Sample of The Power Within: How to Create a High Performance Mind
Who is John Newcombe?
If we’re going to explore some of Newk’s insights to performing at your best it would probably be useful to first explore who John Newcombe is.
I don’t mean in a physical sense, his height, weight or physique. I also don’t mean in the sense of what it is he does, being a tennis player, husband, father and businessman. I also don’t mean what it is he has in terms of assets and wealth. What I mean is: when you strip all that away, who is the man behind the man? What is at the inner core of John Newcombe?
When I think of Newk, I think of a guy who is handsome, athletic, charismatic, talented and determined. If I go a bit deeper I could add tenacious, resilient, successful, strong, disciplined, generous and focused. I could go on.
Over the years as I have come to know Newk, I have seen many sides to this very successful man. We have experienced triumphs together and we have witnessed tragedy together. What really matters though is not who I think Newk is but who Newk thinks he is. When Newk contemplates his very existence, what words would he use to describe who he is? Who does he see himself as?
Over time I have come to understand that the most important influencing aspect of our life lies simply in our sense of ourselves – who we think we are; who we see ourselves as. If I think of all the truly successful people I have had the pleasure to meet, the single common factor is a strong sense of self, without limitation.
By truly successful I mean people who live in harmony with their world, consistently achieving the outcomes they desire and predominantly spending life with a smile on their face and a laugh in their voice – people who are happily achieving in life and who possess both the strength of mind and the complete belief in their ability to deal with whatever challenges life throws at them.
Now contemplate this for yourself. Who are you? Describe yourself. What words would you use to define your sense of yourself?
I’ll let Newk answer for himself in his response, but I have no doubt that his sense of himself will be a strong, positive one. I came to realise on my own journey, as many others have before me, that how you see yourself is the self-fulfilling prophecy that determines completely how you experience life.
Over the course of our childhood and adolescent years, we start to associate with our inner sense of self. This is not so much a conscious, considered and thoughtful process but rather a subconscious process where the mind takes over the process in an autopilot sort of way for us. We don’t consciously construct this sense of ourselves; our mind does it for us as we experience life.
A view starts to form in our subconscious mind of who we think we are. This view, this perception we have of ourselves, becomes so real that we use phrases like ‘That’s my personality’ as if it is a hard-wired, fixed state of being. The challenge, though, is that it is an illusion – an illusion that often becomes a prison cell. How we ultimately come to see ourselves is determined to a large extent by the events of our lives and how these events shape the view we have of ourselves, most of which is happening subconsciously. Different life experiences create different perceptions of self, which we will explore in later chapters.
Within our sense of self, there are both positive and negative perceptions– areas where we believe in ourselves and others where we are less certain and have insecurities and self-doubts. The positive elements in our sense of self serve us well, as they are ultimately an expression of our own self-belief. When we believe, we are empowered. When faced with opportunities or challenges we ‘can’ and ‘do’. The negative elements, however, shape us in a much more limiting way as an inner expression of disbelief or doubt. When we don’t believe, our path is blocked and we often feel powerless to get past the block.
Either way, the positive or negative perspectives that we have of ourselves are simply and mostly a consequence of someone else’s point of view. Positive reinforcement, encouragement or praise as a child led us to form a positive view of ourselves, whilst criticism or the expression of doubt by others led to our negative views. Ultimately, your true inner sense of self was not created by you; it was not of your conscious choosing. Your environment, circumstances and the people around you in your childhood years all contribute to the formation of your view of yourself. Some people get lucky and spend their childhood in a positive, nurturing environment; unfortunately, some don’t.
I know this from personal experience. Throughout the first 20 years of my life my sense of self was evolving. This is true for all of us. As a consequence of a very supportive, encouraging and nurturing family home, my sense of self was quite strong when I set out into the big wide world as an adult, but there were a few fears lurking beneath the surface that held me back. At a subconscious level, I associated with a mind-held view that I was supposed to be a successful human being, someone who achieved and did well in life. Lots of positive reinforcement and praise as a child led me to contemplate that there were expectations about who I would turn out to be. During this time I had been unaware of what was going on in my subconscious mind, as it created a sense of self that had a strong association with success. Now my mind sought to ensure that I live up to that expectation. Fears – like failure, what other people thought of me, or not living up to others’ expectations – soon turned up all too often in my thinking and with those fears came stress.
Thankfully, in my late thirties my eyes were opened to the importance of having a strong sense of myself and letting go of the limiting associations I had allowed to form in my mind – letting go of my insecurities and self-doubt by seeing them as the illusions that they were. I started to work through those fears. I spent time exploring who I was and how I had become that person. I sought to understand why I responded to life the way I did and what triggered the various emotions I felt. I ultimately got myself to a place where I had a much, much stronger sense of myself and most importantly a sense of self that I had chosen rather than the one created randomly by the events of my life. Then my life changed.
I learnt from people like Newk and others the importance of analysing my thoughts, of learning to think about how I was thinking and training myself to think differently.
You would think that over the thousands of years of human evolution we would have worked out how to improve this fundamentally important aspect of our existence, but we haven’t, and there is a very simple reason why.
Well, it’s a very simple reason when you understand it; the problem is that at a certain level your mind will resist learning this. When you understand why your mind does this, though, you find the key that unlocks true happiness and the realisation of your potential. I know that sounds like a big statement, but I have found this fundamental understanding present in every human being I have met who is living at a higher level.
You need to make sense of your mind. You need to understand how it works – not in a complex neurological sense but in a day-to-day ‘how I experience life’ sense. We hope to make that discovery simpler and easier for you.
It is a very interesting and challenging question Mike has asked me. Who is John Newcombe?
There’s no simple answer. I’d like to think I’m a bit more than simple, but it isn’t really all that complex either. I feel I have evolved as a person every ten years of my life, so today I am not the same person as I was in my forties.
I look around me and often see people who seem resigned to who they are. ‘That’s just who I am’, they might say. I know that as my life has changed and my goals and aspirations have shifted through the journey of my life I have needed to constantly evolve. To achieve each of these goals I couldn’t just stay as I was. I needed to grow. My view of who I am capable of being and what I am capable of achieving has been a constant work in progress. Perhaps I’m fortunate to have a strong enough belief in myself that I can constantly change, but I think this is something we can all learn and in fact we need to learn if we are to really enjoy life and experience it to the max.
There was nothing really outstanding I can remember about my first ten years. Our family life was reasonably stable. My dad was a dentist, my mum was a mother and housewife and my relationship with my elder and younger sisters was without serious incident, except for the occasional ‘blue’ when I tried to get out of the washing up after dinner, pleading with Dad that it was a girls’ job.
From the age of ten until I was 40 I was on a constant roll of achievement in the various areas that I’d set my mind on. My life dream began at nine and a half as I listened to that Davis Cup final and decided that one day I would play Wimbledon and represent Australia in Davis Cup.
I think it is important to note here that my goal was not so much to win Wimbledon as it was to compete there.
I wanted to play Wimbledon and Davis Cup and to experience the excitement that I had felt as I listened to those great matches as a boy. I wanted to experience the atmosphere and the history and tradition and to feel the thrill of representing my country. I didn’t need to win, though. I didn’t see winning as a necessity, a sort of validation of myself. I always thought I was fundamentally OK, and the experience would be a wonderful addition to my life.
One of my favourite sayings is: ‘Never be afraid to dream and to follow your dreams, but never allow the dream to become your master.’
My interpretation of that is always to be looking ahead and planning your road to the future, but the reality check is where you are in the present. Life is ahead of us, not behind us, so only go to the past to learn from your experiences, ensuring that negative actions are not repeated and that positive actions are built upon and practised.
As we work our way through this book, I will build on these themes by analysing some of my own real-life experiences from challenging circumstances, some of which were extreme pressure situations.
The teen years were the ones where I was defining myself and my character. Early on in my tennis career I realised that to win matches I needed to understand the weaknesses and strengths in my ‘natural’ character. I was constantly challenging myself around what I believed I was capable of as I sought to become as strong as possible. In a way, but without consciously realising it at the time, I suppose I was doing what Mike alluded to earlier – deciding who I was going to be.
My strengths and weaknesses at the time displayed themselves off the court as well as on the court in the heat of battle. By the time I was 20, I had a pretty good idea of the areas I needed to work on in order to try and perfect my mental strength and character under pressure. Of course simply being aware of the issues is one thing; putting it into practice in real situations until you are confident of your ability to control any attempt by the negative forces to enter the body and mind is the real test. By negative forces I am referring to those associated with self-doubt – the negative forces that at times had me questioning my ability or strength, that led to fear or anxiety and interrupted the flow of energy I needed to be able to play at my best.
The strongest message I send to kids playing tennis today is this: ‘The greatest enemy and opponent you will ever face is the Negative Force. This force is real and it will try and enter your body at any time that you are challenging yourself. It is important for you to recognise and acknowledge this force, for only by doing that can you learn how to beat it!’
The key lesson for me was that my greatest opponent was not on the other side of the net – it was on my side. More specifically it was in my head and in my thoughts. It was an opponent only I could conquer, but in order to conquer it I first needed to understand it.
As we progress through the book, I’ll relate some encounters of this battle and how it was won.
Once the Negative Force has entered your body, it turns into what we know as fear, which in turn numbs your mind, body and general reactions. Driving these forces out of your body takes a very practised and experienced mind. I have had the occasion to do this under the extreme pressure conditions of a Wimbledon singles final. I was just as proud of this achievement in overcoming the Negative Force as I was of capturing this great world event.
By my thirties I had completed my tennis career at the top of the mountain and spent the next decade building on the business interests I had started the previous decade while I was still playing. I commenced the earliest of these commercial associations at 23 years of age, as I’d observed many athletes ending their sporting careers at 30 and then not knowing what to do with themselves. I chose not to leave things to chance and to become much more the master of my own destiny.
This goes back to my earlier point of living in the present, learning from the past and planning for the future.
My forties were spent in an entirely different manner as I got involved in community and charity work. It became more about what I could put back in than what I took out. Two of the more important roles for me were with the National Australia Day Council [NADC] and the Starlight Foundation. The NADC is a federal body appointed by the Government to promote Australia Day, 26 January, each year. I was asked to chair this council, which I did for ten years. One of our jobs was to select the Australian of the Year, which I always found fascinating as we read through the dossiers on a hundred or more Aussies who had achieved great things, many of them in a quiet way.
The Starlight Foundation’s primary role is to grant wishes to kids who are chronically or terminally ill. I was a founding board member of this charity and stayed in that position for 11 years. This experience was both extremely rewarding and also humbling, in seeing how the kids and their families handled adversity – the strength and resolve they showed as they dealt with such sadness and tragedy.
In my fifties I reverted again to personal achievement as Tony Roche and I took over the captain/coach role of the Australian Davis Cup team. This was a great seven years with my very close mate and long-time doubles partner as we helped a talented group of young men go through the trials and tribulations of developing and maximising their talents. Five years later, Australia had become the best team in the world. Tony and I found this experience to be immensely rewarding.
The Japanese have a huge celebration when a person turns 70, as they see this as when he/she has reached the age of wisdom. As I’m in my mid-sixties at the time of writing this, the one thing I do know is that I know a heck of a lot more now than I did in my twenties!
I’m excited about doing this book with Mike. I believe that by combining our thoughts and experiences and expressing them in different ways, we will create some breakthrough material which may help some people have a better understanding of themselves, thereby living a more enjoyable, successful life with family, friends and business acquaintances.
It’s so clear for me that at the core of John’s successes in life is his high level of self-belief. He had the strength as a teenager to be able to explore the areas where he knew he needed to develop, to face his own weaknesses and demons and not to shy away, not be overcome by fear as he pursued his dreams, and finally to be able to step into greatness. Think about who John needed to think he was in order to be able to do that, how strong his sense of self was.
As he mentions, his upbringing wasn’t particularly remarkable. Perhaps it was a combination of his imagination as he thought about the excitement of one day being on Centre Court at Wimbledon, along with his realisation that he needed to understand himself and how his mind and body worked and then strengthen them, which laid the foundation for his remarkable career.
Imagine being able to look at your opportunities in life and to express to yourself the view that you can mix it with the best – to stay focused on that goal and to resist the opinions of others as they express their own limiting self-beliefs and try to project them onto you; and to do that over and over through the course of your life.
So often in my role of mentoring corporate executives as we explore their goals and aspirations and I push them beyond playing a ‘safe game’, they express a whole swag of reasons why it wouldn’t be possible for them. Imagine what people might have said to Newk when he said he wanted to play Davis Cup or at Wimbledon. He was free to explore these opportunities, without any guarantees, because his self-belief supported him in having a go. In life there are no guarantees but I know, and you know, you can’t achieve anything without first trying, without first having a go.
In my journey, I taught myself a process that I’ve followed for the past decade so that what I do today and what I take on in life is way beyond what I thought was possible for me. I no longer need to play a ‘safe game’ and life is way more rewarding and exciting.
I think a critical element in John’s response was that his goal was not so much to win as to compete at Wimbledon. As a consequence, I believe he became very focused on continually improving his game to get it to the level required to play at the highest level. It was not so much a focus on winning but focusing on what was required to enable him to participate. I have repeatedly found that this is the hallmark of all great champions who are able to sustain results at the highest level – those who have an enduring career at the pinnacle of their profession.
This ties in with John’s comments about ‘living in the present and learning from the past’. As he developed his game, he used the past as a reference point to identify areas for improvement and then focused on the present moment and on the improvement of the identified area through the actions he was engaged in at that moment. He spent hours and hours on the practice court developing and honing his game. How much time do you spend practising and developing your skills? Time on the practice court is time spent role-playing, putting yourself into situations you will experience in life and practising your response. Most corporate people I deal with spend little time practising or role-playing, yet they expect improvement.
You don’t win Wimbledon by being completely focused on winning it in an isolated sense. The player who performs the best for the two weeks will come away with the title. The player who deals with all that is thrown at them over the fortnight and whose game and physical and mental strength is in the best shape wins the crown – one match at a time!
To arrive ready to have your best chance, you need to work on improving all aspects of your game and your physical and mental abilities. If you do that better than anybody else, you give yourself the best chance of winning. If you place too much focus on the result or on the title, the chances are that you will choke under the self-imposed pressure.
Imagine if you focused solely on improving your ability, your skill or your strength of mind and that you were able to improve by one per cent every day. Where would you be in 100 days? Twice as good as you are now. Now imagine what results you would get in your work if you were twice as good as you are now.
Ever wondered what it really takes to succeed in life?
Those who have achieved their own success in life know that following the path of luck and chance is full of dead ends, failed journeys and disappointments. Success is a result of application and effort. What enables successful people to achieve their desired goals and more where so many others have come up short is their strength of mind, their strength of self and the simple clarity with which they see life.
The Power Within shares the insights from two very different successful people. One, a living legend who has harnessed this power to create an extraordinary life and the other who as a result of many years spent understanding how to access his potential and then teaching this to others has been able to transform his own life in a profound way.
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John Newcombe is a tennis legend. During his career he won 26 Grand Slam Titles including 3 Wimbledon, 2 US Open and 2 Australian singles titles. He also lead Australia to the title in 1999 as Davis Cup Captain. He has been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and was made an Australian Living Treasure.
In addition to a commentating career, he now runs the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch & Tennis Academy in New Braunfels, Texas. Established in 1968, the ranch is one of the premier tennis destinations in the world, offering a world class tennis academy and fantasy camps with tennis legends.Find out more
Michael Duff is one of Australia’s leading coaches of High Performance Human Behaviour, with a client list that reads like a who’s who of the country’s leading companies. He has spent his career in the corporate sector leading teams and organisations very similar to those he now teaches.
At age 28 Michael was appointed Chief Executive of the Australasian PGA tour and from here joined the global ATP tour where he spent five years in contact with the world’s top tennis players. He spent a decade as a senior executive in the international sporting world and he continues to seek out high achievers from all walks of life.Find out more