What can you, as an entrepreneur, learn from the habits of professional athletes? According to Todd Herman--an elite performance coach who works with professional athletes, Olympians, and CEOs--quite a lot. But it's not what you'd think.
This is not a story of hard work, determination, and early morning routines (although those all surely help). This is about creating an alter ego.
The Alter Ego Effect
Throughout professional sports, the athletes who are consistently performing at the top of their game all tend to share one thing in common. They are a different person when they're on the field.
From Bo Jackson (Jason from "Friday the 13th") to Kobe Bryant (The Black Mamba) to Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), athletes purposely or subconsciously create different personas of themselves to increase their performance on the field. And the value of this truly cannot be ignored. In fact, this concept is so valuable that it has become Herman's main line of work--he helps professional athletes create alter egos of themselves to come out of slumps and maintain a high level of performance. Recently, he's started using the same technique with entrepreneurs.
The value of an alter ego, according to Herman, is that it allows a person to shed all the labels they currently wear and build a new version of themselves that is purpose-built to win. Athletes are subject to the same restraints that many of us face--things like self-doubt, self-criticism, personal traumas, or tough upbringings. But their alter ego doesn't have those labels.
An alter ego leaves all of that behind while holding on to the one thing that matters--the true performance that is within all of us. So, what does this have to do with being an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs and athletes share one major thing in common: they need to perform at a high level on a consistent basis. Stepping into certain situations as a CEO or business owner is just like stepping onto the field as a professional athlete. When it comes to pitching your business, meeting with clients, or even solving disputes in the workplace--you need to be able to perform. But more importantly, you need to perform well and do it consistently.
In a recent interview with Herman, he showed me exactly how entrepreneurs can create an alter ego to improve their own performance and, by extension, that of their business.
Step 1: Build your alter ego in context
By definition, you can't live your entire life as your alter ego. The purpose is to use this new persona to get "unstuck" from one area of your life. This could be when you step into the role of "business owner," but it could be more specific, like "salesperson" or "copywriter."
Step 2: Be honest about your challenges
Get specific and be honest with yourself to figure out the root cause of your frustrations. Why aren't you performing as well as you'd like? Are you worried about what people will think about you? Are you losing your temper with your team? Are you disorganized?
Step 3: Find your ideal performance
What would be the attitude, attributes, or traits that you'd most like to bring to the role you're struggling in? This is both mental (what do you want to be thinking) and physical (how do you want to act). This could mean never second-guessing yourself, being the person who "loves" to sell, not caring what others think of you, etc.
Step 4: Use a totem
Superman famously used a pair of glasses to activate his alter ego, Clark Kent. You can--and should--do the same thing. (Literally! Herman used non-prescription glasses to step into the founder role when he was first starting to build his business.) This could be a necklace you wear, a coin in your pocket, or a bracelet. When you have that totem, you are your alter ego.
Step 5: Act with devout intention
The most important part of creating and maintaining your successful alter ego is to never let them down. If your alter ego was an actual person, how would they feel if you let them down? If Steve Jobs is the embodiment of your alter ego, how would he feel if you screwed up your product launch? You don't want to disappoint your alter ego, and in order to prevent that, you need to act with devout intention.
In the end, creating an alter ego is not about tricking people or acting. It is about creating the version of yourself that you want to be. It's about showing up the way you want to show up.
And eventually, you won't need an alter ego. Eventually, your alter ego will merge with your true persona and you will be the person you want to be.