Prison Thinking

I have a three-day seminar called “The Art of Coaching.” My overriding principle for coaching is focusing on the interplay between two things: the Goal and Assessment. Assessment is simple: are we getting closer to the goal.


That doesn’t fill up three days! I spend time asking about what you know, how you do things and savoir faire, the ability to change instantly if things go in a direction you don’t want to go. I spend a lot of time talking about repetitions, as I think:


“Repetition is the mother of implementation.”


The follow up question you may have is right: “What do we rep?” I have a simple method of discovering this key.


There is a question I ask every professional in every field that I encounter: what are the three keys to success in your field? It’s fun to hear the answers.


At a wedding, I talked with the only guy to ever fly the A-10 Warthog and F-18 Eagle in combat. He laughed, looked around and said with a nod, “Yeah, no question:

Speed kills

Hit and Run

Straight lines, short hooks.”


I talked to a General with lots of hours in the cockpit and more than a few adventures about survival, what to do if you end up on the ground in a bad place. “Yeah, no question:

Mental attitude

Self-care (don’t let shock set in)

Shelter, water, fire.”


Once, on a plane, I sat next to a very famous basketball coach and he summed up winning the game with: “Yeah, no question:

Offensive rebounds

Transition defense

Free throws when tired.”


So, how do you answer this? What are the three keys to success in any field? If you don’t know, I ask a follow up question: if, for whatever reason, you were forced into a situation where you could only pursue your goal for three 15-minute periods a week, what would you do?


Stretch? Jog? Foam roll?


I asked noted female fat loss specialist Josh Hillis this question. “Yeah, no question: food prep!”


Wow, I thought. Fat loss is made in the kitchen and Josh nailed it.


So, ask yourself the “Prisoner’s Dilemma, “ which is what I call this idea. What would you do if you found yourself in some odd kind of situation, prison, that you could only focus on your goal for three 15-minute sessions a week?


As a discus thrower, I would find a wall and do full turns into it and toss a powerball (a medicine ball with a handle). After a few, I would step over to my barbell and do Power Snatch and Overhead Squat. Then, more throws followed by some Kettlebell Swings and Goblet Squats.


In other words, if you come to my track practice, you should see my athletes doing lots of throws into walls and, in the weightroom, snatches, overhead squats, swings and Goblet Squats.


The beauty of the Prisoner’s Dilemma is it makes you say “this.” “This” as in “This is important. THIS is crucial. This is what we NEED to do!”


It will transform your coaching, teaching, parenting and life skills.


First, honestly ask yourself what you would do in those 45 minutes. Then, look at what you are doing. Is there a disconnect?


I base all my coaching on the Prisoner’s Dilemma. What is key, what is crucial, what is core? Then, go and do it!


Everything else you do is fluff. Everything else you do is glitter (and glitter has its place). But, if the bulk of what you do is fluff and glitter, reevaluate through the lens of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.


And, yes: coaching is that simple.

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