Dr. Michael Gervais: The Relationship Between Your Mind and Performance

Dr. Michael Gervais: The Relationship Between Your Mind and Performance

Dr. Michael Gervais: The Relationship Between Your Mind and Performance

Dr. Michael Gervais often skipped school to do something he was actually good at: surfing. But performance anxiety would overwhelm him when he had to compete with an audience watching. One day, a competitor challenged him to stop thinking about everything that could go wrong. Michael took his advice, and just like that, he could perform. That was the beginning of his interest in the mind. Today, he helps star athletes and professionals to hack their minds and perform at their peak. In this episode, Michael helps us understand why we value other people’s opinions over ours. He also shares powerful techniques for harnessing the power of the mind.

Dr. Michael Gervais is a performance psychologist, author, and host of the Finding Mastery podcast. He is one of the world’s leading experts on the relationship between the mind and human performance. He is also the co-founder of Compete to Create, a digital platform for mindset training.


In this episode, Hala and Michael will discuss:

– The beginnings of his interest in the mind

– His career journey to becoming a high-performance sports coach

– How he works with athletes to reach peak performance

– Common challenges for elite athletes and business professionals

– Training the mind around a growth mindset

– The importance of recovery for high performers

– Powerful breathing practices for building mental strength

– Mental imagery for creating familiarity with excellence

– The four steps of his morning mindset routine

– The first rule of mastery

– Where FOPO (the fear of other people’s opinions) comes from

– How Beethoven overcame FOPO

– Choosing purpose in a performance-obsessed culture

– And other topics…


Michael Gervais is one of the world’s top high-performance psychologists and leading experts on the relationship between the mind and human performance. His clients include Olympians, world record holders, Fortune 100 CEOs, high-performing athletes from every major sport, and internationally acclaimed artists. He supported Team USA across three Summer Olympic Games and two Winter Olympics, helping athletes win over 30 medals. Michael is the co-founder of Compete to Create, a digital platform for mindset training. The firm works with a limited portfolio of Fortune 500 companies, including Microsoft, AT&T, and Amazon. Michael hosts the Finding Mastery podcast and is the author of The First Rule of Mastery, published in 2023.


Resources Mentioned:

Michael’s Website: https://findingmastery.com/

Michael’s Podcast, Finding Mastery: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/finding-mastery/

Michael’s Book, The First Rule of Mastery: Stop Worrying About What People Think of You: https://www.amazon.com/First-Rule-Mastery-Worrying-People/dp/1647823242


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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: Young improfiters, chances are, if you're listening right now, you have not reached your full potential. You are not operating at peak performance. And that's okay, because we're always evolving. And we have room to improve. And that's why today I've invited on Dr. Michael Gervais. Dr. Michael Gervais is one of the top human performance psychologists and experts in the world.

His clients include Olympians, MVPs from every major sport, Fortune 100 CEOs, and celebrities and artists. He's also the host of the Finding Mastery podcast and the author of the recent book called The First Rule of Mastery. Today we're going to be talking about FOPO, the fear of other people's opinions.

And Michael's going to tell us why we give more value to other people's opinions than we do our own and how we can learn to live life on our own terms. Michael, welcome to Young and Profiting Podcast.

Oh, I'm so excited to be here with you. 

Likewise. So I was learning a bit about your story and I found out that you first got interested in the power of the mind when you were a teenage surfer. So can you tell us about those early days surfing? And what you learned about high performance and the mind during those experiences.

[00:02:41] Dr. Michael Gervais: So there's two types of surfing. There's competitive surfing and then what's called hardcore or core surfing. And core surfing is exactly what it sounds like. You put yourself in a consequential condition and you don't talk about it. You do it for the purity of the experience. And so it's not cool to brag, to boast, to ask questions.

Did you see what I did? You just do it for the. Joy of it for the knowing that you have what it takes to be in that consequential environment. And then there's a completely different culture, which is competitive surfing. And in that culture, you've got people on the beach that are watching and judging, and there's friends and family and experts that are giving you a score on your wave.

I could do the thing in core surfing. I was able to do it when I had my little cocoon and it was just me in the wave. And I was able to put myself in harm's way and navigate it. Now, as soon as there was people on the beach, I was a disaster and I didn't understand it. I was a 15 year old kid until one day it was quote unquote perfect conditions.

It was about six foot waves, seven o'clock in the morning. It was a competition day, nice and glassy conditions. And there's only three people out in the water and one of the gentlemen paddles by me and he says, Jervais, I've been surfing with you a bunch. You got to stop worrying about what all of the things that are going on in your head.

You got to stop worrying about all the things that could go wrong. And I thought to myself, as a 15 year old kid, I was like, how does he know? How does he know? I can't feel my surfboard. I'm completely discombobulated from my body. My mind feels like it's racing at the same time. fogginess that's going on.

How did he know? So he paddles off, like a good competitor. And I'm left with myself saying, Oh my God, look, what do I do then? What do I do if the idea is to not pay attention to all the things that could go wrong? So I just flipped it around and I said, well, let me start thinking about what could go right.

And it sounds so simple, but as a 15 year old mind, sometimes that's the benefit of having a young mind. And all of a sudden, before I knew it, I was back in a vibe. I was back in my body. I was back connected. And it was The only thing that changed, it wasn't the physical conditions. It wasn't my physical body.

It wasn't my technical skills. The only thing that changed was the direction of my mind. And I thought, what just happened and come to find out there's a whole discipline, a science of psychology that supports, you know, how to use your mind. 

[00:05:12] Hala Taha: And that's my next question is, then how did you then evolve to make this your career?

What were the things that you did and the steps that you took to then become a high performance sport coach when you're one of the most famous ones in the world? 

[00:05:26] Dr. Michael Gervais: Oh, thank you for that, Hala. It was organic. I wish I could just say that that lightning bulb moment fundamentally changed me. It was the beginnings of saying, wow, there's this thing called the mind and I can get better at it maybe if I could have some Better techniques and whatever.

And so I barely got outta high school. I surfed more than I went to class. There's hope. There's hope for people. . Okay. My parents had all but given up. They did not know what to do with me. And I got to community college ' cause I got a zero on my SAT. And I say that with a little bit of a grin because I went surfing.

And it's also an indicator that I just didn't understand how to fit in the school system. I think looking back was a really good thing. So I'm in a community college, and there's three professors who happened to be best friends. Dr. Cuzio, Dr. Zanka, and Dr. Perkins. One was a philosopher, one was a theologian, and one was a psychologist.

And looking back, they saw this young kid that was full of zest and fire and had no clue, no clue about the interior invisible world. Was primarily interested in results and getting after it and kind of lost in life, if you will, and they wrap their arms around me and they said, Hey, kid, we want to show you how the deeper part of life works.

And I was like, all right, and come to find out I loved every bit of it. And so it started to be down the path of undergraduate degree in psychology, master's degree in sports science. Back to psychology with a PhD license as a psychologist and then a specialization in sport and performance and a subspecialty in high stakes environments.

And so that's what I've been doing for the last 25 years. 

[00:07:08] Hala Taha: I think that's so inspiring and I think it's super important for our listeners to hear that you can go from not being that great in school to then. loving it. If you love the topic and you absorb yourself in it. For example, for me, I dropped out of school college for three years to intern at a radio station.

Look at me now, podcast princess. There 

[00:07:27] Dr. Michael Gervais: you go. And then I went back to 

[00:07:28] Hala Taha: school and got my MBA and all those things, but I wasn't mature enough to do college. when I was 18, 19 years old, you know, I was failing out of school, like you were saying. So inspiring story. On your part. So I heard you say in the past that elite levels of sports, when you're an elite athlete, it's really not about the skills.

The game is played above the shoulders is what you've said. So what do you mean by that exactly? 

[00:07:53] Dr. Michael Gervais: Well, in elite sport, where let's call it any professional league, is that 90 percent of people that are in the building have all of the physical and technical skills. It's a prerequisite. You have to have physical and technical skills to even have a chance in elite sport.

But the difference maker in elite sport is not the physical and technical because they all have it. Like I said, it is the mental part of the game, if you will. And quite simply that is knowing how to deal with high stress, high pressured environments, knowing how to be at home with yourself, independent of the external conditions.

I mean, the idea of being at home with yourself. Wherever you are is an ancient wisdom that is never been more true, and it also holds up in high stakes, high pressure environments of sport, military, and other environments that require you to meet the moment. 

[00:08:49] Hala Taha: So talk to us about how you actually work with athletes.

So you've been described as a race car mechanic who tweaks high performance machines. How would you describe it in your own words? 

[00:09:00] Dr. Michael Gervais: That's a funny description. Yeah. The challenge of psychology is that it's completely invisible, just like gravity. So we know gravity exists. We can see the artifact of gravity.

We can see the leave behind, if you will, of gravity. When you drop something, it falls. We understand it inherently. The same is true for psychology. Even though we can't see it, we know it exists, but we can see the leave behind. We can see the Emotions, we can see the behaviors that are downstream from psychology.

So how I spend time with athletes is first to understand who they are, what drives them, what are their fears, what are their ambitions, what are the scar tissues that they have and the traumas that are shaping the way that they're thinking. And so we want to understand both the hard prickly parts, the difficult parts of their mind as well as the ambitious, beautiful, bold, um, get after it parts of their mind.

Working to understand the completeness of the person and then in a parallel process is finding the right simple set of practices for them to be able to train their mind. And just as a thought, humans are the most complex organisms on the planet and the practices of sport and performance psychology are simple.

I'm happy to share as many of them in our time as we can, but they're very simple practices. But what's complicated is matching the complexity of a human, the uniqueness of a human, with a simple practice. And that's not as simple as it might sound. It's actually quite complicated. Like if I were to suggest to you that imagery is a good practice, mental imagery, seeing success ahead of time, you say, yeah, of course, but there's all different types of ways to do it that uniquely fit you.

Same with breathing. We know that breathing practices are very powerful, but you have a unique. Body structure and a unique set of skills when it comes to the types of exhales required. To calm down or to hype up or whatever it might be. So I can go through as many skills as you would want. However, I just want to hold the pause button that it's not like there's a one size fits all for people.

And at the essence, we are so uniquely ourselves. that finding a practice that can be customized for us is really important. 

[00:11:25] Hala Taha: So interesting to your point, there's no one size fits all solution, especially when you're at that elite performance level. So maybe can you talk to us about what's the difference between coaching a high performer and a low performer?

[00:11:39] Dr. Michael Gervais: Most of it has to do with the talent they've already acquired, their technical and physical skills, if you will. A high performer means that they're able to do something in extraordinary Consistently, what many of them are looking for in a sports psychology framework is I want to be even more consistent than I am now.

So like an 80 20 year old, they're trying to maximize the 20 percent of their time to oversimplify it. So when we're speaking and working with a low performer versus a high performer, I think the way you ask that question is in the elite level. Like a low performer in the elite level, or are you asking for somebody who's just getting started on a path?

[00:12:19] Hala Taha: Exactly. The difference between helping somebody who's just getting started versus somebody who's an expert level, trying to get to even the next expert level. 

[00:12:28] Dr. Michael Gervais: Yeah. Yeah. It's so much easier to work with somebody that's just getting started. I wish that if I could have some sort of magic wand, all of the basic skills of sports psychology.

Would be taught early in life and it would fundamentally change how people live their lives because we are not taught how to speak well to ourselves. We are not taught how to breathe properly. We're not taught how to use mental imagery. We're not taught mindfulness. Well, it's starting to happen earlier, but there's so many best practices that are not taught early.

And it's no wonder that the majority of us in our adult lives are really feeling the stress of modern life because we are unequipped to deal with the speed and the, the rapid change that's taking place. And so how would I start with a low performer? I would. Again, reframe that as somebody who's early on their path is I'd say, look, let's get some basic skills in place.

Let's make sure that you understand how uniquely your mind works and how to optimize that. And a simple way to think about it is you are your best coach. Sometimes you are your worst coach. And so understanding how to speak to yourself, to back yourself, to build yourself, to be your quote, unquote, best friend, best coach.

And that takes practice and time. 

[00:13:47] Hala Taha: Now I understand that it's not one size fits all, but not everybody is going to be able to work personally with you. Right. And also, so you know, the audience that's listening right now, they're mostly entrepreneurs, professionals. And I do know that you also coach professionals and organizations like fortune 500 organizations.

Yeah. So I'd love to understand what are some common challenges that elite athletes and also high performing business professionals face? And what's some guidance that you can give us like general guidance in terms of how to handle situations? 

[00:14:20] Dr. Michael Gervais: Well, let's make it really simple here is that let's speak to entrepreneurs and executives, directors and managers included.

10 years ago, I was working in the elite sport on a regular basis and. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, asked for some time to understand how I was helping the Seattle Seahawks and Coach Carroll build a culture that is a winning culture and also is incredibly vibrant. And. It's turned into a 10 year relationship with Microsoft helping train probably somewhere around 100, 000 of their employees at about 12 to 14 hours a person.

Satya and his team built a culture around growth mindset. And if you want to have a growth mindset, which we all know what that is, open to learning. If you want to have a growth mindset when there's stress in the system, which any environment that is really trying to do something special has stress in the system.

So if you want to do that, then you must train your mind. And how do you train your mind is your question, is what we found first and foremost is that recovery, even though it doesn't sound like this is mental skills training, is nearly non existent in the executive world. So in the elite sport world, we do not talk about working harder.

Everybody is working really hard. Why is that? Because it is a one to one measure for input to output. When you get your inputs right, your outputs are noticed. They're recognized. There's a lot of money on the table. There's a lot of attention that is given when you make mistakes or you do well. And there is a purpose to be part of something bigger than yourselves when they do it right.

So then when we go over to the business world, purpose is unclear. A demand to work harder and longer than we've ever worked before. We're now working two shifts, the email shift at the end of the night and the meeting shift is early in the day. And then there's family dinner or running the kids around, if you will, at six o'clock.

And then the email shift is just really crushing people. And so we just start with recovery. And it sounds something as simple that probably our grandparents would have taught us, but we need to get the right amount of sleep for our bodies in place. Here's the general, 97 percent of brains, three standard deviations from the average. require between seven and nine hours of sleep. So some people say, well, I'm different. I only need six and a half. Well, the research would mean that you're in the 2 percent of brains. Or one and a half percent of brains that need less than seven hours of sleep.

Most people, for good reasons, need that recovery process. So as simple as optimizing your sleep might give you exactly what you need from a psychological perspective. Because when we are fatigued and tired, and by the way, five days at five hours of sleep, Most people can't pass a vigilance drunk driving test.

So what our brain does is when it's fatigued and tired, it just pulls down the acuteness and the vibrance and the zest of high attention. It just starts to pull everything down in a way because the brain says, I get the gig here. I am going to. pull back the resources from being fully vibrant, but it's barely detectable.

We don't realize just how slow we are with poor sleep. And so I would start there. Super simple. throw a horseshoe and that, you know, it's between seven and nine, you want to target around eight hours for most people. 

[00:17:50] Hala Taha: Yeah. Sleep is so important. Also impacts your mood. I find that if I don't get sleep, I am so cranky and not as happy, you know, so sleep to me is so important.

I need more of it for sure. So I thought we could move into some fun examples of some of your clients that you've worked with. You've got a client, Felix Baumgartner, and you helped him make the highest ever free fall back in 2010. Can you tell us that story? 

[00:18:15] Dr. Michael Gervais: So he jumped from the edge of space. It was a project called Red Bull Stratos, and he wanted to jump from 130, 000 feet.

And if he were to do that, he would pass through the speed of sound and the speed of sound Mach one, if you will. The brightest minds in aerospace were not sure if his head and torso were doing the speed of sound, if his arms and legs would have a drag on it. And if so, it would be what's called a transonic experience.

And they weren't sure if his arms and legs would rip off or not. And so, you know, he still wanted to do it. And so, This is what the great intrepid pioneers of our time do, is they push to the edges of the boundaries because they have an idea, they've used their imagination to see a compelling future, they mobilize their internal resources, their psychological skills, they mobilize their external resources, people and money and, you know, creativity of others, And they mobilize all that to create that compelling future.

That's exactly how entrepreneurs that are successful do it. That's how business leaders do it. It's how parents with children do it. It's hopefully how you and I do it as well as we use our imagination to create a compelling future. Then we mobilize our resources against it. And it was four years into the project and this is all public.

So i'm not saying something as a psychologist out of turn here and he calls the team, which I was not part of yet. And he says i'm embarrassed I'm in the airport, I'm crying, and I can't do it. I'm so sorry, but I'm terrified of this project. So that's when I get called in to help work with the minds of people that are the most skilled on the planet, have amazing imagination, have created a team that is world class, to be able to help them solve.

whatever the roadblock is. Come to find out that good old psychology, it's called systematic desensitization, was something I used to help him work through his fear and he did great work and it was a success. 

 Two other things that you mentioned though was Breathing and visioning. So I'd love to understand why is breathing so important when it comes to having mental strength and being able to be a high performer? What are the different things that we need to understand about breathing? And then also with visioning, you mentioned that there's different ways that people vision or should align to visioning.

[00:20:57] Hala Taha: Can you talk to us about that as well? 

[00:20:59] Dr. Michael Gervais: Yeah, for sure. Let's start with breathing. There's hundreds of different breathing protocols and types and recommendations that people have studied. I'd like to oversimplify it for our conversation and just say there's three basic types. There would be some cadence breathing, people call it box breathing.

There is Downregulation breathing, which is relaxation breathing to help you relax. And then there's breathing to help you build capacity. This is one that is under talked about, but incredibly powerful. So box breathing is exactly what you know it to be. There's four parts to every breath, and you pick the length of each segment, like four seconds in, four second pause, four second exhale, four second pause.

Maybe the segments are five seconds or six seconds. It depends on your unique physiology, your breathing capacity. And really what that does is it helps mostly with focus and there's a little bit of downregulation that happens a little bit of relaxation that can happen from that as well, but it's primarily a focus training.

It's a regulation, if you will, there it's awesome for so many reasons. The downregulation breathing for relaxation primarily is when your exhale Is double the length of your inhale. So if your inhale is, let's call it five seconds, your exhale would be 10 seconds. And somewhere around 12 of those in a row is when we start to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest system, our system that says, Hey, listen, there's no wildebeest.

There's no saber tooth in the brush. We're okay. We can be right here right now. Start that relaxation process. So that's, that's what we're doing. down regulation. Then building capacity breathing is the type of breathing cadence to help you understand an anxiousness that comes with being at the edge of your breathing capacity.

What does that mean? That means that at some point, when you starve your brain and body for oxygen, your body begins to say, Oh, no, I think I'm in trouble. This doesn't feel right. There's an anxiousness that comes with that type of breathing, and it's in those moments that you say, Okay, let me relax a little bit.

Let me keep it going. You learn how to speak to yourself about moving forward, and you also learn how to say, This is enough. I've had it. I'm out of here. So that breathing cadence looks something like, and it's unique for everybody, let's call it 8 in, 8 pause at the top, 16 out, 8 pause at the bottom. Maybe it's 7, 7, 14, 7.

Maybe it's 6, Maybe it's 8, 8, 16, 8. And then if you do that about 10 times in a row, somewhere around breath 6, 7, or 8, your brain says, what are you doing to me? I don't have enough oxygen. This doesn't feel right. Get out of this type of breathing. And that's the moment that you say, Oh, let me relax my shoulders, relax my glutes, relax my hamstrings, relax my hands.

Breathe, you got this, no problem. Take your time, you're okay. When you start to back yourself psychologically, physiologically, you relax yourself. And when you do that, you end up becoming not only more efficient in the way you use oxygen over time, but you also learn how to speak to yourself in incredibly powerful ways.

So, those are the three basic types. And there's different reasons to try different ones. 

[00:24:25] Hala Taha: Amazing. And then in terms of visioning, what are the different ways? that you recommend that people vision things, or why is it different for people? 

[00:24:35] Dr. Michael Gervais: So the word I use is imagery. The word that most of the field uses is the word you used, which is visualization.

But the reason I use the word imagery is because really what we want to do is create as lifelike of an image as we possibly can. So we're using all of our senses, not just vision, the visual sensation. So the way that this works is, and there's ample research around this, it's quite incredible. It helps with confidence.

It helps with self talk. It helps with neurological firing of behavior patterns, meaning it's code for, it helps you be better at something that you want to do later. It helps provide. Psychological safety because you're imagining a future state and seeing yourself do well in it. Okay, and, and, and, and. So really what that is, is using your imagination, most people close their eyes, you don't have to, but you use your imagination to see yourself being great in the future.

So you want to use all five senses. And when you use all five senses, you're trying to see it and feel it and hear it, smell it, what it tastes like, or touch, what that's like, It's as if it's so lifelike that you're actually experiencing it. Your brain, our brains, have a hard time distinguishing if it's that vivid of an imagination, if it's real, or if it's in our imagination.

So it defaults that it could be real. And it starts to lay familiarity with excellence. It starts to lay, or whatever you're seeing, it starts to lay and groove tracks at a neurological level around it. And so it's really cool. It's very powerful. It's something that I think most of us can relate to in a, um, I'll use this in a non traditional way, is that if you close your eyes and imagine the sexiest human you can imagine, and complete provocateur imagination here, your body, if the image is lifelike and it's sensual and it's amazing, your body will likely respond to that.

So that type of experiment, most of us know, right? Now we're using that same type of experiment for performance excellence. And then I'll add one more detail nuance here is that I think this is not research based, but I think 85%, 15 percent is a healthy ratio. 85 percent of the time, you're seeing a compelling future.

That is you being successful in it. When I say seeing, I should strike that you're imagining where you're successful in it, and then 15 percent of the time, you're putting yourself in a very compromised situation. In a situation where it could go wrong, where there's a quote unquote trap door in the future experience where it feels like you're just sliding out of control, putting yourself in that situation and then seeing yourself figured out from that.

Is also incredibly powerful and rewarding. So 85 15 is the ratio that I ask most of the athletes or performers that I work with to do. 

[00:27:43] Hala Taha: And when you say 85 15, what do you mean by that exactly? Sorry. 

[00:27:47] Dr. Michael Gervais: So the 85 percent of the time is seeing and feeling success as if it's easy. And then 15 percent of the time is putting yourself in a compromise situation.

And working out success from that compromise situation. 

[00:28:00] Hala Taha: Oh, I love that advice. Cool. Well, this reminds me of, I do a lot of speaking and presentations, and I find that for me to do my best job, a lot of the times I'll be dreaming about having this presentation and I'll actually get very little sleep the night before because I'll just be dreaming, this is exactly what I'm going to say, this is exactly how I'm going to move, this is exactly what I'm going to do.

Cool. And I end up being very tired the next day, but knowing exactly what to do, and I end up rocking whatever I have to do because I've practiced it all night. And that sounds very similar, but I should probably find the time to like meditate and do that beforehand so that I don't end up getting insomnia the night before or something like that.

[00:28:41] Dr. Michael Gervais: Yeah. Your first insight is totally on it is that you know that it works. You know that when you can rehearse in your mind, that you're able to be more familiar with it later. Awesome. You don't want to wait and cram for a final exam. And that's kind of what you're suggesting your practice is, is that you're cramming.

And so if you could build that into a daily rhythm, if you could build that into a daily practice and not just wait for the quote unquote big moment where you're going to do mental imagery, you'll be far better at it. Exponentially better. And then I'll just thin slice something I heard. As you talked about doing meditation, meditation and imagery oftentimes are collapsed on each other, but they are different practices.

And meditation in of itself is more about awareness and it is more about working to get to the truth of something imagery is about seeing a compelling future. When you're in a meditative state, you certainly can slide into mental imagery or rehearsal, From an ancient wisdom perspective, usually has a bit of a different base on the purpose.

[00:29:53] Hala Taha: Yeah, that's exactly what I was going to ask you about is how do we actually bake this into our routine, this imagery practice? 

[00:30:01] Dr. Michael Gervais: I would start with something small, start with three minutes, work your way up to eight minutes, and then if you really are finding value in it, keep it going. On a regular basis, for me.

When I've got something that I'm really working towards and it's very crisp and clear. It's about 15 to 20 minutes a day and It's helped me exponentially. It's helped to our class athletes exponentially And then what I do on a regular basis when I don't have something that is like electric and charging call it public speaking Or whatever it might be is that it's more like 90 seconds a day It's finding something and I can send your listeners something if they would like an audio of what I would call my morning mindset routine.

It's four steps to do in the morning and I can give them to you here. And this is where I get my imagery in before I pull my sheets off. There's just a handful of things I do and it takes about 90 seconds and world class athletes have been doing this with me for 20 years now. The first is one deep breath.

That's it. One inhale and one long exhale before you check your phone and all that stuff that everyone knows. Is not optimized one deep breath. It wakes up part of your brain that says, Hey, you're in control and you're safe. You're okay. And so it's one deep breath. If you want to do two, three, four, five, awesome.

But I'm just saying do at least one. The next step is at least one thought of gratitude. Now the gratitude wakes up a different part of your brain circuitry. And this is not a check the box. Like I'm grateful that I have my heart or I'm grateful that I have my wife. It's not a check the box. It's. Hit on one and completely be embodied with it, like really feel it.

And then the third is one intention. And then the intention is really using your imagination to see yourself being great later in the afternoon, later in the day. And so what is your intention for the today? Today, my intention was roots and reach. So to be grounded and be able to share ideas with your community is the reach part.

And so I just had a quick hit of feeling how I wanted to be in this conversation with you. And it only lasts like 10, 15 seconds. No problem. That's it. And then the fourth thing is take your sheets off and just take a moment and be where your body is. Just practice being fully present. And it's those four steps that I think are foundational to waking up very specific parts of the brain circuitry.

That I want to be more active throughout my day. 

[00:32:31] Hala Taha: Oh my gosh. I love that so much. I'm like practicing this whole new morning routine. So I'm definitely going to start implementing those four steps in the morning. Okay. So let's move on to your new book. So you've got a book called the first rule of mastery or your most recent book.

Can you talk to us about the genesis of why you decided to put out this book? 

[00:32:50] Dr. Michael Gervais: If I were to say the first rule of mastery for health or the first rule of health is to stop drinking poison every day, you'd say, yeah, okay, that makes sense. The first rule of mastery is to stop worrying about what people think of you.

So that's the external noise that corrupts the internal signal. And I'm not saying don't care about what other people think. But I'm pointing to the excessive worry that happens for the majority of us. How did it start? I was 15 years old, back to this age in my life that was really important for me. And I just got my permit to drive and I'm driving and I had saved up for my new car.

And there was somebody that was passing me in the same direction. And I thought, I'm going to look cool. I saved up for this car. I sat up, I grabbed the steering wheel in a way that was like the cool kid kind of lean. And I tried to catch the eye of the person as they were passing to see if they thought I was cool.

They never looked. They never looked in. It's the most dangerous driver in the planet, right? But they never looked in. And I thought to myself in that moment, what am I doing? What is all this activity, psychological and physical that I'm doing to look a certain way to somebody that I've never, what am I doing?

And I was so embarrassed by it. I never spoke it out but I knew that I was a bit of a fraud. There was a phoniness to me. I was pretending or trying to look a certain way for approval. And I kept it quiet. I knew that that was not the right way to do it, but I didn't really have a better way to do it because there was no book on it.

There was no course on it. There was, there's nothing about it. So. Eventually, as I started working with elite athletes, I heard the same thing in them. I heard, I don't want to let people down. I don't want to look stupid. I don't want to blow my opportunity. So there's this thing that kept emerging, which is the first rule is to be true to yourself.

The first rule is to work from the inside out. And as a young driver, I was working from the outside in, I was wanting people to see me a certain way. So I was changing the way that I presented. So the first rule is to work from the inside out come to find out I wrote an article for HBR on this topic and I called it just for fun.

I called it FOPO, fear of people's opinions, and I called it the greatest constrictor of human potential is the fear that we have of other people. That's why public speaking is so terrifying. There's nothing dangerous about public speaking other than what's behind the eyeballs of people in the audience.

It's just their opinion, just their thoughts. And so I wrote an article and 12 months later, they called and they said, listen, you were the number one downloaded article, 12 months in a row, you really touched a nerve. Let's write a book about it. And so I said, okay, cool. And as I wrote the book, I come to find out our brain is intimately connected to needing and wanting and craving the approve of other people.

The approval from others means that we're safe at the center of a community. Thank you. We're not going to get plucked off from the warring tribe, the sheep that's at the middle of the herd doesn't get plucked off either. So there's something about safety and belonging and come to find out that we are exceptionally skilled at just listening for and scanning and searching for even the slightest hint of rejection.

Because if you and I, 200, 000 years ago, we're in the tribe, Hala, and you and I were supposed to go do something for the tribe. And we came back and we didn't have the right result and we kind of took it laissez faire and we just didn't do a good enough job. And maybe some kids went hungry or maybe there was some rationing that needed to happen across the tribe because you and I didn't do a good enough job.

They might give us a pass, they might give us a second pass, but at some point on the third pass, they're going to say, Holla, Mike, listen, you don't fit here anymore. We don't trust you. You two, you got to go. You're out. And that meant certain death, right? Because the wild is just too wild for two people to figure it out on their own.

And so we need each other. We need the tribe. If you, we, we are social beings. We masquerade like we're these individual selves, but we are more like a coral reef than we are like individuals just trying to figure it out on our own. And so, 200, 000 years to today, we are exceptionally skilled at picking up just the slightest hint of rejection.

And that's what faux pas is, it's this Anticipation. Are they going to think less of me? What should I wear? How should I sit? What should I say? Am I going to be okay? Do I laugh at the jokes? Do I not laugh at the jokes that are slightly offensive? There's this anticipation phase. And then when you're actually in the environment, there's a checking phase.

So, I'm no longer tuning to the task at hand, but I'm looking to you to see if I'm okay. I'm outsourcing my self worth. I'm outsourcing my self confidence. I'm outsourcing to your approval, and I don't know what you're thinking, and so now I'm playing a game to get favor from you, and that is the corrupt.

That is the corruption to authenticity. And that is now we're in the throes of the constrictor of potential. And an example of this FOPO experience is like checking your phone so that you appear to be busy or in demand. It's laughing at a joke that you don't find funny so that you look like you're part of the in tribe.

It's staying late at a job because you know that your boss values that but your job is actually done. It's pretending to know a song or a movie that everyone is talking about because you don't want to be the weird one. You It shows up in lines at coffee outlets where you're nervous about getting your order out in time because you've got 10 people behind you that are a little agitated.

It's all of these weird ways that it shows up in modern times. That's FOPO. So then the last thing that takes place in FOPO is that the way we respond is that we conform to the approval. We will contort our basic principles. Sometimes we will confront another person just to see if we're okay in their eyes.

So, the net net is that there's all of this underpinning activity that takes place just to see if I'm okay. And that's exhausting, it's expensive to run the organism that's trying to be okay rather than to be oneself, and it's incredibly problematic for people to live what I would consider the good life.

[00:39:41] Hala Taha: This resonates very heavily probably with everybody who's tuning in right now because we all feel it. And In today's world, we probably feel it even more than our ancestors did because we've got social media and all this comparison and everything's just so transparent now where we can see how other people are doing very transparently.

So I imagine that it's getting worse and worse. Can you talk to us about how giving in to FOPO actually hurts us from progressing towards our goals and can hurt us? 

[00:40:12] Dr. Michael Gervais: Well, if FOPO is an unproductive obsession with what other people think of us. If we don't do something to work with it, what ends up taking place is we live life on other people's terms.

We live life according to what the tribe wants rather than what is good for ourselves. And There is a harmony between being connected socially and being oneself authentically. There's a harmony between those two. And if we're over indexing on just being approved by other people, we miss the opportunity to live life according to our unique experiences in life.

And so, what ends up taking place is that we play it safe. And we play it small and we never truly know what we are capable of. And so if you're listening and you're like, do I have FOPO? I think I do. I'm not sure. We built an assessment for fun and we found three different types of people that have FOPO.

And so you can find that on our website, which was findingmastery. com forward slash assessment. It's on our website. And I think for the most part, the only people that don't have FOPO are sociopaths. narcissists, and the truly enlightened. And so everybody else is at some level struggling with it. And so, I mean, welcome to the club.

You know, this is something that is not unique to just you. 

[00:41:33] Hala Taha: So a great example that you share in the book is Beethoven, how he got over his faux pas. Can you share that story with us? 

[00:41:39] Dr. Michael Gervais: Beethoven, one of the greatest of all time, come to find out he too had an obsession about what people thought of him. So much so that he ended up having to leave and go away from the city life.

And he held himself up in a private little cabin in the woods where he was terrified. He was terrified. People were going to find out that he was losing his hearing. And what's really interesting is that so he's one of the best in the world at this time And he couldn't hear and he was so terrified That somebody as perfect pitch perfect as he was was losing his hearing what they would think and surely it was going to ruin his career And so what he did, this is so clever.

And I think it's so common amongst so many of us is that he was pretending, even though he couldn't hear somebody, he was pretending as if he was in an aloof creative space when somebody would say Beethoven. Can't you hear me? He'd say, because he really couldn't. He'd say, Oh, I'm sorry. I was in my raptus.

I was in my creative world. So sorry. Yes. Mere mortal. What was it that you were saying? So he was creating a persona or an alternative excuse for something that was honestly taking place for him because he was afraid of what they would think of him. So he goes away for a handful of years. And when he finally says to himself, I can't do it like this anymore, I cannot live, hold up and afraid of what other people think.

I'm not quoting him exactly because there was no term called FOPO at the time, right? But I can't do this anymore. I need to keep creating my music. So he started to tune to his music inside rather than the music and the approval of other people. That we all know Beethoven's fifth, bum, bum, bum, bum, that that came from him being frustrated pounding his piano because he can't hear it.

And it was like a bang, bang, bang, bang. 

[00:43:37] Hala Taha: And then from 

[00:43:38] Dr. Michael Gervais: that, he said, wait a minute, what was that? And he, he extended it, bum, bum, bum, bum. And he ended up creating some of his most beautiful. Memorialized work ever Beethoven symphony number five and nine while he was held up in his cabin five, six, seven, eight, nine.

And so just awesome. I see myself not as the genius of Beethoven, but needing to create a secondary narrative that no, no, no, I'm actually okay. I was just doing something different. So sorry. When actually I was struggling inside in some way. And so I recognize it in elite athletes, elite executives, and my friends as well.

Thank you 

[00:44:18] Hala Taha: Great example. So something that you mentioned before was that we can tort ourselves because of FOPO. Can you talk to us about some of the ways that we can tort ourselves and why that's not a great thing to do? 

[00:44:30] Dr. Michael Gervais: It's an abandonment of our first principles is when we're laughing or nodding or not speaking up to something that is offensive or degrading to self or others.

And we abandon our first principles for the approval, for the acceptance, for the safety. Of being included by somebody else and it happens in subtle ways and it happens in pretty radical ways and all of world, the world's greats, I'd be hard pressed to find one of the world greats that didn't wrestle with this Gandhi Mandela.

Mother Teresa, Dr. King Jr., and the list goes on and on and on and on, where they felt something and they didn't like how that felt, so they spoke against it. So the greats understand this tension. They too found it challenging to speak up. And they risked their lives for it and it changed their livelihood.

It changed the way that they lived by speaking truth to power. So all of the world greats, all of our quote unquote heroes in life, what we consider to be the rare and extraordinary approach is speaking truth to power rather than swallowing our words. And so we can practice that in small ways at holiday parties or at in hallways inside of our offices.

is instead of maybe seeing it truth to power, just speaking truth. And if you can just speak your truth and you can do it gracefully and you can do it with kindness, people pay attention. And it's not so much about their changing of behavior because we can't change them. We can't change how their thoughts work or how their behaviors are going to go, but you're honoring your first principles and you're no longer contorting for approval or acceptance or safety, but you are honoring your first principles.

And There's one more piece here that we highlight in the book, which is how to move from a performance based identity to a purpose based identity and all the greats that we just talked about and the ones that come to your imagination were purpose based, and that's available to all of us. We live in a culture, Hala, that is obsessed with performance.

And I live in the world of high performance, meaning that if I don't help the best in the world be better in business and or. Sport that I'm asked to stay at home. Please don't come again, please. You're not invited, you know, on the next whatever. So it's a requisite to help people in my industry be their very best.

However, in this performance obsessed culture that we live in, doesn't it make sense that by default we would develop a performance based identity. And that is quite simply, I am not who I am, not what I stand for, but But I am what I do relative to how well you do it. So I'm okay when I'm just a little bit better or just slightly not as good as you, but I'm in the ballpark.

That's the majority of people. Then the kind of quote unquote crazy performers are the ones that have to be the best in the world. That's still a performance based identity. So performance based identity is an obsession with how good or well I do something that could get you on the world stage. That could help you have a gold medal around your neck, a billion dollars in the bank account.

However, there comes a point in time when the cost of a performance based identity to living quote unquote the good life is pretty high. So the purpose based, the navigation from performance based to purpose based identity is a road that has not traveled enough and is incredibly rewarding. And those are the people that I've studied to understand how they've done it.

And it's remarkable. It's available for all of us. Have you done the work, Hala, it feels like you probably have, but have you done the work to be clear about your purpose? 

[00:48:26] Hala Taha: I'm pretty clear about my purpose. I've interviewed a lot of people about this topic and I'm pretty good at visioning and manifesting and I'm pretty clear about my purpose, but I don't think I've probably not done enough.

I think there's always room. Not as clear as 

[00:48:40] Dr. Michael Gervais: like Nelson Mandela or not as clear as Mother Teresa, right? 

[00:48:44] Hala Taha: Yeah, 

[00:48:45] Dr. Michael Gervais: that would be cool. If you spent some time and then flip it over to me and I'm happy to go back and forth with you about how to clarify it in a way that feels organically honest to you. And when you do that, it ends up being um, The greatest bellwether, I don't want to be too esoteric, the greatest factor to be able to shape your thoughts, your words, and your actions to be fully aligned.

And so without purpose, it's just so easy to get pulled down into performance or pulled out into approval. And so, Yeah, it's really good work. 

[00:49:22] Hala Taha: Yeah, and young improfiters, there are so many gems in Michael's book, The First Rule of Mastery, so I highly recommend that everybody go out and get that. Michael, we end our show with two last questions that we ask all of our guests, 

What is one actionable thing our young and profiters can do today to become more profitable tomorrow? 

[00:49:41] Dr. Michael Gervais: Very cool. So I love the idea of thinking about the types of riches that you, you inhabit. And so the profit of living the good life of having joy and happiness and that type of being profitable and being generative to your community and giving to other people, Bob Marley had it right.

When he was like. Those are the riches that I want. And so what is a simple practice? The morning mindset routine is quite simple. It's a 90 second practice that happens before you get out of bed every morning. I think that I would start there and make it incredibly simple to do. 

[00:50:16] Hala Taha: I'm going to recap that in the outro guys, because I'm going to be doing that as well.

And the last question is, what is your secret to profiting in life? Now this can be more broad and profiting in all aspects of life. 

[00:50:28] Dr. Michael Gervais: Well, I'll keep it consistent with our conversation today and on the finding mastery podcast, I had Michael Phelps coach and I asked him a very similar question and Michael Phelps is one of the greatest Olympians of all time.

And he talked about the power that Michael committed to of using his imagination to see a compelling future for himself. He was incredibly disciplined in the pool according to his coach and incredibly disciplined Outside of the pole on dry land, as they call it. So it's this discipline to have a compelling future, to use your imagination on a regular basis, to see yourself being your very best.

And to have the discipline. So that's part one of discipline is imagination. And then part two of discipline is being disciplined with the way you speak to yourself, to back yourself, to choose the highest available way, to coach yourself, to help yourself through it in a way that if a nine year old girl or a 12 year old boy, we're listening that they go, Oh, that's how you successful people speak to yourself, because most of us say when asked.

Do you speak to yourself in a way that you would want your kids to know or your nieces and nephews to know? And most of them say, Oh God, no, no, no, I would not want them to know how I really speak to myself. So be the beacon for the next generation. The way to do that is to speak to yourself in a fully transparent way that if they were to know how you spoke, they'd be like, Oh, I get it.

I want to do it that way too, because they're looking to us and this next generation is going to need the best of us. Because what we have worked through. We have screwed up in many ways, um, generation X, we screwed up in a lot of ways. And so AI is fundamentally changing. It is the new industrial revolution.

It is fundamentally changing the game and we're no longer going to need to know the answers to the test. We're going to need to know how to write the right questions. And so hopefully the power of AI is going to help the planet. It's going to help. People's ability to unlock their potential for humans to flourish.

And I would say to be profitable in any way that they deem to be important. 

[00:52:38] Hala Taha: Oh my gosh. So, so good. And just so you guys know, I'm interviewing so many AI experts lately. So you guys are going to hear all about it. Michael, this was such a great conversation. Thank you so much for your time. We learned so much about FOPO, about imagery, about so many different things, about how we can become better masters and everything that we do.

So thank you so much for your time today. 

[00:52:58] Dr. Michael Gervais: Oh, thank you for including me in your passion. 

[00:53:00] Hala Taha: Michael Gervais has helped some of the world's best performers reach their potential. And so much of what holds elite performers back are the exact same things that hold you or me back. They're worrying about letting other people down, looking stupid, or missing their opportunities. And these are the types of problems that Michael calls faux pas, or fear of other people's opinions.

And he views them as a huge limit on human potential. In order to please other people, we'll contort our actions, principles, and performance in a way that can be exhausting and totally counterproductive. If we want to achieve true mastery, we have to learn to overcome such fears. And Michael had so many great tips for raising our performance to another level.

And I especially loved the way that he and many of his top athletes start the day. He's got a simple 90 second morning routine that I think we can all do to wake up the different parts of our brain and hopefully reach more potential for the day. So, this four part morning routine starts before you even pull back the sheets in the morning or check your phone.

First, you want to wake up, you want to take a deep breath, and you want your brain to wake up and feel in control. Second, you want to think and feel one thought of gratitude. Really sit with that feeling. This wakes up a different part of your brain. Third, express one intention for the day. Use your imagination to visualize yourself being great later in the day.

or accomplishing something satisfying. And finally, you want to pull back those sheets, maybe sit up in bed, and just take a moment to just be where your body is. Be fully present in the moment. Take another deep breath and get on with your day. This is the morning routine that I'm going to start tomorrow.

And again, it's so simple. Wake up, take a deep breath. Think and feel gratitude, express one intention in the day, visualize you accomplishing. What is the most important thing that you need to make sure you get done that day? If we all did one super important thing a day, those small actions really add up.

Trust me. So I hope you guys do this. I'm going to do it. And thanks again for listening to this episode of Young and Profiting Podcast. And yes, there's actually one more quick thing you can do to express an intention and share your gratitude. And that's if you listen, learned and profited from this conversation with Michael Gervais, then please share this episode with somebody who would find it valuable.

And if you enjoyed the show, if you learned something new, if you love Young and Profiting Podcast in general, And go ahead and drop us a five star review on Apple podcast. Nothing says, I love you, Hala. Thank you for all that you do day in and day out for us listeners. Then a five star Apple podcast review.

I really love to read them. I read every single one and maybe I'll shout you out on an upcoming podcast. And if you prefer to watch your podcasts instead of listening to them, we're also on YouTube. I've got all my episodes up on there. You can also find me on Instagram at Yap with Hala or LinkedIn by searching my name.

It's Hala Taha. And before we wrap up, I did want to give a big thank you to my Yap production team. You guys are awesome. I'm so thankful for my team. And I did want to shout out our new team member, Korede. Welcome to the YAP Media family and you're already crushing it. So thanks for all that you do.

This is your host, Hala Taha, aka the Podcast Princess, signing off. 

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