015: Discovering your Performance Mindset Type with Christian Buck | Sport Coats Podcast

A podcast fueled by professionals bridging the gap between Sports and Business. Enjoy as guests share stories & experiences from the playing field to the board room.

015: Discovering your Performance Mindset Type with Christian Buck

Meet Christian

From Wall Street Trader to Performance Executive Coach, for the last 10 years, Christian has been helping individuals and organizations raise their game by improving their mindset. He's been doing this through his consulting practice, Christian Buck Consulting. Christian has worked with professional athletes, student-athletes, and executives on a one-on-one basis challenging their thinking on the field, in the classroom, or in the boardroom. He has published two books, The Sport of School: Help your Student-Athlete Win in the Classroom, and Thinking Inside the Crease: The Mental Secrets to Becoming a Dominant Lacrosse Goalie. Christian is also a contributing author to the Forbes Coaching Council.

This idea of taking your skills, your experiences, everything that you've been through from the playing field to the boardroom, what does that idea mean to you in the work that you've done?

What I found is whether we're on the field, or in the classroom, we're always performing. The best players, the best executives, the best students aren't focused on the performance, they're focused on either winning the game doing well at their job. They don't see it as a performance, they're focused on what they're doing and getting the job done. Actually, my company used to be called Get it Done, which again, goes back to the focus of the task at hand, and not performing. So the key for all of this is the mindset that you have, whether it's on the field, in the classroom, or in the boardroom is that we're not necessarily performing for others, but we're performing to finish or complete a task by using that athletic mindset that we're usually pretty good at. Athletes understand the mindset of hard work and work ethic of being aggressive or focusing on winning, but we don't do it when we get to our first job or if we own a business, we're worried about getting a promotion or being liked. So it's helping people get back to that athletic mindset of focusing on winning, and not losing.

What happened in your journey where you started recognizing that there's this need for athletes in particular or former athletes who are now in the business world who are missing this component, this transition from one to the other? 

It happened over a long evolution. When I was in college I was a goalie and trying to get the starting spot back as a sophomore and I realized that I was just trying to impress the coaches so that I could start. I wasn't trying to win, I wasn't trying to stop the ball, I wasn't trying to be the best I could be, I was just trying to prove something, which is a problem. Then when I went into the Wall Street realm, and I was trading in the pits on the American Stock Exchange, what you're trying to do is make money day to make sure you're doing your job to the bosses. It's very quantifiable and you're focused on the outcome, the result, and the judgment of that result. So post 911 I stopped trading and went into brokerage and now you got guys yelling at you trying to deal with that and performing for them. I realized it's just anxiety-ridden and I was also just taking, I wasn't giving. Buy low, sell high for people that competitive and are really good traders, that's great. I mean, that's what makes them good, they would get in at five in the morning, and when earnings would come around they would stay late and go over all the analytics. I'd get there at 9:15 and then leave before 3 because I just didn't find interest in it and not that there's anything wrong with it, I just didn't find interest in it. So I started to focus on some things I took about a year to figure out, Okay, what do I like? Not what can I do, what do I like. That was a big period in my life that I work with executives now on is, what are things that you like? I call it the billion-dollar lottery, if you want a billion dollars, what would you do? There's probably some sort of two-week hangover and you're buying your parents a house and you're going on a trip, but after that period, you wake up and do what? So start figuring out what that is, and then build a job around it. Because most people think about the end result rather than who am I, what do I like, and what do I want to build out of that. So I figured out a bunch of things that, I was a goalie, I was a drummer, I'm a background guy, I do not want to be the lead singer. I like being social, I want to interact with people, I would hate going to a cubicle every day. I had every golf psychology book in the market and so I started to take all these things and put it together and say, "Oh, sports psychology!" I get to be a background guy, I get to be social, I get to work wherever the athletes are playing, fixing small problems. So that all led me to sports psychology and then when I was working with athletes and teams, I recognized that all the same stuff is true. Whether I was training, whether I was on a college lacrosse team, whatever it was, I was always trying to perform. This is the first time where I was just trying to help people just because I wanted to be of service, I wanted to help them, and if I got paid great! I got to work with the fourth in the world in long drive competitions, I would have paid him to work with him! He's hitting the ball 410 yards, it's just amazing! Then I realized that this is going to be a great ride, because I just love it every day, and I still do.

How do you begin that conversation with the athlete who is a senior and won't make it to the professional leagues where they have been so focused for four years on being an athlete? Yes, they're in school, and I'm sure a lot of them are getting good grades, and they have an idea of what they want to do, but how do you begin to kind of peel back that onion on it being time to begin the transition process and begin to understand what life has in store for you?

What a lot of athletes are dealing with is an identity shift. You have always been the athlete, you've always been the stud and you've always been known as that person and now it's removed. What do you do? Well, what I talk to them about is you're still in that mindset. Whatever made you great, whatever makes you an athlete is going to make you a good executive, it's just who you are! So in the sport of school, I talk about what's called the workhorse. The workhorse is the one that gets there early, stays late, grinds all day. That's in you, it's already who you are, so let's just apply it to school. Then when you get that first job, be the first one in, and the last one to leave. It's what you do anyway, it's not like we have to make up some new person, it's taking that athletic mindset and just grinding! It's not changing their identity anymore, it allows them to keep their identity. 

You've identified five categories of athletes/executives,  the workhorse, the intellectual, the rookie, the natural talent, and the spectator. How did you develop these five types and where would you say most athletes fall into? 

It came from about five or six years of working with student-athletes and recognizing that there were just common traits that I saw with each individual. Those characteristics started to create what I call the buckets. So the workhorse, for example, what I found was the athlete who is the grinder who gets there early stays late. I can use that and I can see it, I know what they do, it's very visual with the workforce. What we do is we can just take that and apply it to something else. The Spectator is the total opposite. The Spectator is on the sidelines of their life, they're just sort of watching it go by and I say there are two different types of people: there are motorboats and corks. Motorboats, create the waves, and corks just float around them and that's what the spectator does. They're just going through the motions, they're at practice, they're in school, but they're not excelling, and they don't really care to excel. With them, it's creating a personal vision, they have no vision. They think why bother doing these things, running sprints, getting the weight room? They see it as a chore versus the workhorse who knows the bigger and faster they are, the better they're going to be. So the workforce is driven towards something the spectator is just sort of there. The rookie wants to do well and they could be a workhorse, they just don't know the rules. They just don't know what they need to do or how good they need to be. A perfect example is I just heard from someone the other day that described a high school player that wanted to go pro in basketball. It's like, okay, I love the dream, and I'm not going to knock it but that is a very difficult thing to do. 3% of high school football players playing college and 1.6% of college players play in the pros. People do it don't get me wrong, but it's knowing that I want to get there, but am I willing to do what it takes? You've got your natural talent and your intellectual, the natural talent plays all the time, so they need to learn to work and the intellectual is the perfectionist, they want to do well, but they get anxious along the way.

In my experience, I would believe that there are more athletes who are at the professional ranks, who have more of the workhorse mentality, and work harder to develop their natural talents and make it to the next level, as opposed to those who have the natural talent and try to become a workhorse, because that's the component they need to get to the next level. Is that what you have seen in your experience?

It's a great question. I never thought about it before because with professionals there are so many components. If you're talking about pros, you look at Michael Jordan, right? He must have been a natural talent, but he's also a workhorse and he's also very tall. So you have these aspects like if you want to be an offensive lineman, you've got to be 300 pounds, it's just the way it is. So there are components on the professional level that you just have to have. Now I think of it, it's more about the mindset. So the natural talent, look at Allen Iverson. Allen Iverson was a guy that didn't need to practice, he didn't understand why he had to do it, or why it needed to be intentional or focused. Now, Kobe Bryant was the total opposite of that, but Allen Iverson was an insane natural talent. He was just good enough to pull it off. I think if you're talking about how you get into that 1.6% of athletes that go pro, it's going to be through a workhorse mindset. Natural talents only going to take you so far, unless you're just worldly gifted. We could count probably the number of people who are on that level. Like LeBron James is naturally gifted, but he's a worker because his mindset is a worker.

This whole mindset applies to life after sports as well right?

Exactly and so I'm taking the person and applying it to the performance. So it could be in the classroom, it could be on the field, and it could be in business, the person is the consistent one, the constant. All we're doing is applying it to different areas. That's where I think a lot of people can find a lot of confidence and be like, "You know what, when I get to my job, I am going to kick butt because that's what I do, I've been doing this my whole life, this is gonna be easy for me!" One of my guys who's now an analyst on Wall Street, I talked to him recently for the book too and he said he still thinks about this stuff. He said, "You said to me once that there's someone out there working harder than you and that never stopped so I get in early, and I stay late and I just outwork everybody."

In your relationship with sports psychology have you recognized in your time in this industry that athletes have become more welcoming to the idea of the assistance with the mindset? 

There are a couple of things, one, that golf psychology is about golf, it's not about the people. It's just part of the game and it's about picking targets and being able to hit short putts and all that kind of stuff. Even Tiger Woods stayed in college to learn how to win. He did have a mental coach, but it's not well known and he doesn't talk about it. So what has happened through that I believe, is one, the sport of golf has just accepted it. Whether or not that was a catalyst, I don't know, but what has happened since the last 10 years is an evolution to the lack of the stigma. I have expertise in sports psychology and I think that the lack of the stigma or the reduction of it is a huge benefit. Now, you look at all the top athletes in the world, and if you're gonna line up 10 guys in the 100-meter spring for the Olympics, it's going to be who's the best prepared at that point. Usain Bolt is a little bit more of natural talent because of his physical stature. However, Michael Johnson, who broke the world record was just more prepared than his competitors. So it's become more welcomed and people are wrapping their arms around it now, for the first time. I would say that's probably been within the last four years or so. The average athlete doesn't know because they aren't exposed to it compared to an Olympic athlete. They just for the most part don't know what it means and haven't fully grasped it. I think there's still a lack of knowledge of what it is, but once I start working with people they get it. I'll tell you so many of the young athletes that I work with major in psychology because they get it, and they like it, and they appreciate it. I don't know if they're going to go on and do it, but they're no longer blank on what sport psychology means.  They really have an idea of what it means so I think that's where we're at right now.

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