Last month I tweeted about an idea I discuss often with my 1:1 clients – the need to be your own coach. The idea struck a bigger chord than I was expecting, so I decided to dive deeper for those who are curious about how to take this idea and put it into practice.
The idea is quite simple. When you’re a poker player, trader, entrepreneur or solo professional in another field, not only are you responsible for your execution, you also have to be your manager or coach (and in some cases you may have multiple roles on top of that like a risk manager, nutritionist or trainer).
When it comes to performance realms, a coach is critical for productivity, accountability, consistency, motivation, focus and support. Think of all the qualities you’d want in a coach by your side the way that basketball or football players have, and imagine being a version of that for yourself.
Great coaches are great in part because they have a deep understanding about how to get the most out of their players, like when to listen/understand and when to be harsh/critical. They know how you operate so well, they can get you to suck less in those key moments where you’re failing, and push you to be even more precise when you’re performing well but can still do better. Depending on the environment, a coach may be able to call a timeout, sub in a player, offer a big picture perspective, or simply recognize when you need a break. And when you work alone you must learn to play that role yourself.
Over the course of your life you have had parents, coaches, teachers, that played that role for you. If you are coming from a more traditional workforce role, odds are you also had some kind of manager who played that role. When you step out of that structure and create your own environment, it’s challenging and the complexity is often underestimated. Frankly, it’s why most people are not traders and poker players. Managing your entire day and all aspects of the job can be exhausting. Carving out the time and space to coach yourself, however, should be non-negotiable.
Coaching is hard, and it’s harder to do when you don’t even know you were supposed to be doing it! Whether or not you’ve been aware of this additional role, you have that coach in your head already.
The question is how are they doing? I’m sure it’s a mixed bag for many of you, so get into the details and make this something practical that you can improve.
When and How to Coach Yourself
A seemingly simple step that is truly a game-changer is taking review breaks throughout the day. Breaks ensure you are not getting sucked in by momentum, which is especially important when things are going poorly, but also when you’re doing well but could easily trend downward.
When you’re on these breaks and move from execution mode to coach mode, expand your thinking and go back to your tools. Look at your maps and profiles. Review the A to C-Game Analysis to gauge where you are and then make decisions or adjustments.
If things are going well, a break serves the purpose to quickly check in and see if there are any potential problems on the horizon. For many of you, the downside of C-game is greater than the upside of A-game, so you need to be on the lookout for things like accumulated emotion, fatigue and bloated brain. If things look good, take a minute to recommit to your goals and objectives until your next check-in, which you’ll have already determined. My clients typically take a break every 30, 60 or 90 minutes.
If things are not going well, this gives you an opportunity to right the ship. Including taking an extended break. This is the one of the hardest things my clients have to do. Whether you’re a cash game poker player or a trader, it feels wrong to not be active at a time when you decided you would be. Sometimes a coach has to take you out of the game because keeping you in will do more harm than good. If this is hard for you, use the Mental Hand History to help determine why. Logic says when you’re in a poor mental and emotional state, you’re likely losing money…aka, gambling. But emotionally that’s tough to admit in the moment. Give your “coach” license to take you out of the game.
Of course, that’s not always necessary. Sometimes you just need to talk to yourself in the right way. Injecting Logic is the term I use to describe predetermined statements or phrases that you use to change your perspective and emotional state in real time. But when your emotions are bigger, or you’re a tournament poker player unable to take a break, you might need more help. Arm your “coach” with a paragraph, not just a statement. Maybe add a picture along with it, or play a video of yourself reading that paragraph. In the trenches, use whatever you can to disrupt the momentum of the problem and get yourself in a better frame of mind.
Be clear and intentional about when to take these breaks/reviews and your gameplan to handle a variety of scenarios. Put some structure behind it. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to avoid unnecessary mistakes or losses and to keep yourself performing well.
Plus, the more practice you get toggling between these two modes of execution and coach, the better you will get at it. The better you get, the easier it will be to recognize when it’s time for your coach to step in to provide perspective. And the more you practice being in that coach mode, the better you are training your eye to see what is off and how to correct it.
At the end of the day, coaching yourself isn’t much different from what I’ve encouraged you to do in your mental game work. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a concept, like coaching, that you already know well to make it easier to fully understand what you need to do for yourself day-to-day.