The title of this post, well… you probably have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. “That doesn’t make sense kid. That doesn’t make sense.” Give me your attention for a minute, I’ll get there.
For years, I’ve had a mantra – Love, Passion, Never Quit. That mantra was created from learning from the hardest of times – the type of times where you experienced the exact opposite of what you would ever want, and found out the importance of real deep character drivers. Love, through being unloved. Passion, through aimlessly wandering about. And never quitting, because I did quit once. These things were born out of the dark…and there’s something to be said for those type of things being created from those times. They brought me to this place right?
There’s something vastly different about these days though. For the longest time, I felt like I was constantly being tested and…to be frank, shit just kept falling apart. I would look up to the sky as if to say…can you just give me a break here? Like, just one time haha please?! Something! Give me something! Thing is, I think those were actually the gifts. They were just wrapped in a way I didn’t want them to be. Funny how you learn these type of things when you are looking back eh?
But what’s different? I’m creating things right now out of expression. I’m using all of the paints…all of the brushes…all of the tools I have available to me. That’s a very very different way of creating a painting. When you are learning, you are given only a certain amount of tools to really start to get familiar with the act of painting. As you get better with those over time, you have greater and greater access, more skills, more ability to move out of of being an apprentice and start playing with your own creativity. So as I sit here in the middle of my driveway writing to you, I don’t just know that I am a different man…I feel it.
The paintings I have been making are full of colors I have never used, movements that eluded me, and strokes performed in ways that are completely foreign to my old ways. This is, and has been time and time again, exhilarating. For me, to be able to express and not put on a “show” has been one of the most freeing moments ever. To be able to come to this place and effortlessly, unapologetically, and authentically pour out everything…whether it be similar or different from anything I’ve ever written…is a daily act of catharsis. It’s cleansing everything about me….with that, there’s a whole lot of healing.
Where does the fiercely, viciously, maddeningly calm part come in?
It shows up in this different pathway of connection I found. You see…well I will give you a personal example because maybe it will help you understand. But it needs some context – so here it is. When I pitched, there were a series of mental things that I did every single day that kept me at peak performance. The first – every single day before I entered the gates of the stadium I would stop and say “Now, I am a baseball player. Not a student. Not a boyfriend. Not anything else…I am a baseball player.” As I would go into the locker room and get undressed, I would take off a piece of clothing and attribute a problem I was having to it. My shirt was the issue I was having in math – take that off. Take off my pants – oh god I can’t believe he said that to me. Take off whatever else…all of my problems were gone in those clothes and put into my bag. Then I would put on fresh clothes affirming all of the things I had been working on and improving on. Take it a step further to the development of routines…routines when you are absolutely getting shelled on the mound – take a walk around the grass, find a place out in the outfield, focus on it and breathe. Self talk on the mound. Breathing on the mound. Little check ins before I would commit to the pitch. Phrases? Oh yes…”60ft 6in…here it comes b**ch!!!” All of these things were pieces to the puzzle to get me mentally in the game…and more importantly, to bring me back to present if I was in a tough spot.
So baseball ends…but the lessons remain. How did they transfer? Mentally head into the gym with me right now – I’ll give you an inside look. Preparation…showing up before to get yourself mentally ready – warming up – stretching…even the physical aspects of getting ready for something…well those are times for me to check in mentally. What’s on my mind, what am I about to do…how am I going to do it? Breathe…focus…focus…focus. How’s my energy? What hurts? What feels great? There are conversations going on the entire time I am preparing. Then like baseball, I approach weights when I am ready and with nothing short of conviction. There’s no carelessness about it, no meandering, it’s focusing…just like the old times…”pitch, location…let’s go.” – “Weight, grab, posture, load, breathe…go.” Rep after rep. Set after set. Workout after workout.
There’s intense energy that goes into those moments when the lift is being performed. There’s vicious focus. There’s fierce competitiveness. And yet…when the weight drops…that all disappears. On purpose…and this is the greatest lesson / secret I want to share with you today about how I stay mentally positive throughout storms and good times.
There are moments for focus – that intense focus that summons all types of energy in you – good and bad – dark and light. You could even venture to say that when I am having a challenging day – there’s a bit of rage in there. I know for a fact that existed when I was pitching. Sometimes you needed to reach back and throw just a bit harder than you ever could before. To do that, you need to tap into some pretty interesting energies. But you leave it in the weights. That set, that moment…those two disappear together. Once you learn how to let go of those moments…being in the gym becomes an act of meditation in a very unique and incredible way.
The process of the lift – the intense focus and concentration fueled by whatever may be or not be in your mind…followed by a lightness after the lift is done. Take a minute, when you are walking back up to the mound, to enjoy the sound of the crowd, to hear your teammates rooting for you, maybe look in the stands and smile, have fun up there, give yourself a little mental talk…but the second that foot steps on the rubber again…you change…you hit the zone.
This is a balancing act…and if you thought baseball was anything but art in the form of an orchestra…you were wrong. Close your eyes at a game and the sounds you will hear will blow your mind. Do this in life, with what you are doing…and you begin to express yourself – not check something off the list. You dance with everything you are doing…not mechanically finish it. There’s a place for your negative emotions…and positive ones…I have learned time and time in the gym…but you must leave it in the weights when you finish that set. Roar it all out and let it all go. Get close to your feelings, and watch them pass as you let the weight slip through your fingers.
Not done yet…
I enter the gym, as many could see as a very controlled atmosphere – but it’s really not. There are distractions, there are people getting into your space, there are interruptions, there are so many variables you can’t control. Instead of trying to control them, let them be. That’s the nature of being at the ballpark. Sometimes there’s going to be a hole in the mound…let that ruin your day and watch how great your performance is going to be. The fielders behind you are going to get bad hops or make errors – you have to let that go. The umpire is not going to call a strike when you just threw it right down the middle. “OH DON’T LET ME BOTHER YOU AND THROW PERFECT PITCHES YA JACKASS!” Yeah, that ran through my head a few times on the mound haha. But when the only thing that matters to you is this upcoming pitch…and you have the routines to reset yourself before every single time you step on the rubber – none of that matters. Someone comes up to you in the gym and ruins your timing – let that destroy you or run with it. Life is uncontrolled – seriously…you never know what is going to happen. Focus on this lift. This rep. This set. You are having a viciously bad day or trying to work through some things…and people come up to you and start talking to you…(oh big challenge with this one!) how can you come from a place of being light, calm, and happy? Only way is…you know there is a time and a place for those emotions…and they are when a weight is in your hand.
I can literally feel this around people (guess I’ve been getting better at picking up peoples energy these past few months). For me, the mark of years and years of mental training has allowed me to throw whatever I want into a weight…and then literally the second after – return back to center…which for me is smiling, happy, rapping to my music and almost even dancing about. Work on getting to this type of place – where you can work with emotions…and leave them where they need to be as well. Watch them swirl around you…make your move, and then clear yourself for the next move.
Kinda fun when you start getting into it 🙂
In every moment, you have this opportunity. How intensely can you focus when you need to for a specific action…and how lighthearted can you be when you exit that moment? Play with it. See what happens.
– Evan Sanders