Mark Mathews

How to play at another level

Mark Mathews

Believe you can and you’re half-way there 

Theodore Roosevelt 

Mark Mathews is one of the world’s best big wave surfers. Mark has surfed many of the world’s heaviest and biggest waves including Cape Fear, NSW, Teahupoo, Tahiti, Jaws, Maui and The Right, WA. Every time he faces a wave he faces the possibility of a broken neck or even death. You may think that it takes some kind of extraordinary human with a bizarre breath holding capacity and courage for days to keep doing this year after year at age 37.

Surprisingly, Mark doesn’t see himself as special. In fact he says he’s just a normal guy with average athletic ability and an introvert who manages over-anxiety.

When he was 17 years old his mother became deathly sick with a very treatable disease. However at the time doctors didn’t know what she had. So Mathews was struck with the possibility that he would be supporting his mom for the rest of her life. He was invited to do a magazine shoot for surfing, and because it meant he would earn an income, he decided to do it.

But when he got to the location the waves were easily 500% bigger than anything he had surfed. He says there’s no way he would have done it if it hadn’t been for the fact that his mother was sick.

He always thought that surfing big waves were out of his league. Later he described it as a surreal moment. He did it and because of that experience he suddenly had the intrinsic confidence that he could surf at this level.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about NFL Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll. He said that he considers it his job to prove to his athletes how good they are and he does everything he can to build their confidence. He plays tape for them to watch, has them run reps, shows them, tells them, and repeatedly builds them up until they believe it.

Because, Carrol says, when they believe it and the going gets tough then they rise up and face the challenge.

Scott Mann is a retired U.S. Army Green Beret. He has been in many hostile situations where he was shot at and worse. Scott said something that stood out to me.

When he was in Afghanistan he and his troops would demonstrate leadership. They would go on the rooftops and defend against the Taliban. Week after week. Until one local farmer decided to join them. Then another. Then another. From this experience he learned how to create trust and connect with others.

People build confidence by observing, by learning, and by being given the opportunity to “do reps”. Until they eventually come to their own conclusion that they can do it. Everyone of these people experience fear. They aren’t superhuman. They are real people.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s going forward despite the fear.

Scott Mann says to business leaders alike, “Connect like your livelihood depends on it. Because it does. Because we are meaning seeking emotional social creatures.”

These 3 heros have one thing in common. They are confident that you have the ability to play at the same level.

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