monkeyIn the world of elite sport, ‘performance wannabe’ is a slightly pejorative term. It refers to someone who works in performance but who hasn’t been a world-class athlete themselves.

Which begs the question : do you need to have had spectacular achievement in a sector to coach in it?

Now fortunately for the rest of us, the most effective elite sports coach in the UK is also a performance wannabe. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters has been on a bike once in 20 years but has coached the UK cycling squad to spectacular results – as well as advising 10 other Olympic disciplines.

His book The Chimp Paradox describes a mind management system involving choices between our chimp brain ( keen on survival) and our human brain (keen on purpose). It’s a splendid book, useful for any situation where thinking differently would help.

Our chimp brain preoccupies us with power, sex, tribe membership and positioning and can be emotional, paranoid and black and white in its thinking…

Our human brain is logical, analytical, evidence-based and more civilizing in its activity.

Unfortunately chimp brain processes information that reaches us first… BUT if we ask ourselves ‘ Do I want these reactions?’ and we answer ‘No’ then our chimp mind can be managed.

(This connects to the marshmallow thinking of delayed gratification, I’ve written about before).

Hey, You’re On My Patch!

But what’s most relevant in terms of performance wannabes is the territorial nature of chimp brain. Dr Peters describes an experiment where two people sit on either side of a table and one puts their possessions into the other’s half. The encroached one starts to get agitated and uncomfortable.

Presumably this is why anyone in any sector who thinks they’ve earned their spurs and got the t-shirt, feels defensive at approaching ‘performance wannabes’. How dare these folk who’ve come from nowhere try and get a piece of our action…

But of course the wannabes may have been learning maths, or science, or communication skills or education: all stuff that is tangentially useful and relevant to the discipline in question.

And if we are keen on developing our human brain, then throughout our lives we will continue to be ‘performance wannabes’ – creating purpose in learning new things and gaining mastery.

Do you remain sceptical?

Then watch this short film please ….85 years old, with 3 Michelin Stars for a 10 seater restaurant in a subway… and still wanting to get better…

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. Very inspiring, and that short film clip is utterly powerful. It’s humbling to realise how our culture in the UK has allowed itself to be utterly brainwashed by transatlantic models of success and power over generations. Somehow our traditions of Master, Guildsman and Apprentice got lost in a precocious class war, and now our trophies of worthiness are measured in the extrinsic trappings of material goods – our I-Phones, fancy cars, designer t-shirts convince us we are top of our game. That’s probably why the grace and dignity of so many Eastern cultures compells many of us, and why your blog today and the images of that short film have imprinted on my monkey brain :D

    Reply
  2. Yes…that idea of mastery , just trying to be really good at something for its own sake, doesn’t get much of an airing these days, does it?

    Thanks for your comment and am glad you found the film so powerful. Gaping Void who featured it has some fab posts.

    Reply
  3. [...] very popular notion currently in psychology is that we have two types of thinking,: quick, reactive, survival one and slower, more considered, analytical one. The first one belongs [...]

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