Peak Performance

Become the best you can.

Do you know what a top CEO, a victor athlete, and a master violinist all have in common? The answer is in their feat. They are all doing such great work in their own niche to the point of being champions, masters, and the big bosses. They are at the peak of their performances and nowadays, competition for anything worth landing gets brutal by the minute. Thus, good performance is the key to reaching the top.

But how is it achieved?

First, let us go deep on performance discussion. Why is finest performance paramount now more than ever? How to get that balance that is the key to unleashing your potential and going on full throttle?

You’ll learn

  • That a day off from the gym is imperative;
  • Why multitasking has to be stopped right now; and
  • What routines lead to peak performance

Technology has globalized the job market and ramped up competition.

Getting a fulfilling job was a walk in the park—few decades ago. Now, it is a difference case altogether. Standing out from the crowd within your geographical area is no longer a guarantee to landing the job you desire.

Imagine the marketplace to be in a full-throttle professional war. It is in an unbalanced supply and demand wherein the supply of jobs does not meet the demand for jobs. This means the competition has just leveled up its fierce.

And to add more pressure, a lot of people are committing themselves to breaking and setting new world records. In 1954, for instance, a British athlete, Sir Roger Bannister, has committed himself to breaking a world record by running a mile in less than four minutes. Back then, this has been a tough act to follow; however, no less than twenty Americans have already broken this record as of writing. And this breaking of such record has been an annual thing. When it comes to standing out and being set apart from the runners’ crowd, Bannister has been slowly outdated.

And then, here comes artificial intelligence that only makes the matters harder for humans applying for jobs. Amazon, for example, does not need human employees to fill in the posts that cloud-computing can take care of. It does not need any cashiers or salespeople. Amazon does not even need to pay rent or establish storefronts. The business is even considering using drones for delivery, which would erase the need for human workers, too.

Ever since businesses can opt for online processing to make their trade much cheaper and easier, other brick-and-mortar competitors went down spiral to the path of bankruptcy. Just like the bookseller, Borders.

The point of the matter is, the greater percentage of jobs have been taken over by machines that get smarter every single day. And this leaves more problems to humans in search for jobs.

Impossibly high standards are driving people to take performance-enhancing drugs, to ill effect.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And for some, competitions can definitely be a call for desperate actions. In athletic, academic, and even professional life, performance-enhancing drugs became integral part of preparation.

In academics side, 30% of the students would opt to take Adderall or the ‘study drug’ that is used to treat ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But for those without ADHD condition, the effect of this drug is increased focus, concentration, and attention span. Thus, it is beneficial during study preparations.

Kimberly Dennis, an MD and medical director for a substance abuse center, has noticed an increased in usage percentage of such drug. Professionals between ages 25 and 45 have been taking Adderall. One of these professionals is Elizabeth, a founder of a health-technology company who told New York Times that the reason for her taking Adderall was to focus more and lessen the need for sleep so she can put in longer hours at work.

In the world of sports, 40% of top athletes take this drug to enhance their performance. And only 2% of these athletes get caught. But this kind of mindset often results to burnout than success.

In 2014, a survey with over 25,000 companies in across 90 nations of participation has concluded that the biggest challenge was having overwhelmed employees.

The Bank of America has proven this to be true when its 21-year-old intern, Moritz Erhardt, worked for 72 straight hours and end up dying of epileptic seizure due to lack of sleep. But this tragic trend does not end in employees of these companies alone; even those providing health care has 57% of medical residents and 46% of physicians who also suffer from such burnout.

The secret to sustainable success is balancing stress and rest.

They say, ‘work hard, play hard’. And for some, this has been a chant to lazy word days with a weekend partying in mind. But for a wise one, ‘rest well’ has to be added to such equation. That is if being used up is not a desired destination. Giving your mind and body enough time to rest and recover from a hectic work week is a must. By doing so, you bounce back from a tiring week as much energized and stronger person ready to conquer any task at work.

Deena Kastor knew the importance of resting. As a collegiate runner with no major race won, she was out-and-out and very much devoted to finally bringing home bacon. And so, she went to train with Joe Vigil, a legendary coach, with whom she learned to surpass all her prior levels of success.

Kastor said the secret to this success was her 10-12 hours of sleep every night, greatly planned diet, and her weekly massage and stretching sessions.

But how did this recovery program set out by Vigil help her reach an incredible growth in performance?

For one, suppressing human needs such as resting could cause mental stress, which makes any task very difficult. Suppressing alone is a mental task the body has to cope. Imagine how hard it would be to add physically tiring tasks.

In 1990s, a psychologist named Roy Baumeister came up with a study to figure out how come people feel exhausted after dealing with an intricate dilemma and how they run out with willpower.

He had 67 adults put in a room that smelled of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. When the cookies were bought inside, only half were allowed to eat while the rest was tasked to eat only radishes.

After their meal, everyone was asked to solve what seemed to be a solvable problem but actually impossible to do so. The radish-consumers gave it 19 tries before giving up after 8 minutes. The cookie-eaters had 33 tries before giving up after over 20 minutes. The ones asked to eat just radishes were more worn-out after a mentally tiring task of resisting the cookies, which was totally opposite for the ones who were allowed to eat them.

Stress can stimulate growth and adaptation, but a positive mindset is also key.

When an endocrinologist, Hans Selye, did an experiment in 1934 to come up with a new sex hormone, he discovered a finding different to what he expected. When he injected ovarian extracts into rats, they reacted strongly to it, which made Selye think he found a new sex hormone. But he noticed that the rats react the same way to every other injection. His experiment showed that discomfort and pain along with shocks trigger stress.

But soon after, the rats adapted to these stressors, and these contributors spurred growth to the rats as they were able to adjust.

Exercise is the perfect example. Working out can cause micro tearing in the muscle fibers, which triggers response to stress. The body knows of its limited capacity causing it to go into an anabolic stage to build up enough muscle to surpass greater stress.

The brain also has the ability to the same response to stress. For instance, students who were forced to struggle through difficult problems without any aid outperformed those who had assistance.

In 2010, a study has shown that Americans who sees stress as ‘facilitative’ have a lower probability of dying too soon by 43%. But it has been assumed that the rationale behind such perception of stress was due to lack of much exposure to stress. But a study has proven that these people have the same number of stressful events they had undergone as those who viewed stress pessimistically.

This goes to show that the attitude of the people toward stress has a huge impact on perception of stress and thus, its effect.

Multitasking is inefficient and it’s best to focus on one task at a time.

Are you one of those people who love to multitask? Do you view multitasking as efficient technique to get things done? If you do, it is time to stop multitasking.

When you multitask, you compromise both the quantity and quality of the work you do. You do not believe such statement? Believe the countless of studies that have backed this statement up.

A study from the University of Michigan has concluded that multitasking can consume up to 40% of your productive time. Other researchers even found that those multitask are worse at filtering out information and slow in identifying patterns.

Focusing on one task at a time is a far better approach for quality work. A psychologist named K. Anders Ericsson researched on how people turn into experts back in 1990s. He went to Berlin, Germany for this study. He had participation from violinists from a prestigious Global Music Academy to come up with a conclusion.

He had asked each of the violinists to write a diary involving their practice for him to read and study further. He noticed that all of them trained for 50 hours a week but on different time. Those who spent more time practicing to master a specific goal ended up being international soloists than those who did not.

A triumphant health care venture capitalist, Dr. Bob Kocher, also works as health care economist and Stanford professor. How can on accomplish so much?

He categorizes. He categorizes tasks and gives focus one task at a time. He does not compromise by multitasking. In fact, the moment one enters Dr. Kocher’s office or room, it will be noticed that the person has his singular focus. He remains undistracted by his phone, emails, or anything else. It has been proven that Dr. Kocher will give you the same amount of attention that he would the president of the United States.

Rest is important for peak performance, but not all types of rest are equal.

Have you ever experienced having a great idea just when you were showering and could not write it down? Or perhaps while walking or right before you hit the sack?

Basically, it is when your brain is most relaxed that it is allowed to step out of the linear thought process. As the thought suggests, when you are at an active work, your brain tends to indulge in an ‘if-then’ progression. And the more you obsess over a task, the more failure in solving tends to linger.

But you may notice that when you stop trying to solve a complex dilemma, your brain starts solving it. Like, a paradoxical situation wherein your brain starts pulling out information out of its storage and compartments where the information you need is kept.

Rest is indeed an important factor to keep performance at its peak. In 1954, Roger Bannister took a different approach by not pushing himself up until the last minute just before the race. But instead, he abandoned training two weeks prior to the race. He set out to do a different thing, which was to hike in the mountains. When it was time to race, he was able to finish the mile in record time.

Rest is definitely a key. A Stanford study was able to support this conclusion when they were asked to take an outdoor or indoor walk. Or they could opt not to. This task was graced with common items that they had to come up with creative uses for. Those who were going for an indoor walk had 40% more creative ideas while those who went outside had the most creativity than those who opted to stay put.

Great performers abide by a few simple tricks.

Cultivating an atmosphere to help achieve success is an important part of the process. One should not just go for the war with an empty bullet. Preparation plays a vital role.

Matt Billingslea, Taylor Swift’s drummer, knows how to set a solid routine. Before every sold-out show with Taylor Swift, he would dedicate 30 minutes to do rhythmical hop from side to side to set routines for his legs. Then he exercises his arms through wide circles along with back muscle and core exercises. Then finally, he takes deep breaths, visualizes each move, and focuses his mind. This is his solid routine to stay at top level despite the pressure.

Michael Joyner, a physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic, knows setting priorities is imperative. In fact, he even published 350 articles about human performance and has his own secrets with performance.

Number one, he saves time by living close to where he works. He also packs his gym stuff early on, so he would not need to waste time choosing his gym clothes. He also reserves his energy for complicated work assignment.

With proper routines and setting of priorities, you only need one more trick to perform at your best; your mood. An experiment at Northwestern University focused on assessing its participants’ emotional state through the given questionnaires. Two groups based on emotional state were established. It has been proven that those with positive mood were more likely to be able to solve intellectual dilemmas.

Through an MRI machine, the researchers were able to study the brains of the participants while they solve the problems. Those with positive attitude have better and increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which handles problem solving, emotional control, and decision-makings.

Having a purpose can help you transcend self-imposed limitations.

As a kid, you may have also dreamt of becoming a superhero with great strengths and powers. Apparently, such daydream might not only be accounted to just science fiction.

You are more capable of actions that surpass your typical and predictable skills and abilities. As it appears, fatigue and physical limits only belong in your head.

Tom Boyle, an ordinary American, saw an 18-year-old boy ride his bike and got hit by a Chevy Camaro in Tucson, Arizona. Tom and his wife saw what happened, so they went straight to help the boy. Tom was able to lift the front end of the car using his bare hands in hopes to free the boy’s legs. However, the boy still could not get himself out to his injury, so Tom told the driver to drag the young man free.

In this act of good deeds, Tom was able to break the Olympic dead lift record without anything physically special with him. His drive was enough to save the young man with his ordinary strength.

Victor Strecher, a University of Michigan public-health professor, had a daughter he named Julia who endured heart problems and had to undergo through two transplants. His daughter’s health reminded him of the value of life, and so he wanted to make the most of life with her. She passed away on her nineteenth birthday, which sent Strecher to the darkest period in his life. But on one Father’s Day, he hallucinated and saw Julia asking him to move on.

The hallucination gave Strecher the inspiration to shift his research to the power of purpose and have better understanding in it. This research has helped him be one of the best teachers in his field. Strecher says he teaches his students as if they were his late daughter.

This is a perfect example of the power of purpose.

Final Summary

If you wish to be productive as you aim for success, learn how not to be burnt out during the course. Take extra care of your welfare and being as you work hard to achieve your goals. Know what your purpose is, and identify what drives you.

Actionable advice:

Helping others is a different form of helping yourself.

The center of your brain activates a sense of reward whenever you help those who need assistance. Such act of bounteousness also develops positive emotions, which cause great impact to your energy. You gain by giving.