Tag Archives: Mantra

How to Boost Your Performance through Rituals with James Lipton

How do you prepare yourself for a new activity? I didn’t put too much thought into this until I was at a conference a few years ago. I can’t remember the topic but I distinctly recall standing at a urinal when a guy walked into the bathroom and shouted at the mirror, “You are Lizard King! You can do anything!” He then left as quickly as he had appeared.

Ten minutes later I was shocked as the “Lizard King” was introduced as the keynote speaker. After the presentation, I asked him about his display. He wasn’t embarrassed, although he claimed that he didn’t see anyone in the bathroom. The keynote stated that it’s simply his pre-speech ritual. “It must psych you up?” I asked. “It use to,” he responded, “now it’s just something I do to center myself before I stand in front of a crowd.”

Similarly, in a recent interview, Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton discussed his pre-show rituals. It begins with the hours of meticulous research Lipton conducts on the person being interviewed. This can take months and Lipton prefers to do it by himself. He then transcribes his notes onto his trademark blue index cards and marks them up with post-it tabs and highlighters before they are neatly stacked in a 10-inch pile on his desk while taping the show.

My nightmare, somebody steals my cards.—James Lipton

Rituals like Lipton and the Lizard King are more than simply superstition or habit; they have been shown to have a positive affect on performance. In a study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Alison Woods Brooks found that many top-level performers use rituals to help them prepare. These rituals significantly reduce anxiety and produce a higher quality work product. By mitigating the distracting, disruptive indicators associated with anxiety through pre-performance routines, Brooks concluded, “although some may dismiss rituals as irrational, those who enact rituals may well outperform the skeptics who forgo them.”

The lesson here is that we need a consistent ritual that precedes our stress-inducing events. You can go big (like screaming into a public bathroom mirror) or more subtle. Drink a glass of room temperature water. Read a poem or inspirational quote. Click your heals three times. Whatever you can do to center yourself and jumpstart that inner “on” switch. I’m sure Lipton would even be okay if you used index cards, although maybe you can find a color other than blue.

Weekender: Adam Corolla on Self-Motivation Tricks

Adam CorollaWelcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a peak of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a peak? Because it’s the weekend!

Motivation is a head game. You can rely on self talk to get yourself enthused, and sometimes it will work, but it often takes more than repeating your mantra of “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me.” One way to remain focused and determined is a little trick called going out on a high note.

On the Fitzdog Radio podcast, Adam Corolla discussed his exercise (and success) philosophy of going out on a high note:

It’s good when you’re working out, skipping rope and you go, ‘before I finish, I’m going to do ten cross overs or whatever it is. And if I f—k up on the ninth one I have to start over again.’ It’s a little obsessive compulsive but it also forces you to complete this thing.

You know what else it does? All I do is skip rope and I’ll never go out on a f—k up. Meaning [if it gets] caught on my foot, instead of going, ‘Alright, it’s been 25 minutes,’ I’ll say, ‘No, no, I’ll do 20 more clean ones’ and then I’ll stop on my own accord.

To quote Corolla, today’s lesson is to never go out on a f—k up. Don’t let a track record of progress be sullied on the final lap. Finish strong. Not only is this good for your reputation, but it provides the mental edge you need to feel a sense of accomplishment and remain energized for your next achievement.

Andrew Kreisberg on Developing Your Core Ideology

legends of tomorrowHow do you make decisions for your organization? I’m not asking about your problem solving skills or ability to perform critical thinking, I’m more interested in your core ideology — the consistent identity that guides you and everyone on your team. Don’t have one? Let’s try to change that. To help us is writer and producer Andrew Kreisberg.

Andrew Kreisberg is the co-creator of three (and by the end of the week, four) of my favorite shows. If you’re one of the millions who have been watching CW’s Arrow and Flash and CBS’s Supergirl, you know Andrew’s work. This week marks his fourth venture in DC Comics’ television world as he continues the interweaving stories of Arrow and Flash with the premiere of Legends of Tomorrow. This is the superhero team-up show we’ve been waiting for. Finally, a weekly series with the likes of Hawkgirl, Hawkman, The Atom, Firestorm, Rip Hunter… it’s almost too much.

Andrew KreisbergBuilding this track record of success is not easy. Many live action superhero shows have aired in the last 60 years and most are—shall we say—not good. You can blame their issues on inadequate special effects or a limited budget, but the real problem involves storytelling. These shows tried to lean too much on action and not enough on making you care about the characters. In an extensive interview on Fatman on Batman, Andrew Kreisberg discussed how he cracked this code with a three-part ideology that he and his team live by.

We write on the board, ‘What are Barry [Allen/Flash]’s attributes?’ And we always keep looking at it for every scene. And we actually have written in the writer’s room: heart, humor, spectacle. Cause for us, that’s the secret of the show. Equal parts ‘heart, humor, spectacle’… that’s the order and if we have an episode where there’s too much spectacle and too much humor but not enough heart, then it’s not a good episode.

According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, core ideology defines the enduring character of a company. It holds the organization together as it grows, acts as a source of guidance and inspiration, and attracts like-minded people. With “heart, humor, and spectacle” (in that order), the writers know how to focus their efforts—there’s no lazy reliance on extended fight scenes to eat up time; every scene matters, depth is balanced with levity, and characters have a purpose beyond their visually impressive super power.

Andrew Kreisberg mantraThere are three things to consider when determining your organization’s core ideology. As discussed in the HBR article:

Core ideology is bigger than one product, one goal, or one leader. Knowing who you are is more important than knowing where you’re going. The direction you go will change with time, while the ideology in a durable company is enduring.

You do not create core ideology, you discover it. Ideology cannot be deduced by examining the external environment; you understand it by looking inward. Use your collective genius to discover yours. This is bigger than solely the job of the leadership team. Kreisberg relied on comic book-loving experts, not network executives or studio heads. Explore and embrace feedback from all levels.

Ideology must be authentic. Discovering your ideology is not a time to daydream about what the organization ought to do—that’s what your vision statement is for. Ideology involves the core values you truly and passionately hold today, the best of who you are.

Want to provide a lasting and significant contribution to your organization? Be a Legend of Tomorrow today by leading the charge to nail down your core ideology. Kreisberg is running four successful television shows with three simple words. Discover yours to focus your team and ensure a better work product. What better way to form your own superhero team-up.

Dick Grayson on Conquering Self-Doubt

dick graysonIt’s easy to maintain your self-assurance when things are going well. An avalanche of good fortune makes us feel as though we’re unstoppable. The challenge is in how we keep our cool when faced with adversity. At times like this I refer to the Boy Wonder, Dick Grayson.

Dick Grayson is most known as Robin. He’s gone though many adaptations over the years (Nightwing, Spyral Agent, Red Robin, and occasionally filling in as Batman), but he consistently fights to protect Gotham from crime alongside Batman. If you are familiar with his backstory, you know that before he was a superhero, Dick was the youngest in a family of circus acrobats known as the “Flying Graysons.”

Being part of the Flying Graysons taught Dick valuable life lessons about survival and overcoming self-doubt. In the graphic novel The Black Mirror, he discussed his family’s three rules in more detail.

Rule #1 Pick a Point

My family had three rules for staying alive on the trapeze. The first was ‘pick a point’. Meaning pick the point in space you’re headed for and don’t ever look away, even for a second.

When experiencing fear, a natural reaction is to go into a mode of self-preservation. We then lose focus on what we’re trying to achieve, lose perspective on the priorities that really matter, and lose communication skills that could be a valuable asset. If we can pick a point before panic sets in, we will be more prepared to concentrate on that point when adversity rears it’s head.

Rule #2 Build a Net

My family had two more rules in case the first one didn’t work, in case you felt yourself giving into the fear, sliding, losing your grip and starting to fall. Rule #2 was ‘build yourself a net.’ Build a safety net out of plain simple facts to stop the panic, to steady you. Fact: my name is Dick Grayson.

I was at a conference last year where I witnessed the keynote staring into a mirror repeating the statements, “You can do this. You are THE speaker.” Looking back, he was building his net. These simple facts centered him and helped him mentally prepare for the pressures of an auditorium of spectators. We may not need to be as vocal, but our mantras should be just as clear-cut and repeatable.

Rule #3 Hope for the Best

But if Rule #2 wasn’t working, if you still couldn’t shake the fear…and your grip, it wasn’t holding, my family had a third rule for staying alive which was ‘pray you land somewhere soft.’

With all the skill and talent possible, there are times when things do not go our way. These instances are unavoidable and often take us by surprise. When this happens, our soft landing can be softened by a strong support system, gaining some lesson learned, and/or a reminder that failing does not make us a failure. This last one is the most difficult, but it’s also the most important to help us cope with disappointment and rebound.

While the majority of us will not be flying through the air on a trapeze, our responsibilities and tasks feel just as death-defying. Maintain your focus. Remember who you are. Hope for the best. After all, true success is not a matter of whether you hit the ground after a flop; it’s how hard you land and your resilience to bounce back.

dick graysons