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Perform Like an Athlete at Work and in Life

Could the coaching philosophies and mental disciplines developed for high performing athletes be just as effective in a business or personal setting?

Back in 2012, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll invited high performance psychologist Michael Gervais, Ph.D, to attend training camp to experience the culture he was working on building with his team. “It was beautiful,” remarked Gervais about what he witnessed. “One hundred alpha competitors, pointing their noses in the same direction toward the same shared vision.” Could the coaching philosophies and mental disciplines developed for high performing athletes be just as effective in a business or personal setting? That question inspired Carroll and Gervais to co-found Compete to Create — a coaching and training platform built on their shared vision that living a life with meaning and purpose, while also striving to be your best, requires training not only around your personal craft, but increasingly around your mind.

During these uncertain times, we could all benefit from some “coaching up,” so we brought together Carroll and Gervais for this week’s Leading Through Change session to explore how to apply the art and science of high performance psychology to define our authentic selves, and develop the strength and conviction to deal with the physical and mental challenges at work and in our daily lives.

Following are highlights from our conversation with Carroll and Gervais, in their words. They have been lightly edited for clarity.

Having a personal philosophy in challenging times

“I needed to get clear on who I am and how I can best define myself so the people around me could act in accordance.” — Pete Carroll


In football, we’re coaching individuals within a relationship based organization. It’s no different when you step into the corporate world. Being a great teammate comes down to being in service of others  It’s how you demonstrate how much you care about what’s at hand and the people around you. If you give your best to those around you, you’re going to receive so much in return.

I’ve spent my career helping people find their best, uncover their unique and extraordinary qualities, champion and celebrate them, and bring them to life. There’s nothing more important than knowing who you are, where your center is, and how you can handle all of the challenges we’re all facing. That’s your personal philosophy. You have to share your philosophy and be really succinct about it.

A unique approach to achieving a personal best

“You can only train three things: your craft, your body, and your mind” — Michael Gervais, Ph.D.


What is exciting and unique about Compete to Create is we take the methodologies and practices that help people become their very best, and move them out of the laboratory and into the amphitheatre of high stakes, high-pressured performance.  

Based on the idea you can only train three things — your craft, your body, and your mind — we’re double clicking into how to actually train one’s mind. Confidence, just like any skill, can be trained. When becoming your very best by training your mind works in tandem with a culture that supports people with a shared vision, that one plus one equals something very different than two. We’re also talking more about the science and art of recovery, so people can wake up with zest and zeal on a consistent basis to work towards the upper reaches of their potential. Finally, technology is right at the center of how we’re able to share those approaches and insights with individuals and enterprise organizations.

The truth about winning and losing

“Successes are just as difficult and challenging as the defeats.” — Pete Carroll


Whether it’s a Super Bowl victory or a Super Bowl loss — both extraordinarily impactful events — we have to discipline ourselves to come back to where we want to be so we can be at our very best. It’s not all about the winning and the losing, it’s really about the performance. It’s constantly being at your best so you can be available for the wins and the successes, and not get distracted when you come up short.

Responding to challenging times

“Come to peace with what you stand for. Whatever the challenges are, whoever comes after you or whatever they want to question — know you have your way to feel centered and grounded.” — Pete Carroll


A good optimistic outlook is hugely important. Operate as if something good is just about to happen. Our ability to support others, make them feel strong and feel good about where they are is crucial and gives us a chance to be successful.


Change begins with each individual, and “tier zero” for that change is mindfulness — becoming more aware, and being able to sustain awareness, of how our thoughts, words, and actions align with helping others be their very best.

Compete to Create, with the help of Salesforce, has never been more connected with their customers, engaging them in more immediate, creative, and purposeful ways. 

This conversation is part of our Leading Through Change series, providing thought leadership, tips, and resources to help business leaders manage through crisis. Prior video interviews include:

Matt Jaffe Vice President, Salesforce Studios

As an Emmy and Peabody Award winning journalist, Matt spent seven years as a reporter and producer for ABC News, covering the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns and breaking news such as Hurricane Sandy and the papal conclave that elected Pope Francis. Prior to coming to Salesforce in 2019, he was communications director at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and the founder and executive producer of "The Axe Files" podcast featuring David Axelrod, executing the show's partnership with CNN and leading the podcast's transformation into a prime-time CNN TV show. He resides in Chicago with his wife and three daughters.

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