Focus on The Process

“There are no winners here. The point of Aikido is to train and focus on the process of getting better.”

Trust The ProcessIt took me about five years to learn this lesson from my friend, Brian, who helped me with my training. It was a hard concept for me to grasp. The sports I had formerly played were based upon a performance score that would determine the winners and the losers.

With Aikido, I trained religiously for years, going every day, hardly ever missing a practice.  I realized that the only way to get good at the art was through consistency.  It was doubly hard for me because there were very few tests, and very little feedback.

I sucked at the sport for years! It was only through grit and perseverance that I finally attained a high level of mastery by focusing on one thing:  trying to get better every day. By the time I tested for my black belt, it wasn’t really a test at all. I had been doing Aikido so long –  with so much consistency –  that the results took care of themselves.

While I didn’t learn this invaluable lesson until I was in my mid-thirties, I am able to pass this knowledge and training on to my kids. Three of my daughters now play competitive soccer and they train every day. Come rain or shine… they put their time in on the ball to improve.

Understanding mastery takes a long time and so I rarely get mad at the outcome of their games. As long as the effort is there, and they are learning, I know that eventually they will reach their potential. My goal for them is not to be the best soccer player in the world but rather the best soccer player that they can possibly be.

Rick Barry, the former basketball player for the Golden State Warriors, used to shoot the ball underhanded at the free throw line. He was mocked his entire career for shooting in this manner.  His method was seen as too feminine and dainty for the rough and tumble world of the N.B.A.  Yet, Barry became a Hall of Fame player and retired with the highest free throw percentage ever! When he retired, he acknowledged that he was not the best basketball player ever but shooting free throws in this manner helped him become the best basketball player that he could ever be. For him, that was enough.

Contrast that with his peer, Wilt Chamberlain, who was considered the best basketball player of his generation. Chamberlain was a terrible free throw shooter. Even after being coached by Rick Barry and using his technique to improve his shoot, Chamberlain always reverted back to shooting overhand with the same disastrous results. The reason? He did not want to be seen as shooting in a sissy manner. When asked about Chamberlain, Rick Barry said “Although he was a better basketball player than me, Wilt was never the best basketball player he could have been, and for that he will have to live with that gnawing feeling that he came up short.” ( The insights from the Rick Barry story come from this podcast by Malcolm Gladwell)

Youth sports today are indescribably competitive and getting more so for younger and younger children all the time.  The need to win is so great by parents that the events become tortuous.  Just a few weeks ago, I witnessed an indoor soccer game where the parents came close to blows over the fouls the kids were committing. The behavior of the parents was truly sickening. Mind you, the players were eight year old girls!  It was sickening to be a witness to such twisted values.

On other occasions, I have had parents tell me that my daughters were not good enough or lacked certain skills. It seems most parents have forgotten that kids make mistakes and, in order to get better, they need to make these mistakes.  While its never easy, or desirable, to have other parents criticize my kids, for me its more important that they develop the core discipline that they will then be able to replicate in other areas…on and off the field.

In the seminal book, The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey , Tim  walked away from his professional tennis career…get this… to focus on becoming a tennis player. He stopped playing competitive tennis and just focused on becoming a better player. What he realized was that his need to win short-circuited his ability to actually win.  Seeing everything through the lens of “winning” or “losing points” actually impeded his growth as a tennis player.

Once he jettisoned his need to win and focused instead on the outcome of his shots, adjusting accordingly without judgement, his tennis game took off.  He became a much better player.  He came to realize that by solely focusing on winning you actually lose more.

Gallwey’s book on peak performance is considered required reading for many professional sports teams. The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks actually make all players read his book to improve performance.

Bill Walsh, the legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was another coach who believed winning was secondary to the process. Walsh, who guided his team to four Super Bowl wins, was almost fired after his first two seasons because of his record: 8 wins / 24 losses.  In his book, he tells the story of how, in the beginning of his career, it got so bad  that one of his assistant coaches complained to the owner that Walsh did not care about winning because he never talked to the team about it.  But Walsh did care about winning. He knew the results were secondary. Before you can win, you have to do things in the right manner that eventually leads to winning. The foundation has to be built first before you can pile up the wins.  The wins are a result of the foundation. It doesn’t work in reverse.

For example, I am fluent in Spanish. However, every day I practice to improve my fluency. There are no guarantees in life, but doings things in the “right way” while staying committed to the process has greatly increases my chances of success in life. In my personal journey thus far, having experienced the highs and lows of life, it is the process that has repeatedly saved me.

Everyone’s process is different; but, for me, getting better every day in every way is the core of my daily practice.



The Inner Game of Money

He quit the game of tennis only to return as a Master.

Inner GameThe classic book by Timothy Gallwey called The Inner Game of Tennis is the true story about a tennis Pro who leaves the game he loves as he becomes increasingly frustrated with his performance. A top-tier player, he believes he has failed to reach the level of excellence he should have achieved given his talent for the sport.

Gallwey steps back and does a thorough examination of his game and ways to improve it. The journey leads him to the study of meditation and its application to his game.

In a nutshell this is what he learned:

  • You have to practice a lot.
  • By doing this you will master the skill.
  • Once mastered, your body will know exactly how to do what and when.
  • Even at a high level of mastery, you will make mistakes in a game as we are human.
  • If you beat yourself up over the mistakes you make, you will make more mistakes.
  • Focus on the process regularly guiding your mind back to the task at hand.
  • Do not judge any result as good or bad; rather focus on the outcome you desire.

He states, “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game. The former is played against opponents and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against but within the mind of the player and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety.” To really master any endeavor, the practice of extreme concentration is necessary to quiet the mind combined with the ability to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make in order to improve our performance.

What I found so poignant in Gallwey’s teaching is his focus on forgiving ourselves in order to experience real breakthroughs. However, the act of forgiving oneself to achieve peak performance is related not only to sports but to money as well.

In James Altucher’s podcast with T. Harv Ecker, Ecker talked about how he used forgiveness as a way to attract money into his life. At the time, Ecker had lost all of his money and was being besieged by creditors demanding payment. On one occasion, his six-month-old baby was crying as he talked by phone with a creditor. As Ecker became more agitated with his son and the creditor, he screamed at his child to shut up. Startled by his own behavior, he hung up the phone. This sudden outburst became a pivot point in his life redirecting him and his priorities..

He hung up the phone and made three pledges to himself: 1) never to yell at his son, 2) forgive himself, and 3) be vigilant with what he thinks about. The last decision to be vigilant in his thinking was the turning point in his life and brought about the wealth he was subsequently able to amass.

Its always been fascinating for me to look at the lives of the wealthy and the successful. Over the years I have read hundreds of books on the subject of money and wealth creation. Yet the one commonality among all of them was the importance of thought and the huge role it plays in attracting money.

Even the atheist and eccentric multimillionaire Felix Dennis recognized the importance of thought and its ability to make money, calling money “the one addiction I can not shake.” His brilliant book on the mater “How to Get Rich” is a must read for any serious student on entrepreneurship. The book is brilliant because it is so honest. Its not about selling you an easy dream or illusion. Rather it gets you to think and ask yourself the question, “Do I really want to be rich?” Because if you want it you must be prepared to make extreme sacrifices and be able to go though the pain to get there. Dennis almost went bankrupt several times in his life. However, by focusing intensely on the problem at hand and with determination to solve the issue, he was able overcome many of his difficulties.

Another wealthy entrepreneur who discuses the role of thoughts in his success is real estate magnet, Frank McKinney, who was a high school dropout and tennis Pro before he started buying real estate in Florida. His first few years in business were a disaster. He admits he was nothing more than a glorified slumlord. Yet he knew the only way out of being a slumlord was to make money by building quality, expensive homes. So he proceeded to do so. He started building million dollar houses on spec with his own money. Today he builds multi-million dollar houses still on spec with resounding results.

McKinney only builds houses he would live in. Then he finds buyers for these houses after the build is complete. He attributes his successful money making to “stretching the money muscle.” The process was gradual. First he started borrowing small amounts to the point of discomfort. Once he got accustomed to managing small amounts of money he scaled up to borrowing more money. Each time the amount of money he needed for a project was a stretch for him. His first major hurdle in flexing his money muscle was borrowing one million dollars. He incurred the loan then was able to make money on the transaction. McKinney now builds single-family homes that sell for over twenty million dollars. He always builds houses that test his mental and financial limits since he’s learned it is the only way to grow.

The writer of the great blog, talks openly about the mindset he used to create wealth.

Completely broke at the time, Pavlina decided to train his mind to look for spare change. Walking around he was able to spot loose coins. Thereafter he was able to find enough coins to total a few dollars every day. He then moved to dollars as his main focus and, just as before, he was able to find dollar bills every day. He then adjusted his thinking to accumulating hundreds of dollars a day to thousands of dollars per day. Each time it worked.

The switch from coins to dollars was a bigger shift in consciousness but it became a new way of looking at opportunities. For example, to make hundreds of dollars a day might require the awareness that a small business that you frequent has a terrible web site and then brokering a deal where you could get paid for improving the site. His point was that there are “pain points” everywhere where you can make money but you have to train your mind to focus on these opportunities.

In every one of these stories about making money and being successful in life, the thought comes first… then the money. For Tim Galloway and T. Harv Ecker, it was about forgiveness and mindset. For Felix Dennis and Frank McKinney it was focus and stretching the mind to attract wealth. Finally with Steve Pavlina it was all about the focus on specific amounts of wealth and creating the mindset to attract wealth.

If you like this post, you will want to read the very practical and easy to apply ways you can begin today to attract money and success into your life. Take a look inside… then begin your journey to prosperity.