed in the feed. I got a lot of stuff coming your way. Again, let me know where you need help so that we can find the guests that are there to help you. I’m here to help you in your life. I hope this one did. Let me know what you think. I’ll see you next week.

 

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