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What to Do When It All Goes Wrong

August 7, 2018



Interesting Thought: One of the Most Useful Frameworks There is


No principle from my and Steve's work has resonated more than the growth equation: stress + rest = growth. In the book Peak Performance we focused mainly on athletic, cognitive, and creative development. Regardless of what part of the mind-body system you are trying to grow, you've got to stress it at the appropriate dose and then let it recover. Too much stress, not enough rest and the result is illness, injury, and burnout. Not enough stress, too much rest and the result is boredom, complacency, and stagnation.


Since the book has come out we've come to realize that the growth equation applies to just about everything. If you think about it, it's a fundamental law of evolution—whether it be the evolution of an individual or the evolution of an entire species. 


Two areas that we haven't given much focus to in the past but that come up frequently in speaking gigs are how the growth equation applies to organizations and relationships.




What do Kodak, Blockbuster Video, Borders Books, and the Cleveland Browns have in common? They were all busy doing things the same old way over and over again when the world around them was changing; they neglected to “stress” themselves in the direction of growth. The first three are out of business and the Browns are perennially at the bottom of the NFL.


What do Google, Disney, and the San Antonio Spurs have in common? They all continue to evolve their strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Google and Disney do this by extending into new markets—think: from an internet search-engine to self-driving cars and from roller-coasters to digitally animated films. The Spurs do it by constantly evaluating and adjusting their style of play, including overseas recruiting of little-known players who become hard-to-guard stars.

Organizations that are forward-looking, reflective, and challenge themselves to grow tend to survive and sustain their performance over time. They endure brief periods of discomfort and follow them with protected time for reflection. As a result, they come out stronger and better than they were before. 




Something that comes up repeatedly in the Q and A part of my workshops is how the growth equation tends to apply here, too. Be it friendships, workplace, or romantic relationships, people in audiences always call this out. Bonds strengthen after two people experience a challenge together and then openly reflect on it. A handful of experts think the same. Just like in the other contexts, too much “stress” without enough rest and the relationship can flame out. But enough stress and things can quickly get boring and stale.


I encourage you to keep the growth equation in mind for all areas of your life, especially for the things that really matter to you. Reflect on upon where you are at—whether you are in a stress or rest phase, and at what dose or intensity—and where you should be. When this dynamic falls out of alignment, do what you can to bring it back into harmony.


You can read more on the broad application of the growth equation here in my column at Outside.


Coaching Corner: What to Do When It All Goes Wrong


"I feel like I'm living my worst nightmare."

These aren't the words you'd expect to hear from a Grammy-winning artist, a band that currently has the top four rock songs on the Billboard list, something that hasn't ever been done. Yet, in the midst of all of this success, the singer stood on stage in front of thousands of fans and proclaimed. "I'm gonna be honest with you guys, I cannot sing tonight."

What do you do in a situation like this, a scenario that shakes even the most well-seasoned performer?

At a concert my sister Emily attended, Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of
Imagine Dragons, faced this nightmare scenario. Unbeknownst to Reynolds at the time, one of his vocal chords was not vibrating, leaving him unable to do the craft he has perfected over decades of work.

For the rest of the show, a clearly anguished Reynolds and his band mates attempted to figure out the answer, on the fly.

What followed was a concert filled with a mixture of acoustic style crowd sing-alongs of the bands hits, guitar riffs and drum solos from the rest of the band clearly pushing their playing abilities to the max, and then there were the stories. An emotional Reynolds–who would cover his face with his hands mid-song due to the frustration of being unable to sing– spent time in between songs discussing his own struggles and the need to destigmatize mental health. At one point, he joked "after tonight I'm going to see my therapist 3 times this week."

In other words, it was a unique concert-going experience.

As my sister watched the concert, she saw two reactions. One was of people frustrated and let down, unable to hear the music they expected. These were the individuals who went to Twitter to complain or walked out of the concert before the end.

On the other hand, you had those who empathized with a clearly distraught Reynolds. They saw a singer who cared deeply trying to will his way through a difficult situation. A band that tried to step up for each other, with guitarist and drummer pushing out of their comfort zone in trying to sing andcover for their friend.

As a fan, you had a choice, exhibit anger or frustration for not having something meet your expectations. Or exhibit compassion, for someone trying to give their all, and it just not being there on this day.

Even the best in the world are struck by situations that leave them almost powerless. The easy choice for Imagine Dragons would have to put on a backing vocal track and lip sync to the songs. The hard thing was, to be honest and real.


Book of the Month:


“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”


The last newsletter of August will be devoted to discussing both books!


The books are: Tribe by Sebastian Junger and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown.


If you like this newsletter and want to learn more and support our work, please share it with your friends and consider buying our book, Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. You can get a copy from AmazonBarnes and Noble, or your neighborhood bookstore.


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