Paddy Upton

The story of an A-Game

You got this

It was almost exactly a year ago that I was struck with one of those aha-moments in life! It happened at the beginning of lockdown and during a mental coaching conversation with the captain of a national sports team. For the umpteenth time in my life, I found myself discussing the concept of our ‘A-game’. This time was about how lockdown was forcing this athlete to bring that A-game to all of his life, not just to an important sports event.

I asked him to describe what he meant by this, specifically what boxes did he need to tick in order to know he had covered all the bases of his so-called A-game?

Long story short, he could not come up with a satisfactory answer. Neither could 14 other international athletes and coaches from five different sports to whom I posed the same question. Even Google did not have an answer to what the key components of an athletes A-game actually are!

My aha moment was when I realised that neither myself nor all the athletes and commentators who use the term ‘A-game’ really know what we are talking about! It’s one of those ‘suitcase’ words, which means nothing by itself, but holds a bunch of things inside that require unpacking.

And so my quest began;

‘Is it possible to design a generic framework or map that could guide people to unlock their unique A-game?’  

The answer is turning out to be a game-changer.

It took two months of intense interrogation, frustration and creativity to unpack that A-game suitcase, to build, tear-apart and rebuild a framework that could guide people to unlock their unique A-game. I eventually arrived at a surprisingly simple, practical, common-sense six-part framework that seemed relevant for all of work and life. It was still only a  theory though, and a theory is not much good until tested.

After two months of that A-game interrogation, I took the leap of faith, packaged it into a 5-8 hour live and online workshop series for business and sports teams, and put it out there.

It was now up to the audiences to decide.

Nearly one year later, over 3200 people from just over 300 different organisations have gone through the ‘Unlock your A-game’ online programme.

The tribe has spoken – the six-part framework is proving rock solid. And a game-changer.

Alongside the A-game conversation with that athlete, another relevant thing happened around that same early lockdown period. Some of my respected peers and friends were urging me to quickly get my public speaking and workshop content online, and to do so before others in my field did. It made perfect sense, but strangely, I was not moved to do so. I never quite knew why at the time, but I went with my gut.

It turned out to be a very smart move.

Here are five lessons that stand out from this process of redesigning my business focus.

  1. Listen to your gut, which is especially difficult when it flies in the face of what respected others think
  2. There are plenty of opportunities out there, and there are clues  everywhere, we just need to pay close attention. The opportunity and need to solve the A-game mystery was always there.
  3. To be at the front of the performance curve in your industry, say amongst the top 10% of performers, you need to be smarterthan the other 90%
  4. Nurture and support others, by nurturing and supporting yourself first.
  5. Three common mental states to be aware of and then manage are
  6. i) distracted, ii) focussed and iii) flow.
  • Distractions: Constantly work to be better and better at managing those thoughts that distract you, like stress, anxiety, pressure, fear, doubt, negativity, lack of confidence, panic, etc.
  • Focussed: Know what the important things are in your life to focus on, and find ways to constantly sharpen the focus of your intentions, thoughts and actions towards those solutions
  • Flow: Once correctly focussed, adding acceptance, trust and unattachment to the outcome will give a damn good chance of finding flow– and this is a state where special shit happens.

In the next post, I will share the six key components of the A-game framework, and some of the standout lessons from A-game conversations with those over 3000 people.

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