“Who is so talented that they can afford to bring only part of themselves to bear on a problem or opportunity?”, Ryan Holiday pondered in his book “Stillness is the Key”. This rings true on multiple levels.
For our biggest tasks – leading a team, training for a half marathon, raising a family – we simply can’t half-ass it. We need to bring our best selves every day. Life is hard enough without showing up foggy or in a bad mood.
A new father recently told me that parenting is the hardest thing he’s ever done – but don’t even try to do it hungover. He learned quickly that, without putting himself in his best state, he couldn’t perform at a high level of being a dad.
Getting in an optimal state requires so many things going right: getting enough sleep, being focused and present in the moment, among countless other factors. But what if we could put ourselves in the right state of mind from the morning we wake up? Tony Gonzelez made a case for that in a recent airing of the Ed Mylett podcast (link).
For the uninitiated, Gonzalez is one of the best Tight Ends in football history. He holds the NFL record for total receiving yards by a tight end. During his career, he only missed two games and lost only two fumbles on 1,327 touches. Gonzalez was inducted into the NFL Hall of Hame last year. In other words, he knows a thing or two about optimal performance.
Gonzalez’s mission is to help take people from living with their heads and push them to live with their hearts. Okay, that’s a little mushy, what the hell does that mean?
If you’ve played sports, you’ve likely heard your coach proclaim at halftime, “We need to play with more heart!” Or that the scared choir boy needs to sing from the heart to open up the Church.
There’s a scene in “Wedding Crashers” (Top 3 movie of all-time, in my books), where Rachel McAdams’ character is giving a wedding toast for her recently married sister. Owen Wilson’s character, while in the midst of a sly attempt to woo McAdams, tells her to rip up her speech. “It’s gotta come from in here”, he says pointing to his heart.
In Gonzalez’s words:
“When you’re in your heart, there is no fear of judgment, there is presence. You’re not worried about the last play or the forward play. There is complete confidence in yourself… That’s what poise is. That’s what Tom Brady is in the pocket.”
Think back through your own life. The biggest moments – the pitch you gave to the potential investor, asking your girlfriend to marry you, comforting your sister as she went through a heartbreak – you’re not even thinking. You’re in a complete flow state. Like you’re in a spaceship rocketing towards the moon, time ceases to exist. You’re not thinking about your to-do-list. You’re living with your heart.
We don’t have three hours each morning to hike up a mountain and meditate at the summit with the sun glowing on our face. In fact, most of our mornings look like quite the opposite – a hyper dog licking our cheek and a child crying in the next room while we try to remember what day it is.
This doesn’t limit our ability to get into our heart each morning. Gonzalez explains his morning routine, which can take anywhere from 5-20 minutes depending on the day.
“Every morning when I wake up, I don’t even up my eyes. I relax my body again… I picture my heart opening up. I picture a light coming out… I picture joy, I picture fulfillment, I picture compassion, kindness, I picture fearlessness, I picture power, unlimited ability through all that light. I feel the light shooting out of my body into the room then into the neighborhood then around the globe and me touching everything and seeing everything as God, seeing everything as connected.
Now my heart is open and then I put the visualization in there. Now I see myself in 3-5 years where I’m gonna be. I see the best version of myself. Then I see myself doing this, what is my day going to be like? I go there now. I see myself being part of world positive businesses, I see myself doing a great podcast, I see myself at the main desk at Fox – or whatever it is. You build the greatest version of yourself. You see yourself in great shape, eating great food. Then you see your day going that way.”
This isn’t just woo-woo shit that your Aunt Karen mumbles about during Christmas dinner each year on her fourth glass of wine. There’s research around quantum physics that backs this theory up. There are countless celebrities, athletes and business people who’ve used similar practices to help them begin their day in the correct state.
In fact, I used Gonzalez’s method this morning. As I woke up in my mother’s house 2,000 miles and three time zones away from home, I felt restless. Rather than allow my mind to go through an anxious blender of restlessness and unfamiliarity, I followed Gonzalez’s advice.
I kept my eyes closed. I pictured that light in my heart filling me up with ambition, love, fearlessness, authenticity, empathy and gratitude. I felt those emotions getting sent through the house, the neighborhood and around the world.
I pictured myself in my peak state – loving, generous, patient, funny, bold. I spanned out to five years from now. I retraced to the present day: to the 3-5 things I wanted to be done beautifully and visualized myself accomplishing each task, one at a time.
I said a quick prayer of thanks and began my day. I felt the ocean of my mind reverse from a double overhead, choppy surf to a placid lake that wouldn’t rock any duck that floated on top of it.
You’re not reading this blog to be comfortable. You’re reading it to be your best self: for your business, for your family and for yourself.
I couldn’t more heavily advise trying Gonzalez’s routine. As always, take what works for you and leave the rest.
But just as you can’t eat an elephant more quickly than one bite at a time, you can only handle the best things in life if you bring your best self.