Mind Hacking

Hacking… I have heard of computer hacking and cyber hacking, I never imaged that you could hack the mind to do unbelievable extraordinary things. In fact, I have tapped into my brain to elevate performance in the past; not knowing this was possible until I read The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler. 

It was an extraordinary day in the spring of 1996, my senior year in high school, when I would achieve something on the soccer field that someone has yet to top at Poway High School.  They had a long history of winning year over year and our ‘96 team was probably the worst (yet to be verified) in the history of Poway’s stellar track record in soccer.  We fought for every win, albeit not many, but we tried hard with the team that we had. The aforementioned achievement was the day that I would score 5 goals in a single game, breaking the previous record of 4 goals set many years prior, and would take decades to break.  

I did not think anything of that day until recently reading The Rise of Superman by Kotler. He writes about action sports athletes finding the state of flow, otherwise called a mind hack.  Action sports athletes have been achieving flow for years, only now this altered conscience is being studied and dissected by experts in science and sport. 

My proverbial light bulb would shine extremely bright while reading this book.  I thought about that day in ’96; I can’t remember every goal but the vivid memory that sticks in my mind was being completely outside myself, almost in another dimension of consciousnesses, for the entire game.  The one goal I vividly remember was the final goal when I dribbled past half field and my friend Peter yelled from the sideline, “hit left upper V” (top left goal corner) and sure enough, I dribbled down the entire half field hitting the upper corner almost effortlessly.   At one point it seemed like time slowed and I could almost visualize myself dribbling down and scoring before it happened. It felt like it had taken 5 minutes to dribble down while taking my time to hit the shot I wanted, while in reality it only took me about 15-30 seconds to achieve the record breaking goal. I was able to replicate this feeling many more times in my soccer career, and this helped me achieve a high level of success in the game.

Now back to this “quest” business; I have only felt this a handful of times in golf and it’s a blood pounding rush that continues to drive me to play the best rounds of my life. It first happened in golf when I was playing alongside my Dad, 9 holes of pure bliss, feeling like I could hit any shot at anytime. I was able to replicate this feeling recently in a tournament round at Twin Oaks Golf Course even after being +6 after 5 holes with back-to-back 7’s not helping. While playing these two holes, I had internal chatter on whether I should let this effect my entire day or I could rise to the challenge and go after the tournament win.  I picked up my mental game finishing +3 for the last thirteen holes, the 3 strokes all narrowly missed the cup, and I was in the perfect state of mental clarity (or flow) for the remainder of the round.  In the past I would have just thrown up the white flag and would tell myself I would have no chance at winning the tournament but present day is much different.  I have been practicing getting over these mental hurdles and taking one shot, one hole, and one minute at a time on course. 

If you continue to struggle with the mental side and looking to get into the flow state I would recommend reading, The Rise of Superman and The Inner Game of Golf by Timothy Gallwey. Both of these books helped me get past the 15 Handicap mark and I continue to revisit both books to refresh the mental side of golf.


Play Through the Pain

This Blog post was inspired by the Book The Rise of Superman and the countless athletes that go beyond their limits.

Danny Way coming back from injury on the same day

The summer of 99’ was a big summer for me going into my senior year of collegiate soccer.  It was the year that I was working overtime to get ready for the season.  I ran 5 days a week and practiced with foot drills all summer, I even picked up yoga to add to my flexibility.  When it came time for tryouts, I was ready. I was in peak physical shape for the upcoming season.  Tryouts lasted a week and I made the team, and it almost seemed effortless as a glided through tryouts. I planned to spend a few days in Las Vegas after tryouts to have a little vacation before starting into the season and had to get special permission from my new coach (Lance) since I would miss a few days of practice.  He knew that I had worked hard on my conditioning all summer so he gave me the extra days.  After a few days of fun and sun in Vegas I was eager to get the season rolling.

On my first day back and during the first few minutes of practice, the worst thing imaginable happened, I went down with an injury.  It was a one-on-one situation dribbling towards the goal, I was fully committed to my shot, and my Brazilian teammate (and good friend Joao) made a stern tackle.  His foot won and my didn’t.  It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt and I cursed at my friend while rolling around, not fake Italian league drama rolling around, genuine hurt.  It took me almost 10 minutes to calm down from the pain and I knew that it was not good.  It was my right ankle that had been injured and I knew my season was over before it began.  That night I drove myself home with constant annoyance every time I pressed the gas, 20 miles of pure hell.

The next day I went to the orthopedic doctor to get x-rays to see if I broke my ankle. The results came back negative, I had endured a high ankle sprain. The Doctor said I would be out for 6-8 weeks.  The season lasted about 12 weeks, this confirmed that my season was, in fact, over.  I asked if there was anything that I could do to play this year and the he said “NO” and was stern about my recovery time, and that I would be seeing many hours of couch-time in the near future.  The doctor prescribed me high-powered painkillers and crutches in order to stay off the ailing foot to fully recovery.

The next day the depression crept in.  Not only could I not play soccer, I could not work,  which was also a big blow since I had to pay to keep up with my monthly responsibilities for school.  I sat on the couch while watching TV, hopped up on painkillers, my foot elevated with a bag of ice resting on my ankle, and sulked for hours. 1 tear might have been shed... The next day I woke up, the pain was less, and I could somewhat move my ankle. I had a shimmer of hope in my mind and while reaching for the painkillers, I decided not to take anymore.  I iced my ankle, off and on all day; I was mentally letting the pain into my psyche and learning to deal with the intense soreness and stiffness.  Being on the couch most of the day did not do anything for my depressive state and I made the decision to not let the injury get to me. I put on my shoes, the right being the most painful, proceeded to my parents garage and found my Dads rickety old bike and proceeded to ride 10 miles in agonizing pain.  At about the 5 mile mark I finally began to not let the pain overtake me and I was pedaling and riding like I had no ankle injury at all.  Riding the bike gave me the courage to fight off the injury depression and play through the pain. 

With my new renewed confidence I approached my coach the next day and told him I would be ready for the first game in two weeks, with no doubt in my mind.  Lance looked at me like I was the craziest person alive and proceeded to explain that the doctor suggested a 6-8 week recovery time. I understood what the doctor told me but I wanted to play this year with all my friends, many of us were on our final season.  He agreed to let me come back in two weeks with one stipulation, if the trainer could tape my ankle and clear me for game days he would let me play.  I left our meeting ecstatic and felt like I hadn't missed a beat after the intense training during the summer. 

The next two weeks were by no means easy and I was constantly fighting pain but I was bound and determined to play the season.  The risk was high since I would lose eligibility for a red shirt year (when a player can take an extra year if injured) playing in 1 game, and to me it was worth the risk.   The real work started in those training days when I did low impact exercises consisting of road biking, laps in the pool, and physical therapy.  Two weeks of training by myself proved to pay off since I could quiet the mind and focus on healing.  The second hurdle was a few days before our first game when I went to see the trainer.  The trainer asked how I was doing and asked me to rate the pain, I told him a 5 (out of 10) even when I was feeling more like a twelve.  He then said "great, I am going to tape your ankle so you can train today." He proceeded to tape my ankle and would later tell me that I had the most expensive ankle wraps he has ever done.  The tape job was excruciating, but I hid my wincing as best I could.  The practice was interesting to say the least but I was able to do light drills before the kickoff to our season.

The day of our game I was nervous and was beginning to doubt my decision in all honesty, but I decided to stick with my original intuition and proceeded with my half hour tape job. When the trainer  asked what my pain level was, I told him 12, and he laughed and said “well, you are all taped up you might as well give it a go”, and I did.  The first 10 minutes of the game was always the highest pain point, and as soon as I was engaged in the game there was no pain to be felt.

We had a mediocre year since we had a new coach and we lost good senior players from the prior year but we were able to beat some formidable opponents, one being San Diego State University (SDSU) and I can remember like it was yesterday. Their coach did not even speak to the players after the game, he just said “get in the F*&%ing vans and let's get out of here.”   The next year our university (USIU) won the national championship and I can’t help but think I had a part in the foundation that set the table for the winning season the following year.

You maybe asking yourself what does this have to do with golf and why did you make me read this soccer stuff?  Well, recently I have been struggling with my golf game with random shanks and high scores and I knew it was a rough patch and this too would pass, but for the life of me, I could not get past my own flaws and pains (albeit mental more than physical in this instance).  What helped me get out my funk was attributed to the story you just read and I remember how much pain and suffering I went through to achieve my goal.  Pain (golf swing included) can keep you down but mental toughness and fortitude can prevail in your quest for scratch.   

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