Coaches always say, “You have to get in the zone before every game.” What does that really mean? Learn how to be in the zone with high-performance trainer, Bob Palmer. Bob is the CEO of SportExcel Inc. He has trained business leaders, sports leaders, and even Olympic medalists. John Solleder gets Bob on the show to talk about high performance. Get in the zone with Bob and learn all about leadership, taking feedback, having goals, and much more. Be a high performer today!
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In the Zone With Bob Palmer
It’s going to be an exciting day. I’m interviewing a guy who’s become a good friend of mine, a mentor in some of my non-network marketing activities, as well as my network marketing activities. That’s my good friend who’s now living in beautiful Nova Scotia. How are you, Bob?
I’m good. Thanks.
Bob, SportExcel is your company. You’re working with a tremendous amount of world-class performers, a lot of which happened to be athletes, Olympic athletes, high-level athletes, but also CEOs. I know you’ve done some work with me, my team and my particular business. Let’s start there. What makes you uniquely qualified to discuss high performance?
It’s been a long journey that I’ve been on starting out as a high-performance athlete myself playing hockey in Canada, but it was a journey that was fraught with frustration because I knew how good I was but could I produce that on-demand? No. As much as I would try, I floundered and got frustrated. Even one time, I went on caffeine pills, try to manipulate my performance with those, and nothing worked except I’d have these fabulous moments of brilliance that stuck with me, I could do no wrong, but they came willy-nilly. When I got into the martial arts in my adult years, I had a university degree behind me that taught me a systems approach to looking at things. I put it all together and that enabled me in martial arts to build a high-performance mode. I’d call it getting into the zone. People call it flow but it’s usually seen as hit and miss. I was able to get that on-demand and that set me off. I thought, “It’s a great idea for a business.” The rest is history.
What types of things have you done that have helped you to become an expert in this field of performance?
I’ve set up a system. I call it to myself anyways. It’s hard to guarantee anything but I call it a no-fail system. I can walk any athlete, team or business for that matter, through my system and the results come very quickly because I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m taking guys like you and what you’ve got and helping you to accentuate that or to take it to the next level. It’s not about your sales skills but it’s about your high-performance sales skills. Running with that high performance does amazing things to people around you.It's not about your sales skills. It's about your high-performance sales skills. Click To Tweet
Can you give me some of the circumstances in your work where you’ve had to work with individuals? Some of the individuals that you worked with were pretty high caliber people. Share some of those stories if you will.
I have a client with the US Army, which I’m happy working with because they’re a high-performance team. They have an Army Marksmanship Unit. These guys are as good as any National League baseball team. They don’t get paid as much but they get compensated quite nicely for what they do in terms of their high performance. When you’re working with high performers, they split hair. It’s remarkable the way they look at the world differently than somebody else. As I like to say, a high performer like that is never satisfied. It’s one of my things that all athletes have to be a perfectionist. They’re not satisfied when they win and lose because they’re always trying to change something and get better at their game. The rest of the world goes, “That team did well,” and like certain teams we know of, they’re still celebrating 50 years on and nothing has happened in between. Whereas the players, the next day they’ve got to get up and figure out what they’re going to do next season. They are always changing things up and trying to figure out how to get to that perfection. That is what makes a great person in any discipline.
What technique is it that you use specifically with both your business clients and your athletic clients? I know the answer to this because I’ve been one of your students but for our readers, give them an idea, the key way to think that you use with all audiences that have made you so successful in what you do.
I flipped things upside down compared to other disciplines that work with high-performance athletes. Most people have this expectation that we have to do a myriad of things to get that zoned or high-performance result. I discovered when I was in martial arts that it doesn’t happen that way. Somehow, you’ve got to find that high-performance result and everything else happens. I call that high-performance result the zone. It is a whole different physiology that doesn’t necessarily have to be attached to skill because if you get into that zone, you start learning skills that are exceptionally fast-paced. Let’s say in the sales world as we’re in now, you attract both like-minded people and people who like that zone and are interested because you’re walking around different than most people.
It’s not about hit or miss. It’s something I do on the very first session. I have people think of their fabulous moments of brilliance and everybody has them. They might be anywhere for two seconds to a whole game or a whole business day. As soon as you tap into that and they understand how to tap into that, then the whole equation changes. In that process, they light up the room and it’s a much more fun experience. They start to understand how you use that in leadership, sales, standing back and looking at marketing, and understanding what your clients are thinking about you by stepping in their shoes. There’s a whole different ball game for most people.
We could probably talk about the zone for the whole interview, but I know in my own case that one of the things that you helped me to do was to get myself back in the zone after being in a particular business with a company for many years where I needed to do business. The old business was fine and treats me very well financially but I got a little bored with it, to be honest with you. You hit me up with, “John, you’ve got to get yourself back in that zone that built that business in the first place.” We did that for months working together. I can tell you, to my network marketing friend, this stuff works, bottom line.
Maybe it works a little better if you had been an elite athlete before because you understand not only the zone but momentum and the things that lead up to it. I can’t say enough about the zone that you helped me to get in and some of our distributors to get in. Frankly, it’s working and is producing results for them. Most importantly, they’re getting people in the zone that don’t even know necessarily that they’re getting into the zone. They thought that they’re following somebody who’s in the zone.
One of the key things I believe I helped you with is the whole idea of why you’re doing it. What is your outcome here? Is it to make you happy, make people happy or help people? Once you understand what that is and you apply some strategies that make it your driving force, then all of a sudden, it rekindles that joy and excitement because you’re moving mountains sometimes with people. We had one gentleman on the seminar who went into a meeting with no expectations to get his contract signed because he was asking for so much, but he was so in the zone that the owner of the team said yes. It was remarkable. He knew his outcome. He had the joy. He knew what he could deliver to the team and it made it very difficult for someone to say no.
What’s a crazy but true fact about you?
In my career, I’ve run into a lot of different situations where there was a limited expectation of me. One of them was getting my black belt. I failed playing hockey. I could never find the zone in hockey and finally, I joined this karate club that had an impeccable lineup of people that were national champions. I wasn’t going to be sitting around not taking them on and learning their stuff. They were great mentors and teachers. I started putting all this together. I went to my first black belt tournament and it all nicely had come together.
By that point, I had used my body as a laboratory, so to speak. I won both divisions. I won the Kata forms, the dance-like routines. I won the freestyle competition. I was riding this wave and my own karate instructor came over to me and said, “Bob, if my son hadn’t been disqualified, you wouldn’t have won.” The biggest kick was taking those trophies home and walking in the house, and my two-year-old daughter met me at the door. I get well up with emotion when I think about it. I handed her one, she ran out and gave it to mommy. She came back, I gave her another one, she ran off and gave it to mommy. She lit up as well. It’s a neat experience. That’s what set me off on this journey.
How many years did you get your black belt?
It was the second time I got to blue belt initially. My second time was getting back on the black. It took me four years.
A lot of commitment, needless to say, to get a black belt. Any martial art is a lot of hard work.
A lot of time spent in the basement doing basic techniques and learning to make everything fluid.
A lot of blood, sweat and tears. One of the guys who I admire so much, Dan Gable said, “Olympic gold medal is a culmination of a lot of blood, sweat, tears, yours and other people’s.” It’s true, I would summarize getting a black belt in any martial art along those lines.High performers are never satisfied because they're always trying to improve their game. Click To Tweet
One of my top performers in order to get himself psyched up for a competition, he says to himself that he’s going to go hurt some feelings.
You certainly have to in martial arts, no doubt about that. Sometimes, in business, you have to do it. Why is success, winning, performing and competing at a high-level, be it in sales or sports, important to you?
I like challenges. All my life has been about finding those challenges, accepting and tackling them. I was reading something. It was about helping people to leave their comfort zone, get into some discomfort, and take on new challenges. I thought, “That’s the wrong metaphor,” because individuals like yourself, myself, and we take on sporting challenges or business challenges is not uncomfortable. It’s exciting. It gets the juices going and you’re going into areas that maybe you’re a little incompetent. There’s the Peter Principle, you rise to the level of your competence but when you get there you go, “A-ha, I’m frustrated but I’m going to breakthrough.” I have a little Bob saying, “Frustration is your friend. It’s going to give you good feedback and tell you where you’re blocked. If you’ve got the toolkit, be my guest, breakthrough and have some fun breaking through.”
The majority of the people are in network marketing. They’re self-employed, some of them are part-time, full-time, old dogs like yours truly, people who are new to the industry just getting up. Coming out of this pandemic situation, a lot of people are getting involved in network marketing for the first time that wouldn’t have previously. They may not have even considered it but all of a sudden it’s like, “I better do something as plan B.” What advice can you give those people?
First, I would say dream big. Maybe you’re not used to dreaming big, maybe you’re used to trying to be realistic. I’m always encouraging my athletes to go beyond what they perceive as real because they’re way better than that. That would be the first thing. The second is you’re going to run into some pretty big challenges as you go through. You’re going to get frustrated, angry and ready to quit. We’ve all been there. We’ve been in any sport of business. It’s got to be about taking what happens as simply feedback, areas that you can conquer challenges, and work them back into what you’re doing. If you have a lousy meeting, for example, you leave it and you’re trying to park it as some people tell you to do, it’s not going to work. It’s going to come back and bite you in the next meeting. I’d say analyze it to death. Learn strategies that allow you to step back, see those situations, apply the zone to them, apply perspective to them, go dive back in, and put yourself in those situations where you challenge yourself again.
That’s great advice. You and I are a couple of years difference in age but not much. We both know guys who retired early and they are bored to death. You talk to them, and there’s only so much golf they can play or watch, fish you can catch, grandkids you can watch or whatever it is. To that point, what keeps people alive is that next thing, whatever happen. Talk about that a little bit. What’s that next thing for you? You moved to a new area of Canada. I know you’ve got some new goals for your business and some other things that you’re up to. What’s keeping you up at night that you say, “I’ve got to get that done the next day?”
I’m working on my business book. COVID pushed me a little bit more than I was prepared to go but pushed me more into business and I love it. I’m working with CEOs and staff. It’s exciting. I don’t think it’s surprising to anyone that knows the zone and the impact on staff and customers. Profitability comes quickly when you apply that change to the culture of an organization. I’m working with some CEOs and what I’ll say to them is, “I’m going to give you six months but then I’m going to have you send me some photos of your staff or sometimes your athletes.” I’ll be able to tell by then the impact you’ve had on your organization.
If you look at most pro teams, they’re always trying to change up the players, coach or general manager, but they don’t look at the leadership as something that can influence the whole team. That’s where my book is going with that. It’s now on the first major edit all the way through. It’s not yet compiled. From what I’ve read in leadership books, I believe it’s going to be the first book that’s going to give nuts and bolts on how to specifically take your organization to a culture where everybody wants to be there than looking for jobs elsewhere. They may not be paid as much as elsewhere but they like the culture, then their productivity is higher. A whole bunch of things starts to happen when you apply the zone to your organization.
It is interesting that you say that because whether it’s sports or business, there are teams and businesses that are analogous with winning, and there are other ones where they’re okay. You don’t say anything bad about them. My business is that way. In the Fortune 500 world, there are businesses that are super successful that we feel good about, and then there are other companies where you go, “Those guys are still in business?” To that point, Dr. Jim Collins, who I’m a big fan of who wrote, Built to Last and Good to Great along those lines doing a comparison towards the number 1 and 2 companies for the most part in particular sectors. If you’re number 2 out of 200, you’re doing pretty good, but if you’re number 2 out of 2, you’re in the last place. It’s how you think and view the organization. What is your response to that?
A good example of that is the NHL playing out where they have the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I know some people are in other sports, so forgive me for bringing this example to the table. Las Vegas is a brand-new team a couple of years ago. Every other team or GM has this idea that takes five years to rebuild a team. We’re in the finals in one year. It was funny to go online and look what the reporters were saying about it. One guy threw up his hands and said, “I don’t have a freaking clue. I have no idea what all these guys did.” It’s pure speculation. I know what they did. I can see it in the leadership and every member of their organization. When you have that leadership, it makes it easy for good professionals to do their job, whatever the business is.
Here’s another perfect example. There was a quarterback that moved from New England down to Tampa in 2020. It took him a little bit to get his footing and his bearings but once he did, they want another Super Bowl, which nobody saw it coming especially that team that had been mediocre for many years, me included. I was like, “How’s that going to turn out?” I get that he’s moving to Florida and he’s going to save some tax dollars but what is he thinking? I’d love your response on this because culture builds people who want to work within that good culture versus other cultures that aren’t so good because slowly but surely, so many other top performers said, “I’m a free agent. I’m on the depth,” including one of his former teammates. I’d love your thoughts on that.
There’s one coach who said, “My guys weren’t good enough to win a National Championship. They just didn’t know it.” You let them know. What he was doing is pulling the strings and built them up. I was reading an article about Brady. It’s early in the season, he had a lousy game, the coach reamed him out, and Brady kept quiet. I’m sure behind the scenes, he went and had a little discussion with the coach and said, “Coach, you don’t need to do that because we’re going to have a winning team here. This is what I’m going to do. All I want is your support.” It’s going to take more than 1 or 2 games to do that, but I’m sure he has that presence, ability and sales. That was the end result. It was very amazing.
In late July, early August 2021, we’ll be right in the midst of the Tokyo Olympics. Hopefully, they’re going to happen. I know you have some athletes that you’ve been working with. I don’t know if you’re at liberty to say names or sports. I know sports you can say but names, I can understand that. I know you’ve got contracts with some of these folks. How many are you working with that are going to be competing in Tokyo?
I believe four are going to be there from three different countries, US, India, and Egypt may be represented as well as one of my athletes. In the shooting sports, I’m not a clay target shooter. It’s an Olympic sport. I go out with buddies every once in a while. I like the sport but I’m more of a golfer. They’ll take part in that sport but it’s very exciting now with a new format they have. They have a match final that other people can be not a spectator of sport, if you know what I mean, but they’ve started putting some different strategies in place to make it a little more interesting towards the end. These guys, especially the ones that trained and women as well, they’re in that zone. They’ve got to be. One miss and they can be sent home. I take a little bit of pride in this. You could get off with 4 or 5 misses in a whole competition, and now 1 or 2 is moved to a whole different level of perfection.
I know you’re going to be a proud surrogate parent to some of those athletes when the games take place. Good luck. Keep me posted on that. I’d love to know the results.
I don’t know if this will happen. They’re set to go. I haven’t had a lot of contact with them lately but it can even be fun. I’m on the scene by Skype, Zoom, phone or whatever, and they’re able to get athletes prime for that next day’s success, which is even more hands-on. With time zones and everything, one year for the associate, I was up at 3:00 in the morning and getting into my zone so I could be in the zone to talk with my athlete at that point. It’s exciting. It’s like having your kid in there.
Before we wrap up, a couple of quick questions. Your book, title, and where can people get it?
A Mind to Win is on Amazon. It’s an eBook format and paperback. If you happen to be in the shooting sports, that’s the original book, Mind vs Target. There may be a few people out there that are in the shooting sports. It’s a great book. It’s a workshop in a book. It just doesn’t give you wonderful metaphors, stories, and talk about great athletes. It walks you step-by-step through the process of how you transform yourself, get yourself in the zone, and support that zone. I had one guy call me up and asked me where he can send me an email. He sent pictures. It was a cowboy shooting or something. They ride horses and shoot targets. This guy went from 150th place in a month up to around 100th or so. He said he’s using my book and he thanked me profusely.
The new book will be out when?Leave your comfort. Get into some discomfort to take on new challenges. Click To Tweet
I’d like to think it would be around Christmas 2021, but I’m working my tail off to get that happen. I still got to go to some of my editors. My partner, my wife, is going to be doing a lot of presenting it in different formats. It’s going to be two books. It’s part 1 and part 2 because it’s a chockful of strategies for high-performance leaders.
Do you have a title yet?
Yes. The first one will be for the shooting sports. It’s about leadership role coaching. It’s going to be Mind vs Target, The Last Stand. I haven’t got the title yet for the non-shooting one, but they’ll come out pretty close together.
Good luck with it. Keep us posted. I love to have you back on when it comes out. I’m doing that with several other authors too. When the book is coming out, they come back, and share when it comes out. You make a great point about the zone, and I think about that a lot. When we look at guys who started their lives or adult lives as big-name athletes that have morphed so successfully in business, I’ll throw out a couple of them and we’ll wrap up here. You and I can go on forever once we go down this road. I think of Magic Johnson. He’s a billionaire and has multiple businesses. Some deal with sports, some not. Michael Jordan, the same, multiple businesses.
Emmitt Smith right here in Dallas, a very successful guy. Going back in time, the name from our past that some of our younger readers would know, Roger Staubach, who was more successful in commercial real estate, believe it or not, than he ever was in football. He was pretty successful in football too, needless to say. We can go on and on. There are so many. Your thought process on how those guys develop that zone early on and continue when they go, “I can’t play the sport anymore. That ship has sailed. Body shot. I’m old.” Probably Shaquille O’Neal is in this category now too. He’s hitting a lot of home runs and also Peyton Manning. There are a lot more obviously but those are all very big-name guys. To that point, how they think is different than how the average guy that also played the same sport and had reasonable success but doesn’t carry over to the next facet of their career. What’s the key there?
It comes down to leadership. They’ve never been afraid to do what other people are looking for someone else to do. They’re always the earliest to practice and the last one to practice. Do they interview parents about them? “I never had to get Johnny up to go to practice. He got me up.” All those things come into play. They were perhaps a little bigger and more athletic. Their birthdays were perhaps earlier in the year. A whole bunch of things transpired. By and large, the parents shut up and they allowed their kids to take the lead because it wouldn’t be long before the athlete would know more than the parents in terms of what they’re doing. It’s a whole bunch of things that come together including coaching. You’re a coach, so you understand the importance of coaching and facilities. Money doesn’t hurt to have some financial means backing you. I would say the primary one is that leadership piece. They’re not afraid to be a loner. I have an expression that I’m using in the book. It’s called Lonership to Leadership.
That reminds me of Troy Aikman when he was the Cowboys quarterback. When I first had moved to Dallas many years ago, he was not a guy who hung out. You would not hear that he was out with the other Cowboys here, there or wherever. He went to the office so to speak to practice his role, did his thing, meetings, got in the car, and went home. You never heard of him hanging out. I’m going to guess to some degree, Brady is probably the same way and some of the others, maybe Gretzky was and Jordan was. To your point, they’re leaders, they don’t want to get caught up in all the minutia and all the others of what’s going on. It’s business to them.
In any leadership, you get promoted to your level of ability to lead. What stops a lot of people is they don’t want to leave that level they’re at. If you’re a professional athlete, you’re used to going from level to level to the top, and that’s what makes them tick. They’re always going back to what I said earlier, they’re always looking for that little bit of difference that’s going to make the big difference.
Bob, this has been a privilege and a lot of fun as always. If people want to reach you for your services, maybe for sports, one of their kids or business, how do they get ahold of you?
BPalmer@SportExcel.ca and SportExcel.
Bob, thank you so much for participating. This is an interesting interview. A little different than normal, not so focused on network marketing folks. From time-to-time, I want to bring some different voices and different thought leaders to the table. What Bob does is unique. It’s genuine. It works. I’ve used it. My son to some degree has used it. We’ve had a lot of our distributors who used it. If you’re in our industry, you might want to contact Bob and say, “What can you do for my organization?” Anyway, I leave that all up to you.
A lot of these conversations are based on a book that I wrote called Leave Nothing to Chance, which you can get on Amazon, as well you can get a digital. You can get it in Spanish, etc. and a prior book called Moving Up: 2020 that I wrote several years ago when some of the techniques that I’ve used to reach the top of five network marketing companies in a now 39-year career. Those are the things you can get as well as some tools. Bob, once again, thank you. It’s good to talk to you as always.
Thank you. Bye for now.
- Built to Last
- Good to Great
- A Mind to Win
- Mind vs Target
- Leave Nothing to Chance
- Moving Up: 2020
About Bob Palmer
Celebrating 25 years of innovation by turning high-performance on its head.
In developing the SportExcel formula, I created an innovation that enables athletes and teams to play at extreme levels of adrenaline while cruising skillfully in the Zone. Athletes create near-perfect consistency, from the start of any competition, right through to the end. And with powerful tools in the program, they ensure their skillfulness, creativity and consistency, throughout all manner of challenging game situations.
When I was first starting out with my formula, I asked the players of a semi-pro baseball team how much of the time they figured they were in the Zone. I was expecting an answer of around 50%. The answer: 15! Fifteen? I smiled, knowing my expectation of a 100% Zone would be a more than a 700% improvement. It probably comes as no surprise that they won their first title that season.
A lot has changed since then, and as one might expect my formula for creating consistency is now in use on six continents and in over 40 different sports at all levels of performance. Almost every day I get emails or calls from my athletes, coaches and CEOs, letting me know how the SportExcel formula has changed their game and their life.
From World Cups (50 and counting) to Olympics (four medals), Pan Am, Commonwealth and X-Games (eight wins), Ironman (three wins) to national championships, state and provincial titles, recreational championships, educational endeavors and business leadership successes (too many to count).
Our athletes and teams become leaders and winners in their discipline. And it’s why we do what we do.
Test-drive my SportExcel formula for your consistent Zone:
1. No-fail personal mentorship training option with me: 1-on-1, eight-week Skype program with personal delivery of the formula by me. I even let you test-drive the first session with no-obligation before any billing is ever done.
2. Economical high-performance training option: ZoneQuest Online Video Series – dynamic video training version of my training formula; with 62 videos in ten modules https://www.sportexcel.ca/zonequest-online.
3. Starter option with my books: A Mind to Win (all sports); Mind vs Target (clay and other target sports); or Mente vs Plato (Spanish version for clay target sports) – available in paperback, eBook, MP3 download and audio CD on Amazon and from other online retailers.
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