The Space Between Hesitation and Commitment with Michael Gervais

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With me today is Michael Gervais,  who  is  co-founder  of  Win  Forever  with  Coach  Pete Carroll, and also founder of a wonderful podcast Finding Mastery. So welcome to the show Michael.

Thank you for having me. Great to hear your voice Mark.

Michael, let’s get into this by starting maybe with your business. The strapline is to help people become the best they can be. How do you that?

Yeah, it’s a great question and it’s kind of a bold tagline I guess, as I’m hearing it playback for me right now, but the idea is that as humans, we can train three things. We can train our craft, we can train our body, and we can train our mind, and we’re uniquely focusing on how to train the mental skills that allow people to access their craft. So essentially, what we’re doing is, I can tell you a longer story but essentially what we’re doing is we’re pulling back the curtain on how some of the best performers in the world, and world leading franchises in sport have helped athletes prepare their mind, to be able to do the challenging and difficult things that they want to do. It seems to us foundational to train one’s mind and the mental skills to be able to access the craft that they’ve dedicated most in their life to, and then current business rhythms now, people are spending 95 percent of those time training their craft. In business, most people are — their requirement to be successful is to think creatively, to think critically, to think clearly, and it’s really in business, it’s the skill of thinking. What we know from elite performers, there is a process to be able to train one’s mind to think clearly, and to think clearly under pressure. So that’s our efforts in the business world.

And that process, how would you characterize the steps in that process Michael? Of thinking clearly under pressure?

Well, let’s just talk about a model first and then I’ll walk you through to the steps, is that in the model of pressure if you will, the lowest form of a response to pressure is choking, and then one level above that would be micro choking. We don’t see choking very often but we do see micro choking on a regular basis.

What’s micro–? I mean choking, we know it from the golf– when you choke on the golf course. What’s micro choking mean? I am not familiar with that language.

Yeah,  hopefully  you’re familiar with it because it means you’re in the edge in some kind of way in your business and your life, but micro choking is that experience when we know we have more, we’re shaking just a little bit maybe physically or mentally, and we’re not able to access what we know we can access. So micro choking is too much attention that we’ve created in our body and in our mind to meet the demands of the moment, and so that’s micro choking. So it’s choking, micro choking, and then there’s some performing under pressure which is just kind of okay. It’s not great but it’s just okay. Then we talk about thriving under pressure, and then the level above it is being able to dissolve pressure. So it is possible when you understand the roots and origins of how your mind works and you’re craft works to dissolve pressure. So we’re working from that model, but that’s not exactly the question you asked, I think you’re asking more about like how do we go about training people’s minds to be able to perform well. Is that the right question?

Well I mean, let’s make it specific. So a divisional head in an organization for instance, I mean how does this  model  apply  to  them  and  how can they go from choking — what can they do? What habits and practices can they put in place to make this journey more frequent and more smooth if you like? I presume people always choke, but this question is how could you get out of that stage up to the next stage, right?

Yes, and I don’t think people choke very often. I think that’s actually relatively rare, and really, the way that smart people orientate their life is that they work to position themselves in situations or environments where they  can  be  successful.  It’s  one  of  the  hallmarks  of  great  athletes  is  that  they  know  how  to  position themselves to be successful, however, if we’re trying to become our very best, we’re trying to become one of the best in the world, one of those two variables, then we run out of playing space if we don’t train our mind. So  what  that  means  is that if we’re looking to position ourselves in situations of success, eventually we outswim our pond. To do that, to operate on the world stage, we train our minds and I’ll be very specific in just  a  moment,  we  train  our  minds  but  the  first  invitation  in  our  own  life  has  to  be  to  value  being uncomfortable and value making mistakes as a learning opportunity. It sounds intellectually fine and like we’ve  been  talking  about  that  for  thousands  of  years,  but  really,  the  thought  of  putting  yourself  in a vulnerable,  or  open,  or  uncomfortable situation to accelerate learning, is harder that it sounds to many people.

As you say that, one of the reasons I did this podcast, I launched my podcast was I kind of realize I need to stretch myself and this is a great way of learning from lots of remarkable people very very quickly, and also putting myself out there which feels very– So I mean, I do lots of micro choking. I can reassure you around this part of my professional life. But yeah, sorry I interrupted you.

Yeah, no, no, that’s it Mark. Then how do you know that you’re really on the edge? Is because you’ve got a physiological activation where you get some butterflies or some sweating, or some nausea, or some internal activation where your body’s saying, “Whoa! Okay, this is really important now, and I’m not quite sure if I can reach or if I can meet the demands of the environment.” So that’s how you know you’re on the edge of your capability, which is really important.

Okay. So then the second is that we work like those — let’s go back to your model about being a divisional manager or a director, or whatever your role might be in a business form, is that the essence of that success is based on relationships. That is a philosophical position that we have taken. Some people might think about that and say, “Well that sounds really soft. That sounds wonderful, but I need bottom line results.” Yeah of course. Of course we all need bottom line results and if there’s, maybe not a greater position to work from, the need for outcome and the need for results, than modern day sport. The reason I say modern day sport is because nowadays, no one’s dying at — well, not often dying at mistakes or failure but it can feel that way, and if you don’t get results fast enough in modern day sports, you’ll let go. So that can happen in the NFL in the first couple of weeks, we start to see turnover in coaches, we start to see turnover in athletes in the first three, four, five weeks. So there is a need, a real need to get results or you don’t get asked to come back to the party, however, we over-index on the importance of relationships. The reason that we — like, the way that we oriented our business is that we are relationship-based business and we want to show others how to do the same. Now, there’s nothing soft about this, it’s more challenging than it meets the eye, and this has developed first and foremost from my observation of what Coach Carroll at the Seattle Seahawks, how he has built his organization and his culture, is the way we describe ourselves — describe ourselves at the Seattle Seahawks is that we are a relationship-based organization that produces football. Hopefully great football for a long time. When we spend time in Fortune 25 companies, Fortune 50 companies, we’re sharing that same model and encouraging them to also think about producing, being a relationship-based organization that produces great technology or great service or product, whatever that might me.

Let’s now spiral down just a bit further, is that the relationship that we’re talking about begins first with yourself. You might have a spiritual framework to invite into this conversation as well, that the relationship might  be  with  God  or  nature,  depending  on  the  type  of  spiritual  framework  that  one has.

Then more mechanically,  it begins with the relationship with yourself and then extends to other people. So we help people become greatly aware of their internal relationship with themselves, which basically gets sifted down into awareness of your inner-dialogue. How do you speak to yourself? Without that awareness, it’s really hard, I mean nearly impossible to grow at the clip that is required to play on the world stage. So it’s with great awareness and a great — what’s the word I’m looking for, is — let me say this more cleanly. Great awareness of your inner-dialogue and a great commitment towards the value of being uncomfortable, both mentally, emotionally and physiologically.

And  the  role  inner  dialogue plays — is it because we are so abusive to ourselves in terms of how we typically talk to one another. It’s like trying to drive with a foot on the brakes, or is this something even more profound around the dialogue that you kind of help release if you like?

Well, what we’ve come to understand is that, to pursue one’s potential and/or to play on the world stage or be successful on the world stage, nobody does it alone. If we don’t do it alone, then what’s the alternative to that statement, is that we do it together, and to do the difficult and challenging things that we want to do in life, we are required to lock arms and to be connected with other people. So the first order of business is are you a great partner in that journey to other people? Then what we’ve come to find out is that the egotism and narcissism, and self-entitlement, and the self-aggrandizing behavior about success kills long-term success. So we’re going to be able to– and there’s corporate America and elite athlete athletics are riddled with the

Then more mechanically,  it begins with the relationship with yourself and then extends to other people. So we help people become greatly aware of their internal relationship with themselves, which basically gets sifted down into awareness of your inner-dialogue. How do you speak to yourself? Without that awareness, it’s really hard, I mean nearly impossible to grow at the clip that is required to play on the world stage. So it’s with great awareness and a great — what’s the word I’m looking for, is — let me say this more cleanly. Great awareness of your inner-dialogue and a great commitment towards the value of being uncomfortable, both mentally, emotionally and physiologically.

And  the  role  inner  dialogue plays — is it because we are so abusive to ourselves in terms of how we typically talk to one another. It’s like trying to drive with a foot on the brakes, or is this something even more profound around the dialogue that you kind of help release if you like?

Well, what we’ve come to understand is that, to pursue one’s potential and/or to play on the world stage or be successful on the world stage, nobody does it alone. If we don’t do it alone, then what’s the alternative to that statement, is that we do it together, and to do the difficult and challenging things that we want to do in life, we are required to lock arms and to be connected with other people. So the first order of business is are you a great partner in that journey to other people? Then what we’ve come to find out is that the egotism and narcissism, and self-entitlement, and the self-aggrandizing behavior about success kills long-term success. So we’re going to be able to– and there’s corporate America and elite athlete athletics are riddled with the narcissist that wants their bottom line to be met and wants their name to be on the whatever kind of ranking schedule. That’s all fine and dandy because they end up not playing very long or very well with others, and they can seriously grow in culture.

Now, so let’s go back to the root cause if you will, or not root cause, but the root of our conversation which is awareness of your inner-dialogue so that you can choose great thoughts so that you can help others amplify and celebrate their talents, so that the rising tide floats all boats where both of you end up winning. So you can’t do that well without having some sort of the internal awareness of your own dialogue, so that you can help others become great as well. It’s that rising tide that we found is a massive accelerant towards output, whatever the output it is by investing first in the relationships.

So I mean, this is a very empowering message because it suggest that it starts with self-awareness which might not necessarily be particularly easy or particularly comfortable once you become self aware, but anyone can I think become self aware, but that becomes the baseline or the foundation if you like, for the next stage of growth. Is that fair?

100%, and then, so the mechanical part of our business is helping people learn the science and the art of self-awareness. The way we frame it is that this is a journey of self-discovery and you don’t just take a pill and become aware, but there’s a process to become aware, we use mindfulness as one of the strategies, the art and science of mindfulness, and then we help people understand the science and art of being able to use how great athletes speak to themselves in the same way adapted to business frames. So that internal dialogue, self talk, the mechanics of confidence, the mechanics of being calm, the ability to be focus in this environment and refocus over and over again relentlessly so to maximize one’s opportunity to be in a present moment. All of those skills we’re using from the fields of sport and performance psychology, and the hard and true lessons that we’ve been in the amphitheater for elite sport for — combine the two of us over 60 years.

Yeah. One of the things that I was intrigued about is — I mean, and a lot of these performance-related activities,  I  mean  risk  is  ever  present.  I’m  curious, in the field of innovation, risk, failure, they create different emotions in executives and some people recognize intellectually that failure is a necessary step on the path to innovation. Others are happy if other people fail, but they don’t want to talk about it in their boardroom. How do you see risk and failure mapping from the — as you say amphitheatre sport of — world class sports into the executive suites. How does that conversation go in your client-base if you like?

I think risk in the corporate environment, and again, I’ve been able to play on the corporate environment, never been in it. So I’m always speaking as an observer and as a consultant who comes in and dips out, but working with Fortune 25 companies like, I think I have a sense from a healthy distance about what it’s like inside   of   many  of  these  organizations.  It  seems  very  different  to  us  than  the  entrepreneur.  So  the entrepreneur tends to have a bit more of a tolerance for risk, but in the corporate America, there’s plenty of risk-taking but culture tends to buffer in some kind of ways, the value of risk-taking. So it is not as easy to take large   risks   inside   of   the   corporate  environments  that  we’ve  been  in  compared  to  the  entrepreneur ecosystems. Now, that being said, the way that we see failure is maybe counter-intuitive. Many people talk about fail fast, fail forward, and that’s wonderful, and the seeds of insight are germane in failure. Okay, there’s great slogans and saying, but the way we talk about failure is that failure is not going for it. That’s how we operationalize it. So if once you know who you are, and we spend a lot of time with people, helping them develop their philosophy, and for you Mark, and/or folks that value your conversations with people, if you don’t your philosophy yet, it’s really hard. It’s really hard to excel in the world stage because the demands of the environment tend to become bigger than the internal result. It’s not until you know who you are that the world becomes much more playful, because once you know who you are and your philosophy is very clear, nobody can ever take that away from you. I don’t want to sound — try it on a soapbox, but that lonely work, to articulate in such a way with great clarity, that you could in a dark alley, or on a global stage, you’re very clear about what you stand for. That’s a very important piece of work, to be able to do, to accelerate one’s craft.

And how different is that from purpose for instance?

Well,  okay,  so  philosophy  is  the  decision-making  framework.  That’s  essentially  what  a  philosophy  is. A purpose is what are you doing with your craft, like what are you doing with your life efforts. So you could substitute purpose and mission, they would feel somewhat of the same, but having a clear philosophy about how one makes decisions, and takes actions, and chooses thoughts, that is not easy to do. So we walk people through, we call it a philosophical primer to help people develop their philosophy so that they can make great decisions that they have alignment with, and it’s that alignment that we get this undulation in output. Okay, so that’s part of it. Then the second layer is the mindfulness, to become aware when I’m dis-syncopated and when I am syncopated to my philosophy. Then we want to make sure that people have the great mental skills to be calm and confident and focused, to have the lens of optimism as oppose to pessimism, and I talked about the science of why. That’s the choice that we’ve chosen to invest in. Then we’re just arming people now with the mental skills that allow them to adjust and pivot truly, more than just the slogan that we need to pivot and adjust, to whatever market demands.

I’ll add one more layer or one more frame for you for you listeners is that as leaders, we can talk about stuff, we call it the 4 T’s. We can talk about stuff, we can teach others the mechanics of how things work, and now let’s just talk about craft for a moment. We can talk about having great craft, we can teach it, we can train people to develop their craft, and then we can test them. The same is true for mental skills, right? The same is true for physical skills. You can talk about how being fast and strong, you can teach somebody the mechanics to be fast and strong, you can show them how to train and then you can test them. The same is true for mental, you can say, “be focused,” that’s the talk that so many people talk about. Be focused fail fast, adjust quickly. But if we don’t teach and train people the next two layers before we test them, it’s just rhetoric. That’s all it is. It’s just rhetoric. So what’s happening if I can do a quick little history on mental skills and sport psychology is that, if we’re truly pulling back the curtain and showing what’s happening in elite sport, long ago head coaches did everything. Then the entrepreneurial and the leading head coaches said, “You know what? Why don’t we get a strength coach on board here. Let’s see if we can get a competitive advantage if our guys are more physical.” So that happened, and then the guys started getting banged up a little bit with overtraining. So then those same coaches said, “Why don’t we get some athletic trainers and some physical therapist to help repair our athletes?” Then those same innovative coaches said, “Well, what if we maximize nutrition?” And that was about 30 years ago that that started to take place, those arcs started to end. In about 20 years ago, really, is when those same innovative coaches says, “Well what if we trained the mind of our  guys?”  So  now,  we’re  taking  a  look  at  physical,  nutritional,  medical,  and  now  mental  skills  as  a competitive advantage. I’ll tell you what, there is no greater competitive advantage than truly celebrating the people that you’re in the amphitheater with, for them to be able to do their best. To do that, you have to first have foundation within yourself, and that’s the philosophy, that’s mindfulness of your inner experience, so that you can maybe use your craft and your awareness strategies to reveal insight and wisdom. Once that happens, it’s hard to beat the wise man. It’s hard to beat the wise woman like that, so we’re walking people through that process.

We started this section talking about risk and failure. Maybe we can talk about one particularly for us in Europe,   although   on  the  global  stage.  I  mean  it  was  a  remarkable  athletic  performance  of  Felix Baumgartner, the Red Bull Stratos , I’m not quite sure what the technical term of what he did was, but no one has ever done it before. But I think the back story here Michael was that he had difficulties in the run up to the big jump, and you helped him manage his way through those difficulties. So I would imagine in there, there was self-talk, there was a number of strategies that you were able to help him with which clearly made the difference between failure, which doesn’t bear thinking about and massive success which is what he enjoyed. Can you just bring that earlier section into a context of that journey that you took him on?


Just to maybe give a couple of specific examples to the extent you can.

What a beautiful example of a highly intelligent group of people that formed to develop the project called Red Bull Stratos. The Stratos project was really just a collection of bright minds that we’re solving a challenge, and Felix being one of those people on the team that was the astronaut, the skydiver who jumped from literally the edge of space that are 130,000 feet. So yes, risk is involved, and failure which is — if we go back to the definition of failure, it’s not going for it. When you know that you have the skills and abilities but you’re overwhelmed with fear, we call that failure. So the process of being able to — before I tell you the story, I want to say that it’s an honor to be part of that project, and honored to know all the men and women who were part of it, the engineers, and the scientist, as well as Felix Baumgartner. Risk is a powerful accelerant to flow state, and flow state is the most optimal state a human being can be in. Once we begin to really and truly embrace risk, now mind you that the first thing you and I talked about was embracing being uncomfortable, and that is the operational way of embracing risk, is when you move into an environment that you’re not quite sure if you have the abilities to adjust to it because you’re on the edge of your capacity and you know that the stakes are high, that that whole process if once you love that process because you know that you are on the edge on the cusp of flow state as one of the triggers, it becomes one of the most accelerated forms of learning.

So the process that we went through is to love risk taking, and love the risk process. Now Felix Baumgartner is one of the best in the world at what he does in very risky environments, and so he already had that capability and level of interest. The next things that we started to work on was awareness of his inner-dialogue, so that he  could  make  great  choices  of  thought  because  we  know  from  the  science  of  psychology,  especially performance  psychology  is  that  thoughts  precede  behaviors  and  those  behaviors  over  time  turn  into performance habits. We want to start up the chain if you will and have great awareness of our thoughts so that we can choose the thoughts that position us to be aligned, and to be powerful as a human being, as well as flexible. So it’s not more complicated than helping the best in the world in risky environments, become greatly aware of the inner-dialogue and then the skills to be able to manage once they have that awareness.

Clearly, you make it sound a lot more simple than it was. Those are the steps, are they? I mean they were not missing anything here?

No, we’re not missing anything. It sounds simple, however, the mind is invisible, it’s complicated. There’s an incredible theory that supports what we just talked about, and going on, it’s available for all of us to go on the journey of self-discovery. When you do it with somebody who understands the map if you will, there’s no such thing as a map, right? But if they understand the road less travelled, then the theory that supports that road, then we tend to get the results faster than if we were to take this map example. If you’re going to start on a journey and you’ve never been to wherever the destination you want to go, you get their a lot faster if you can ask some folks like, “Hey! How do I get there?” “Oh, go over this mountain range, turn left at that post office and you’ll be there.” So it’s like– I don’t know where I was going with that analogy, but the idea is that it’s not simple.

The map, the map. Yeah.

It’s not simple, however, it is very easy to understand the process.

You touched on learning from experts, let’s switch to your podcast which is called Finding Mastery. I’ve loved listening to it and learning from it as well as — not just your guest, but also your own insights. I mean what have you learned Michael? Let me, maybe back up. First of all, what did you think mastery meant when you kicked off that journey? And how has that change versus where we are today?

That’s a great question, thank you. And thank you for listening. That’s awesome, thank you so much. So the concept of mastery was born from me. It was born out of this idea long ago that let’s build a master piece, and I had like — you think of Leonardo da Vinci, you think of great artist that essentially builds something that you can observe or see. So the thought about Finding Mastery, like what is the process to find a master piece, or to be able to have a master piece, and that’s just not it. It’s not about creating a masterpiece, and most people that I’ve spoken with, they don’t consider themselves masters of craft, even though for example, the most winningest athlete in volleyball ever, the most winningest coach in football ever, one of the certain hall of fame coaches is going to go into the NFLl, none of them consider themselves masters of craft. The number one or the best female soccer player in the world says, “I don’t consider myself that way.” The genius behind the marketing campaigns for Apple and Gatorade does not consider themselves a master of craft. So there’s this really wonderful theme that’s being pulled out that people truly, that are on the leading edge of their craft are hungry to understand more, and they’re diving deeper into their craft, and what they’re left with is the conversations about the mind. The invisible, untapped, unexplored frontier that truly does drive all of our output. So it’s just been this wonderful blend of humility and mastery that has emerged as a process as opposed to an outcome. I’ll tell you what, most of them, some — this is not true for– but let’s call it 90%. I haven’t done the math on it but it feels that way right now, 90% couldn’t care less what other people think of them, but they have high regard for other people. So it’s not a dismissive like, “I don’t care what you think of me.” It’s this combination of I love people, but I’m no longer hamstrung by what they think of me, and there’s an incredible freedom in people that are exploring the edges, that is stimulating and wonderful, and it just feels like they’re right on the edge of teaching things that are very important for all of us, and I will leave us with this concept of the mastery. It is available to all of us. Awareness of our inner experience is aware to all of us. It’s just really freaking hard to train our mind to be that disciplined to do so. So I don’t know, I’m kind of spinning around a couple of concepts in my head, and I feel like I’m spinning even in this part of conversation, but yeah, thank you for asking.

It comes out of when you give your summaries of what I’ve learned so far. It’s very clear to me that you’re taking a huge amount out of it in the sense– not in the negative sense but in a sense of you’re learning, you’re on the journey as well as the listeners are, which is part of the power of it. Presumably you are able to — I mean how has your practice in front of your clients for instance, how is that evolving as a result of this stimulus of your regular conversations with people who are masters in their chosen areas of craft if you like?

Well, you know Mark, what happened early on in the podcast conversations is that I wasn’t learning as much as I was hoping I was going to learn. Looking back now it’s because I wasn’t asking the right questions. I kind of knew some of the stuff that they might be onto, and they were my friends. The first — I don’t know, 10 guests were my friends, or almost all of them were. I wasn’t learning enough, and then so I had to redesign, like the questions and to get really honest with myself like, “What do I really want to learn?” When we’re really clear about what we want to learn most in life, paths seem to open up, so I just think that that’s really important. What I am finding now is the way that it’s translating into other parts of my business is that there is a great curiosity from people. They want to know what masters of craft, how they think, and so I get to tell lots of stories publicly now where for the first 20 years of my career being a licensed psychologist in the states, that, in California in particular, that I wasn’t ever able to share what I was learning from the best in the  word  inside  of  a  sanctuary,  and  a  relationship  that  I  could  never  talk  about.  So  it’s  like now, the amplification of being able to share those stories and to celebrate the people that are truly on the edge, what we find is that many of us really do want to learn from them, and there hasn’t been many opportunities to do that learning. So podcasting and long form conversations are giving platforms to people to really share how they’ve come to understand the world. It’s not broken up by bits and sound bites, but hopefully, there’s a decoding process that will be able to have a grounded theory in what masters of craft are teaching us about, the psychology of human experience.

The  final  question  before we start wrapping this up Michael, you’ve used the expression on the edge several times, but I’ve got some notes here around the space between hesitation and commitment, which I think you’ve used that language before. I’m not sure where I’ve — I think I might have pulled it off in one of your blog posts, but can you just say a little bit about that. It’s a very compelling — for some reason it sort of landed with me and resonated with me because perhaps I do find myself in this space quite frequently. What do you mean by that and what does it mean?

Yeah. That’s very good. It is the central question that I set out to understand is what is that space in between hesitation and commitment? Because on the world stage, when there is a real risk involved, hesitation gets people hurt, and financially, emotionally, physically, and if Felix — go back to our Red Bull Stratos. If he’s on the edge at 130,000 feet and all that’s left is the command of his mind and the command of his craft, and he hesitates and goes into a flat spin, that was one of the five most dangerous things that could take place in that environment. If he goes into a flat spin, at let’s say 100,000 feet, and rotates, and has so many Gs in that rotation that essentially that the scientists were very concerned that he could have all the blood rush into his brain or his feet, and potentially have a life-threatening condition. So it’s the space between hesitation and commitment that allows people to understand and reveal themselves. That space in between those two is where the moment — we’re talking about the moment, right? The capturing, the essence of the mind and craft in risk environments, whether I shrink and hesitate, or I find alignment and go for it. It’s the undulation between those two that I think is really important to understand, and there is a space in between there that is beautiful. The sages, the mystics, the spiritualists, the philosophers, the great doers of our time in ancient history have played inside of that space when most people avoid it, and/or run right over it. So slowing down to be syncopated in real time, whether that’s putting up your hand in a board room, or where it is saying or asking the question in an entrepreneurial setting to a client that is going to change the trajectory of the relationship, or that’s in our living room saying the difficult things to loved ones. Wherever we are including the sport environment where it’s either action or fake action or hesitation, that it’s the space in between those that really marks the master of craft.

And Steven Kotler, I heard your interview with him and I think he’s going to be on the show hopefully in the next few weeks. He talks about the sort of the flow environment, particularly in the book The Rise of Superman  which  the  characteristics  of  that  environment,  are  you  able  to  —  can  you  put  yourself deliberately in this space between hesitation and commitment? Do you personally seek out to occupy that space because of the growth potential and because that’s where performance comes, or is it more a case of when you know you’re there, you just figure out how to deal with this?

Well  yeah,  it’s  so  physiologically uncomfortable and emotionally and mentally uncomfortable that many intelligent  people  will  say,  “Yeah,  I  embrace  being  uncomfortable,”  but  they  never  move  past  physical uncomfortableness, and so it’s the mental and emotional space, and to say it as one thing, but to design and orientate your life to do just that is totally different. There is no seven steps to greatness, there’s no seven steps to self-enlightenment, there’s no steps to this, this is a fundamental reorientation to love the way it feels, to be completely switch on on the edge of capacity so that you can play in the space between hesitation and commitment, rather than being constricted by it, and/or avoiding it. It is a fundamental orientation in life to look toward that experience as often as we can as opposed to mitigating risk or even worse, the sheep’s cloth were, or like — what am I saying? What’s the phrase?

What? The wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Yeah, we’re walking around pretending like we’re doing something, but we’re really something very different. So anyways, yes you can but you have to fundamentally orientate your life and life efforts towards exposing those moments.

So it is possible and you’ve given some clues around the need for self-awareness which is the building block, it seems to be a foundational practice, as well as recognizing more around your environment. But it sounds like this is pretty full on stuff, not for the faint-hearted I guess.

Well yeah, it isn’t because it’s a discovery where you’re just left with your truth, right? So that’s not for faint-hearted piece, but I don’t want to like kind of skirt around the issue, like I’ll just give you guys the essence of it, is that if your listeners and/or you Mark are so compelled to write down in 20 words or less, maybe  you can get it to 10 words or less, what is your philosophy? And write it down, and you have a philosophy right now. There’s a reason you chose the clothes that you wear, the reason that you chose the car, the words that you choose, the mannerisms that you have, your physiological patterns that are based on your posture, and the way that you sit or stand, and so you already have a philosophy, but if you don’t know it, you can’t ever really test it. When we go back to the “4 T’s” that’s the test. Are you being aligned and true to  what  you  believe  is  most  important in life? Especially when it’s difficult and rugged or hostile in the environment. Oftentimes, what we find just as a little confusing asterisk maybe is that we create the hostility in life most of the time.

To self talk.

That’s exactly right. So that is the journey right there, and that’s a really significant thing to get done towards the path of whatever somebody wants in their life.

Yeah, super, super. Let’s just switch gears, we need to begin to wrap up Michael. This has been fascinating and so relevant for innovation in the broader sense whether it’s personal, whether it’s a team, whether it’s organizational innovation because these are fundamental building blocks if you like. The three questions I sent to you in advance, what have you changed your mind about recently?

I love these questions. They’re so hard. They’re so hard questions. What I’ve changed my mind about recently. It’s more of an amplification. It’s not that it was a fundamental 180 degree switch but it was an amplification of love. We don’t talk about it enough, and it’s really hard to do. It’s so hard to do because of the razor’s edge of being vulnerable, and I think that love, now I know that love, caring about others and nature, and oneself in such a rich, authentic, high regarded way is one of the greatest things that we can do for performance output but it also feels really good, so you end up getting too bangs in one concept. So that’s one thing that I’ve spend a lot of time paying attention to lately.

I guess that feeds back into the philosophy which is all around congruence and it’s all around authenticity as well.

Yeah, I think when you get on the world stage long enough, you tend to realize that it really does come down to love, and it’s not lost in anyone I think that that’s why some of the greatest influencers in the history of humanity, that’s what they’ve talked about. In some kind of way in modern times, we have gotten lost by the need for fame and output and money as opposed to the need to belong and take care of other people in a way that matters.

Very profound. Second question, what do you — these are getting a bit easier I think. What do you do to remain creative and innovative? I hope they are anyway.

No, I create space. I don’t what other people do sometimes maybe they — what I’ve learned is that they go and really have a fast-paced environment so they’re just kind of forced to an innovation but I create space, and with that space, it gives me time to really marinate in water on the thoughts that I’m going to choose to put action to. So for me it’s space.

Is that two hours in the calendar? Is it going for a walk in the woods? I mean what is it actually mean or look like?

So the daily mindfulness practice where I’m — without judgement, paying attention to my thoughts so that I can become highly aware of the thoughts, so I can know what is exciting and triggering and what is getting in the way and painful. So it’s that space that allows me to have greater awareness so that I can have a — I love the innovative and creative process and I know that those two words are different but I flat out love it. I’m going to make sure that I orientate my life to have as much of that as I possibly can and then the toggle to that to wrap our conversation on full, is to orientate as many opportunities per day as I can that are already right at the edge of capacity. I’ll tell you what, by the end of the day, I’m exhausted.

Yeah. I can imagine,   I can imagine. Then final question, to what do you attribute your success in life? I mean  are  there  any  specific  skills,  habits,  or  mindsets that you’ve mastered, that have really have a significant impact for you Michael?

Oh my god. First of all, thank you for thinking that I have success in life, and then no, I haven’t mastered anything. I’m going to just pull a page from the people that I’ve spent time learning from is that it’s a journey, it’s a process, and I think that if there was an easy answer to that, that it would be — I just really care a lot about  learning  and  trying  to  figure it out, and I use myself as a working laboratory before I’d ever ask somebody else to go down that path. So I don’t know, I think it’s curiosity and it really truly for me, is born out of pain. I was not able to do what I wanted to do via craft, and my craft in sport was surfing, and I couldn’t do it the way I wanted to because I was overwhelmed by poor thinking. So that pain led me to a curiosity to figure this out. I love it, so I don’t know if I have success or mastery or any of those things that we just talked about, but I certainly have loved the journey and the people along the path.

Well I think to be able to say that you love it is a — that’s one type of success which can be for many people quite difficult to get their hands on.

Flat out. And one of the great philosophers Epictetus says, I’m going to butcher the phrase and make it more modern but he says, “Know who you are and dress accordingly.” So once you really know who you are, and you can adorn the clothing that represents that, that alignment whether it’s in business or relationships or words that we use is phenomenal. It’s just a very powerful thing that’s available for all of us.

Lovely, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Now, I’d heard that phrase from you and I was going to ask you about it, but you’ve answered that so that’s good. It’s not your own language, it’s someone going back a couple of thousand years I guess.

Yes, very much so. Yeah, very cool.

So final question, where can people get in touch with you? We’ll put it all in the show notes, but maybe just call out the key places, the key channels where people can engage with you?

Sure. Okay, so let’s start with social media, @michaelgervais, and I’ll spell that Michael is traditional, and then Gervais is G-E-R-V as in Victor, A-I-S as in Sam, so @michaelgervais on Twitter, same on Instagram and then is a place that you can find about the podcast. You can also go to, that’s the business partnership with Coach Carroll and myself. We have an insight of that business, we built three applications, so that one we go into a corporation we just don’t leave people, we want to go on a journey with them to coach them for 365 days a year. So we’ve got a suite of applications that we offer people there, but it’s all closed loop, it’s only for the corporations we work with. Better way to get there is and then /community and it will take you into our Facebook page.

Brilliant. We’ll put all that in the show notes, and Michael, it’s been great to talk to you. I really have enjoyed this conversation, hopefully it wasn’t too painful, I did put you on the spot, but I think it’s very very rich. I think that, as I said this several times, the podcast is a highly recommended resource, so we’ll put in the notes as well. I really appreciate your time today.

Yeah Mark, thank you and I want to say thank you for — in preparation for this podcast. I listen to yours and they’re fantastic and wonderful, and I’d love to flip the script and host you on my show as well, and learn about the innovation and the ecosystem for such, so I’d love to extend that to you as well. So thank you for having me.

Brilliant. Well, thanks very much and we’ll be in touch, that’s very kind of you, and have a good day.

Okay. All the best. Take care.

Thanks, bye.

Michael Gervais is a high-performance psychologist who works in the trenches of high-stakes environments, he is a recognized speaker on optimal human performance, and he is the host of the Finding Mastery podcast. What can Michael teach us about success in the corporate world? Well, just a few of the important topics Mark and Michael discuss on this week’s episode are:

● Why is an understanding of the space between hesitation and commitment so fundamental to raising performance?
● What is micro-choking, and how can you dissolve pressure?
● A definition of failure that challenges us to step up

Time Stamps

  • [03:20] – How does Michael help people become the best they can be?
  • [05:00] – How does Michael help people think more clearly when under pressure?
  • [05:25] – What does ‘micro-choking’ mean?
  • [08:50] – You know when you’re on the edge of your capabilities, when you begin to get butterflies in your stomach, or even get nauseous.
  • [12:50] – To do the difficult and challenging things in life, we need the help of others.
  • [13:30] – However, corporate America is riddled with narcissists. This actually kills success.
  • [16:25] – How does Michael see risk and failure show up in the executive suites?
  • [19:20] – How does personal philosophy differ from personal purpose?
  • [23:40] – Michael discusses the work he did with Skydiver Felix Baumgartner, the man who broke the sound barrier.
  • [28:15] – What has Michael learned so far, from hosting his podcast, Finding Mastery?
  • [35:05] – What is the space between hesitation and commitment? What makes someone go over that edge?
  • [39:40] – Write down in 20 words or less what your philosophy is.
  • [41:20] – What has Michael changed his mind about recently?
  • [42:55] – What does Michael do to remain creative and innovative?
  • [44:25] – What does Michael attribute his success to in life?

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Mark Bidwell

Mark Bidwell

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