Episode #308: Alex Hutchinson – The Curiously Elastic Limits Of Human Performance

Alex Hutchinson started out as a physicist, with a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge then a few years as a postdoctoral researcher with the U.S. National Security Agency, working on quantum computing and nano-mechanics. During that time, he competed as a middle- and long-distance runner for the Canadian national team.  He’s the best-selling author of ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.  It is an exploration of the science (and mysteries) of endurance.

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The Learning Leader Show

“Discipline is a muscle.  You get better as you use it more.  Only the disciplined in life are free.” 

Show Notes:

  • Leaders who sustain excellence =
    • They show up… Willing to take a shot when they might not be successful
    • People over-estimate short term and under-estimate long term.  Be ambitious about long term
    • Consistency – Secret to success: “When an editor gives me an assignment, they will receive it back on time with the right words.”  You have to always get it done and be known as someone who does this.
    • To rise above a certain level, you must do more than what is expected.  “Dream big while not neglecting daily responsibility.”
  • Eliud Kipchoge – spiritual leader of self-disciplined people around the world.
  • “Only the disciplined in life are free.”
  • Getting there earlier than his coach…
    • “As hard as I was willing to work, he was willing to support me.” — Alex describing his great basketball coach
  • “Discipline is a muscle.  You get better as you use it more.”
  • Model of achievement — Work hard, support others
  • “Sweat more than you watch other people sweat.”  — Every leader should get some sort of activity.  It’s indefensible to have a healthy body and mind.
  • “We are cognitively better when we are fit.”
  • “Pushing yourself physically reveals what you’re made of mentally.”
  • How to raise your threshold of pain:
    • It’s expectation based
    • Pain perception is the same for all… It’s all about how you respond
    • Learn to tolerate it it by going through it regularly.  Develop psychological coping system.
    • Pain is just a signal — Understand it’s how you choose to respond
  • Navy SEALs, Olympians did an experiment with brain scanners where oxygen was restricted:
    • They have a ‘higher level of self-monitoring’
    • Elite athletes get better when stress hits.  Normal people get worse
  • Take a mindfulness based course:
    • Cultivate “non-judgmental self-awareness”
    • When you make a pancake for your 5 year old and they don’t like it, “try not to respond with frustration in the moment.  Think about how you’ll feel in 30 minutes.”
  • Change in training?  “Training will be the same, but my mind will be different.”
  • The importance of self-talk — Inner monologue — “I’ve trained for this, I can do it.”
  • “When you’ve reached a point that you think you’ve hit a wall, in fact in almost every case, those limits are perceptions of effort.”
  • Handle fear with preparation — You must show yourself you have reason to believe you can do it.
  • Delayed gratification — Sports is the clearest venues to see benefit of delayed gratification
    • “Champions in November are made in July.”
  • Alain de Botton quote — “Of many books, one feels, it could have been truly good, if the author’s appetite for suffering had been greater.”
  • Advice:
    • Read a lot of books… On topics that have nothing to do with your topic
    • Give self space to think
    • Give self time to be bored
  • Use the “Get To Know You Document
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea

“The training will be the same, but my mind will be different.”

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