This will be old news to many of you but I just wanted to give a shout-out to Simon Mundie's outstanding BBC Radio 4 show and podcast Don't Tell Me The Score.
This is an incredible resource, full of insightful interviews with the greats of sport about what they do and how they do it. There is such a range of material that it's hard to pick out favourites, but two episodes have particularly stood out in recent weeks.
Multiple major golf winner Nick Faldo's insights into his mental approach make for a masterclass, particularly regarding how he used visualisation to reach the top of the world.
Then there is a fascinating interview with legendary Formula 1 journalist Maurice Hamilton about his unlikely arrival in the sport. His story is amazing in itself, and beautifully told, but it also makes for a compelling case for how anyone can live their dreams - as long as they refuse to give up regardless of the odds.
Maurice talks about the early mentoring he received from New Zealand journalist Eoin Young. I can vouch for the fact that he has passed his wisdom and kindness forward to many younger writers, as one of the many who owe him a huge debt of gratitude. I still remember picking up a copy of the Observer ten years ago to see this very generous review of Overdrive - which was entirely unprompted, came as a complete surprise and mercifully ensured my venture into self-publishing didn't sink without trace.
If you have a challenge of your own and you want to find out how to make it happen, I heartily recommend checking out this podcast. Then you can start work on the entire Don't Tell Me The Score back catalogue, which features everyone from Jonny Wilkinson to Caitlyn Jenner to Wim Hof...
Given the events of the last few months it’s no surprise that anxiety and other mental health problems are skyrocketing all over the world. Yet for those who feel helpless to fight back against this relentless diet of fear and gloom, help is at hand in the form of a new book due out in January 2021: How to Master Your Monkey Mind.
The Monkey Mind is how Chinese Buddhists have long described the nagging voice in our heads that flits from thought to thought, like a monkey swinging from tree to tree in the jungle. It is also the speciality of this book’s author, a very wise man who it has been my pleasure to get to know over the last ten years: Don MacPherson.
Based on the outskirts of the British city of Bath, MacPherson (aka ‘the Monkey Whisperer’) is a mind coach and hypnotherapist who routinely hosts young hopefuls in sports ranging from rugby to snooker – including champions in everything from Formula 1 to Wimbledon. There’s no purple cloak or swinging watch but there is a reclining chair where he puts on soothing music and sets out to tame their Monkeys and put their subconscious minds back on track. Even so, rather than implanting sinister ways of thinking into vulnerable heads, MacPherson insists hypnotherapists tend to be called upon to rectify the effects of a life of hypnosis from another source entirely.
‘Ask my wife Jane to play tennis and she will politely decline,’ MacPherson told me when I spoke to him for In The Zone. ‘She’ll say: “I can’t play tennis! I don’t have an eye for the ball or any hand-eye coordination.” But if you gently pry as to why she holds such a view, she’ll say it must be true because: “Everybody has always told me I am hopeless at tennis.”
‘If you dare to go any further you might enquire who this “everybody” is. You may know a few: mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, teachers, vicars, politicians, policemen, lawyers, doctors. They are Jane’s “everybody” and probably yours: all are hypnotists who were in action from her first attempt to hit a ball. No doubt she missed or mishit it, at which point I doubt she received much encouragement, more like “Oh dear, it doesn’t look like little Jane has much of an eye for a ball, shame...” from a well-meaning parent who didn’t realise the effect their negative comments can have on a young child hanging onto their every word.
‘Who was next? Other friends, all hypnotists joining in, compounding and confirming Jane is no good at tennis. Unless somebody interrupts this hypnotic trance, she is well on the way to believing it. Finally, whenever tennis is brought up, you will hear her unequivocally state: “I am hopeless at tennis”. This is as close as you can get to self-hypnosis but she has already been a victim of “accidental hypnosis”. It is now so deeply rooted in her subconscious that to shift it she would need a mind expert to try to reprogram her into “can-do” Jane.’
I’m sure we all have similar examples of pursuits we long ago abandoned as far beyond our puny capabilities – whether it’s sport, art, music, languages, maths or anything else. If we were to work our way back through time there would no doubt be a similar cast list of hypnotists. But few of them realise they were ever in our lives at all, just as we live in blissful ignorance of the similar effects we’ve had on countless, faceless others. We now live lives so complex in terms of interactions, from good old face-to-face contact to television, internet and social media, we face a daily onslaught of more swaying watches than Switzerland in an earthquake.
Some situations can make people especially vulnerable to hypnosis, according to MacPherson: ‘You are in your Doctor’s surgery, about to hear the results of some tests,’ he adds. ‘Your conscious mind freezes whenever something important, exciting or scary is happening to you. At this point your GP is a full-blown hypnotist because they now have direct access to your subconscious mind, the real you. So they had better be very careful what they say… because you’re about to become another victim of accidental hypnosis.
‘If it’s bad news your first question is likely to be: “How long have I got?” If the reply is “six months” it is uncanny how accurate this forecast turns out to be. Have the patients been hypnotised, their brains programmed to believe it must be so without question? If the GP clicked his fingers just before giving the results would the patient suddenly cluck like a chicken or sing an Elvis song if they suggested it?’
Something tells me the whole world is under the effects of similar mass hypnosis right now, quivering with fear and clucking like chickens at the slightest suggestion from our all-powerful rulers.
Yet before we start blaming anyone else we have to remember there is only one true leading light in our production: ourselves. No matter what anyone says it is only when our subconscious minds choose to believe it that a plot twist is written in stone. To quote parents everywhere: ‘If we ignore it, it will go away.’ The problem is that our deepest selves are not easy to control, no matter if we’re trying to ascertain whether or not to believe a news story, whether or not to believe we can hit a tennis ball over a net or even whether or not to believe we will live to see another Christmas.
Now MacPherson is promising to give us everything we need to take back control, thanks to ‘ten simple tools to tune your brain.’ These are likely to include many of the mind secrets he has used with the stars over the years, everything from meditation and visualisation to ‘Zen Breathing’ which slows the heart rate with a simple deep breath, exhaling for longer than we inhale.
This is the one toolbox we all need right now. So if you are heartily sick of 2020 and you fancy starting 2021 afresh I can only urge you to pre-order MacPherson’s book and prepare to start mastering your Monkey Mind.
While half the world's population is still ordered to 'stay home and save lives' the above is a gentle reminder of what life is really supposed to be about, courtesy of motocross stunt legend Robbie Maddison.
I'm not about to suggest anyone has to go out and jump over a canyon on a motorbike to feel alive, but the Australian's point is that there is no such thing as total 'safety'. We are ALL going to die. Indeed, simply by being born we sign our own death sentence. That applies whether we spend our lives BASE jumping or watching TV on the couch.
Twenty years ago the seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher summed this up to me in similar terms: ‘We all know there is danger involved in motor racing. Unfortunately we will never find total security, not only in F1 but life as a whole. That’s pretty much a disaster for all of us but we all have to live with this somehow.’
Schumacher's amiable irony was clear: we live our entire lives facing daily dangers, everything from getting on a plane to crossing the street to, yes, getting ill. That's life, and we accept the risks because overall it's worth it. If we were to imagine everything that could go wrong in an average day we would never leave the safety of our beds.
Ridiculous? You bet. Yet that's effectively what half the world is being forced to do right now in accordance with yet another external threat. Keep calm and carry on? Not this time. Now we have to panic and stop everything.
All in the name of 'safety'.
Hmmm... or are we missing the whole point?
Of course we all like to feel safe, particularly at a time of so much trauma in everything we read and watch. But no matter how warm and cosy our bed might feel, without access to ALL the information who's to know whether or not that bed is really located in a block of flats that's on fire, or a ship that's sinking? This is why the urge for safety should never trump an even more primary human need: freedom.
If we give up our freedom - hard won for us by earlier generations, many of whom paid with their own lives - for some misplaced idea of temporary 'safety' we will, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, deserve neither. Instead we are merely guaranteeing that not only will we die, we won't even have the chance to live first.
For further details please check out my blog below on fear and dreams. In the meantime, you might be interested in this article from the new official F1 magazine, now also published on the F1 website. I only wrote it a couple of months ago, but it already feels like something from another planet...
Thank you very much to Autosport Grand Prix Editor Edd Straw for having me as a guest on this week's Autosport Podcast to discuss my books In The Zone and Overdrive.
We had a very enjoyable hour of chatting about how the greats of Formula 1 find the Zone - and some of the surreal effects that happen when they get there, from time slowing down to heightened senses to the out-of-body experience.
Along the way we talked about Ayrton Senna and two of his biggest fans, who both happened to win the world's two biggest motor races last weekend: Monaco Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton (pictured above) and Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud,
We also discussed Sebastian Vettel, Charles Leclerc, Nico Rosberg, Jarno Trulli, Jackie Stewart and more. The podcast ends with a special treat for race fans: an exclusive clip from my interview with the late Dan Wheldon which opens the prologue to In The Zone.
Finally, if you can read Italian click here to find my recent article from Italy's Cyclist magazine featuring interviews with Chris Hoy, Nadia Comaneci, Franz Klammer and more...
If you prefer listening to reading, In The Zone is now available as an audiobook - and Google Play are selling it at the special price of £2.99 until May 30. You can find the deal by clicking here...
Earlier this month coach, author and flow expert Stuart Haden of the Storm Beach Authentic Leadership organisation kindly took the time to put up a video about In The Zone. Check out his thoughts on how the insights of the featured athletes (he counted 148 of them in 27 different sports...) can be used in the business world and beyond.
We are pleased to report that as of January 2019 In The Zone is now available as an audiobook for the first time. Read by Tim Dickinson, it lasts nine hours and features 100 interviews with the all-time greats of sport talking about how they live their dreams. You can find it on Audible or Amazon.
Click here to listen to a sample clip from the section featuring legendary TT motorbike racer John McGuinness...
Many thanks to the Euronews website LivingIt for featuring a selection of new articles - based on In The Zone - exploring the mental side of performing at the absolute limit in some of the most extreme sports out there.
Ahead of this weekend's Ironman World Championship at Hawaii's Kailua-Kona, hear from the 2015 and 2016 world champion Jan Frodeno (pictured above). The German is clearly one of the fittest human beings on the planet but you can find out why he considers that even in the ultimate physical challenge, the difference between the best and the rest is always about mental strength.
Click here to read all about it...
It is now seven years since Roz Savage completed the final leg of a truly epic adventure, becoming the first woman to row single-handed across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. She told me she didn't feel strong mentally at first, but over the course the experience of taking on such a huge challenge she learned all about the true meaning of resilience.
Click here to find out more...
Finally, in an exclusive interview big wave surf legend Garrett McNamara describes the spiritual experience involved in taking on the most violent experiences nature can throw at us: 'I look at the tallest tree, the mountains, the ocean and the universe, attract it and breathe it all in...'
If you want to feel the force, read on.
We are delighted that In The Zone has been selected as one of the titles available on Bookchoice's books of the month for September 2018.
This also means it is now available as an audiobook for the first time, read by Tim Dickinson.
Head here to find out more...
Thank you so much to all the media outlets who have taken In The Zone to their hearts and helped spread the word over the past months all over the world.
The latest publication to feature the work is the June issue of Ukraine's Megapolis magazine, which carried out an extensive and very well researched interview about the mind of sportspeople and how we can all learn from what they are able to achieve. If you don't happen to be travelling through Kiev this month (whyever not?) and your Russian is up to scratch you can see some of it in the above picture and find the entire magazine online by clicking here.
This week I also enjoyed a rare TV appearance on the Motorsport Show hosted by Peter Windsor. We discussed solutions for the widely-criticised 'boring' 2018 Monaco Grand Prix before moving onto a race that is always exciting, the Indianapolis 500, won this year by the aptly-named Will Power (see clip below).
It has been a busy month for articles in the UK media about In The Zone. Athletics Weekly has this week printed a big feature about how the greats of the 400m hurdles perform at the limit - from Positive Mental Attitude to racing in blissful silence in a packed stadium. The piece includes extracts from my interviews with legendary hurdlers Edwin Moses, Nawal El Moutawakel, David Hemery and Felix Sanchez.
Then there are not one but two articles in cycling magazines out now. Cycling Weekly has a feature on what we can all learn from Paralympians including my interview with Alex Zanardi plus fresh material from Jon-Allan Butterworth, German star Andrea Eskau and Team GB's John Lenton. This month's Cyclist also has an extended extract from In The Zone featuring insights from Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Nadia Comaneci, Jan Frodeno, Franz Klammer, Steve Redgrave, Michael Phelps and Novak Djokovic.
Finally we are honoured that Feedspot has included this website in its top 40 Sports Psychology blogs on the web - at number n-n-n-n-nineteen. You can see the medal of honour at the bottom of the sidebar to the right...
Since In The Zone has come out in paperback I've been interviewed for a couple more articles in the media.
Thank you very much to the Leaders Performance Institute and writer John Portch for their feature about the lessons of In The Zone. It features some of the book's insights from Ayrton Senna, Nadia Comaneci, Novak Djokovic, Michael Phelps and more. Here's the link...
Elsewhere Motor Sport magazine have published a feature on the out-of-body experience in motor racing, which featured heavily in my 2010 book Overdrive: Formula 1 in the Zone. Written by Joe Dunn, it includes fascinating insights about the subject from Damon Hill, David Brabham, mind coach Don MacPherson, Neuropharmacology Professor David Dexter and more. Click here to read more...
It was a pleasure to record a podcast with Adrian Evans of the Enterprise Sales Club in which we talk about many of In The Zone's themes - not least techniques like visualisation - and how they apply to the rest of us.
We discuss the Zone, how sports stars live the dream through the three stages of Conceive, Believe and Achieve to find the right mental state to perform when it matters. We touch on my interviews with everyone from Michael Phelps to Nadia Comaneci to Franz Klammer to Jessica Ennis-Hill - and many more...
Most important of all, we explore how the rest of us can take their wisdom to transform our own performance, whether in business or elsewhere.
Click here to hear the podcast on SoundCloud...
Click here to read Adrian's blog on LinkedIn
Big news alert: looking forward to kicking off 2018 with a brand new shiny paperback of In The Zone.
Due out January 11. RRP £8.99. New Year, New Colour, New Price. Pre-order your copy here...
And if anyone is confused about the whole 'Red Zone' and 'White Zone' thing, hopefully this should clear it all up...
One of the more enjoyable aspects to publishing a book on peak performance is the fact that you get to share insights with other experts in the field. This month a couple of podcasts have come out featuring my discussions with performance coaches Tom Foxley (of the Alpha Movement podcast) and Martin Soorjoo, who runs the Inside Mastery podcast on his excellent Outperform website.
You can hear my interview with Tom on the YouTube link below, while Martin's podcasts are available at the following links... Outperform, Martin's website, ITunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, TopPodcast and PlayerFM.
We're thrilled to announce that In The Zone has been included in Amazon Kindle's Monthly Deals for September. Now's your chance to read the thoughts of 100 sporting superstars on how they live their dreams and peak for their big moments - including Bolt, Phelps, Djokovic, Hamilton, Comaneci, Desailly, Ennis-Hill, McCaw, Hoy, Moses, Hagler, Klammer and Freeman - all for £1.19!
This fantastic news follows last month's interview with the wonderful Chris Evans on the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show which remains available on iPlayer for the next few days...
Clyde Brolin spent over a decade working in F1 before moving on to the wider world of sport - all in a bid to discover the untapped power of the human mind.