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Mindful : February 2016
ball up whenever he could, and he ended scoring 16 points in the first quarter. “ Because he wasn’t trying to score,” says Mumford, “he was letting the game come to him.” Mumford likens the zone to being in the eye of the hurricane, a phrase he started using after watching how calm Michael Jordan was in the midst of chaos. “It’s about bearing witness to what’s happening,” says Mumford. “Just being there and settling back into a state of receptivity, allowing whatever you’re observing to speak for itself and not interfering. We’re always focusing on what’s happened or what might happen and very seldom on what’s happening right here in this place and time. But that’s a muscle and you can train it.” 2. FORGET YOURSELF, FIND YOURSELF When asked what his secret formula is, Mum- ford responds slyly, “It’s the same for everybody. Who are you and who do you want to be? Coach John Wooden used to say that poise is just being yourself. So whether you’re playing or sitting on the bench, how can you be true to your values as a person?” When Jordan returned to the Bulls in 1995, he faced a dilemma he’d never encountered before. Because the makeup of the team had changed while he was away, he didn’t know many of the new players and was having difficulty leading them. After he got into an embarrassing fight during practice with guard Steve Kerr—the smallest guy on the team—he turned to Mum- ford to help him develop a new approach to lead- ership. George told him that he needed to meet his teammates where they were. “Even if they hold you in awe,” Mumford advised, “you have to relate to each of them as a person because you’re only going to be as strong as they are.” This was an important lesson for Jordan, who was famous for being a demanding taskmas- ter. “George made me evaluate everybody in a different way,” he told me a few years ago. “Not everybody is Michael Jordan with the same kind of passion. So if I wanted to get the best out of somebody, I needed to know who he was and what I wanted him to be. Sometimes I’d get frustrated after a game because one of the guys wasn’t playing the way I expected him to, and George talked me through it. He talked me off the ledge of anger and frustration.” In 1998, Al Skinner, coach of the Boston Col- lege Eagles, hired Mumford to help him rebuild his underperforming men’s basketball team. → FLOW The Psychology of Optimal Experience By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi This groundbreaking book provides insight into what’s needed to get into flow, when time alters and you become so absorbed in whatever you’re doing that nothing else matters. The key, in Mumford’s view, is learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. “The best moments of our lives,” writes Csikszentmihalyi, are “when a person’s body or mind is stretched to the limits in a voluntary moment to achieve something difficult and worthwhile.” ZEN IN THE ART OF ARCHERY By Eugen Herrigel An enlightening, no-non- sense account by a German philosophy professor of his quest to learn zen archery in Japan after World War II. What he discovered is that the secret was letting go of his willful self. As Herrigel puts it, “The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill.” THE INNER GAME OF TENNIS By W. Timothy Gallwey Gallwey, a former tennis instructor and meditation student, provides instruction on how to improve perfor- mance by getting out of your own way and letting your best game emerge. By focusing on expanding awareness, Gall- wey says, you can diminish the dominance of your critical mind, or what he calls Self 1, and let your true potential, Self 2, do what it instinctively knows how to do. SECOND WIND The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man By Bill Russell and Taylor Branch A revealing book about a legendary basketball star’s journey to master the inner game. One memorable moment is the story of how Russell learned visualization as a boy studying the paint- ings of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and then used that skill to invent a new way of blocking shots and playing defense. He also relates how he would sometimes silently cheer for his opponents to up their game so he could experience an intense “mys- tical” competition, one that transcends competing. Read and Win Here’s George Mumford’s list of must-read books on peak performance. 52 mindful February 2016 peak performance