Out of Our Minds (Issue 635)

In which we discover one elusive secret to high performance.

“I think I’ll walk.”

My family were leaving our  summer vacation rental house, heading to Skaket Beach in Orleans, on Cape Cod.  They looked at me incredulously.

“But it’s three miles.”

“Easy,” I said. “I need some exercise. It’s an hour.  See you there.”

Their years of experience told them there was little point in arguing, so they drove away.  I tightened my shoe laces and started walking.

This type of walk for me is a “moving meditation.”  I count steps.  I’ll jog 10 and  walk 10.  After a bit, I’ll jog 25 and walk 10.  The patterns can vary depending on my energy and stress.  The counting and the rhythm of feet drumming on ground clear my head.  Time passes quickly.

I found my wife sitting on our beach sheet in the sand about 50 minutes later. Both kids and their friends were off exploring the low-tide bared beach. The beach slope is so gentle that the  water’s edge was a mile from the beach sheet.  When the kids were young, they would play at this beach for the day.  Now, 15 years later, they returned, saying, “Let’s go to Nauset Beach, there are more waves there.”  We packed up the car.

“I think I’ll walk.”    I wasn’t ready to sit.

Again, the look.  “Seriously?”

50 minutes later, I called them from the house to ask, “How long will you be staying at Nauset?”

“A while,” they said. “Will you come and join us?”

“Yes,” I replied.  And, since they had the car and seemed content to stay at the beach, I added, “I think  I’ll walk.”

Feeling some urgency now, I increased the pace:  walk 10, jog 100 at as close to maximum speed as  I thought my typically creaky knees would allow.

Twenty minutes and thirty one seconds later, I arrived at Nauset Beach, two miles from the house.

“Oh, my,” I thought. “You just did two back-to-back ten minute miles.”

This may seem child’s play for you, gentle reader; it was a VERY big deal for me. My exercise typically consists of a 40-minute walk over hilly terrain, five or so times a week.  To just “pop out” two miles in twenty minutes was a bit of a shock.

So, I wondered, “Why were you able to do that?” –  a  pace that  I would have bet you a nice dinner I couldn’t do.

Motivation? Yes!  Family time.  Preparation?  Yes, warmed up.  Goal? Yes, two miles. Confidence? Yes, I’d walked  two miles frequently and seven miles  several times earlier in the summer. But,  most important?  I got into a rhythm and out of my mind. I  picked a pace – “100 steps, fast” – and counted … 97, 98, 99, 100… …97, 98, 99, 100. … 97, 98, 99, 100. No self-doubting, criticizing, questioning, or second guessing.   Big Hill…97, 98, 99, 100. Long straight… 97, 98, 99, 100. .… 97, 98, 99, 100.…97, 98, 99, 100…. and the two ten-minute miles almost magically “fell out” as a result.

Many times, in sales, we look at top performers and ask, “How can they do that?” – week after week, so many phone calls, such  productive meetings, so many incisive proposals, over and over, whatever they’re doing, so much better than others around them.

Motivation? Yes.  Preparation? Yes. Clear goals? Yes.  Confidence? Yes.  And also important, like counting two miles steps to the beach, they just “do”… They get into a rhythm and out  of their minds.… 97, 98, 99, 100. …97, 98, 99, 100….And their performance just “falls out,”  as a result.

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