Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Goals & Motivation - Snips from three Stars

One of the big things about blogging is ripping ideas and "stuff" from other folks. Here are my takes on some comments from bloggers and coaches, Scott Molina, Jennifer Harrison, and Gordo Bryn. Please take a read through these as all three blog entries have outstanding things that we can all take and apply to our lives. The hard part is really knowing when to push the right buttons on yourself to move toward achievement.

For myself, it is a balance of training completely alone and in groups. Solo - iPod blasting for 90 minutes in the weight room after running long. Sweat dripping from my hat. Legs shaking. Just like in the Disney Movie Miracle my inner voice yells out "AGAIN!" Notice that the line on the poster is, "If you believe in yourself, anything can happen" It is developing that believe in yourself that takes time in the gym, on the bike, run, and in the pool. Group - chasing and being chased. Keeping up with better athletes (if you don't train with folks who can kick your ass...find someone who can! I promise it will change how you look at "how hard" you work. This is what makes Lance Armstrong really special. Best in his field and like the old Bristol Meyers Squibb commercials said, "What am I on? I'm on my bike 8 hours a day busting my ass! That's what I'm on."

For me, balance is also critical. I believe that with discipline and planning I can train, work and live an extraordinary life. (Remember from my earlier blog entry...the Mitera family motto is "Average is failing.")

I did some spell check work so this isn't an exact cut and paste for the author's benefit.

Please read through these and take them to heart.

Enjoy. I did.

Scott Molina, 1988 Ironmn World Champion, Triathlon Living Legend:

If you’re reading this then its likely that we share a common trait amongst triathletes – we’re motivated to do better at our sport. The reasons why we are so afflicted probably vary a great deal though. I think it helps us in reaching our goals to identify the basic reasons for our motivation. I look at motivation as a 2-step process:1) identify my goals 2) identify the mechanisms that help keep me motivated to achieve them in identifying goals I think a good beginning is to accept that our goals are personal to us and might be completely arbitrary. They could be to run every day, to bench press 300lbs, or to lose 300lbs. If there’s something positive that gets you up and moving then I think its probably a good goal to have. I’ll give you an example of one arbitrary goal of mine that ties in well with my bigger picture goals. Sheila’s back. Do you remember that picture of Sheila Toarmina on the cover of Outside Magazine? The one with her running away from the camera and her rhomboids are jumping off the front cover like some sort of 3-D action figure? I had that magazine in the magazine rack in the gym that I managed. That photo used to stare at me nearly daily for a few months and all the time I kept thinking “why is her back so much more f…n studly than mine????! I used to swim! I lifted weights all my life and pretty seriously when I retired as a pro triathlete and started personal training…etc.”. I used that photo to get myself worked up, and I resolved that one day I was going to really work on my back so I could give her a good battle in a rear-view, double back bicep pose. It took me about 5 years to actually get around to starting the process of building my back, but over the course of this last year I did. A large part of the reasons I did so much work on my back this year was because I had so many running injuries that I couldn’t run much, so I decided to lift and swim more to fill the void. The combination of more beef and better swimming fits in well with my more general goals of being fit and looking good. So 2x/week nearly all year I tortured my back in the gym for an hour followed by a 3.5-5km swim session. I would hit my abs, back and chest together 2x/week and hit abs, lower body, shoulders and arms 2x/week. Real gym junkie stuff. My back work included seated rows, bent-over rows, lat pull downs, straight-arm pull-downs, chin-ups, one-arm dumbbells rows, dumbbell pull-overs, iron cross machine, rotator work with cords, swim simulation with cords (fast!), Vasa Trainer, and dumbbells, back extensions and dead lifts. Even though I know that extra upper body muscle conflicts with my goals to run fast and ride uphill well to be able to keep up with (or smash to smithereens….) my good training partners I felt it was still worth pursuing. It was something that got me into the pool more as the gym and pool are at the same complex, and it kept my mood in positive territory over the winter months as I let my running injuries heal. Most of us want to feel content with ourselves and a large part of reaching a satisfactory level of contentment is to feel some self esteem or pride in our accomplishments. Even the drive to make some money is mostly related to this. I haven’t read any books on this topic so I’m speaking about my experience in dealing with people. What actions do you take to keep you moving towards your goals? Here’s my list: 1) Surround myself with motivated, positive people – at home, in my work, in my sport. This is my support network. They help me to feel good about doing what I do. They re-enforce my choices. 2) Read the sports page every day. Great athletes in action get me psyched. 3) Look at positive images of success of myself and others. I have them on my refrigerator. 4) Keep a list of my goals prominent. I have them as my bookmarker on my bedside. 5) Chose several very challenging events every year. I look forward to preparing for these events. I love doing the work required to take them on. 6) Reward myself for challenges/goals met. I usually make a trip to a nice place as one of my main rewards for the year. 7) Read books about extraordinary people. Watch great sport on TV. 8) Get out of bed when the alarm goes and get a cup of coffee in me asap. 9) Listen to uplifting music. The thing I often have to remind myself of is that I can never take my own level of motivation for granted.Its a fleeting, slippery emotive state and I need to be vigilant in looking for signs of it waning. We all get into slumps and when we do then we need to go right back to doing the things that help us get psyched up again.Here are my main athletic/fitness/health goals for 2007 and 2008 that get me out of bed every morning with some enthusiasm. 1) Run well again. I’ve had a number of injuries over the last 6 years that have been a hindrance, but I’ve not been good at doing the preventative maintenance I need to do to stay healthy. I need very strong motivation to stretch, massage and especially ice. I hate icing. By run well I mean be able to: a) run x-country races, b) run10km’s races regularly in under 34:30 minutes, c) run long in the hills as often as I like, d) not be in pain from injury 2) Look good.I’m a vain person. I want to be thin/lean, tanned and look young, healthy and athletic until at least 70. 3) Get to age 50 in good shape so I can still train with the fast guys that I enjoy training with. These Epic Camps are a good example of what I like to do with my free time. Those might look like pretty general goals and to me they are.I don’t fuss with the daily details or specifics too much.I don’t set specific tri goals until very close to race day. Same for bike and run races or training sessions in general. I used to, but not any more. I try to focus on the long term goals now.How about you??? What gets you going and keeps you in a positive mental state? If you’re prone to slumps then perhaps going through this process yourself is worth a try.

Jennifer Harrison, Age Group Champion, USAT Coach:


On Sunday night I laid in bed - my head spinning and swirling with thoughts of: Workouts and athletes. WHY, you ask? And WHY not thoughts of Brad Pitt and ... well....anyway....
Because on the weekends I am submerged in the HOW and the WHAT and most importantly the WHY. I am writing workouts, talking to athletes and planning people's weeks.
Life is about the WHY.....but, I find that there are a ton of different ways in which athletes and people in general respond to the WHY and I have learned ALOT about people and their pysche since I have been coaching athletes.

And, each year, I find out something new. Something I never EVER thought about and that is what keeps me up at night. I am trying hard to figure out how to get so and so faster, so and so more efficient, so and so.....TO WORKOUT OR not to do junk workouts...and the difference between working out and TRAINING. Because the difference is huge and critical.
Sure, when I lay my head down on the pillow on Sunday nights my head is spinning...so much that it hurts. And, I want to cry. Many times I do. I am exhausted and mentally fried from working - just like all of your jobs - mine just is the busiest on Sundays. And, then, I find myself going thru my workouts DOING what I see everyone else doing wrong. All of a sudden, I am swimming like X athlete. I am making all those mistakes like over-rotating, lifting my head....AHHHH!!!!! Stop it! Hee hee

Over the years I have worked with a lot of athletes and I work hard at trying to figure out these athletes. What makes them tick? What really motivates them? What workouts are best for their body type, schedule and so forth. But, over the past few years, I have taken it even further and started to determine the WHY these athletes do what they do....and the answers sometimes are shocking and mind-boggling to me.

These are the thoughts that kept me up late on Sunday night. Sometimes I just wish I had a switch to turn it ON and OFF....my emotions that is. Because, if I wasn't REALLY invested in everyone, I could do that. But, I can't. I care way too much...it is like I am a MOM to dozens and dozens of athletes. Because, to ME a good coach is someone who really CARES and is 100% invested in each athlete and their goals. And, in order for me to invest in each athlete, I try to get into their heads. Each of them - WHAT makes them tick .. WHY WHY WHY....

And, you know what? Some of them I can figure out and when I do....we are hitting home runs all over the place and others...I will NEVER figure out...but what I need to do is LET IT GO. Because, not everyone is as into this sport as I am...some athletes that I work with WILL skip workouts they WILL struggle with the daily ins and outs of training and not take control of their body composition or make Triathlon a top priority in their lives (as they say they want it to be).
So, last night, Monday night, I made a decision. I decided that I COULD and would let some of that go. I had to convince myself that NOT everyone wants to WIN and not everyone is motivated from within...some need to be with huge groups, spin classes everyday, other athletes/friends ALL the time and will not learn or allow themselves to HURT and feel that pain and suffering by themselves...and, that is OK. But, I think the biggest challenge with this statement is the fact that most athlete's GOALS are not in align with their commitment.
And, the light bulb went on: Most athletes goals are NOT in align with their commitment - mentally, physically and emotionally to this sport. So, I resolved, it was my goal to be the person who has to deliver these messages...because what good is a coach IF that coach is not upfront and honest with you? NO GOOD. And, this doesn't mean that I don't think athletes should have BIG GOALS or stretch GOALS or 5 year plans.....YES YES YES..... But, when someone's goal is: Qualify for Kona in 2008 when they have never done an IM before and they are a beginner athlete with no major athletic background AND out of shape AND skipping workouts AND not committed to the plan AND making excuses for everything....then, I decided it was my job to have that athlete re-do their goals....And, be the NO person.

In our society we are living in this world of instant gratification...and as I meet more and more athletes I am stunned at how they think "this and that" SHOULD happen because they want them too OR because they have the best bike, best coach and best masters team money can buy. Shit, I wish it was that easy. But, you know what? Money can't buy (for the most part!) that ticket to Kona, that ticket to Nationals....it takes much more than the average athlete can even get their head around. And, this instant gratification has hurt Triathlon -- So many athletes calling me up asking me to coach them for X Ironman when they have NEVER EVER even done a triathlon.... Things have changed in this sport. I have been racing for a long time and the athletes in the sport have changed...But, the way athletes succeed has NOT and will not. The best athletes are absolutely laser focused on all aspects of their triathlon life: Training, racing, recovery, nutrition, balance, mental toughness......there is no quick fix. And, if someone were to ask me what makes a good athlete a GREAT athlete...I can list all these wonderful attributes. But, I know within 6 months of working with an athlete IF they will be able to nail their goals JUST on a few key factors.

Last week I finally got tired....oh, I get tired alot and I get tired of GETTING MY ASS out the door in -5 temps and getting emails from my clients moaning about it being dreary and 40 degrees outside. OH YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!! Now, on a side note here, I do NOT expect athletes to all think and be like me - everyone is different and I respect that.....BUT just be committed to the program, yourself and the plan and you will do awesome.
So, when I get tired and not enough sleep, I get pissy....and crabby and ... HA! So, last week, I did it. I gave out one of my first pink slips. No, not my first. My first went to an athlete who lied to me and sent me numerous checks that bounced and refused to pay my bank fees. Oh, she was gone before I even could send the email and letter from my attorney. This one was harder. This athlete was wasting his time and my time....an athlete who said he would get to Kona this year come (in his words) "hell or high water"....and his expectations and his execution were WAY OFF. He had taken off ALL OF October, November and December - OK...first of all..who does that while shouting off about Kona?? And, let me be clear. When I say "OFF" I do not mean - working out here and there...I MEAN OFF as sitting on the couch OFF. So, that pink slip went out because no matter how motivated I am personally or professionally, I can not instill that DRIVE and LASER focus in athletes if they don't want IT. And, so, with that pink slip and that late night I had on Sunday night went out the WHY....the WHY of each athlete and WHY they don't care and WHY they have a coach but yet do not follow the coach's advice. Instead, I am going to focus on the other 90% of my business where they are FOCUSED and excited to be here and plugged in. And, that is all I want from each athlete. And, I feel much better. It is hard enough for me to get motivated each day to hurt and hurt and train and train in our very challenging winters...but then to motivate everyone else...it is my job, my commitment to each athlete...BUT it has to come within themselves and then I will add fuel to their own fire.....and be their biggest cheerleader.

Ignite that fire from within...and don't rely on anyone else to get your butt moving...use your coaches as mentors, as prescribers of fantastic plans and thoughtful workouts and recovery...but look at yourself from within to get motivated this year and dedicate yourself to excellence.
For all my lovely clients out there reading this post....THIS was not written about any one athlete or athletes. HA! I have been coaching for 10+ years and alot of athletes in that time, so it is a cumulative post from all my years!!! :)

Gordo Bryn, 2002 Ultraman World Champion, Ironman Elite, Author and persuer of Wisdom:

Beyond Achievement

What are you going to do after you win IMC?-- Monica, October 2007

In the Northern Hemisphere the mixture of long nights, weak December nutrition and overall holiday stress can leave us with the need to “take action”. Armed with a burning desire “to do something” we often sit down and write out our New Year’s Resolutions.
I consider my life on a quarterly basis. Monica, jokes that if she doesn’t like my personal plan then she only needs to wait a week and we will have another one. She’s quite patient and doesn’t voice objections until it looks like I might actually do something.
This week’s letter isn’t about the right action to take – I’ll leave that to you. What I am going to do is share my experience on what has driven me towards the actions that I have taken in the past. Scott wrote a great piece about how he motivates himself. This letter is about what is motivating me.

Did you get the distinction there? There are tricks, tactics, habits and strategies that we can employ to do the work necessary to achieve our goals. That’s Molina’s piece.
There is the psychological profile that underlies the selection of our goals in the first place. That’s this piece.

Some common goals:
Lose X pounds by Y date
Walk X minutes Y times per week
Save $X per Y
Qualify for X
Break X hours for Y event
Get my NAV to $X

Various goals of mine:
Finish an Ironman
Train at least 25 hours per week as many weeks as possible
Win Keauhou Kona Triathlon, Ultraman Hawaii, IM Canada or IM New Zealand
Qualify for Ironman Hawaii
Swim the English Channel or Rottnest Channel.
Swim sub-6 400 IM or sub-20 1500 LCM free
Swim, bike, run across America
Reach one person, one thousand people, or one million people
NAV equal to five/ten/twenty years of personal expenses (indexed/not indexed)
Own a house/flat/cottage anywhere, in Boulder, in New Zealand, in San Francisco, in Arizona, in the mountains, in Noosa, in Paris or in Scotland
Raise $5 million, $50 million, $250 million, or $1 billion for a client
Write a book about Ironman Training, Personal Excellence or my life
Climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Denali, Mt Cook, Mont Blanc, Mt Tasman, Cho Oyu, Mt Vinson or Aconcagua
Run the Leadville 100, Run Boulder to Vail, Run the Hong Kong Trailwalker
Sail to France, to Antigua or around the World

Goals are items that we are actively working towards – everything else is dreams or personal legends. When we combine moderate talent with extreme work ethic then we will achieve results in most areas. If we stumble into a field where we have some real aptitude then results can be amazing -- especially with the tailwind of favorable conditions (and a bit of luck).
Do you notice a theme across my list?
One of the greatest motivators in my life has been the pursuit of “things other people don't do”.
My friend, Kevin Purcell, once marveled at my ability to leave a goal after I achieve it. Finish one job and move along to my next task. It was an honest complement on non-attachment. However, I was deeply attached to my true motivator – self-affirmation through relative performance. If you share this trait then be wary of placing yourself in a position where you are surrounded by people that are superior achievers of your goals. For personal satisfaction, you will need to spend time in an environment where you are able to exhibit relative out-performance. “In a team, it is important for everyone to get a chance to be strong”. That’s a tip from Scott Molina – a guy that seems to get along with just about everyone.
“Envy, not greed, makes the world go ‘round”. That one is Warren Buffet, a man with a lot of first hand experience on what motivates people.
Six years ago I can remember feeling the absolute healthiest of my life. I have memories of lying in bed and enjoying breath after breath of cool, calm air. I had completed 12 weeks of intensive yoga and freed many restrictions. This “health” memory came to me in early December when I realized that I was, once again, lying in bed felling very good. For the first time in six years I was free of soreness and deep fatigue. There are two constants in the life of an elite athlete – fatigue and soreness. Learning to cope with this fact is a large part of the mental game of ultra endurance sport. In December 2001, a sport psychologist asked me “why do you want to do triathlon”? I answered without doubt, “because it is what I was born to do”.
What I meant was triathlon is work and I was born to work – therefore – I was born for triathlon. That is the second great motivating force in my life. Some people have a high capacity to complete/absorb/enjoy work. When you mix excellent process management skills, moderate talent and inherent work ethic – you get results. The purest form of motivation is an enjoyment of work. People, situations, habits and choices that impair our work ethic are extremely hazardous to a life with meaning.The back-story is that having got my health back, I am not sure if I want to spend another year really tired and sore!
Remember five years ago and consider the events that stand out in your mind.

When I think back to 2002 the key aspects are:
Totally frying myself in an attempt to win KKT
Taking two months off as a result of being grossly overtrained
Co-founding a property investment company
Training four weeks for IMC then repeating my time from the previous year
Winning Ultraman Hawaii

Which of these are “good” and which are “bad”? That depends on your point of view.
Every item in that list is a requirement to get to the end, winning Ultraman Hawaii. At the time, winning Ultraman was a great event for me. As a result of winning in 2002, I went back in 2003… …and nearly died. Not so great! But then again… the forced rest may have been the difference between success and failure in 2004.
Pulling it all together…

In setting goals, consider the motivating factors behind your list. If you are motivated by relative performance then schedule periods where you can shine. For goals that require sustained effort over time: focus on areas that you deeply enjoy; and remove people/attitudes/perceptions/habits that are barriers to the work necessary to achieve.
If you are fortunate enough to experience high level achievement then your vocation will likely become your identity. I have experienced this in a few fields. Examples:
Scott Tinley was Triathlon -- solid article
Tom Dolan was Swimming -- that guy could train
Key founders are their businesses -- remember this when you negotiate
Great champions are their sports
World-class achievers are their goals
Addicts are their habits

If a recession, divorce, injury, or the passage of time removes an expression of identity then it is painful. Alternative interests are personal insurance policies, even Lance had his foundation.
The Tinley interview discusses a champion coming to terms with his sport. My personal experience is life-transitions (divorce, illness, injury, career change) force me to come to terms with myself. Specifically, I am forced to cope with the death of an identity.
Die a few times and it becomes easier to cope.
What lies beyond achievement?
Peace has a lot of different names and levels of experience. Some other names... The Zone, Flow, Exhaustion, Satisfaction, The Pump, Whole Body Experience, Zen, Endorphins, Open, Harmony, Relaxation, Well Being, Health...
The chemical signature of achievement feels a lot like peace.
Rather than sloth, peace is my counterbalance to work. The quest for peace driving my 'pure' motivation. Seems a bit crazy to spend one's life chasing peace... I don't know. If that's what is really driving me then it takes a lot of the burden off -- the list above is daunting.
I have often confused silence (or nothing) with peace. Many of my self-destructive habits/patterns stem from this confusion. Anger, fear, intoxication -- the far side of each of these feel close to peace, but isn't. I suspect that Big Pharma uses this pathway to create a perception of well being in its users. I lump all these 'nothings' into the category of False Gods -- the list changes over time -- perhaps because the truest addiction is to that peaceful vibe.
Artists, comedians, writers, CEOs, investment bankers, endurance athletes -- peace is where we get to. Part of the process of "getting there" is the drive to "get it out" of us. At times our gifts can feel like curses. That's enough for today. Running a bit long!
Here’s my January 2008 list:
Successful marriage based on kindness and respect
Peaceful Listening
Retreats with Nature
Wake-up Early
Ethical life with meaning
Where is the relative achievement? Could be lurking in #5, not sure.
To know others, intelligenceTo know yourself, wisdom-- Lao Tsu

Effective communication is about getting a person to listen (first) then think (second). Monica is a very effective communicator.

Still searching, gordo


  1. I too LOVE reading Jen's posts... she is so true, real, and a mom so I HAVE to have a dose of her!!
    NOW, those goals you got down there for 2008: GREAT stuff! Number 1, a must have for me... they are all VERY easily doable and have such GREAT results!

    Best to ya for a GREAT 08!

  2. Bob,
    I am humbled I am on the SAME page as Gordo and Molina...thanks for sharing..glad people liked my post.
    :) Jen H.

  3. I loved your blog entry! I really feel the same way. If you want something...the people who are talking about it are interupted by those who are working to do it.