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Episode 35 – What Is Peak Performance?


Peak performance is a topic that is spoken of often.

People refer to peak performance as performing well under pressure, performing when the stakes are high and all sorts of ideas like that.

Of course, all that is true. However, that’s just a piece of the puzzle.

In this episode I go into some of the more important, overlooked aspects of “peak performance”, and what it is, from a little different perspective.

To me, singing in the zone and singing in flow are much better ways of describing this “peak performance” idea.

Listen, enjoy and see what I mean!

Download This Episode!

The Inner Singer Podcast

Episode 35 – Transcripts

What is Peak Performance?

Well, hey there, everybody. This is Mike Goodrich. And thanks for listening to The Inner Singer Podcast here, episode no. 35.

I am, again, away from the studio, kind of mobile today. I brought a lot of Lavalier mic that I thought was going to work, but it doesn’t. So again, I’m on my onboard mic on the computer. But I listen to a lot of podcasts that have not very good quality. They’ve got phone interviews, there are Skype interviews or something like that. So I figured this is going to be way better than that anyway. So please forgive me, but I’m not in the studio. I thought that Lavalier mic would work. But I hope this works well for you. I hope you’re doing great.

Today, I can’t I’ve actually never talked about this in 34 episodes. But it seems right today to do. There are a lot of people out there talking about teaching what they call “peak performance.” They call themselves ‘peak performance coaches’.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that by any means. I’m not criticizing that. I’m just saying there’s a lot of “peak performance” out there. And I thought it’s probably about time that I addressed peak performance from an inner singer standpoint, so here we go!

When I think of peak performance—now this is just me. I always talk about myself. You guys can see if you resonate with this at all. But when I think “peak performance” or anything “performance,” as we’ve talked about before in other podcasts, that sets up some criteria and some things that I have to live up to.

What is peak performance? What do we think of as peak performance? Clearly, a great performance.

Now, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but let me just say, what do I think of if somebody says, “What is operating at peak performance?” And there’s a lot of good. Don’t get me wrong.

The first thing that pops into my mind is, well, I’m really confident, and I’m really present—and going to the other end of the spectrum—and I do everything right. I sing everything right, all my notes are great, I remember all the words, I operate at my highest standard, my highest level, and a lot of those things.

So, what I started out with I think is a real good confidence—a lot of confidence, and I’m really present. But then sliding over to the other end of the stick, the peak performance stick, it’s “I did everything perfectly. I sounded great. I remember all the words. All the notes went in the right place.”

And so that’s kind of what I’m referring to as the negative aspect of thinking about peak performance—and that is that we’re thinking about a performance. And when we think about a performance, we cannot help but have all of the criteria and conditions that are involved in performing be in the background somewhere.

So, being in the background, lurking about, “I have to be perfect. I have to remember everything. I have to better than ever.” Peak performance actually isn’t even just a good performance. That’s operating at my peak. Oh, my gosh! How am I going to do that?

So, to me—and this is just for me—the whole idea of peak performance is already starting off a little bit on the wrong foot.

Now, let’s take a look at what a real peak performance actually is for people that we would look at that we would say, “Well, they are operating at peak performance.”

Now, we can judge of course as far as singing goes—or even if we’re looking at something like tennis with somebody like Roger Federer—we can say, “Oh, peak performance, he’s getting all these shots in.”

Well, is that really true? Has anybody ever won a tennis match seven games to nothing? Has anybody ever beat somebody and have them not score one point against them? Has anybody ever aced every single serve, hit everything back, not ever hit anything into a net or hit anything out? Has anybody who’s ever won Wimbleton or won a match or won whatever ever not lost a point during the match?

I would say, “Probably not!” I’d be willing to bet a lot that I’m right on that as well.

So, what is our judgement then of peak performance when it comes to tennis? Well, it’s a lower standard than when it comes to singing.

What is our idea of peak performance when we think of baseball? The greatest hall of fame baseball players, what’s their batting average lifetime? Usually, somewhere in the 3’s, the 300’s. What does that mean? That means that they got a hit three times out of ten. Does anybody ever bat a thousand for an entire career, an entire season? No. That means they hit everything, they never get out, they always got on base with a hit. So, batting 300, even the low 300’s sometimes, lifetime, is considered a peak performer as a baseball player.

Look at basketball! Now, I don’t now much about basketball. I never really played. I’m only 5”10, so I never really played basketball. Baseball was kind of my game of choice. Did Michael Jordan ever not have a shot blocked? Did he ever miss a shot?

I know I’m probably getting ridiculously ludicrous right now just like in the movie, Space Balls. I’m flying now in ludicrous speed. But I really want to make this point.

When we think of peak performance in other areas of life, in sports, we’re not asking people to be perfect. And yet, when we think of peak performance oftentimes in singing, we set the bar so incredibly high. What we’re really looking for is perfection. And perfection isn’t peak performance.

Now, I’m not so naïve that I think that in an opera, let’s say, or in a musical or in a show, you can really not afford to only hit three out of the notes correctly. I’m not saying that. You can’t really bat 300, right, as a singer and expect to go anyway. But the point is perfection is not something that we really need to get into.

So, what’s peak perfection—look at that, what’s “peak perfection.” That’s where I am right now. What is peak performance? That’s what it really is. I love it! Peak perfection, whenever I think of something like that, I always go dot-com, “PeakPerfection.com.” That’s what I’m going for.

What is peak performance really? Peak performance I think for anybody is being as present as possible. It’s being in the present moment and in the flow of the present moment and in the joy and the love of what you are doing and being very present with it.

So, Roger Federer in tennis, he loves tennis. Michael Jordan loves basketball. Willie Mays just love baseball. Great singers love singing. Being present is really what peak performance is all about.

So, if we take the “peak” and the “performance” out of it and say, “What can I do to bring more presence to this experience? What can I do to be more present while I’m singing the song?” that will really transcend any performance and lead us into an experience that has its peaks where we’re really present and we’re really in the flow.

If we go into something thinking about giving a good performance or operating at peak performance levels, what happens? When we do that with our conscious brain, and we start thinking about things—

I had an interesting experience the other day. I had to talk to the IRS, nothing big. There was some form that our accountant forgot. We have since fired him. But anyway, I was talking to the IRS, and I got this girl. She ultimately was really cool—really, really nice, really cool. She gave us some great advice.

But first of all, when I was first talking to her, she had kind of an energy. I was picking up kind of an energy of just really by-the-book, really business, really government—which was great. That’s what the IRS wants. Anyway, I’m listening. She puts me on hold, and I say to my wife, “My gosh! I feel like I’m back in the principal’s office” when I was a kid.

So, this woman comes back on. She says, “Okay, before we go any further, let me get your name and your address.” And she said it in such a way that I had to stop and think about my address for a second. “Uh… two… okay, got it.” So then, I said it. Obviously, I know the address like the back of my hand. But where was I? I was really conscious of thinking about my address. And all of a sudden, it’s like, “Whoa! What in the world was my address? I can hardly remember the thing at all.”

You’ll have the same experience if you write your name. You can write your name just very casually. Write your signature, boom! You don’t have to think about it. And then, trace really carefully over your signature and try not to come out of the line.

Now, it’s your signature. It’s the same signature. But all of a sudden, that’s a little bit more challenging because you write your signature from your implicit memory. You know what your name is. You write your signature. You do it everyday. Now, all of a sudden, you have to go into your head and think about every single movement of your hand that goes to creating that signature. All of a sudden, you’re not in flow anymore. You’re totally in your head.

It’s the same thing that happens when people take tests. They know the answer like the back of their hand. They can’t remember it until they leave the room. And on their way back to the dorm, they think, “Oh, my gosh! That was the answer. What the heck’s going on? What’s wrong with me?” And that’s because we went into our head.

Now, what happens when we’re singing, and all of a sudden, we’re thinking technique? We may be auditioning and we’re thinking technique, “I’ve got to sing this note perfectly. I’ve got to operate at peak performance.”

Well, not only does it generally give a very dry, boring performance even if we happne to get the note for auditioning for somebody, they can sense the fear and they can sense the fact that we’re in our head thinking and trying to do everything perfectly.

What if, instead we are in a place where we’re just present with this great song that we’ve chosen to sing? We’re present emotionally. We’re in the room. We’re present vocally because we’re present emotionally. We’re present with ourselves first. And then, we’re present with the material second.

So first, we’re present with ourselves. And second, we’re able to be present with the material.

Just by being present with ourselves, we’ll be able to be present with the material. But if we attempt to be present with the material before we’re able to present with ourselves and where we are, that’s going to be a little bit of a challenge.

So when we’re present with ourselves, we then will find ourselves in the flow, in the zone, and operating at more of—if you want to call it—at peak performance.

We’ve all had the experiences that we could then translate into, “Wow! I was operating in flow. I was in the zone. I was in peak performance there.”

Why is that for you? What was going on when you experienced that? How did it feel? When are you operating at your peak? When are you in the zone? Whe are you in the flow as a singer?

After many, many years of teaching, I’ll have people come in to their lesson and they’ll say, “Oh, we’re so much better in the car” or “I was singing this this morning while I was doing the dishes” or “walking around my house” or whatever, “I was just doing it basically while I wasn’t thinking about it. And it came out great!”

“It felt so great, and now I can’t do it. I’m so disappointed. I really wanted to show you.”

Well, what’s going on?

Well, obviously, when they were home, in the car or wherever, they were in a state of presence. They were really present with the song. They weren’t thinking about how it sounded. They weren’t thinking about anything. Maybe they’re thinking about the lyric. Maybe they were just enjoying the feeling of the music. Maybe they’re just enjoying the feeling of the voice coming out.

Maybe they were just in a great mood, and that’s how that great mood was expressing as a song. So they were in this great mood and that great mood expressed as them singing a song and it went amazingly. They thought, “Wow! It’s like I had a crystal ball experience of singing what my voice is. I can’t wait to get to my lesson and show my teacher!”

Boom! They get to their lesson, now they’re on their head, they’re trying to duplicate what they did by being present without being present because they’re mistaking what actually was, let’s say, the cause, let’s say they’re mistaking what brough that experience into being.

And what brought it to being was not focusing on singing great. It wasn’t even focusing on probably what the song meant. It was probably much more of what I said, the latter. They were feeling good and they allowed that to express as the song, as they’re singing. And it’s like, “Whoa! I never sounded like that. That was awesome. Now, I’m going to go into my head and see if I can duplicate this and show my teacher because nobody’s ever heard me sing like this.”

Believe me, I have done the same thing. I still say to my wife—to this say, I said, “Nobody has ever heard me sing the way I can really sing.”

If you want to know the truth—and I’ve done a lot of shows and I’ve taught for years and years and years and I’ve had a lot of singing experience—if you really want to know the truth, I think that’s the truth.

I really still believe even though I’m teaching about all these and I manage to achieve certain levels of presence when I’m performing or experience. I really don’t think that I have ever sung as well as I can really sing in front of an audience—with the exception of maybe when I was doing Che in Evita and George in Sunday in the Park with George, some experiences of that.

But with my newfound voice, the things that I love—I love Andrea Bocelli. I love a lot of those Christmas songs he does where he goes up to the high notes. Now, I don’t sound anything like Bocelli, don’t get me wrong. But I can do a lot of those things. I’ve never done them in front of anybody. So I have not gotten to the point where I can be yet that present with myself with something that I have kind of years and years of conditioning believing how hard it is.

I’ve had years of conditioning believing how hard those songs are. And I had years of not being able to do them. So, years of believing that they’re difficult and years of not being able to do them when I’m with myself—even when I’m with myself once in a while as I’m coming to the high notes, I still cannot feel like I need to go into my head. But the times that I don’t are so much fun.

And so what I’m playing with is being able to remain that present with myself in public. And to me, that would be peak performance just because it would be so much fun—so to be able to be that present with myself when thes takes seem a little higher.

So, I’m singing at a Christmas party or singing with friends or singing somewhere, the stakes really aren’t that high. But still, if I’m singing that material, or if I was going to sing that material, the stakes are immediately higher even though the audience isn’t, even though I wouldn’t consider, “Well, this is a stakes high audience. I’m at the Hollywood Ball… I’m onstage… a big audition,” or something. No, no. None of that is going on at all. It’s just that I’m in front of normal people that I could sing a normal song for and not even think about it, but now I’m singing this thing, and I have a lot of baggage that I’m carrying around with this thing even though I know I can do it. So all of a sudden, I’m in my head instead of being present.

So, for me—I may be going off on a little tangent here—for me, the best way to practice that is to up the stakes slowly. Maybe have a song that is really, really easy. You can really be present with yourself during this song. But maybe it has one or two notes that demand a little bit more focus or concentration or demand or require you—not even say “require you,” but where you are tempted then to go into your head.

Now, I’m not talking about like the podcast that I did last time where I said, “Yeah, it’s okay to think about your voice,” which it totally is. But I’m talking about now weaning off thinking about your voice in such a way that it brings you out of the present moment.

So, let me repeat that, “weaning yourself off having to think about your voice in such a way that it takes you out of the present moment” versus like the example I gave when Franco Corelli is walking in Central Park and he’s coming to some stairs, and a tiny bit of his attention goes to the fact that he’s walking downstairs now, which, all of a sudden, you’re singing this, and you have a great high note and a little bit of your attention goes to the high note.

It doesn’t mean you leave the present moment, go into your head and you go, “Oh, my gosh! What am I going to do? I better not miss this high note.” That takes the fun out of it.

But to up the stakes a little slowly, you start raising the bar just like adding weight at the gym. You don’t go to the gym your first day, you’re lifting 100 lbs. and then you decide, “You know what? Okay, I’m going to go in here and really impress these folks. I’m going to toss on another hundred pounds and lift it.” Again, we’re operating at ludicrous speed there. That’s ridiculous. Nobody would do that.

And yet, oftentimes when we’re singing, we do that. We’ve got something that we sing really easily, “Ah, this is stupid. This is really easy. I might as well be singing Happy Birthday. I want to sing this.” Boom!

So, it’s not really necessary to do that. What we want to do is up the bar slowly and slowly and slowly until all of a sudden, “Wow! Now, we’re at 200 lbs.” We’re singing that big song that used to intimidate us and make us go into your head, and now we’re totally at peace with it, we’re totally present with it because we’ve gone up slowly.

So, let me go back to this question. When you are operating at what you would call “your flow,” when you’re “in the zone,” how does it feel, and what are you doing?

What you want to do is feel that, memorize that. Feel that feeling. Get into that feeling. Allow yourself to be in that feeling as much as possible and sing and repeat whatever the process is that helps you do that.

If you’re washing dishes when singing, if you’re just in a really great mood and you’re singing, whatever it is, take a song that’s fun, that’s easy where you can really be present.

And then, remember that operating at peak performance is only being present with yourself while you’re singing. That’s all it is!

All Michael Jordan is—yeah, sure, he’s technically proficient. And we all obviously want to get technically proficient and we keep growing in that area; of course we do.

But all Michael Jordan is is present when he’s playing the game. All Roger Federer is is present with each moment. When he makes a mistake, he lets it go immediately—immediately.

I talk to him after the game, he knows everything that needs to be worked on. He knows everything that he might take away from that game and learn from and go work on as he’s in the rehearsal, as he’s playing on the court and practicing. But he’s so present in the moment that if a moment comes and he does less than his expected standard, it’s gone. He’s on to the next moment. He doesn’t hold on to it at all.

And so that’s what we as singers can aspire to, being in the present moment. The “present moment” means this moment, this moment, this moment, this moment. So, if in this moment I sing great, it’s now no longer that moment. Now it’s another moment. If this moment, I miss a note, it’s no longer this moment. Now it’s no longer that moment, now it’s this moment.

So, if we can continue to be present and live in the moment—moment to moment, moment to moment—and be present with ourselves in a state of love, acceptance, compassion and fun and joy, then we’re going to find ourselves singing much more in the flow and operating at what people call “peak performance.”

And you can call it that if you want. I just have my own thing I like to talk about, experience and being present with the experience. Peak performance for me, as I’ve said, it comes along with a lot of conditions. So I’ll operate at a wonderful experience by being present.

So, I hope this served you. I hope you have a great week. And I will talk to you next week. Any comments are always really appreciated. And if you want to go over to iTunes and rate it, I would love that as well. It helps more people hear it.

We’re being heard in 65 countries now. That’s really exciting to me. I love that.

Okay, have a great week. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye bye.

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