Lauren Johnson says high performing entrepreneurs share characteristics similar to professional athletes. Both have mental qualities that lead to inevitable success. She first observed these qualities when she worked for the New York Yankees teaching savvy baseball players mental performance.
Johnson is now in consultation with executives, business owners, and the military. She told me, “I teach people how to develop their mental abilities to be their best regardless of the circumstances.”
You and I recently talked about the importance of self-confidence, actions, habits, and more.
Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us what you are doing.
Lauren Johnson: I work in the world of mental performance. I studied sports and performance psychology and I advise all kinds of people – from professional athletes to CEOs, executives, military personnel and everyone in between. I teach people how to develop their mental abilities to be their best regardless of the circumstances.
Band wood: What do you see in high performers?
Johnson: I started in sports. I worked for the New York Yankees for four years. There are many parallels between professional athletes and the business and entrepreneurial world. Many of the qualities that make up a major leader also make up an elite CEO. What makes a Gold Glove winner are the same things that make incredible startup entrepreneurs.
First, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Professional athletes, when they make a mistake, they may be upset, they may be frustrated, but they don’t sulk or clash for too long. They recognize it and react quickly. I have noticed something similar with entrepreneurs. You don’t feel sorry for yourself. High-performing entrepreneurs are also not afraid to take risks. They understand that whether they win or lose, they can gain something from it. They realize that if you fail, there is a lot to be gained.
Band wood: How do top performers develop the self-confidence not to feel sorry for themselves and to feel good about who they are?
Johnson: When I think of confidence, I think of waterfalls. Waterfalls all have one source, sometimes multiple water sources that come together to form the waterfall. When it comes to self-confidence, I often ask myself, “What are your sources of confidence?”
What I notice with underperformers or new entrepreneurs is that their sources of trust are often beyond their control. And when your source of trust is beyond your control, it controls you.
So the first thing you need to do is understand where your sources are coming from and whether they are in your control. And in this context, trust comes from our ability to do well. And that comes from repetition. The best athletes in the world weren’t made that way by talent alone. It was because they took the time to repeat these movements or actions. So they got better. And this is how we develop mental abilities. They are small muscles in our head that we have to exercise on a daily basis.
Sources of trust and repetition – these are the two things I would start with.
Band wood: How can entrepreneurs change their perspective to achieve the success they are capable of?
Johnson: It often depends on their belief system. Here is a story. When I worked for the Yankees, I traveled to minor league affiliates. With one partner in particular, I knew every player and coach well. I sat in the dugout and asked this player a question. With me it was very short. I had to do a better job to develop a relationship with him. My goal this weekend was to spend more time with him, to get to know him better.
But it didn’t matter what I did. Whenever I asked a question, he was only with me for a very short time. Finally I’m in the field early and he’s there beating the batting cages. I walked up to him and said, “Can I ask you a question?” It’s like, “What do you have?” I said, “Why are you with me for a moment when I ask a question. I want to make sure I didn’t say anything that offended you. “
He said, “It’s not that. I am not very good at speaking. When I was in elementary school and was asked to say or read something out loud, I had problems because I stuttered. My teacher said to me, ‘You can’t speak very well.’ “
And then I asked him: “Who is telling you that now?” He said, “That’s me.” And that is very important. Our identity corresponds to our beliefs plus our actions. He thinks he can’t speak well. Every time he took the act of not speaking, he reinforced that belief. And over time, as we act to reinforce our beliefs, that becomes our identity.
So we can rearrange the formula and ask, “Who do we want to be? What identity do we want to have? ”Faith is identity – who you want to be plus your actions. So I asked my player, “Who do you want to be?” He said, “I’ve always wanted to be the person who raises my hand in group meetings.” I said, “If that’s what you want to be, what are you going to do?”
So I prepared him for every team meeting. And at the end of each one, I would ask questions of the group. His hand would go up first. And after a while, I didn’t have to prepare him anymore because his beliefs got the better of him. Its actions supported it. As James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says, each and every action you take gives a voice to who you want to be.
Band wood: I love James Clear and what he preaches. It’s perfect for everything in life.
Johnson: Yes sir. I love Atomic Habits, his book. Anyone who hears this should buy it. It delves into the mechanics of habits. The reason I love it is because he talks about custom design. If we break that down further, it’s all about how behaviors interact with our thinking and feeling and our outcomes. I love it. He wrote the book based on what worked for him and his research.
Band wood: He emphasizes tiny accomplishments that put together – the 1% things. It was the same while building Beardbrand. It’s like, “How can we get better at what we’re good at?” Instead of looking for a nuclear explosion, we look for that 1% improvement every day. It’s very powerful.
Johnson: Back to your first question: what do incredible entrepreneurs and athletes have in common? One of them is that they realize that it is these little things that add up over time. That’s why they’re the best. They endure the boredom of persistence. Persistence isn’t sexy, but it often leads to long-term results. Mentally tough people are not more talented. They’re just more permanent. And they are ready to do these mundane, boring things every day.
But they string together tiny improvements. The champion is not made the day he wins the World Series. He is made of all the days that preceded him.
Band wood: How can listeners reach you, reach you?
Johnson: My website is LaurenJohnsonandco.com. I am also on the main social channels: LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram. I post regularly on my YouTube channel.