Tools to Train Your Brain – Pattern Interrupt

What is a “Pattern Interrupt” and how can I use it to control my mind?

 A Pattern interrupt is a technique to change a particular thought, behavior or situation. Behavioral psychology and neuro linguistic programming use this technique to interrupt and change thought patterns and behaviors. It can be as simple as initiating a handshake or as definitive as seizing the moment to travel or fulfill your bucket list.

Humans have an average of up to 50,000 thoughts per day. Amazingly up to 95 percent are the same thoughts, repeated every day (according to the National Science Foundation). That’s a lot of repetition. And very little space for new thinking. [Helen Roe,]

We all have patterns in our behavior. Some are simple habits while others are ways of thinking that are deeply embedded in our subconscious mind. Usually these patterns help us simplify our lives by not having to think about everything that we encounter. There are also patterns that cause us to do things that are not in our best interest or just make us feel bad.

As an example of a simple (mostly helpful) pattern, let’s say you are packing up books into your backpack. Do you think about how they go into the backpack? Unless there is a book that is unusually large, you probably don’t think too much about the activity. You just do it. What else do you do without thinking? Probably more than you might think. These are the patterns that often help us by keeping our life simplified… but sometimes don’t help.

Patterns in Sports

Let’s say that every time you try to do a drill in practice you are frustrated because you are not getting the results you want. Every time you start the drill, the emotions start coming out. You have built a pattern that ties together a particular drill with the bad feelings of frustration.  Intellectually you know that it takes time to learn a new skill but you are still frustrated.

That’s where a pattern interrupt could help you take control of your [pattern of] emotions. It can be difficult to interrupt your own patterns since many of them are so deeply embedded and automatic that we might not recognize them as just patterns. This is where it helps to have a coach or a friend you trust that understands when you need a pattern interrupt.

What might be a pattern interrupt for this example?

By definition, the interrupt must be unexpected and not part of the pattern. If the coach sees that you are getting frustrated by the drill, he or she might walk by and poke you in the shoulder or make a silly sound.  Maybe the coach shakes your hand. Whatever they do, as long as it is unexpected, your pattern would be interrupted. After that, you both might smile because you realize there is no reason to get upset over a drill that you are learning. The coach might then explain how you could take control of your emotions and even enjoy the challenge of the drill.

Other applications of a Pattern Interrupt in Sports

Patterns are not limited to reactions to external situations. You might have a pattern of thinking when you encounter stressful or pressure-filled situations. Do you say to yourself “I am not good at this.” or “I can’t do this.”? These are patterns that can hurt your chances of performing successfully in games and as soon as you recognize them, be sure to interrupt the pattern. Replace those thoughts with empowering thoughts and you will get a boost of confidence.

Imagine the pattern…

Since you probably are not asked to make a game-winning shot every day, it can be helpful to imagine or visualize the situation. It has been proven that your brain doesn’t care if it is a real experience or a vividly imagined one. By “putting yourself into the situation” via visualization you can evaluate your thought patterns and interrupt the ones that are not supporting your success.

How do I use a Pattern Interrupt in [non-sport] situations?

The first step is to recognize a pattern you want to change. It might be an emotional response that you have… or it might be a pattern you recognize in your friend’s response.

The next step is to INTERRUPT THE PATTERN. Did you see what I did there? I typed in ALL CAPS to interrupt the flow of your eyes as you read this paragraph. Yeah, it was probably not much of an interrupt but it gives you an idea of how you want to “take a sudden left turn” to break out of the pattern.

The final step is what you do after the pattern is interrupted. It does very little good to go around doing crazy stuff to break people out of unproductive patterns if you don’t help them move in a better direction.

Depending on your relationship with the person whose pattern is being interrupted, it may be as simple as asking them a question or two so you can find out why they have been repeating the pattern. Usually it made sense when it started but it could also be a result of years of built up history so be sure to let them know you are there to help.

Bottom Line…

If you want to break out of old (unproductive) habits, you need to recognize and then interrupt the patterns. This will give you the opportunity to do something different (and hopefully better).

Pattern Interrupts are a valuable tool that anyone can use to train your brain. We are all creatures of habit based on years of history. We have patterns that help us and others that don’t.  You now have a tool to start changing those habits or patterns into something that better supports your goals.


Please leave a comment below to tell us how you used a pattern interrupt. What did a pattern interrupt do for you or someone in your life?

Mental Models & the OODA Loop

What am I talking about when I say “Mental Model”?

A Mental Model is a concept in your mind of HOW to solve a particular type of problem. For example, you might think that the way to put out a fire is to pour water on it.

You may think this because you tried it and it worked or someone told you that it would work. In many cases this mental model for putting out a fire works extremely well… but there are some cases when it is the last thing you want to do.

What if the fire is a grease fire? If you pour water on a grease fire, it will make it even worse. Check out the short video below to see what happens.  There are a number of alternative mental models for putting out fires that would work better such as cutting off the oxygen to the fire (by putting a lid on the pot if the grease fire is in a pot).

For other types of fires, a better approach (or mental model) might be to crush it or stamp out the fire. Or your mental model might tell you to find an appropriate fire extinguisher and use it on the fire.  Clearly there are many mental models and many ways to solve a problem.

Value of 3M – Multiple Mental Models

As we saw in the previous example, having multiple mental models can make us more adaptable to different types of problems that might arise. We all know someone (maybe ourselves) who is like the man who only has a hammer so everything in his world looks like a nail!

3M (Multiple Mental Models) is especially important in changing situations where our old models might not be the best choice. Add to this the Uncertainty that must arise when we realize that our observations, almost by definition, are imperfect.

We view everything through the lenses of our past experiences and values. If something doesn’t fit, it is common to just “brush it off” as an anomaly or a freak, one-time occurrence. Denial can cause a problem to grow until we are faced with a dire situation (which could have been solved easily if we had recognized it earlier). So how do we solve problems faster and, ideally, when they are smaller and easier to solve?

Inside the OODA Loop

OODA stands for Observe / Orientate / Decision / Action and is a problem solving framework developed by a fighter pilot named John Boyd. The OODA Loop is the sequence that we go through to solve a problem, often in a competitive situation where our competitor is going through their own OODA loop too.  Even if your problem is not as dramatic or life-threatening as fighter pilots trying to shoot down their opponent, the OODA Loop concept and way of thinking can still apply.

The first parts of the OODA loop are Observe and Orientate. As was shown earlier, our Mental Models figure into both how we observe a situation as well as how we orientate to it (or “make sense of the situation”). An incorrect or out-dated mental model can cause us to make (and act on) a bad decision. For a figher pilot, a bad mental model can be fatal.

On the other hand, if we have good mental models we may be able to jump from an Observation directly to Action. This “implicit decision” to react to a pre-determined situation can give you an advantage over your competition, especially if they are still Observing, Orientating and Deciding. By Acting before they do, you essentially are creating a new observation for them and short-circuiting their OODA Loop.

Basketball… for example…

If we are playing Man-to-man defense and the offense does “X”… do we have an “implicit decision” for the “Y” action that we will take? What are your team’s mental model(s) for situations that commonly come up in a game?

What if the competition beats or counters our actions effectively? Do we have a mental model to deal with this new situation? Do we need to adapt or change our mental model? Perhaps by switching from a pressure M2M to one that includes more help defense? Do we back off the M2M or change the match-ups?

Or do we need to develop a completely new mental model for an effective basketball defense? Maybe a zone defense would work better? Or something we have never tried before… ?

Building Mental Models

Whether you are competing on the court or in the corporate boardroom, you should understand how to build new mental models. There are two processes (that I learned from reading about fighter pilot and military strategist Col. John Boyd) which you can use to come up with new mental models… Inductive or Deductive.

Deductive process involves analysis and the breakdown of other mental models into sub-components that can then be re-imagined through the Inductive process. While deductive processes are important to our understanding of both the competitive situation and our options for action it can also lead to paralysis since we can always break things down into smaller and smaller bits which won’t get us closer to a new model and the ability to translate it into action.

Inductive process of building mental models involves creativity and the creation of new combinations or components to build a different mental model. Some combinations will work while others will be discarded. The key is to find something that can be acted upon and tried against the competition.

Where does all this end?

The short answer? Probably never since we are always encountering new competitive or problem-solving situations and must come up with new mental models.

The better answer? When we win. Once we have a mental model that works, we have an advantage in the current competitive situation. We can win.

The bad news (or exciting news, depending on how you look at it) is that things change and a mental model that worked in the past will probably be less effective in the future.

The competition learns… so be ready.

It is good to build a little Uncertainly into your life. Uncertainty keeps you on your toes and helps you be on the lookout for situations where your existing mental models are letting you down. A mind that is open to the idea that you don’t have all the answers will also drive you to continue to learn and prepare for your next competition. (Ideally, you are adapting faster than your competitors.)

Mental Models keep us alive by helping us solve problems. They can also kill us if we are in a dogfight and our mental model is out of date or ineffective.

Are your mental models up to date? What can you learn today so you are ready to build new mental models? If you found the OODA Loop idea interesting, I would recommend reading this post that gets into the concepts that Boyd used to create and implement his OODA Loop idea. It provides more insights related to the use of OODA Loops which can improve your effectiveness as an athlete and in life.

Leave a comment on your Mental Models

Did you find this article useful? What mental model did you explore or change? What problem did you solve by building new mental models? We would love to hear your stories and feedback in the comments below !

Overcome Laziness – Japanese Concept

Watch the video which will introduce you to a cool concept to overcome laziness. It is from Japan and called Kaizen. Watch the video and then we will talk.

Kaizen is a great way to make a change in your life. It starts a habit in the smallest way possible (for one minute) and allows it to take hold in your daily routine. Once it is a habit, you will begin to see results… which will motivate you to expand the habit and get even more success.

The concept of Kaizen is even more effective for young athletes who are just beginning to train their bodies for sports. While they don’t have the capabilities of a varsity athlete or the professionals they see on TV, they have a distinct advantage… TIME. By doing small tasks or workouts on a consistent basis a young athlete can become a superior athlete faster than they can imagine. Patience + Time = Results.

How could you apply kaizen to your life? Pushups in the morning for 1 minute? How about jumping rope for 60 seconds? How many jumps can you do in that time? What do you want to improve? Start implementing kaizen today!

Try it. Take a little bite. You will like what it does for you.

Mistakes… Deal with it!

Everyone makes mistakes. If they say they don’t, they are either lying or in extreme denial. Mistakes are part of life. The sooner you develop a process for dealing with them, both logically and emotionally, the sooner you will be equipped to react proactively to the reality of your situation.

First, recognize the mistake. In sports, it is often easier to recognize a mistake because the ball does not go into the basket or maybe it does… for your opponent. Maybe you tried to intercept a pass and did not get there in time. Or your opponent faked… and you went for it. It was a mistake… Move ON !

The second step (once you recognize your mistake) is to learn from it. If you are in a game, perhaps you can make a mental note that a particular player likes to fake a pass when he or she is pressured. Whatever happened, there should be something you can do to prevent the mistake from reoccurring. If the mistake was strategic (I’m talking to you coach), what could you have done differently to win? If you don’t learn from your mistakes, you are destined to repeat them.

The final step is to MOVE ON. As I said in the beginning, everybody makes mistakes. They are part of life but it does not mean you have to hold onto them like some sort of weird badge of honor. Learn… and let it go.

Try this…

I don’t remember which school or coach gave me this idea but I thought it was something that others should apply. The team created a ritual where they would “flush” their mistakes by making a “flushing” motion (like turning a handle) which symbolized that they were letting the mistake go and moving on. Other teams might clap or wipe their hands together (to squash the idea of the mistake). Whatever you do, a “mistake ritual” can be a useful tool so that you can concentrate on the next part of the game instead of holding onto the bad feelings associated with a mistake.

How is your team going to “flush away” mistakes? Do you have a culture that says it is OK to make mistakes of effort, like going for the steal? Will your team back you up and encourage you to take risks?

Bottom Line… On Mis-steaks

Mistakes happen. Decide how you are going to deal with them… productively. Recognize them, Learn from them and then Move On!

Hire Coach Wheeler 1-on-1

Why we will win

Coach Wheeler WinsAs I interviewed for various high school varsity coaching positions, I could see that some of the people on the selection committees seemed to be wondering “Why does he think he can take our school’s basketball program, which may have had only a handful of wins last season and establish a winning tradition?”
This post is in response to those skeptics that did not hire me… and, by choosing someone else, they gave me the opportunity to find a varsity coaching position that is an even better fit. (More on that in a future post.)

.. Is Winning Worth It?

If you are hiring a new coach, you might be wondering if winning is even a worthwhile goal. Isn’t it good enough to just field a team? My answer is NO and I have explained why winning is important in a previous post in case you on the fence.

Why build a winning basketball program

First, let me say that a certain amount of my motivation for building a winning program is selfish. I like to win and I like to see how my players grow as part of the preparation process that results in those wins.

I know that some of you have already tuned out. You heard “selfish” and decided that I am some kind of ego maniac who just wants to show how smart he is by winning basketball games.


Nothing could be further from the truth.

“I believe winning is a byproduct of preparation and mindset.” – Coach Dave Wheeler

I believe that young people should have the opportunity to LEARN HOW TO WIN, whether it is on a court, a field or in the classroom. Am I saying everyone should win? NO. Winning doesn’t work that way. The sooner we discover that we need to earn our wins, the sooner we will start doing the things it takes to win.


Are you ready to win?

At the core of my approach to basketball is a winning mindset that has 3 key tenets or beliefs.

  1. “We Never Quit”
    Babe Ruth said, “It is hard to beat an opponent that never quits.”
    Have I ever quit? Sure. I did 2/3 of a Half Ironman Race (swim, bike, run) in 90+ degree heat and had to drop out before the half marathon run portion. Does that mean I have quit on the idea of completing a full Ironman Triathlon? NO. It will happen and I continue to train.
    Motivational speaker Les Brown says, “The game is not over until I win.” This works well in life but you are probably thinking that basketball is a little different. There is a scoreboard and a clock. The rules say that whichever team has the most points on the scoreboard when the clock runs out is the winner of the game. So if you are on the losing end of the score does that mean you can’t win?
    The key is to have a bigger goal that defines “winning” for you and never quit until you win. The odds are that we probably won’t go undefeated this season but we can certainly beat more teams than we did last year. Can we get into the playoffs? With a shot at winning the whole thing? I like to aim high and work towards aggressive goals. That, plus a relentless drive to get better, is part of a winning mindset… and what I teach.
  2. “We control our minds” is the second key tenet or belief of a winning mindset.  This is a little more complicated than “Never Quit” and it involves learning many new ideas that might be less commonly known.
    The biggest take-away is how to control your mind so that you do not let your circumstances dictate your responses. We control how we approach the game. We control whether or not we let the bad calls made by referees (and we know that there will be more than one) control whether we get mad. We control what the events in our life mean to us and then use that control to react in the way(s) that get us the best results.
    One example of how we control our minds is the first lesson I always teach the first week of practice: The difference between Pain and Suffering:
    Pain is a physical sensation in your body. It is often a useful indicator that you are pushing your body to do more than it is used to doing, especially the first week of practice when we start the conditioning process.
    Suffering, on the other hand, is optional. Suffering is a choice. Suffering is based on how we interpret pain. Is it the worst thing that has ever happened? Does it mean that the coach doesn’t like me? Or does it mean that my body is being challenged and I will be better and stronger tomorrow? Does it mean that I am getting future wins for the pain I am experiencing today? Does it mean that the coach cares enough to push me so I find out how far I can go beyond what I thought were my limits?
    Suffering is a choice based on what we tell ourselves about the meaning of our current situation. By recognizing and controlling our choice of meaning, we get to experience life differently (and often in a better way).
  3. “We embrace and overcome Challenges” is the third tenet or value. Life is full of challenges. Some we choose and some are forced upon us. Basketball is very similar and it reveals that the challenges we choose are often related to the challenges that are forced on us.
    For example, if we choose to challenge ourselves physically (so we get into peak condition) by the time we face outside challenges, such as a game against another school, we will be better prepared to overcome whatever challenge they may bring.
    Preparation is one of the keys to winning and our mindset or approach toward challenges will determine how well we can prepare. Will there be challenges we did not anticipate or prepare for? Certainly. If not in basketball, there are always challenges in school and in life which we did not expect. Even with these challenges, if we approach them with a “Never Quit” attitude and with a clear understanding of how “We Control of Our Mind”, we will be much more likely to create a successful outcome.
Bottom Line…

I coach to win. Not because winning is the “ultimate goal” but rather because learning how to win is a skill that can be applied to almost any area of your life. It helps my players “set a higher standard” for their basketball careers as well as the rest of their life. They become winners.
Just like classroom teachers who provide critical skills such as algebra or proper grammar, I provide the skill of winning. The mindset that says “I will never quit”, “I know how to control my mind (and emotions)” and “I embrace and overcome challenges” because there will always be challenges if you want to achieve something great. In fact, there will always be challenges even if you aren’t trying to achieve something great… so why not choose greatness?


Let's build a winning mindset

Meditation for Athletes

Meditation for basketball athletesThere are a number of ways that meditation can be used by athletes to Train Your Brain to perform better both on the court or in the classroom. Some examples of the various types of meditations presented by Coach Wheeler include “No Regrets” meditation, Visualization and Mindfulness meditations. These and others will be discussed in the article below.

What are some places where can I use meditation?

There are also a number of situations where you can use meditation to put your mind in the proper state to perform at your best. Some of these are Pre-Game, Post-Game, Pre/Post Practice or in anticipation of a high stress event such as a playoff game or test in school.

What is meditation?

For the sake of this article, we will be talking about guided meditations where you listen to a voice that gives you directions to lead you through the meditation process.  There is a whole field of meditation which is “unguided” and sometimes uses a “mantra” or a phrase repeated over and over to train your brain. Other types of unguided meditation have you focus on your breath and that technique has been incorporated into the guided meditations produced by Coach Wheeler. Speaking of that…


Coach Wheeler produces his own basketball camp through that features Mindset training.  He also speaks at other camps on the topics of “Mind Control for Athletes” and “Train Your Brain for High Performance”. For more information and to check Coach Wheeler’s availability for speaking at your event, send him an email via the Contact Us page (click here).

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming…

No Regrets

This meditation is similar to the experience that Scrooge goes through in the classic story, “A Christmas Carol”. It is a simple story… Scrooge is exposed to a vision of the past, present and [a potential] future. The key is to figure out what your current present (and past) is leading to (one potential future) and then figure out what changes you need to make (NOW) so that your future will be better.

In essence, this meditation takes you through a visualization of some future event that is causing you stress and which you might end up with regrets if things do not “go your way”. Once you have seen the future, you come back to the present and imagine the changes you need to make so that your future improves. The final part of this meditation is a visualization of the new (better) version of the future event based on the changes you will make in the present.

Typically this results in an empowered feeling that you have more control over your future and are motivated to take the actions needed to make your desired future happen.

Want to try it? Contact Coach Wheeler for information on how you can get a copy of his Guided Results Meditation for “No Regrets” audio file. He often does this meditation at his basketball camps or speaking engagements.

Performance Enhancement / Visualization

Using a guided meditation to help you visualize success in a particular activity has been proven to be almost as effective as actually practicing the activity… without the physical stress of the activity.

Visualization is a great way to”get more reps in” without putting added stress on your body. In fact, meditation, when done right, can be highly relaxing and aid in your body’s recuperation from hard training sessions. It is a great complement to the rest of your training on the court or in the weight room.

Visualization can be used to deal with a future pressure-filled situation like a game-winning shot or an exam in school. By visualizing the event, you can desensitize yourself to the potential stress. You also learn to relax so you can perform at your best.

Want to try it? Contact Coach Wheeler for information on how you can get a copy of his Guided Results Meditation for “Visualization for Athletes” audio file. He often does a Visualization meditation at his basketball camps or speaking engagements.

Relax/Focus [Mindfulness]

Mindfulness meditation is what most people are talking about when they talk about “meditation”. This type of meditating trains your brain to be mindful of the thoughts that pop up. Eventually, you will exercise control over how you interact with those thoughts.

The process of meditating, in almost all forms, is a form of relaxation for the body and mind. It is also a way to build the skill of control over the workings of your mind.

If you think about it… whose mind is the most important to control? If you control yourself, you are in a position to control the outcome of events in your life. This done through recognition of opportunities and application of actions toward your highest priority goals. Few people (or athletes) consider how much better they would do if they controlled their thoughts… and guided meditation is a great way to start.

Want to try it? Contact Coach Wheeler for information on how you can get a copy of his Guided Results Meditation for Mindfulness audio file. He often does this meditation at his basketball camps or speaking engagements.

Motivation / Focus 

This meditation is a “thinking exercise” to help you uncover your motivation and focus on actions to achieve your goal. This is especially important when you know what you probably “should” do… but you don’t really feel like doing it. As you reconnect with your motivation in a meditative state, you are re-energized and ready to launch into action.

Want to try it? Contact Coach Wheeler for information on how you can get a copy of his Guided Results Meditation for Motivation / Focus audio file. He often does this meditation at his basketball camps or speaking engagements.

Topics related to Meditation for Student/Athletes…

Focus is critically important to your success in any endeavor. It is obvious that distractions are achievement killers.

As your brain is trained through meditation to be more mindful of things going on in your life, there is a great tool that you can use to help you focus on what is most important. It is called “W.I.N.” or the practice of asking yourself “What’s Important Now?” on a regular basis throughout your day.  Click here for an article about how to use this tool to help you W.I.N.

Another great article on meditation for basketball players can be found here… click here. An infographic from that article is worth checking out.

Bottom Line …

Meditation is an incredible tool for athletes who want to get the most out of all their training efforts. You are working hard to improve your body and sport-specific skills. Why wouldn’t you Train Your Brain for high performance as well? This article presented different types of meditation to improve how your mind works in games, the classroom and life.

Coach Wheeler is not some sort of guru on a mountain top… he is a coach who is focused on results for the players he works with on a regular basis. Want to learn more? Contact Coach Wheeler to set up an appointment. click here.

When you control your own mind, you have an advantage over the competition. You are able to tackle bigger challenges with less stress. Are you ready to try meditation for yourself?

How to become a Top Shooter in Basketball

Become a ShooterThere are 5 key parts to becoming a consistent, successful shooter in the game of basketball. They are simple to understand but only the very best players actually put in the work to become great shooters.

The 5 keys to become an excellent shooter are…

  1. Proper form
  2. Strength
  3. Repetition / Muscle Memory
  4. Game-like Practice
  5. Mental Preparation

1. Proper form can be developed using a progression of shots from close to the basket to further out. You want to get your form correct before you worry about the other aspects of shooting.  Below is a video to show you how one of the best shooters does it (notice how many shots he misses, or doesn’t miss)…

2. Strength is required to add consistency and range to your shooting. In basketball, the key muscle groups include your arms (biceps/triceps), chest/back and core muscles. Coach Wheeler has a simple workout routine that hits these muscles quickly and effectively. The key to building strength is consistency. Working with weights once in a while is not going to build your strength. In addition, lifting weights that are easy to life won’t be much help either.

3. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition. To get better as a shooter, you need to “put up shots”. This will build your muscle memory as well as the strength you need in your hands and your eye/hand coordination. How many shots are enough? 100 shots per day is over 36,000 in a year or 140,000 over 4 years of high school. That seems like a large number but there are players putting in 1000 shots per day, sometimes with the help of shooting machines like Dr. Dish or Shoot-a-way, which can add up to over 1 million shots in high school.  What is right for you? It depends on how good you want to be. Check out this short video showing a 1000 shot workout…

4. Game-like Practice means taking shots in the style that you will be required to use most often in a game. Once an opposing team realizes you can shoot, they are unlikely to let you stand in one spot and shoot away. You are going to need to move to get open, perhaps make a move or two so you can get your shot off. This all needs to be part of your practice plan so that you are prepared for game situations. I like to see players incorporating either a move and one strong dribble before taking their shot or working on their catch&shoot as if they are coming off a pick. Whatever you are going to use in a game, you need to work on, and perfect, in practice.

5. Mental Preparation is one area that many shooters forget about. How are you going to perform when the pressure is on and you have to take the shot to win the game? Or more importantly, are you going to be able to hit every wide open shot you get? We see it all the time… someone is a good shooter but they are given too much time to shoot and they start thinking about how they “should” shoot. Their head gets in the way and they miss. Shooting, at least from a mental perspective, is all about trusting your training and just “pulling the trigger”.

Dr. Bob Rotella, an acclaimed sports psychologist, talks about the Trusting vs. Training mindset. The Training mindset is when you are practicing and perhaps fine tuning your mechanics or footwork. The Trusting mindset is what you need to use in a game since thinking about your form will only make it less smooth and less natural.

5 seconds left on the clock. You have the ball…

It is important to put as much pressure on yourself in practice as possible so that you can get used to high pressure game situations. The other mental trick when you get into a game is to fall back on all the work you put in and remember that you have proven to yourself, over and over again, that you can put the ball in the hoop. Just trust your training and make it happen.

Bottom Line if you want to become a shooter …

If you combine these five keys you will become an above-average shooter over time. The key is consistency of effort.

Here is BONUS idea # 1 which I picked up from Dave Hopla, former shooting coach for the Detroit Pistons. “Keep track of your results.” Dave tracks every practice and shooting demonstration that he does and it is a great way to see your progress both in your shooting percentage (Dave shot 98% the time I saw him give a demonstration) as well as the volume of shots you are putting up. It is also a great way to track your “streak” or number of consecutive days that you have done your shooting workout. Don’t break your streak and you will be amazed by how much you can improve over time!

BONUS idea #2 is from a player that scored over 2000 points in his high school career, Tom Brayshaw. He says that you must “Master the Mundane”. In other words, you have to do the little things that are sometimes boring or mundane, over and over again, if you want to become a good shooter. The way I like to think of this is you have to motivate yourself to get out on the court and put up the shots, even when you don’t feel like it. It is precisely those times that separate the OK or mediocre players from the shooting stars. If it helps, imagine that with each practice session you are passing one more player who didn’t put in the effort. You are one step closer to being the best. Will you be the best? You never know who you will encounter on the court so be sure to bring your best effort every day.

Mental Toughness – Value of Problems – Part II

If you have not seen my previous Mental Toughness post: “Challenges & Problems”, check it out by clicking here.  Now let’s learn how to think differently so you can solve your problems and avoid some problems altogether.

Let’s understand Problems

Mark Manson points out in his book, that our personal values and the standards we set for ourselves “determine the nature of our problems and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our life.” In other words, good problems = good life (and the opposite).  Add to this the fact that we get (in terms of problems & results) what we accept based on the standards we set for ourselves and those around us.

Control the meaning of your problems…

Mark goes on to say, “Problems may be inevitable but their meaning is not. We get to control what our problems mean based on how we choose to think about them [and] the standard by which we choose to measure them.”

One man’s problem is another man’s dream.

Going back to our rich and poor example. The rich person might lose a million dollars in a day… but it is such a small part of their overall wealth that it means nothing. The poor person might misplace a dollar bill and it means everything to them because it is all that they have.

Problems have meaning and the good news is
that we get to choose that meaning.

What if the rich person chose to think that losing a million dollars was not a simple fluctuating in the stock market and was the start of financial ruin? The meaning of the loss could be ominous or inconsequential. Which one is right? Neither. Or maybe both. The point is that we CHOOSE what things mean for ourselves and very often it has more to do with our habitual thinking than the “reality” of the situation.

5 Counter-intuitive ways of thinking

Mark Manson offers 5 new “ways of thinking” which can help you become better at solving your problems and recognizing opportunities for personal growth. The 5 Ways or “New Value”are…

  1. Radical Responsibility
  2. Empower Uncertainty
  3. Embrace Failure
  4. Leverage Rejections
  5. Gain Perspective of Mortality

Radical Responsibility means taking responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life. It doesn’t mean that everything is your fault… just that you have the ability to respond to anything in your life. Everyone will encounter problems that are not their fault, but it is HOW you RESPOND that determines the quality of your life. What most people miss is the idea that we have much more control over our lives than we imagine. Unfortunately, most people just “go along” with whatever is expected and, as a result, they get mediocre (or worse) results. Bottom Line… Take Responsibility for your life. That’s a radical idea isn’t it?

Uncertainty is another opportunity for personal growth. If you already know all the answers, you won’t be searching for new ideas or new answers. If you adopt an uncertain approach, you are open to opportunities you would have missed. We should also keep in mind that there are things we don’t even know that we don’t know. Open the door to uncertainty.

Embrace Failure. We are all going to fail at one time or another. We can let it eat us up or we can see it as what it really is… a learning opportunity. Failure highlights our “blind spots” in ways that we rarely seek out. Think of failure as a gift… but don’t quit.

This might sound good, but what if you can’t even think of a potential plan of attack? What if the prospect of a HUGE failure is intimidating and you still don’t know where to start? What if it seems like you have already failed… before you are even “in the game”?

Lower the bar for failure… Do Something

Mark Manson explains a great way to lessen the anxiety associated with potential failure through the “Do Something” rule that he learned from one of his teachers. “If you are stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; Just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you are doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.”

“Don’t just sit there.
Do Something.
The answers will follow.”

Mark adds, “Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.” Once you take action, you often find that the small successes provide motivation while the small failures provide ideas that point you into a productive direction. “If we follow the ‘Do Something’ principle, failure feels unimportant.”

So, start failing. Start small. Do Something. Do anything. As Nike says, “Just Do It.”

Leverage Rejection. Manson says, “We are defined by what we choose to reject.” For example, if we value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X. What we reject defines our identity. If we don’t reject something we don’t stand for anything. Decide what you stand for. It will make your decisions clearer and keep your life aligned with your important values.

Gain Perspective from Mortality. We could all be hit by a bus tomorrow… but we rarely think about how short our life could be. In the timeline of the cosmos, we are a flash in the pan, a brief flicker in history so how much does it matter that someone cuts you off in traffic? Stoic philosophers would advocate to think about death at all times so we would appreciate our life more.  Mark Twain once wrote, “The fear of death follows the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Your own mortality is the ultimate “Big Picture” view and it helps put everything into perspective. Don’t deny your mortality… use it !

Which Problem is worth a F&ck?

Bottom line, you get to choose how you respond to the problems in your life, how you solve problems and even which problem you choose to tackle. Problems are a blessing and each new one gives us an opportunity to grow. What do you give a f*ck about?



Mental Toughness – Challenges & Problems

This post is about Challenges (sometimes called “problems” by other people). It was inspired by some ideas I learned from a book I just finished called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson.  I should warn you… the F-word is used throughout the book… ALOT.  Not that it bothered me as I was reading. It seemed to come from the author’s authentic voice and probably added more “flavor” to the book than if he had used the word”care” instead.

Bottom Line?

It is a book about what you care about and how to deal with things that you either don’t care about or should not care about. Obviously understanding the difference for each of those categories is critical for anyone who wants to lead a productive, successful and fulfilling life.
Bottom Line… good book. Read it.

Now let’s talk about Challenges…

Everyone has problems. I prefer to use the word “Challenges” (and it should be clear why by the end of this post) but Mark calls them problems so we will go with that… for now.

Picture two people.

The first one is the richest person in the world. Or maybe just the richest person you know or have heard of. For this example, NOT Donald Trump (his problems are in a completely different class). Getting back to the rich dude… Do you think they have problems? Think about it… Where are they going to invest all their money? Who can they trust with their money? Maybe they want to help people… which charity (out of the millions who might deserve help) should they donate to? Finally, how are they going to spend their money? If you have not seen the movie Brewster’s Millions with Richard Pryor, find a copy and watch it. Rich people definitely have problems.

On the other end of the spectrum, picture the poorest person in the world. Hopefully it is not someone you know. Maybe they have horrible clothes that don’t keep them warm enough. It is easy to imagine that they don’t know where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep. It is not hard to imagine their problems.

Why are we comparing these two people?

First they both have problems. In Life, you will always have problems. Get over it and move on.

Second, and this is a critical point, there are different types of problems. Some problems are better to have than others. What if the rich person was overweight and had terminal cancer? All of their “good problems” might be wiped out by a bad problem.

Where am I going with this?

You are going to have problems and you are going to have to deal with them. The Buddha put a different way, “Life is suffering.” Mark says “Life is a never-ending series of problems.”

Let’s Talk Happiness

It may seem like a hard right turn to go from “everyone has problems” and “Deal with it” to talking about Happiness but Mark brings up a good point in his book that explains how problems are related to your happiness. (And probably not in the way that you expect.)

One of the premises in Mark’s book is that “Happiness is solving problems.” Mark adds, “To be happy, we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action.”

I like this idea. Happiness is not a destination. It is something you do along the journey.

In other words, don’t bother saying “I will be happy when I get a raise” or “… when I get married” or “… when I have kids”. Solve the problems that are in front of you and keep moving in the direction of your dreams… knowing that happiness is a worthwhile journey.

Happiness is a process.

Part of that process is figuring out what you are willing to tackle, which problems you might LIKE to solve, while you are on the journey to your dreams.

There will be problems you would have never chosen… but they still need to be solved. The funny (?) thing is that everyone will run into a pile of sh*t along the way. The question is what (or how much) are you willing to push through to get a great life?

Mark says, “Struggles determine our successes. Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, upgraded problems.”

In other words, the joy is in the struggle!

Quick Review:
  • Everyone has problems (both good and bad).
  • We will always have problems and the act of solving them brings happiness (“along with slightly better problems”.)
  • We get to choose how we approach our problems.
    (Hint: we can call them challenges or opportunities.)
    (More about how to approach challenges/problems in Part II of this post)

W.I.N. – What’s Important Now?

It is a simple question… “What’s Important Now?” It is also a powerful tool for shaping / programming / improving your thinking to achieve your highest priority goals.

Lou Holtz Book - Whats Important NowThe W.I.N. approach has been used by legendary coaches such as football’s Lou Holtz and the NBA’s Pat Riley. Lou Holtz asked his players to ask themselves the W.I.N. question 25-35 times per day so they would keep themselves on track with the most important goals or activities they had as college football players and students.

Why does W.I.N. work?

“What’s Important Now?” forces your mind to consider your priorities and TAKE Action on them. Once you decide something is important, each time you ask yourself the W.I.N. question, you are reminded that NOW is the time to take action and move in the direction of your goal!

The other reason it works is the fact that “What we focus on increases”. If we focus on the negative things happening in our lives, we see more negatives. By focusing on the positives, we see that there are more good things going on than we may have thought. When you focus on your priorities and goals, you begin to see opportunities and new ways to achieve them. So why don’t we focus on the positives?

Left to itself, the mind runs whatever programs it has accumulated over the years. Unfortunately for many of us, there are plenty of self-defeating programs running around in our heads telling us things such as “you aren’t good enough”, “I’m not ready” or “Tomorrow would be a better time to start”. The “What’s Important Now” question short circuits that thinking and makes us focus on ONE thing… the most important thing. In many ways it simply bypasses our negative programming.

“What’s important now”
also tricks your mind

The other way that the W.I.N. question tricks your mind is that it automatically breaks down your biggest goals into smaller bite-sized actions or steps that you can take NOW. It is about doing something in the present rather than trying to make the huge jump into an ideal future. The “mind trick” occurs when, before you know it, you have either achieved your highest priority (and need to set a new one) or you look up and find that you are about to achieve it. By asking “What’s Important Now” on a regular basis, many times per day, you are training your brain to move toward achieving your highest priority. You are also putting blinders on so that you are not distracted by lower priority activities.

The REAL question is …

Now that you have learned about it, are you going to W.I.N.? Do you know “What’s Important Now”… for you? How are you going to put this idea to work for your life?

Please leave a comment below and tell us your plan or, better yet, tell us how the “What’s Important Now?” question has worked for you! Isn’t your life important enough to apply this powerful tool?