Opinionista Bob Skinstad 2 October 2013

O lucky man: the power of positive projection

The Springboks need to be lucky to put together a performance, full of power and speed and aggression and discipline, and ... tries.

It is because of the four tries that we might doubt it is possible. Not for any other reason. I mean, beside some yellow and red, the test in Eden Park seemed quite possibly Green&Gold!

Yes, I have read some counter arguments from various writers around the world, not least the long-breathed slander that the Boks had no chance. That’s rubbish, as I addressed here.

But again, I say, they need to be lucky, and let me try to put that into perspective for you.

My recent travel schedule: Cape Town/Argentina/Cape Town/Brisbane/Auckland/Perth/Johannesburg/Cape Town/ Johannesburg/Cape Town/Dubai/Johannesburg/Cape Town/ Hermanus, and now eventually, Cape Town again.

Aaah, bliss! (Next week is CPT/DBN/JHB/CPT – I’ll deal with that then!)

I am lucky enough to enjoy travel, and have always done. I am lucky to be able to benefit from visits to places that friends and family might never see. Either through sport, business or leisure travel, but I have always embraced it and found it exciting.

The magic of people and places that are new or even revisited, is that they can be manipulated by your own attitude to them. I am lucky enough to see it like that too.

Even bad meals in new places can be funny and memorable, chance meetings with wild characters that you wouldn’t ever have seen, can be turned positive or negative by the way you go about them, and that is the key.

Some elements of travel for sport can be arduous, as the above itinerary suggests, and even hotel rooms on the others side of the world, are mostly just that, hotel rooms.

You have to want to embrace the experience to enjoy it, find out what is good and where to go and who to meet. Travel is not for everyone, but it is a lot more fun if your attitude and reaction to adversity is better.

For example, if you are lucky enough to enjoy it!

Glass half full?

Maybe. But it’s my glass, and I will see it as I want. But the point is, the way you react to something can impact you positively, and has been proven to do so.

Richard Wiseman, author and speaker, writes in his book The Luck Factor that lucky people actually choose to be so, and unlucky people the same.

He uses a wonderful example of a staged job interview, where the environment was controlled and relates how the two candidates, expressly chosen for their own personal “lucky” and “unlucky” perceptions of their lives, had two vastly different experiences.

My question is, what part of our lives is controllable, and what is not? What measure can we implement that makes us react in different ways to opportunities, to relationships, to adversity? Can some parts of luck be learned?

Among others, Wiseman believes so, and has set about proving it.  Candidate “lucky” went in to a coffee shop, found some money on the floor, bought a round of coffee because of it, struck up several conversations with strangers and effectively, won the chance to go through to the next round of interviews.

Candidate “unlucky” didn’t, and the results were dire. “Unlucky” slipped into the corner of the coffee shop, hoping to be noticed, eventually. They never were, and as they slipped back in to the stream of people on the sidewalk, so did the opportunity.

Loosely proven, yes, for the moment, but there are several studies that prove that either perceived luck, positive attitude or outlook all contribute to outcome, and I happily continue in the belief that it is so very true. Effectively, again, I can say I am “lucky” to enjoy travel, as it is currently a huge part of my life.

That’s an easy thing to do, though, compared to changing an outcome in a less “alterable” reality.

What about the people who can change outcomes of difficult of or competitive things in their lives through their own projections?

Confusing to think of it backwards – but by a mental picture projected on an outcome, you can make yourself feel lucky, effective, or successful before you already are.

In a sporting context, Professor Tim Noakes talks about “belief” as the most important factor in the careers of athletes. His direct quote to me was, “What you truly believe in your mind and heart will happen, will actually happen.”

Extraordinary that thinking, and focus, as opposed to science and technology, coupled with genetics, is what Noakes, as a scientist, has as his number one.

Along with that, the “mind’s eye” as it is often referred to, seems to have a different memory system to just what we see through our two windows on the world. It does away with the positive and negative, and sees just the outcomes that you project.

I remember Pete Sampras in an interview, doing the math.

His theory was that if he wanted to get fifty big aces in a game, he would serve twenty-five in practice, and “dream twenty-five” – because his internal recollection would then be perfect, one hundred percent.

There are different factors that can play a part in a game – fatigue, opponents, weather, crowd and a host of others. I am not debating that. What I am saying is that if your “future recollection” or projection of what will happen is better, then so will the result be.

Your body is driven by your internal memory of what to do when the chips are down, you are in the moment, and aces 45/46/47 come through. According to Sampras’ theory, it’s because you’ve seen them before.

Many of us know what it’s like to stand over a putt on the golf course, sometimes with as little as pride riding on it – and if you talk yourself into all the things that can go wrong, they invariably do.

Don’t miss! Don’t miss! Don’t miss!

With an unconscious mind that can’t determine between positive and negative, all it will hear is “Miss! Miss! Miss!”

It’s the basics of “the yips” explained: your inner voice is giving you all the wrong advice, because it is highlighting how much is riding on the shot, not the small bodily movements you need to perfect to make it straight and true.

It’s a concept that has many followers, if you break down the actual messages of motivational speakers, writers and philosophers who talk about positive thoughts and positive results.

Covey, Gibran, Coelho, Robbins – they all talk to millions of people each year, and help them to see a clear picture of their future, and what they want to achieve.

They also make them turn hardships into something they can deal with and prevent a negative mindset that eventually breaks down resolve.

Sure, I try and use an eclectic mix of the musings of all these people. I urge myself to turn everything positive, but I am only scratching the surface. I do have a great story about going to a Rugby World Cup as a washed-up has-been and making younger guys in our squad practice holding up a winner’s trophy, “otherwise what’s the point?” But that’s a tale for another day!

Right now, I am lucky that I enjoy travel, because I do it a lot. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

Back to those beloved Boks.

Yes, I admit, they will have to be lucky to beat the All Blacks, and more importantly, score four tries. As discussed, though, luck is a funny thing.

If they see it clearly, and visualise how they are going to do it, it makes it all a lot more real, and a lot more possible.

Heyneke Meyer has made the impossible possible before.

He will be sketching out the basics of a vision that these players can form in their own “mind’s eye”, and take with them onto that battlefield. One with a very specific outcome.

As a fan first, player second and commentator third, I think they can do it – hell, in my ‘mind’s eye’, they already have!

How about you? DM



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