Interview With Gene Jones, Developer of TriviationLeBron James possesses breathtaking physical skills but he did not win a championship until he mastered the mental game. This critical element for success has always fascinated me and I have written many articles on the subject, including my review of Garret Kramer's book Stillpower: Your Inner Source of Excellence in Sports--and Life.
Gene Jones, developer of the Triviation method to "activate breakthrough thinking," believes that honing one's mental/psychological game is important in many aspects of life, including sports:
Hall of Fame baseball player and legendary wordsmith Yogi Berra famously said "90% of this game is 50% mental." While the math of this statement doesn't add up, it points to a vital aspect of sports and athletic competition.
Although the games we play and watch are visibly physical, the key to success in sports is based on mental preparation and approach. Whether you are a sports hobbyist or a top professional athlete, the mental component of sports is what differentiates those who are continually frustrated from those who succeed. It almost always determines the outcome between two opponents who are fundamentally "evenly matched."
This means that breakthrough thinking is an essential element in all sports endeavors. How many times has it been said that an individual athlete or team "just has to get over the hump" to win a championship, or that one athlete or team has the "mental edge" over another?
I recently conducted a brief email interview with Mr. Jones. His unedited answers to my questions are set apart in italics.
Q: In what ways are your ideas about "flow"influenced by and/or complementary with the work done by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi?
Mihály was a pioneer in this field. When I read his work a number of years ago, I had already formulated many of my views on "flow" states. Reading his work was important confirmation of the conclusions I had arrived at.
Q: Which athletes have you worked with and/or observed who best exemplify the kind of "breakthrough thinking" that you recommend to achieve peak performance? What is a good, specific example of how one of those athletes employed such techniques effectively?
I hesitate to single out any athletes in this regard because I do not know what thought processes they have used.
Q: Are you familiar with Tim Grover's work? My interview with him can be found here: Interview with Tim Grover, Author of Relentless. Do you see a downside to the kind of focus and intensity that is necessary to achieve a high level of success in a given field, perhaps in terms of sacrifices one has to make in other areas of one's life?
There is a downside to any endeavor that is pursued with overwhelming intensity, as other aspects of life are often overlooked. The key word here is finding some balance while also being laser focused on a lofty goal.
To me, the truly successful person is one who reaches a high level of success while also maintaining a balanced and full existence. It is important not to let passion for any one aspect of life run wild and trample the rest of your life. This is true for any field of endeavor--not just sports.
Q: What is the biggest mistake that earnest competitors make when trying to maximize their potential?
There is no single biggest mistake. I like to evaluate each circumstance as an individual challenge.
Q: Do you believe in the concept of "choking" as the opposite of "flow"? If so, how would you define choking and how can one best prevent it?
This question opens up a whole world of its own. Saying that an athlete "choked" is one of the most nasty comments a person can make. Deciding as to whether a person choked or not can often be a subjective judgment. Simply put, choking is the opposite of being "clutch," but it is more than that. Someone who chokes is having an emotional crisis that prevents him/her from performing up to his/her capabilities. Simply missing a shot at the buzzer, or not getting a hit in a critical point of a baseball game, is not necessarily a "choke." Even a great athlete in a "flow" state can miss a shot or hit the ball directly at a fielder, etc. In my opinion, the only time that failure reaches the level of choking is when it is clear that the athlete is emotionally gnarled up and therefore not functioning properly. At that point, it becomes a "nervous condition" that needs to be treated. I would also take a serious look at that athlete's preparation process to see if improving the preparation can relieve the insecurity.
Q: Is there a specific, important idea or concept that I have not mentioned that you would like to share with my readers?
You have asked some good questions. I like to be of assistance to others in any way I can by either answering questions and/or analyzing specific situations. There are always more important ideas and concepts to explore. In fact, I am writing a whole book to try and encompass some of them. But it is difficult to answer such a wide open question as this. To use a baseball metaphor, this question makes me feel like a batter who is trying to pitch to himself...I'm trying to be on the mound at the same time I am in the batter's box.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:23 PM