219 Chapters
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7 Reframing from Failure to Learning Moment

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Baseball teaches us how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and, precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often—those who hit safely in one out of three chances and become star players.

—FAY VINCENT, former Commissioner of Baseball

I met Garry Ridge, President and CEO of the WD-40 Company, about ten years ago after he spoke at The Ken Blanchard Companies’ client conference. During that conference, Garry shared the concept this chapter was named after—learning moments. Since that time, I’ve had the good fortune to speak with Garry on a few occasions. Most recently, Garry shared with me how he improves his own performance as well as the performance of the larger WD-40 Company “tribe” by reframing.

It started when I looked at WD-40 in the late 1990s. We were seeking to grow from $90 million to $400 million in revenue. I thought about what could keep us from hitting our growth targets. From my perspective, it boiled down to one thing—fear.

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3 Reframing from Trying Harder to Trying Easier

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You don’t get paid by the hour. You get paid by the pitch; the fewer, the better.

—RICK PETERSON

From the time we were young, we’ve learned from parents and coaches, “It’s not enough to give 100 percent; you need to give 110 percent!” As a result, when we find ourselves stuck in a pressure-packed situation, many of us believe the best way out is to try harder.

Despite what we’ve been taught, at crunch time trying harder rarely works. Many examples, across a number of fields—athletic, military, and business—show that trying harder under pressure is counterproductive. Think about your best performances. Were you grinding and full of anxiety? I’m guessing no. More than likely, you remember your best performances as being almost effortless. These performances are often described as being “in the zone.”

Instead of trying harder when you’re under pressure, a better approach to getting in the zone is to “Try Easy!”1

We often try harder under pressure because we have some performance-limiting beliefs. For example:

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4 Reframing from Tension to Laughter

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.

—YOGI BERRA

All other things being equal, a performer who is tense loses to a performer who is relaxed. We all know we need to relax under pressure, but we don’t know how. In fact, when we’re told to relax and have fun, this often frustrates us and makes us even tenser. Why? Because we don’t know how to relax when we’re under pressure.

Let me offer up a solution. In your tensest moments, actively seek opportunities to laugh. There is something about laughter that makes threats less daunting and opportunities more visible.

In this chapter, Rick and I will coach you on how to use humor as the best antidote to tension. I will also share a number of examples of Rick and others using humor to relieve tension and move forward in difficult situations. Humor is more than a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Not just because it’s fun, but because it works.

Andrew Tarvin is the chief humorist at the company he founded, Humor That Works. He is not what pops into my head when I think of a humorist. For one, he is not a comedian. He graduated with a degree in computer science and engineering from The Ohio State University. Before founding Humor That Works, Andrew worked as a successful international information technology (IT) project manager at Procter & Gamble. He said, “As an engineer, I find what works, I do it, and then I teach it to other people. It turns out humor works.”1 But how does it work?

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1 Reframing—The Shortest Path from Threat to Opportunity

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

—MILTON BERLE

At its core, reframing describes the skill of consciously and intentionally thinking about a situation in a new or different way. This, in turn, allows us to shift the meaning we attach to the situation, the actions we take, and the results we achieve. The operative word in our definition is skill. In other words, it’s not something some are gifted with and others are not. With practice, reframing can be learned by anyone.

reframe [ri: ‘ freım]

The skill of consciously thinking about a situation in a new or different way to change how you interpret the situation, the actions you take, and the results you achieve

Blanchard Executive Coach Kate Larsen shared the following analogy with me to describe how reframing works.1 You hop into your car and start the engine. The radio is already on and is playing a song on one of your preset stations. The song is like the voice in your head (a.k.a. your self-talk), often filled with emotion. The preset station is the equivalent of a long-held assumption or belief.

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B Try This

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The “Try This” sections that appear at the end of each chapter are combined here to guide you through getting started with reframing during crunch time.

Identify a high-pressure situation you’re facing now or will be facing in the near future (e.g., completing a big project with an impending deadline, making an important presentation to a challenging audience, performing in a game or a recital, taking a final exam). Use this situation as the context for practicing the skill of reframing as you read this book.

Write down what you’re currently thinking and feeling about your high-pressure situation.

Are you seeing it as a threat or an opportunity? If a threat, come up with two ways to think about it as an opportunity.

If you can already see the opportunity, write that down.

Using the high-pressure situation you identified in Chapter 1, walk through and capture notes regarding the first two steps of the reframing process.

Pause and recognize your Caveman’s story. Do I want to think or feel this way?

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2 Why Reframing at Crunch Time Is Necessary

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There is one thing I know. Never ever in history has panic ever solved anything. It’s literally never happened.1

— STEVEN SODERBERGH, Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Academy Award winner for Best Director

Our brains are magnificent and powerful organs with ultra-fast processing speeds. A team of researchers using the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world—the K computer at the Riken research institute in Kobe, Japan—simulated one second of human brain activity. They did so by creating an artificial neural network of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses. While this is impressive, the researchers were not able to simulate the brain’s activity in real time. In fact, it took 40 minutes with the combined muscle of 82,944 processors in the K computer to get just 1 second of biological brain processing time.2

In order to operate at this breakneck speed, your brain uses shortcuts. It reflexively assesses a situation and tries to make meaning. One such shortcut is our instinctual fight, flight, or freeze response in the face of a perceived threat. Consider a situation where you are being chased down the street by the neighborhood pit bull. Your brain signals danger. Your brain then floods your body with chemical impulses that tell your body to fight, flee, or freeze. All of this happens in an instant, without your conscious thought.

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6 Reframing from Doubt to Confidence

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A lot of really good players I’ve been around believe they’re a lot better than they really are. They’re not constantly evaluating themselves critically. In a game like baseball, that every-day evaluation can be so detrimental. They’re smart enough to forget the negatives of the past and somehow only draw from the positive. As a result, these guys end up being better than their physical talent says they should be.1

—BILLY BEANE, executive vice president of baseball operations, Oakland A’s

Our reflexive thoughts and assumptions under pressure often lead us to feelings of fear, worry, and doubt. These reflexive thoughts and assumptions include, but aren’t limited to these:

We base our confidence on our most recent performance.

We assume we have to feel great to perform great.

We assume we are stuck in the present, pressure situation.

We fail to recognize our strengths and focus on our doubts.

The elite performers I interviewed boosted their confidence in unconventional ways. In this chapter, you’ll learn the methods these elite performers use to overcome their doubts and increase their confidence.

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5 Reframing from Anxiety to Taking Control

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You are a professional glove hitter. Hit the glove!

—RICK PETERSON

There are many things about pressure situations which cause our anxiety levels to rise. The reasons include, but aren’t limited to, these:

We focus on goals or factors outside of our control.

We focus on outcomes rather than the process to achieve those outcomes.

We get overwhelmed by the perceived difficulty of the task.

We commit to doing too much.

Our expectations are too high because we use the wrong measuring stick.

We exaggerate the importance of the situation.

In this chapter, we share a number of antidotes to pressure that will lower your anxiety levels and put you back in control.

At the beginning of spring training every year, Rick asks his pitchers, “What’s your goal?” Most of the answers given center around outcomes like winning a certain number of games, or pitching a certain number of innings. Rick takes these answers as an opportunity to teach a lesson in goal setting. While many of us have been taught to set lofty, long-term-outcome goals, the type that show up on the back of a baseball card or a company financial statement, these goals are overrated in comparison to lesser-appreciated, short-term, bite-sized process goals.

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A Index of Stories

Peterson, Rick; Hoekstra, Judd Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Introduction: Rick and Izzy

Rick and Izzy (Rick Peterson and Jason Isringhausen), p. 1

Chapter 1: Reframing—The Shortest Path from Threat to Opportunity

Reframing examples (Jack Cakebread, Colonel Lewis Burwell Puller, Ronald Reagan), p. 9

Chapter 2: Why Reframing at Crunch Time Is Necessary

Reframing Cole’s hockey tryout (Judd, Sherry, and Cole Hoekstra), p. 28

Chapter 3: Reframing from Trying Harder to Trying Easier

Take the grunt out. (Sandy Koufax), p. 43

The accidental world record (Katie Ledecky), p. 44

Try Easy applied to filmmaking (Steven Soderbergh), p. 45

Be extraordinary by being ordinary. (Rick Peterson and the 2001 Oakland A’s pitching staff), p. 49

I don’t need to be better than I already am. (Millionaires’ Magician Steve Cohen), p. 49

Chapter 4: Reframing from Tension to Laughter

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Chapter 5 - The War Years (1940–1946)

Mitchel P. Roth University of North Texas Press ePub

The War Years (1940–1946)

“He'll be riding in a lot more rodeos—his sentence is 307 years.”

—Rodeo Announcer, 1941

PEARL Harbor was still more than a year away when 100,000 fans attended the four Sunday October TPRs in 1940. In the lead-up to that year's shows several warm-up rodeos were hosted at the Eastham Unit, where an estimated 2,000 inmates and outside visitors took in the informal performances by 135 convict cowboys.1 More than 75 percent of the prison system's 6,500 inmates would later be treated to at least one of the four upcoming shows in Huntsville, brought in from scattered prison farms in “big red cattle trucks sandwiched between armed cars.” This didn't include the convict cowboys and others who were under the impression they could handle a wild bull or horse with a “belly full of bedsprings.” Whether they won or not, each rider was guaranteed three dollars per day in so-called “day money” as they competed for even more prize lucre while proudly garbed in traditional cowboy regalia—ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots, chaps, and whatever personal flourishes they wished to add.

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Chapter 9 - The Fund Just Appeared Footloose and Fancy Free (1954–1960)

Mitchel P. Roth University of North Texas Press ePub

—O.B. Ellis, 1960

IN 1954, the Texas Prison Board vowed to spend $100,000 from recent rodeos on educational and recreational benefits for prisoners. The new prison budget was described in some quarters as “unprecedented.” Among the projects on tap from this money were a new educational building and a chapel that “will look like a chapel should.” Other items included remodeling of the local library and auditorium and new facilities for the Vocational Education Department.1 What distinguished the 1954 budget from previous ones was the fact in times past this money was usually devoted to the “enlargement and improvement of the rodeo stadium.”

Plans were made to dedicate the new Chapel of Hope during the 1955 rodeo season on October 9. Prison officials, wary of using the E&R Fund frivolously, noted that “As a matter of policy the Prison Board has restricted the use of these funds to the defraying of the cost of items and services not furnished by legislative appropriation.” In the end, board members justified it as representing their “Christian philosophy,” asserting that this edifice was a “tangible symbol” of their faith and a crucial part of the rehabilitation process.2

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Chapter 2 - A Cowboy's a Man with Guts and a Hoss

Mitchel P. Roth University of North Texas Press ePub

“People don't want to see a rodeo cowboy die, but they want to be there when he does.”

—Rodeo rider Jim Shoulders2

THE cowboy is arguably the most indelible and enduring image of the American West (if not the entire country). He emerged as a Western frontier hero in the nineteenth century and American popular culture has feasted on his image ever since, transforming what one folklorist called “the adventuresome horseman of the frontier into a national symbol of radical individualism.”3 Most authorities have traced the origins of the term “cowboy” back to around 1725. By the American Revolution the term cowboy had attained a more derogatory connotation, when it was used to refer to Tory guerrillas who jingled cowbells in order to lure “patriotic Americans into the brush” as an ambush strategy.4 By 1847, Mirabeau Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas, noted in his papers that “Anglo ‘Cow-Boys’ were marauders, thieves who had rounded up cattle between the Nueces and Colorado.”5 And still another Texas writer noted that the border “'cow driver’ was often a robber and at times a murderer.”6

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Chapter 8 - Outlaw vs. Outlaw (1954–1959)

Mitchel P. Roth University of North Texas Press ePub

“There are fewer and fewer real cowboys among the convicts.”

—Lee Simmons, 1956

DEEP in the shadow of rising juvenile crime rates, the Communist menace, the Korean War, and evangelical fervor sweeping the South, the 1950s witnessed a concerted effort by religious groups to end or change the day of the Sunday TPR. At the annual meeting of the Gonzales Baptist Association in 1952, a resolution was passed and sent to Governor Shivers, the Board of Prisons, and Superintendent of Huntsville State Penitentiary stating: “Be it further resolved: That we as a group of Baptists believing in the holiness and hallowness of the Lord's Day are utterly and definitely opposed to opening of the gates of the State Penitentiary at Huntsville, or any other prison grounds in the State of Texas, on the Lord's Day to admit the thousands of people to be entertained by public patronized amusements or any other form of sports.”1 This letter was far from the end of it.

In June a general contractor from Dallas named D.B. Lewis queried the governor, “I wonder if you would tell me what your attitude is toward the continuance of the Sunday Prison Rodeo which has been conducted for the past several years in Texas?” The letter writer invoked the usual comments about the sanctity of Sundays, but made it more clear who his wrath was directed toward, noting “Such things as the Sunday Prison Rodeo staged by some of our worse [sic] criminals only has a tendency to present such characters to our youth as heroes, when as a matter of fact they are not, [sic] should be stopped.” The contractor finished his screed noting how “Our better institutions of learning have refrained from staging their athletic events on the Lord's Day, and it is sincerely hoped that…our State will decide that there is more honor in keeping things honorable than the thought of a few paltry dollars from a Sunday Rodeo.”2

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Chapter 12 - Huntsville Prison Blues (1970–1979)

Mitchel P. Roth University of North Texas Press ePub

“You must not be afraid to fight for the rodeo when the occasion arises.”

—Dave Price, Rodeo Supervisor, 1970

PRIOR to the 1960s, the American court system allowed prison wardens and related authorities to operate virtually unimpeded by outside interference and oversight. However, a handful of U.S. Supreme Court decisions began to turn the tide towards safeguarding prisoners’ rights. In the wake of these rulings an avalanche of litigation would transform prison conditions in the 1970s. One of the most important decisions was Cooper v. Pate in 1964, which allowed inmates to sue state officials in federal court, setting into motion a series of prisoner lawsuits protesting the often brutal conditions of the nation's prisons and leading to the unprecedented “liberalization” of prisons.”1

The social forces of 1960s radicalization touched most segments of American society, including the convict cowboys of the Texas Prison Rodeo, although many of them might not have noticed straight away. Beginning in this decade of social change, prison reform advocates aggressively used courts to extend the rights of prisoners and improve their lives behind bars as inmates familiarized themselves with their constitutional rights. Among the most valuable tools of the so-called “prison lawyers” were the writ of habeas corpus and the Civil Rights Act.2 The writ-writing inmates of the Texas prison system would use the power of the writ to challenge the status quo of their confinement, utilizing litigation as an alternative to violence.

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Chapter 3 - The Simmons Years (1930–1935)

Mitchel P. Roth University of North Texas Press ePub

“Here it is; it's yours; do the best you can.”

—Texas Prison Board to Lee Simmons, 1930

As God-fearing a town as there was, Huntsville, Texas, in 1930 had churches to spare. What might have seemed like heresy to Sunday churchgoers, for recently minted Texas Prison General Manager Marshall Lee Simmons, the proposition of creating a prison rodeo, the very first of its kind, seemed like an opportunity, a tonic of sorts, for the hard times just beginning, as the country slid further into the Great Depression. Appointed prison General Manager by the Texas Prison Board in 1930, Simmons seemed a well-qualified choice, having been a Texas Prison Board member since 1927. Taking over what he thought was the hardest job in Texas, Simmons was told, “Here it is; it's yours. Do the best you can with it.”1

Simmons took over officially on April 12, 1930, with the stated intentions to look after the health, education, general welfare, and rehabilitation of inmates, preparing them for useful trades on release. During his first year he made some attempts to improve the prison's brutal conditions, such as reducing the use of solitary confinement at the Walls unit. But for the most part, Simmons never really embraced the reformatory mission, labeling prisoner welfare plans as “not practical.”2 Indeed, throughout his reign he allowed “nonprogressive practices such as corporal punishment and commercial agriculture to overshadow progressive prisoners’ welfare and rehabilitation practices in the Texas Prison System.”3 While Simmons may not have had many supporters in the ranks of the state's prison reformers, he remained popular with farm managers for restoring their dominion over their charges. He rarely intervened as farm managers and wardens continued to mete out many of the traditional physical punishments to their prisoners. Likewise, Simmons was prone to reach readily for “the bat,” which he claimed worked like “spurs on an old horse.”4 And if there was any doubt that change came slowly to the prison farms, prisoners still ran the five miles back and forth to the fields, working as long as 15 hours per day during harvest season. As one prison historian put it, Simmons “Thought more of making crops grow and improvements he could show off than he did suppressing convict abuse.5

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