Goal Setting

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Conrad Mann at the USPA Larry Garro Memorial Powerlifting Meet

Whether it’s a third grade spelling bee or the Superbowl, putting yourself into competition takes a ton of courage.  At 64 years young, Conrad of SAPT fame decided that it was time to enter into his first powerlifting meet (why not?).  Even a double knee replacement wouldn’t keep Conrad from competing, and he decided to enter into the bench-only meet.

Here’s how it went down.

The Weigh-In

Conrad was competing in the 164.9 weight class.  He was concerned prior to the meet that he might not make weight, but ended up stepping on the scale at a whopping 159 pounds.  He came prepared, however, with plenty of fluids and snacks to get properly hydrated before he stepped on the platform.

The Wait

The typical sequence of a powerlifting meet is 1)Squat, 2)Bench Press, and 3)Deadlift.  The lifters will have 3 attempts at each lift, and with two flights of competitors in the squat, we had plenty of time to relax and watch the squat attempts.  We saw lifters of all shapes and sizes squat one after another.  It was awesome to see all the different leverages people possess and the different styles of squatting they chose to utilize.  High bar, low bar, Olympic shoes, Chuck Taylors, wider stance, narrow stance, long femurs, long torsos- basically every variation of a barbell back squat that you could imagine.  Anyone interested in biomechanics should definitely check out a powerlifting meet just to see the infinite variations in the same basic movement pattern.

Towards the end of the second flight of squat attempts we decided it was time to start prepping both body and mind to push some heavy weight.

The Warm-Up

Taking the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” attitude Conrad went through the same general warm-up as he does prior to a session at SAPT.  Mobility work, scap pushups, face pulls and external rotations were all part of the ritual.

Just as important as getting physically warmed up for the bench attempts is getting mentally focused.  At this point, Conrad’s level of raw strength was out of our control.  The strength-building portion came from weeks of hard work on a brilliant bench specialization program designed in the top secret laboratory that is Steve Reed’s mind.  However, this was the time where it was critical to take charge over the factors that we can control, of them being 1)Techniqu0e, and 2)Obeying the commands.  The head judge gives three commands after unracking the bar (start, press, rack) during each attempt, and failure to obey any of these commands results in a “no good” lift.

Following the general warm-up we got on the bench.  We started with light triples and progressed into heavier singles, ensuring that each rep was crisp and clean.  The bar touched the same spot on his chest with every press, the elbows were nicely tucked at the bottom, and each command was obeyed as I yelled them out during the warm-up.

Go Time!

Having successfully primed his central nervous system to its fullest capacity, Conrad was warmed up, suited up, and ready to go.  He was in the first flight of benchers and stepped on deck for his first attempt in a powerlifting competition.

Conrad opened at 85kg (187lbs).  It was a solid opener, and flew up at lightning speed.  Undisputed three whites from the judges for a good lift.


His second attempt was 92.5kg (203.5lbs).  Another easy bench for Conrad and three whites.


Third attempt here was 97.5kg(214.5lbs) for a PR.  Again another solid, clean lift that received a well deserved three whites from the judges.


Wrap Up


To sum it up, Conrad walked away from the meet three for three on his attempts, a PR, no torn pecs, and shoulders still in-tact!  Can’t ask for much better than that.  Congrats Conrad, way to represent SAPT!  Big thanks to Ron, Jen, and Sondra being part of the SAPT support staff, and a double thanks to Ron for taking videos of the attempts!

Description vs. Evaluation

Last week I was in Atlanta at the 2012 AASP (Association for Applied Sport Psychology) Conference.  At the conference a presenter talked about the difference between description and evaluation.  In sport, we often confuse descriptions with evaluations, which can impact where we direct our attention.  Let me explain.

A basketball hoop can be described as being 10 feet tall, with a white net, and an orange rim.  That’s what it is.  It’s a clear description.  Factual.  When we describe we speak with certainty of what we see, but not necessarily how we feel.

An evaluation is based more on feelings.  We evaluate and create opinions of how we think things will go in the future, or how they went in the past.  Evaluations are opinions that lead to rankings, predictions, and analysis, but those aren’t facts.  For example, I used to have an NBA draft website where I evaluated how prospects would transition to the NBA.  Those evaluations were solely based on opinions, and trust me, I was wrong plenty with my evaluations.

Sports have become extremely evaluation based.  Everyone wants to know which team is the favorite, who is the #1 seed, and who is the next great athlete.  But, those aren’t facts, they’re simply how people evaluate the current situation.  If sports were played simply based on evaluation they wouldn’t need to be played at all. 

It’s important to be able to describe who you are.  Be you and be that well.  Even more importantly, as a team, make sure to direct attention to descriptions and leave the evaluations to the pundits.

How to Get More Done in Less Time: Parkinson's Law

(Note: In Part 1 we discussed how to save massive amounts of time each day by reducing the frequency at which you check/respond to email. In Part 2 we briefly discussed how to cut out distractions that keep you for working on the task at hand. Now on to the third and final installment of this series...)

Meetings. Putting together a presentation. Writing a paper or blog post. Shuffling papers around in the office. Studying for an exam. Entering data into an Excel spreadsheet.

Ever notice how, at times, you find yourself spending wayyyy longer on a task than you know you should be spending to complete? I know I do. Or did, at least, until I discovered the beauty of using Parkinson's Law to my advantage.

What is Parkison's Law? You can view it here on Wikipedia, but I think Tim Ferriss summed it up quite nicely for us:

Parkinson's Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials. If I give you a week to complete the same task, it's six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.

We can use Parkinson's Law to our advantage by setting extremely clear, and borderline impossibly short, deadlines for various tasks and 'To-Do' items. I've been instituting this over the past couple weeks and WOW, I can't quite express how much of a life changer this has been for me.

Personally, I've found E.gg Timerto be an invaluable source for helping me produce more output with less input (time) when doing anything at a computer. Heck, I'm using E.gg Timer right now as I type this. You can set the countdown timer for however long you wish - it will fill up your screen when it gets to zero - and it's amazing how the ticking clock will keep you inexorably focused on action steps instead of deliberation and procrastination. 

Again, quoting Ferris:

If you haven't identified the mission-critical tasks and set agressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Evern if you know what's critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you (or invented, in the case of the entrepreneur) will swell to consume time until another bit of minutiae jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished.

How else could dropping off a package at UPS, setting a few appointments, and checking e-mail consume an entire 9-5 day?

Many of us subconsciously realize this, but never actually set self-imposed deadlines to force us to get more done in less time.

While I'm not necessarily proud of this, I unknowingly used Parkinson's Law to allow me to get an A on almost every exam I took in high school and college; it didn't take me long to realize that I got the same grade whether I started studying a week out from the exam, or only 24 hours (and sometimes as little as 1-2 hours) before taking the exam.

Why? Whenever I began studying far in advance, I'd inevitably allow myself to become distracted by phone calls, the internet, outdoor games with friends, you name it, as I knew deep down that I still had plenty of time to study. But when I knew I had a major (and quite difficult) exam looming in only 5 hours or less, it FORCED me to shut out anything that would steer me away from doing well on the test.

In fact, I recently received this text from a friend of mine who had graduated from his doctorate of physical therapy program, and was preparing for the physical therapist licensure exam, "So you know how in Undergrad you were the greatest Crammer of all time. Any advice for someone who has an upcoming licensure exam and is feeling really lazy about studying?"

I had to laugh upon receiving that text, as I didn't know which was more unnerving: The fact that I was known in college for being a talented crammer (if we can even attempt to glamorize that "skill") , or that an up-and-coming practicing PT was looking for advice on studying for the licensure exam!

Now, I am certainly not advocating procrastination. And, to clear my conscious....should any individuals be reading this that are currently enrolled in an educational institution, my advice to you is to study in advance for your tests, dang it!

But it brings up a valuable point. Deadlines, whether self-imposed or not, allow us to ignore minutia and focus on the important. So I encourage all of you to begin setting deadlines on those "open ended" tasks that can take hours on end to complete, and adhere to those deadlines!

This is especially true for us perfectionists in the crowd that agonize over every single detail within a project we're working on. Set an unrealistic deadline, and stick to it. The earth will continue to spin, I promise.

3 Practical Steps: Get More Done in Less Time and Create Time to Enjoy Your Life

"What's it going to be?" I mused blithely to myself as I rummaged through the gift bag. "A 21st century shaving kit? A manly hunting knife? Perhaps some Under Armour Boxers*?"

I was seated at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding of my eldest brother, Brian. The dinner and celebratory toasts had recently subsided, and Brian had just made his rounds passing out the gifts to his groomsmen, me being included in the bunch. As I extricated  The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss from my gift bag, I had no clue of the impact it was about to make on my daily living.

Upon holding the book in my hands, perusing through the table of contents and the back cover, I was honestly a bit dubious of the book's promises and claims. I had heard of Tim Ferriss and his book (as probably most of you reading have, too), as Ferriss had quickly launched into semi-celebrity status in the sphere of lifestyle design and blogging upon the release of The 4-Hour Workweek. However, I'm not typically a fan of "Self-Help" materials, which is what I thought this particular book embodied. I find that 95% of the people who read self-help books may, yes, genuinely enjoy what they’re taking in during the read, but they then typically walk away and do nothing about it; they fail to implement any of the nifty solutions to their problems. And as we know: Education without action is just entertainment. Nothing more than that, really.

But at the same time, I knew that Brian had read (and applied) the concepts in The 4-Hour Workweekhimself in order to successfully create his own business, shortly after he made the decision to leave a steady and "safe" position he held at a company ranked top 100 on the Fortune 500. Not to mention, he was now living and working according to when he operated most productively (as opposed to the non-negotiable 9-5 workday most corporations enforce), and enjoying the convenience of working from home.

So I decided to give the book a shot. I was looking for a new book to read, anyway…

350 pages and a few action steps later, I realized that the 4HWWwas far from your ordinary feel-good, lets-sit-holding-hands-in-a-circle-singing-kumbaya self-help book. No, this was a book chalked full of practical, real-world strategies that anyone – be they an employee of a large corporation, an entrepreneur, a business owner, or manager – could immediately follow and see instant results.

Taking myself for example, I’ve already found myself experiencing an extra two hours of free time per day, more enjoyable weekends, and increasingly productive work periods in which I produce more output in less time. And I'm just getting started. 

And so I wanted to share some of the information here, to help those of you reading who may be in need of a bit of lifestyle redesign.

-Are you perpetually buried by the incessant and stubborn flow of emails? -Do you check your Facebook 15 times per day  (I'm being generous here by lowballing this number...), and wonder why you can seemingly never complete anything? -Does your To-Do List add items to itself faster than you can check them off? -Do you feel like you never get to do the things you actually ENJOY doing?

Now, before I continue, let me be clear that I have absolutely no intention of working only four hours per week; I simply love my job too much and personally prefer to be actively and intimately involved in what I do on a daily basis: Teaching athletes and regular people how to move and feel better. (If you hate your job, maybe it's best to reevaluate what you're doing as a career before we even think about moving further with this topic.)

Nor do I pretend that the majority of you could achieve a realistic 4-hour workweek, even if you followed all of the steps in the 4HWW to a tee.

But what I do think that all of you reading can (hopefully) agree with is this: We should work so that we can live, NOT live so that we can work.

And my wish is that these steps can at least help you get started walking down the right path.

1a. Check and Respond to Email Only Twice Per Day

Email (and I'll throw Facebook and Twitter into the mix, too) is perhaps the greatest time waster in modern society. With large thanks to the invention and widespread use of the smartphone, email has become a flighty temptress that people can't resist checking into at every possible moment: first thing in the morning, every 5 minutes during the work day, standing in line for coffee, walking down the city street, in between sets of squats at the gym, right before bed and even during dinner with family. Heck, when I was working as a personal trainer, I had a client who insisted that he carry his phone with him during every session, checking the incoming email as soon as his phone buzzed.

With instant access to each other and instant access to information, we have created this false sense of urgency that the world is going to end unless we check our email and/or social media accounts every few seconds.

Why does this really matter, and how does it pertain to the title of this article? Accomplishing critical tasks in less time (and thus freeing up extra time in your day) requires complete focus on the project at hand, with as few interruptions as possible. Quoting Ferriss:

There is a psychological switching of gears that can require up to 45 minutes to resume a major task that has been interrupted. More than a quarter of each 9-5 period (28%, or 134.4 minutes) is consumed by such interruptions, and 40% of people interrupted go on to a new task without finishing the one that was interrupted. This is how we end up with 20 windows open on our computers and nothing completed at 5pm.

In fact, a psychiatrist at King's College in London performed an IQ study in which he determined that people stoned (under the influence of marijuana) actually performed HIGHER on IQ tests than those who were "under the influence" of distracting email! You can read the story HERE.

I love what Ferriss points out later in the book:

Multi-tasking is dead. It never worked and it never will. Intelligent people love to sing its praises because it gives them permission to avoid the much more challenging alternative: focusing on one thing.

Here are a few steps I've employed to reduce my frequency of email interruption down to just two times per day. Guys, I really can't emphasize enough how this has RADICALLY altered how much more I accomplish in a day, and even (which may sound counterintuitive) how much more punctual it has made me with responding to emails.

A. Turn off the audible alert that lets you know when a new email has come in. B. Turn off the automatic Send/Receive feature that delivers new email as soon as it's sent to you. 

I don't know anyone who can honestly say they can resist the urge to pull up the email screen as soon as they hear that oh-so-familiar "Ding!" that rings every time new email comes in. It creates an unnecessary distraction, and it's the virtual equivalent of crack.

Or, for those of you Mac users (I have one), you know how hard it is to resist perpetually checking the notification on your dock informing you of how many unread emails you have.

C. Only check email TWICE per day. This, for me personally, has been the greatest difference maker. 

Ferriss recommends 12noon and 4PM, as he says that these are the times that provide the greatest likelihood of ensuring you've received a response from a previous email sent. I personally use 11AM and 2:30PM because of my schedule, but it's really up to you.

In fact, while I follow this policy for my business email, I now only check my personal email once per day, at 11AM.

Paranoid that you're going to receive something so critically important that it can't wait until your allotted email checking? Use an autoresponder to let people know of your new policy, such as the example Ferriss provides:

Greetings All,

Due to high workload and pending deadlines, I am currently responding to email twice daily at 12pm ET [be sure to indicate your time zone] and 4pm ET .

If you require help with something that can’t wait until either 12pm or 4pm, please call me on my cell phone at 555-555-5555.

Thank you for understanding this move to greater effectiveness.

All the best, Tim Ferriss

The beauty of that is you are providing your phone number for those that genuinely need to immediately reach you for an issue that's actually important or time-sensitive. You can see another example of a more "boss friendly" autoresponder HERE.

You know what a surprising side effect of this new policy has been for me, personally? I'm now actually MORE productive and punctual with responding to people via email!

Since I know that (if I'm doing my 2:30pm email check) I won't be on my email for the rest of the day, I can't use the "Oh I'll respond to them in 30 minutes" excuse, which as you know, can quickly lead to a stacking of 'Marked as Unread' items in your inbox, stressing you out to no end.

1b. Don't Check E-Mail, Texts, or Facebook First Thing In The Morning

This habit alone has changed my life. Checking email used to be one of the very first things I did every single day, even on the weekends. I'd wander out into my living room, pet my cat good morning, and then flip open my computer and check my email. I don't know what it is, but I think that most of us are now programmed to check email whenever possible, and not even out of necessity, but out of mere habit.

And I don't have a smartphone, but I can only imagine those that do probably check their email and/or social media while lying in bed. C'mon', admit it, I know you do!

After refusing to do it for a couple weeks now, I've experienced firsthand why checking email first thing, while a seemingly innocuous habit, is actually quite detrimental:

1. It will automatically cause you to get caught up and distracted by whatever you have seen arrive in your inbox. Say goodbye to a distraction-free morning, and hello to immediate saturation of seemingly uber-important, really-can't-wait-another-minute matters.

2. You will now have your thoughts occupied by the emails that arrived, dramatically hindering the real, important tasks you had to accomplish or work on that morning.

3. It can subconsciously sets the tone for the day of checking email nonstop. As we've seen  above, we want to avoid this at all costs.

4. It can take up a deceptive amount of time (especially if you throw Facebook and Twitter into the mix), erasing hours from your day before you even knew what hit you. This can be especially dangerous during the weekends, pulling you away all morning from things that, oh I don't know, involve you doing something fun with the people you care about the most?


Some of you may be sitting there thinking "This would be impossible and impractical for me to do." And you know what, I thought the same thing. But I dare you to try it. You can thank me later, don't worry.

I realize I've only covered Step 1 out of the 3 practical steps I promised you in the title of this post, but I'll be back on Friday with Part 2. (**Update: You can view Part 2 HERE**)

  *The inventor of those can have my firstborn son.

Attitude vs. Environment

  Great teams create an environment and culture that allow players to unlock their potential.  Outside of sport, where we grow up, who we socialize with, and what our family structure is often shapes our personality.  There’s no doubt that a strong and positive environment can be a major factor in determining success, however environment isn’t everything.


As a coach, or organization, it is your job to try to create the best possible environment for your players.  The signs in the locker room, the practice facilities, and the marketing of the team, can all have a great impact on the performance of an athlete.  Don’t take for granted the ability to shape environment and give athletes the best opportunity for success.


As a player you often have little control over your environment.  You don’t pick your team, your teammates, the coaches, where you play, etc.  In fact, we may be forced into certain environments that we have little control over.  It’s often in those situations where excuses manifest and frustration takes over.  Examples like, “my team doesn’t care about winning”, or this team “isn’t any good”, or “nobody takes this seriously”, are real examples of environment dictating attitude.


As a player figure out how you can have the best possible attitude even in the worst possible environment.    Let your attitude be a driving force in changing the environment for the better.  Often when our environment is poor, we fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to blend into that poor environment.


If your environment is a 2 out of 10 and your attitude is a 4 out of 10 then you may be contributing to the poor environment.  However, if you take that 2 environment and improve your attitude to a 7 then maybe you can improve your environment.  It’s a simple change that can often be the difference between winning and losing.  Make the change and improve your attitude and environment today.


As the great Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”