This is my second informal interview with Dr. John Byron Gassaway, who is a practicing Sport Psychologist and also my brother. John was a Captain America, Superman type athlete growing up, playing multiple sports through every season and maintaining a nearly perfect GPA – the kind of guy who somehow managed to squeeze 25 hours out of every day. His mental toughness seemed to me to always have been there and it only makes sense that he’d help others find their own path toward the same, seemingly inherent, self-esteem. But, you know, what things seem from the outside and how they are from the inside of the skull-sized world are never the same. John references one breakdown after a particularly difficult wrestling practice as the moment that forever changed him, when he realized that he had to take control of his mind and emotions. I think we all have that moment, but not all of us then follow through with the methodical practice of taking that control. In this interview, Dr. Gassaway and I talk about some of those methods and the importance of mental training.
above, my hour long interview with Dr. John Gassaway. Inconveniently it was recorded on New Years Eve and the street Karaoke sometimes interferes with the sound, but mostly it’s all good.
My own path toward mental training is nothing like my brother’s. I played sports as a kid but wasn’t ever particularly gifted or self-identified as an athlete. In the crazy turn of events that brought me to be living this life as a full-time athlete in a sport that is incredibly mentally challenging, it still took me a long time to come to the fountain of mental training for a drink. But since I’ve actually taken seriously the importance of mental work, I’ve also come to appreciate that the better you get, the greater the importance and impact of the mental part. Since our first interview, more than two years ago, I’ve developed greater mental skills and dedicated more focus to this aspect of practice. The more I learn, the more John and I have to discuss, which is awesome. So in this second interview we cover a bit of the groundwork for just starting a mental training regimen, as well as some of the more advanced concepts of how people tend to struggle with starting, maintaining and developing their mental game. But what Dr. Gassaway talks about is accessible and important for people of all different levels, because quite honestly the practical applications of mental training aren’t complex – someone at their first day at a gym needs to focus on breathing; an athlete who has dedicated 10 years to a sport and is standing on the Olympic stage needs to focus on breathing. The simplicity is encouraging and maddening all at once.
We cover a range of topics, some of which include: what sports can teach you and how they might benefit you in your everyday life; using effective mental training both inside and outside of practice; some of the methods and exercises used to hone mental skills; how to look at choking and losing in a constructive light; what does a mental training regimen/schedule actually look like?; what are the pros and cons of “avoidance”?; and learning how to bring awareness to yourself in any aspect of your life. This interview is a little over an hour and we had a computer technical difficulty on my end, so there’s a spot in the middle where we have to pick back up; and we had this call on New Year’s Eve, so there’s some music in the background from my neighbors that I apologize for. We didn’t edit this interview, as it’s informal and the natural flow of conversation seemed appropriate.
You can check out Dr. Gassaway’s resources and services at his website: Advanced Mindset. Our first interview can be found here. The most recent books I’ve gotten a great deal from and highly recommend are: Joy on Demand by Meng Tan and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson.
And special thanks to Jackson Hardin, who as a friend has connected with me on aspects of motivation and challenging the self, and as a patron inspired me to revisit a longer post on mental training. Jackson interviewed me for his podcast, which you can listen to at his website and check out his very motivating and practical posts while you’re there, Transcendence Effect: Personal Development for Awakening Leaders.