What is High Performance
What is high performance and how do I go about improving my performance? This is a question that I get asked several times a week. As a starting point, here are two simple ways to improve performance:
1. Look at people who have been successful in the areas you want to improve.
2. Listen to their advice. What would they say to their younger selves?
When it comes to performance, it’s often better to learn from mistakes, not only successes.
Advice From A High Performance
Craig White is one of the top coaches in the high-performance world, working in some of the most elite sporting environments. I have known Craig for serval years and have been lucky enough to be coached by him. I recently saw an interesting post that he created on LinkedIn about the advice he would give to his younger self. I contacted Craig to see if he would be interested in talking about some of his points, and he kindly agreed.
Here are my thoughts on his points:
1. Not everyone looks at the world the way you do.
“The advice to my younger self – believe it or not, those 10 points that I came up with that I posted, they literally came within 10 minutes. I just fell into the answers and I trusted what came up. And those were the 10 areas that I posted immediately and gave it to a client who asked for those answers. So, you ask about the first one. Not everybody sees the world the way that you do. So, if I cast my mind back to my younger days within this field if you like, this field of high performance, this field in which I initially started off in S and C for me, strength and conditioning within professional rugby. You know, based on my upbringing, I really, really did think that everybody saw the world in the same way, everybody saw the world the way I did through my own eyes and fell into it the way I fell into it. And little did I know at the time that that wasn’t the case, that we have similarities as humans and we go through similar feelings, but in terms of the way we perceive the external reality, it can be very, very different.
And so, casting my mind back 20 years, for example, 20, 30 years when I was 26, I was working for Ireland, for example, and living in Dublin. You know, I didn’t realise that our reality can be determined by our vision, but ultimately, it’s determined by what we value, it’s determined by what I call our internal GPS system. I believe that we all have an internal GPS system that is unconsciously moving us towards the expression of energy. What we spend our money on is determined by what we internally value. What we love to talk about is determined by that. What we think about, our dominant thoughts, what we tend to visualise when we’re alone, what energises us, what we tend to see and what we tend not to see. For example, if I’ve got a high value on health and sporting performance and a person who’s with me has got a high value on money and beauty and looking good, well, if we walk around a shopping mall, it’s true that I’ll automatically see the sport shops, the gyms, the shops that are related to performance and health, and he’ll see the banks, the investment opportunities, the suit, the tailors. And that’s just a crude example that I gave there. But it also is an example that can be related to the world at large.”
If I think back over my coaching career, there were some athletes and individuals that I could not understand. Talented athletes just not willing to work hard or put in the effort. For me, one of the most frustrating things is this. But now, I have a better understanding of the idea of context. We are all different and have different values; therefore, we see the world individually. We need to understand the strategies to improve in ourselves and each other.
2. A team is like a jigsaw. Make an effort to know each piece and how it fits with each other piece so that the jigsaw eventually fits perfectly and lasts for a long time.
Coaching is a fantastic career choice; you meet so many diverse individuals. For me, a huge part of coaching is getting to understand that person. Not only from what they are looking to achieve from coaching but also about their personal life. Understanding that person outside of the gym, training pitch, or office can significantly increase the chances of a successful coaching relationship.
3. Everything you see in your external vision is a reflection of YOU.
We naturally move towards what we want, who we like and people with similar values. If you’re going to change that vision, you need to get uncomfortable.
4. Great relationships are ultimately about PRESENCE.
“So, one of the things I stated was that ultimately all relationships, all harmonious relationships, especially cultivated with presence, this capacity to be present at the moment. And I believe that this capacity is always here. You know, we can always come back and somehow connect with our return to this natural presence that is always here, but we live in a world of so many distractions and so many mental constructs and rights and wrongs and advertising and things occupying our attention and stimulation. And, you know, we really kind of, we’ve pulled away from this naturalness, from this level of presence. And ultimately, that’s one of the reasons why we are seeing all these practises now, these contemplative practises, these meditative practises, these breathwork practises. In my own life, it did really, really help me when I got into meditation. Now, I’ve been into meditation for a long, long time, and that led on to yoga and breathwork and other kind of meditative practises if you will. But ultimately, it just means returning back to this natural state. The way I like to describe that practice is actually just via the senses, so we can return back to this natural state, which brings us into harmony and flow. And if you like, a state where we make the best decisions, you know, we could look at something.
We could focus on something. We could focus on an object. We can have a single-pointed focus. We could focus on a sunrise. We could look into our baby’s eyes. We could look into our intimate partner’s eyes. We could hold a gaze with a player. And that is enough to kind of bring us into a state of presence. Now, if we think about the sensation of hearing, you know, we can focus on subtle sounds. We can focus on louder, audible sounds, we can focus on a piece of music. There’s lots of sound technology now that is designed to kind of bring us into that present moment and drop us into the kind of, if you like, the more of the alpha and the feature states of brain wave activity. If we think about a the sensation of touch, you know, and this kind of kinaesthetic capacity to cultivate presence, well, the breath is obviously one valuable tool because it’s with us all the time. We don’t have to carry it with us. It’s always here.”
Being present is the number one idea I talk to all my clients and athletes about. The ability to be 100% focussed on one thing will increase the chances of successfulness. We live in a world of attention and fragmentation. Practice this skill, and it will become easier and more comfortable. Head over to our interview with Richard Hussiany, talking about breathwork. An amazing tool to create and develop a presence.
5. Presence is highly correlated with QUALITY of time, not with QUANITY of time spent at your desk, on the field, or on your laptop.
In business, people still look to hours in front of the screen as a critical marker for performance. I am always talking about intensity over volume. Increasing efficiency, allowing more time to exercise, spend time with loved ones etc.
6. Don’t take your work home with you.
Tough in COVID times as work is now at home. But we all need to make sure that we are doing the best in this situation. Look to build in a short walk outside at the finish of work. This will help to bookend the day.
7. Meditate daily and develop a deep relationship with your BREATH. It will instantaneously cultivate more PRESENCE.
Not much to add here, I wish that I would have started presence practices some time ago. The research is catching up on what the eastern world has known for 1000’s of years.
8. Become a student of communication and learn to ask great questions.
Improve your ability to communicate, improve your ability to lead, and we are all leaders. Developing my ability to communicate is an area that I am always looking to improve. The person who has the most flexibility in how they communicate has the best opportunity to be successful.
9. Spend less time on your laptop and more time watching others, giving feedback and asking for feedback.
COVID has drawn us into a world of spending more time on our screens. However, I have found that it is also easier to speak to people because they are at home or have less work on. This has given me the opportunity to get and give more feedback about training and coaching.
10. Everyone wants intensity, but you cannot bring intensity without FULL RECOVERY.
“Well, I actually wrote that one with an intention of talking to coaches and talking to myself as a coach. Of course, it applies to the training world and the adaptation of athletes and players. But I really wanted to relate that to the coach. And I was a workaholic. And I still see in professional rugby, actually, I still see a lot of coaches taking the work home. And granted, if that’s what they love, if there’s no negative influence on anybody else around them, if it lights them off, if it charges them like it might do with some, I mean, fine, no problem. But it but if it’s stressful, if it’s negatively affecting their capacity to perform in the job, if they feel out of flow, then it’s a problem. And I can only relate this to my own life and my own experiences. It really is about quality. It’s not about quantity anymore for me. So if you’re a client of mine, I have a responsibility to sleep before I speak to you. I have a responsibility to get myself into a state of presence before I speak to you. Maybe I do some breathwork before we come onto the call. Because, for me, working as a coach is all about relationships, it’s all about being present in the relationship in order to build and maintain trust, and we have a real incapacity to do that when we’re tired, and when we haven’t slept well and when we’ve not recovered well, so I guess that’s my take on it.”
Agreed, all day, every day. We can’t have both. We are not superhuman and the moment that you understand that is the moment that you take a step forward in health, wellbeing and performance. Rest and recovery are just as important as intensity and quality. Of course, you might be able to get away with long periods of intensity. However, it will always come back to get you.
If high-performing people in your area talk about their mistakes or learnings, listen. And if you are lucky enough, ask questions about those learnings. High performance is not a one of event it is a life long passion.
You can check more about Craig and his work at
Thanks so much for taking the time to read the blog, I hope you found it thought-provoking. Take a look at our key performance messages to help on the subject as well.
Keep training and moving forward.
Director and Founder