Choosing the Uncomfortable with Purpose with Pete Kadushin, Ph.D., CMPC, Mental Performance Coach, Chicago Blackhawks

Pete has worked with a wide range of high performers, including athletes, first responders, military units, and performing artists. Prior to his current role as the mental performance coach for the Chicago Blackhawks, he held academic positions at both Western Colorado University and Boston University. In line with his goal of being a lifelong learner, he started the Mental Training Lab podcast in order to have fun conversations with brilliant people in the field of performance psychology. At the core of it, Pete’s purpose on this planet is to help people learn the mindsets and mental skills that empower them to live a life of deep meaning, and to enable them to take good care of themselves and others along the way.

In this episode, Pete and Cindra discuss:

  • The importance of being uncomfortable on purpose
  • The purpose of suffering
  • How failure is the thing that activates growth
  • Ways to have grace under fire
  • How to start your own Suffer Club

“Growth happens at the edge of our comfort zone” @Mentally_Strong 
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“Failure is the thing that activates the growth” @Mentally_Strong
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“If you can’t be honest with yourself, nothing else really goes” @Mentally_Strong 
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Full Transcript:

Cindra Kamphoff: Pete I am so excited to be on the podcast with you Thank you so much for joining me on the high performance mindset today how are you.

Pete Kadushin: I’m really excited to be here I’ve been a big fan of your podcast for years now, and so the opportunity to sit down and talk shop with you is the highlight of my day.

Cindra Kamphoff: Thank you, I know, we’ve had this podcast which is pretty crazy sometimes when I speak, and I say hey if you’d like to listen to the episode it’s episode 420 and people’s mind kind of you know it’s blown.

Pete Kadushin: yeah it’s incredible.

Cindra Kamphoff: But Pete I’m excited to talk with you and I know our conversation is going to be incredible, so I think we should just dive in and to get us started tell us what you’re most passionate about.

Pete Kadushin: I mean, other than talking shop, with people like you it’s getting a chance to do the work, and for me performance psychology is really about. Empowering and enabling people to make meaning at the highest level possible and as consistently as possible and so it’s about helping people understand what that meaning is and so that could be sport and performance, it could be serving others for the tactical populations that I’ve worked with it could be helping people within the context of business. And, but it’s really about finding the system that you use to make meaning and then building the skills so that you can do that as often as possible and as well as you, you can with the genetic gifts that you were given and so. The opportunity to understand what’s going on in between somebody’s mind and then help them get closer to what they want to do that’s the magic.

Cindra Kamphoff: It is the magic and I it’s such an honor when people, let us into their own minds, and you know sort of privilege to work with people to really help them be the best them that they can be and follow what their goals are so it is a really cool job isn’t it.

Pete Kadushin: it’s the best.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah I wouldn’t be doing anything else and want to be doing anything else, this is, this is it. So tell us Pete, how you got to where you are right now, because I think your journeys been really fascinating and you’ve had a lot of different opportunities to work with different various populations so tell us a bit about that.

Pete Kadushin: I’ll go broad strokes and then, if there’s anything that we want to dive directly into be happy to loop back around. I got into sports psychology because I was a head cases wrestler wrestling was like my primary performance domain as a high schooler so I did what any good nerdy young man would do and I went to Barnes and noble and got a book on sports psych. I went to Penn state, and I did some psychology or majored in psychology minor in exercise science and then found my way to West Virginia University where I did a master’s in counseling and a PhD in sport and exercise psych and I had a bunch of really diverse experiences there, which I think set me up for the unusual and adventurous path that I’ve been on I came in wanting to like work with the highest level performers possible you know Olympics right that’s the rallying cry and then I finished my career at WVU working in a weight management program serving State employees who were overweight and obese with behavior change so physical activity and nutrition stress management and seeing sort of the exercise psychology side of it and the outside of sport context in which all of the skills and tools that we can teach how that could make an impact that was ended up being a really important developmental touchstone for me. After that I went and I taught for four and a half years at a tiny little university, Western Colorado University up in the mountains of Colorado. And I was teaching sports night classes motor development motor learning and every course, even when it was outside of my competency ended up coming back around to really be a meaningful piece of the puzzle, as I continue to grow as a practitioner, and as a as a performer myself. After that I went to Boston University and I taught in their counseling master’s program with a specialization in sports psych for a couple of years. And the opportunity to work with masters students who were doing the work and then being able to supervise and really kind of be in the trenches with them, but with some perspective that you don’t get when you’re doing the work yourself was really a cool opportunity and then to watch the light bulbs go on for the students as they were getting into the work was really magical. After that I left BU it coincided just about with the start of the pandemic, and so I spent the pandemic quarantine style trying to build a or excuse me not trying to I was building a business, which included you know zoom based performance coaching and then built a podcast to go with it because I love having conversations like this. And then about three and a half months ago I was hired as the mental performance coach for the Chicago Blackhawks and so I’ve kind of I wouldn’t say meandered I’ve taken a lot of different interesting paths and I think that when I zoom out it’s kind of like those mosaics where all the little tiny pictures when you pull out you see the grander picture they’ve all been purposeful and just sometimes I didn’t realize that.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah well thank you so much for sharing with us your journey I remember hearing about that waste weight loss program at WVU I think at our sports psychology conference and I thought it was really intriguing and I think sometimes when we’re working with sort of non-athletes really teaches us the importance of the skills for the everyday population, you know. And how they really do apply to all of us and really cool that you started your business during the pandemic that’s not something I you know knew and I thought wow your web website is awesome for just getting it started a year and a half ago, what was that, like working in starting a business during the pandemic when a lot of maybe things were shut down.

Pete Kadushin: It was the right challenge for the moment, I think that one of the things that was really beneficial is that zoom wasn’t part of our language at least the common culture, you know, three or four years ago. And now, if you ask somebody to hop on a zoom call or Microsoft teams, or whatever that’s just there’s really not a whole lot of barrier there. And so it opened up a world that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise in terms of being able to connect with people and do the work. I think there’s something that’s lost and something that’s gained it’s always about tradeoffs and so I love being in the presence of another, I think the body language and the energetics you get when you’re with someone and doing the work there’s not a substitute for that right, but the REACH and the ability to connect with people when they couldn’t have connected with me otherwise I think was really an exciting piece of the puzzle in terms of I think the other I guess the upside of doing this when everything was shut down was that there was a lot of space in my schedule that wouldn’t have otherwise been there. And so, essentially, going back to school, so I went through Seth Golden’s all MBA program at the beginning of this year I spent a lot of time reading and doing a lot of work around trying to figure out how to align marketing and business planning with my core values, so that it felt authentic when I was connecting with clients or potential clients and never really wanted to sell somebody on something I wanted it to be the right fit and when we found that right fit the work unfolding much more organically, and so. It was it was kind of like getting a crash course and business and website development and all of that, but one of my favorite things to do is learn, and so it was it was a great opportunity, although a challenge and opportunity.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah and now flash three and a half years have been with a black or months, really, it seems like years you’ve been with the Blackhawks tell us about that transition and a little bit more about that position, so people can kind of get a frame as we kind of dive into some of these performance psychology topics.

Pete Kadushin: yeah so the way that the positions been conceptualized was pretty exciting so I’m full time embedded with the Blackhawks themselves and so at practice. Our offices in the practice facility and so we’re really in terms of proximity integrated into the team in a meaningful way and then at games traveling with the team and so really getting an opportunity to see the demands up close and personal of not just playing a hockey game, but also really having the opportunity to understand what’s going on and all the demands in between and it’s something that I don’t think. At least, when I was watching sport, but not a pro sport, but not a part of you don’t really understand all of the extra demand that goes along with it. Especially within the context of I said it back in the pandemic but we’re still moving through pieces of that so you know the exciting thing for me is that when I was hired I was also hired with a another gentleman also another WVU alumni, alumnus there we go. AJ Sturgis and he’s responsible for the mental health for the organization and so they found it important enough to bring in two separate people one to do the focus of the office work and then one to focus on the Nice performance and I think that’s a for me a pretty important shift, whereas I know other places they try and do everything with one person in house, and I think there’s some drawbacks to that.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah yeah that’s wonderful and for organization a pro sport organization to see the value of two full time people and cool that you have very similar training. So I know that we’re going to dive into you know hockey but first I just was curious, what do you think the high performance mindset really is, and what does it mean to you let’s go there first.

Pete Kadushin: So a great question and I think the asterisk up front is that it looks a lot of different ways depending on the performer. And I think there are a lot of there’s some commonalities that we can point to when we look at people who are at the peak of their craft. And so I think that the first is that there’s a systems in place for consistent growth, and so, for me, it’s about you know when we think about systems there’s kind of a couple different components there’s Designing an environment that encourages it and then there’s the patterns of action and patterns of thought that support it right, so our habits around what it looks like to grow consistently every single day, I think that. The hallmark of a high performer is that they weren’t always a high performer but they’ve gotten a little bit better every single day at their chosen craft and I think cooked into that is ability to identify sort of the next. Like little tiny horizon that you need to step towards right so really setting small process oriented goals but doing it relentlessly. And then feeding that into the next part of the system so that tomorrow, I take what I learned today, and I can step on that, as I continue to get a little bit closer to that goal once I hit that goal, have the opportunity to pick the next meaningful stuff. And so there’s that whole system that I think there’s a lot of different ways to do it, some people journal after every practice, some people are really good at setting goals before every practice or setting intentions. But having that in place and not leaving it up to chance, I think that’s what I’ve seen across all of the different high performers I’ve had the opportunity to cross paths with. Yeah and then I think the second piece, so if that’s like the one that sort of the practice growth side, then when it comes to performance it’s the ability to be deeply embodied in the present moment with a task focus.

Cindra Kamphoff: That is so powerful, but so difficult. I think it, especially in sport, where there’s a lot riding on the outcome and we’re in business when there’s a lot riding on the outcome if it’s a sale or you know, a close, whatever that might be. But I completely agree right that that deeply being focused in the in the present focused on the task, or the process is, is what I performance, is it really important KPI performance.

Pete Kadushin: I just want to hop in and say that I think the one of the challenges, because pressure is real. Right, there are stakes, and sometimes those stakes are imagined or we’ve invested more in them, then it’s not actually life or death it just feels life or death, but for some athletes and for certainly some performers right the tactical or for first responder populations, it could be life or death. And so I think acknowledging and this is a one of my fundamental beliefs, is that we need to start with what reality is and then move forward from there and being able to be really grounded in that reality and honest with what it is, and so you know if you’re getting ready to go play the super bowl I don’t think it’s particularly effective to go it’s just any other game. Like your body, mind that it’s the super bowl and when you go like, no big deal it’s no big deal – You go like, but it is a big deal and I care deeply about the outcome I’m attached to one of these outcomes and I’m very upset if the other one happens. And so, starting there and saying okay if that’s all true, and it is because it’s there, then, what do I do with it now, how can I work with the thoughts, the feelings, the sensations in my body in a meaningful way to still get to ready to still be able to hit the field when the that first kickoff is going to occur and know that my body and my mind are in a space where I can perform my best I think that’s the task and so it’s not denying reality and it’s not denying the stakes it’s using them in a meaningful way.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah makes me think of the summer I did some work with the United States track and field team when they were over in Tokyo and you can’t deny it’s the Olympics, you know I actually think you have to acknowledge that it’s the Olympic Games and there’s lots of different things because it’s the Olympics, and how are you going to manage that, but also be your best and. You know, to me that’s why you have these different mindset tools that you can use and utilize on those you know the times, where you want to really be your best so I’m curious Pete, when you think about hockey and I’ve done some work with hockey players and teams, but not at the pro level and not in embedded in a team, like you, are give us a sense of like what do you think is specific to hockey related to the mental game or mental skills.

Pete Kadushin: I think when I’m starting to really try and climb inside the demands of the sport, I really want to pay attention to just that what is an athlete being asked to do or respond to, or what demands do they need to meet. And then I think about it, within the context of rhythm and so what is the rhythm of those demands what’s the undulations of when I need to be locked in and focused and when can I sort of let that focus go a little bit recover within the context of a game, and I think what makes hockey unique is that there’s a very clear undulations to that on ice during your shift 30 to 35 seconds hit it and you’re going hard for all 30 or 35 seconds, and then on the bench – what do you, what do you do with that time when you’re not in the game to prepare yourself, for when you get back out there  which is a very different rhythm from somebody who’s distance running, which is a very different rhythm from somebody who’s playing a basketball game right and so understanding the rhythm of the demand for me is as one of the ways that I conceptualize a lot of us, and I think hockey is unique, because of that intensity it’s 100 miles an hour and then. Stop and then 100 miles an hour and then stop and being really purposeful with the gaps, the space between I think enables you then to go and get it for that 30 or 35 seconds at a high level and then be better prepared to do that, throughout the course of a three periods.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah that’s really fascinating to think about and I also think the emotional control piece is a piece of hockey that I think can really get the best of athletes. Because of the ways that you have to just be so all in in 30 seconds, so how could you give us a sense of like what are some of the things that you see you know top athletes do at the pro level let’s say when they’re on the bench in there, you know to be able to transition to really all out and then taking some time space back and just resting a little bit with their mind or focus.

Pete Kadushin: I actually I learned a really important lesson from a strange place, I was caddying when I was 14. And big tournament but you know club tournament and one of the guys his son was with us for the tournament and he was a cyclist. And he sat down on a TEE box and then like basically just lounge for two minutes while we had to wait for the people to clear the fairway. I looked at him and I had known him now for two days, and so I felt comfortable being like oh wow that’s hired and he said don’t run when you can walk don’t walk when you can sit and it’s something that stuck with me ever since because it was this idea that there was an opportunity to conserve energy and being able to do that was actually not going to take him further away from task completion being able to focus. Right, but instead was something that was actually going to give him the energy to then attack it a little bit harder. One of the fears of the athlete who’s close to elite but quite hasn’t quite broken through is that they have all these tools and they’ve started to think they’re working with a mental performance coach and they go okay well I got to find my sweet spot and I got to get my focus to the right spot, I have to get my activation in my physicality to that right spot. But then I get like worried that if I don’t keep it there right that is somehow going to lose it it’s kind of like worrying that you’re oh in my inflow now as soon as you start worrying about whether you’re in flow you’re out of flow.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah that’s true.

Pete Kadushin: And so I think that there’s a comfort and some of it just comes down to a competence right you’ve done it enough at the highest level that when you have the opportunity to hop onto the bench that you’re thinking about taking charge of your breathing right out of the gate so how fast when I’m in a full anaerobic mode where my heart rate is up at like 175 180 how fast, can I get my mouth closed how fast, can I bias, the exhale so that I’m really working on activating my parasympathetic nervous system. And then, what am I doing with my attention as manipulating my nervous system, because our eyes help drive that activation. And so, if I can actually let go a little bit with my eyes, if I can go a little bit unfocused or get really broad with my attention and not be on something specific I can actually facilitate that recovery and then knowing the rhythm of okay well it’s almost time for me to hit the ice again what am I doing then to tighten that backup how am I starting to ramp my nervous system up by maybe shifting to more powerful inhales and then how am I starting to pull that focus tight, so I might plug back into what’s happening on the ice and I think in general athletes hockey players are aware of what’s happening right but I’m really starting to pull into the details and really starting to get their eyes activated again in a way that’s going to allow them to track the play meaningfully when they hit the ice. But I think this generalized is to any performer it’s just what’s the rhythm of the demands and then where can I find those gaps, is it timeouts during basketball. Is it when I’m playing soccer is that when the balls, on the other side of the pitch and I don’t have to necessarily run quite as much, how can I limit how much I have to spend now so that I have more to spend later and then build the trust that I’m going to be able to get to ready, even if I’m willing to allow that to sort of open up and relax a little bit.

Cindra Kamphoff: It makes me think of your four core mental skills and like I just heard in your response, many of those, like the energy management mindfulness strategic evaluation and systematic discomfort. I thought those four together were really fascinating so I want to ask you about those specifically but give us a sense of why you chose those four as your core mental skills.

Pete Kadushin: I think I wanted to find a way to keep things simple and the challenges that you don’t want to oversimplify something, but I think that, coming from an academic background it’s really easy to make things more complicated just because it feels good right, the more boxes and arrows I can draw on the whiteboard the more I’m doing. As opposed to sometimes it’s sharing a cliche and then saying here’s what that looks like an action and that’s all the athlete needs rank cliches are cliches for a reason because they often work. And so, when I tried to distill down and I, you know part of the business development process was like really trying to clarify after a bunch of years in the field. What it is, I actually believed, how do I think the work works, how do athletes reach that level and then maintain that capacity to perform at that high level. And so I ended up with feeling pretty good if we couldn’t hit anything else and there’s certainly some supplemental skills that I think are really, really important right, but those were more tools, as opposed to foundational cornerstones of peak performance and so, for me, these four were the ones that everything was built on top of.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah, it is difficult, I think when you’ve spent so many years in the field to ask yourself like what do I believe. And it’s hard when you’re just starting cuz you know you’re maybe you’re questioning yourself but it’s like after you’ve read so much it’s like what is, you know at the core of this so that’s cool that you’ve recently gone through that process. So I heard like the mindfulness part, and the answer, and then the energy management piece, and the answer you know and between the kind of breaks in the hockey game. But I’m curious about the systematic discomfort and I know you said something before we hit record about kind of smiling through the discomfort tell us about your thoughts on that.

Pete Kadushin: I think that this is maybe I could have gone back and said what’s the difference between high performers and everybody else, and it could have just been this. Is that yeah high performers are willing to be uncomfortable for a purpose I don’t think suffering, we can go back to Victor Frank’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I don’t think suffering for no reason is a good thing. I think that suffering with a purpose if it’s getting you closer to something that’s meaningful and important to you is really the path forward and it’s not that everything has to be hard and arduous and you always have to be pushing a rock up the Hill, but the truth is, is that growth happens at the edge of our comfort zone there’s one of those cliches we could put that on.

Cindra Kamphoff: Like a piece of driftwood and then hanging on a wall, and it would look perfect.

Pete Kadushin: But it’s true right if we think about and I often come back to physical skills or strength building because athletes understand the mechanics of that they’ve been lifting for a long time, most of these athletes and so, when you say okay well in order to get stronger, you have to get to that edge of failure right, you have to put more weight on the bar than you did a week ago, because the weight that you used last week, your body is now comfortable as now yeah I get it. And the same thing is true with any skill for thinking about something you’ve perfected doing that 99 times out of 100 times correct, that’s not learning that’s just reinforcing a pattern that you already have a reactivating the pattern that you already have you’re not growing because failure is the thing that actually activates the growth. So thing that neuro chemically tells us hey this thing needs to change in our brain these new wires need to be solidified. And so I think the ability, if we’re looking at both practice and training. You can’t grow unless you’re uncomfortable and then the truth about peak performance is that at some point you’re going to run into pressure. And so, then the performance side of things. Right it’s maybe not preseason maybe not regular season, but certainly the hope is to get to the playoffs or it’s to get to the national championship or whatever your the pinnacle of your performance domain is. And then there’s going to be pressure and that’s going to be uncomfortable because we’re going to care deeply about an outcome and it’s going to be uncertain and uncertainty is really uncomfortable. And so, our ability to expose ourselves in training and then in other aspects of our life to discomfort. To develop the capacity to go, you know what this doesn’t feel very good, but I can smile, and I can actually continue to move forward, I can move through this think that becomes a universal skill that’s going to facilitate the growth and performance side of things really meaningfully.

Cindra Kamphoff: So suffering through our smiling through the suffering, I think, is what you originally said I think that’s so important. I love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, and she said something like if you do something every day that’s just a little bit scary that you, do what you’re intending to do in this world, and you live, your purpose, and I think it’s very similar you know I’m thinking about discomfort in training. As a marathoner it’s like oh man, I can think of all the 20 mile runs that I went on that were really hard. But also thinking about in business it’s like doing something uncomfortable every single day helps you make the impact it helps you reach more people it helps you get out there with your message right and it’s really easy just to sit and do nothing.

Pete Kadushin: yeah I think we live in a world now where it’s really easy to not be uncomfortable, in fact, a lot of things are designed for convenience and so we now have sort of the these two tides that clash together. Where if I want to grow and invest in my purpose if I want to do something meaningful ready to often almost always I’m going to go with 99.9% is going to require us to push the edge of tolerable discomfort and then continue to allow that that comfort zone to expand. But we’re also in a world now where we don’t really have to do that as often we don’t want to. And so high performers are exposing themselves to that on purpose, and I think one of the big challenges for people who aspire to be high performers masters of their craft is that they want it, but they’re not always honest with themselves about what they’re willing to do to get it. But the truth is, and we can point to a lot of experts in a lot of domains who sacrificed a lot of stuff relationships, a regular life, all these things, for the sake of their craft and I’m not putting a value judgment on it. Right it’s simply a choice, but a lot of us if you said, like do you want to have a happy healthy marriage and do you want to have kids that you’re raising and then do you also want to be the point 0000 1% near your field so yeah I want it all, and the truth is. I don’t think we can have it all right there’s only 24 hours in a day and so being willing to say I’m willing to push this boundary I’m willing to grow over here and invest my time and effort, knowing that I don’t have unlimited energy and I don’t have unlimited time. I think that’s something that we probably don’t do a great job of talking about within the context of sport, but certainly I think we should do a better job of it and the world of mental performance, because nothing in life is free and to become a master I think it costs something.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah well you whenever you say yes to something you’re really saying no to something else. You said something when we were talking about smelly through the discomfort that caught my attention and you said failure is the thing that activates the growth. What is your definition of failure?

Pete Kadushin: I think that failure, I like to define it pretty broadly because it takes a little bit of the sting out of it because we usually think of failure as the big stuff that we wanted and didn’t get. And for me it’s anytime I have a desired state right, I have a big goal or a little goal, and then it doesn’t turn out that way. So it could be something as mundane as like spilling the coffee in the morning and being like well I wanted a couple of coffee and I ended up with that one, yeah, but it also could be applying for a job, it could be going after a State title, it could be all of these things that are imbued with a lot more meaning than the cup of coffee that tipped over that you didn’t get or you didn’t manifest the exact vision of wanted.

Cindra Kamphoff: I think that’s a really awesome definition and it’s interesting how there’s such a wide responses to that question, you know I remember one person on the podcast several failures anytime just not being myself or failure is anytime I really didn’t go for it. And I like the idea of like intentionally defining failure on your terms and you know I don’t think we talked about that enough that we just kind of define it maybe the way society thinks we should, which is wanting time I set a goal and I didn’t make it reach it, or you know anytime I didn’t like make my own expectations or reach my own expectations so. Thank you Pete I also saw that you did some writing on grace under pressure and we’ve been talking a little bit about pressure today and how we can all experience pressure tell us what it means to have grace under pressure.

Pete Kadushin: I think grace under pressure is something that is not innate I don’t think we’re born with it, I think it’s something that’s trying. And there’s a lot of different ways to train that and some of what we talked about in terms of systematically exposing ourselves to discomfort so that we can get better at dealing with being outside of our comfort zone allows us to have grace under pressure. But pressure is kind of twofold and I like to ask performers, how they define pressure, how they feel it where they feel it. But I’ll go with my definition here, which is perceived stakes, whether they’re real or imagined and high level uncertainty about the outcome. So those are two of the components, but what that does to me, what pressure actually feels like is, is a dilation and a constriction of time, so time feels like it gets tighter and there’s suddenly becomes a sense of urgency, which means that my rhythm speeds up. Which means that there are physiological effects to what happens in my body and that then feeds into my mind, and we now have a feedback loop and so. When everything starts to speed up when my body gets tight when my heart rate goes up when all of a sudden, because my central nervous system is activated my amygdala is more likely to see things as threat and then have me respond in that fight or flight way grace under pressure as being able to let my shoulders drop just a might like a millimeter, it’s the ability to exhale just a little bit longer, and what that does is it opens up the capacity to engage in skillful action yeah so I’m no longer stuck in a reactive and I’m trying to think it was the conscious leadership group and Jim Dettmer that talk about above the line and below the line. So yeah proactive and reactive and so moving yourself under stress. Under pressure under that fight or flight experience from a reactive mode where I’m going to act out of survival and safety. Which is generally not my best self and move myself into a place where I can even if this is all happening in a split second access the skills that I’ve developed the patterns and habits that are actually going to allow me to stay task focused and really operated a high level. And so it’s all of those things, and it looks a lot different depending on the demand so grace under pressure for me when I’m walking my dog and she loses it when she sees a squirrel. Is way different than what it looks like for a navy seal to stay graceful under pressure when there’s bullets whizzing over their head.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah.

Pete Kadushin: But I think the broad strokes, end up being the same, which is the ability to really engage in skillful action when everything around us, the context is demanding that we fight for ourselves, and we engage in survival.

Cindra Kamphoff: I had an elite athlete tell me who was competing at the Olympic trials, the summer, said that at the trials she felt like her body her mind was really fast and her body was really slow and I thought isn’t that great awareness of like what pressure can feel like your mind is racing but your body, maybe is not quite you know it’s maybe even slower than typical.

Pete Kadushin: And I love the language that people put to as part of why I love, what I do is the understanding the language they put the things that aren’t really captured in language. And so what’s going on in your body and people like oh. I it’s kind of like it feels ish and so, for her to be able to use such pointed language is really a crystal clear window into what the experience was like.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah yeah incredible awareness, you said something that being like strategic with our discomfort helps us have grace under pressure or doing it in practice or in preparation. Can you give us some examples of what you mean?

Pete Kadushin: I’ll start with some silly stuff and then we’ll work our way up I once did a extra credit assignment called suffer club. I asked to do some mental training for peak performance class I asked them to pick one thing that was going to be tolerable that uncomfortable. And to do that for a week and to Journal on it, and then there was a reflection at the end where you had to summarize the experience and how you thought those skills would transfer over to what was really meaningful so some students gave up social media for a week and others didn’t hit snooze when their alarm went off and, as a former student that’s a it’s not easy.

Cindra Kamphoff: No it’s not it’s still not easy for me.

Pete Kadushin: cold water exposure So for me that was my choice I don’t like cold water it’s very unpleasant, and so I initially started with like I’ll do like 30 seconds, at the end of my shower and I had a student raise your hand and got us the whole shower and so for a week I went and again this is, I recognize the privilege and then inherent here like there are a lot of people who go without hot showers and that’s just the way of living. For me, though, this was an opportunity to practice systematic discomfort in a low stakes environment and what ends up happening, and I think this is part of the phenomenon around like the Wim hof cold exposure stuff that I spent as that.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah.

Pete Kadushin: You climb in and I don’t know a whole lot of people who go wow that was just so tasty and delicious. But I think what ends up happening is, if you can approach it with a particular mindset you climb into an ice bath you get a cold shower or whatever it is that’s really uncomfortable for you. And you go, you know what that wasn’t so bad and by the end of the week, I had a lot of students say you know I’d get really contracted I wanted to reach for my phone in the social media and I couldn’t do it, I got frustrated or I got hot or I got I felt something. And it came with a set of thoughts and thought patterns, because they were built into this habit. By the end there was a little bit more looseness and so I’m in the shower and I’m like tight and I can feel myself just relax just a little bit. Still unpleasant but I’m relaxing into that discomfort I’m smiling through that suffering, and I think this becomes a generalizable skill and So what does that look like, then, if we start to transport that into domain specific work. They think that conditioning is another really great place to do this right so for some athletes it’s going to be pushing harder than they thought it but for other athletes and I think this is true for most high performers the magic is in doing less it’s not doing more it’s about quality and intensity, not necessarily effort but intensity of presence intensity of really what you’re trying to accomplish and how deeply can you bring yourself to it. And then not adding because this can start to be really lazy I’m going to do 100 extra jump shots. Right, but if I’m doing 100 extra mediocre jump shots it looks like I’m doing the work and I’m pushing the comfort zone but I’m not really. And so, for some athletes about increasing the intensity whether that’s demanding that you’re a little bit higher quality of attention, or a little bit. More present sometimes it’s the discomfort of doing less and then just being like. You know what I guess it’s all right, and we see this a lot with athletes who are tapering after they’ve trained for a big race. Oh yeah like the energy is bouncing around in their bodies and they’re like I need to do something with it because I’m losing my fitness I’m losing my fitness. I know all of the science in the world of physiology points to the fact that tapering allows you to excel when it’s race time and a lot of runners are like no I know the science, but what I feel is. So it’s being able to sit with that discomfort and not let it run you. So for some folks it’s actually your meditation might be the discomfort it’s doing nothing other than being and then you’re like well yeah I can control my breath, while meditating wow could you just pay attention to your breathing instead of changing the way you breathe. Can you not play whack a mole with all your thoughts, but can you just like watch the thoughts as they come through and that becomes the really disconnected that are uncomfortable aspect, and so it becomes really, a one size fits one question when it comes down to it, but I find that most athletes and performers when they can get quiet and get honest. They know where that growth edges, they know what the rate limiter is that’s really holding them back, and I think that. Our ability to excel is directly connected to our willingness to look at the stuff that other people aren’t willing to look at and address the things that other people aren’t willing to address.

Cindra Kamphoff: awesome Pete really insightful I’m thinking about what should we do is this idea of this suffer club yeah, what do you think the real message for everyone listening is.

Pete Kadushin: I went and look to see if there was a hashtag Unfortunately there already is, and so I don’t want to hijack somebody you know hashtag and I think the message at the heart of it is one you, you have to start with reality and be honest and if you can’t be honest with yourself. Then I think nothing else really goes and I’m saying this out loud as a reminder to myself, just like I’m trying to remind others because suffering without purpose is just a recipe for more suffering, and so, once we’re clear and honest I think it’s choosing to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions with purpose and then, when we’re in those uncomfortable positions it’s just paying attention without judgment to what happens. And noticing what’s productive and what isn’t what is good or what is bad, but like what’s getting us closer to the thing we want and what’s moving us further away. Because getting really attached to good stuff that we can use the opposite right the hot shower if I spend 45 minutes we using up all the hot water feels good, but it might not actually be productive it’s not necessarily moving me closer to the things that I want to be doing or enabling me to then go operated the highest level and so it’s really about, am I getting closer to the person, I want to be, am I getting closer to the things I want to accomplish or am I getting further away. And so, if you can expand your zone of tolerable discomfort what you can tolerate while staying focused on the task at hand. I think that ends up being a skill that applies to like everything in life hard conversations with significant others getting feedback from your boss.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah.

Pete Kadushin: Being able to walk your dog, while there are squirrels and dogs everyone.

Cindra Kamphoff: applying for a job, like working with a Blackhawks right and the first time you stepped on the ice with a team, I think all of those things are uncomfortable you know when we’re put in new situations. So I love this idea and I was also thinking about the time that I was the most fit for a marathon was the time where my tapering started three weeks or so before the marathon and I almost changed the marathon I knew I was going to run because I didn’t want to stop training, I was so nervous about tapering and my mind was going crazy. Like I had to actually have to had to remember this one conversation I had with my friend, Jim who is my running partner at the time it’s just like you know he had a talk me down from felt like a wall and so interesting when you’re just so used to doing something every day, and then you try to do it a little bit differently definitely uncomfortable.

Pete Kadushin: When the not doing yeah right, because if I’m training, even if I’m overtraining, even if I know I’m overtraining at least I’m doing something. And so I’ve tried to reframe recovery as an active process you’re not laying on the couch you’re actively taking yourself down below baseline you’re getting your muscles softer and more relaxed you’re bringing your nervous system down you’re storing all that energy up and that way athletes don’t feel like they’re being lazy right there like and look. If you can recover like a professional and if you could be point 000 1% recover that’s then setting the bar for how hard and how fast and how intense, you can be when it’s time to turn it on. If you’re kind of stuck in that middle gear you can only swing it back the other direction, as far as you’re willing to swing it. One way, and so I think that trying to reframe it that way can get some of the competitive folks who are like oh I’m gonna out recover the crap out of you, then I got this. But it’s hard because it’s an action and inaction feels like letting go and letting go it’s very hard for us.

Cindra Kamphoff: It is very hard for us. One of the most difficult things, I think, is to let go, so one of the podcast episodes I saw that you did Pete that was super interesting to me was about three layers of mindset and you had action reaction on the top and they kind of in the middle, you had mental patterns and then the and perspectives and I think, maybe the bottom was lens I would love for you to kind of tell us a little bit about that concept before we close out today.

Pete Kadushin: I think one of the joys of the podcast was being able to push myself a little bit to break things like mindset down yeah and it’s my definition, and so I don’t want to suggest that anybody else’s definition is wrong, but for me when I think about what a mindset is we generally flatten it and go well it’s like attitude or it’s what you do most of the time, and I think the sure, starting with what’s unseen or most unseen and also, I think hardest to change is that lens or perspective it. You know, we can really think about it, like putting on different colored glasses and how that would change literally everything about what we perceive with our eyes and what’s interesting about the brain is that it gets really used to whatever circumstances you’re given, and so you can actually put glasses on that are totally filtering out a ton of what you can see, and then you just kind of get used to it, not realize that anything was weird. And our lens is a lot like that, when it comes to what goes on between our ears, and so we can think about optimism versus pessimism. What thoughts in my filtering in and starting to notice with my attention, or what is bubbling up from awareness and oftentimes we go like well Those are just the thoughts that showed up. And we don’t really recognize that we have some agency and how that filter works or how we can change that filter. If we don’t choose to affect that, though, what that does is it starts to facilitate patterns and we do patterns of mental activation whether it’s thoughts feelings responding to physical sensations. We do all of these because they’re getting us something, and the question is, is it getting us what we want, or is it getting us what feels good. A lot of times it’s getting rid of an uncomfortable feeling or it’s giving us some pleasure we’re fantasizing about something or we’re just worrying about something we don’t have any control over but it feels good, because at least we’re worrying right we can’t do anything else about it. And then, this feeds those patterns, then feed the actions and reactions So what do I choose to do, and then, how do I choose to respond and those are the visible things if I’m watching from. You know the observation deck and I’m looking at a bunch of athletes, while they’re on the Court or on the ice or running around the track. I can see their actions and reactions, but I don’t really have a lot of access to everything else. But in the work that we do, we can start to unpack what that looks like for a particular athlete so that we could understand what does a growth mindset actually look like across each of these three domains what is resilience look like and why is it valuable to cultivate a mindset that’s resilient. And thinking about well how does the lens need to shift to enable resilience at the behavior and it’s really a set of behaviors. What is resilience look like in between our ears in terms of those mental patterns and by separating it into those three categories that gave me places to assess and ask questions around and then it gave me a way of articulating what we were trying to accomplish when we were building a mindset, so that athletes felt a little bit more solid around like stuff that just tends not to be very solid in between our ears.

Cindra Kamphoff: yeah I love it so Pete where can people learn more about your work, listen to your podcast tell us how we can follow, along with what you’re doing.

Pete Kadushin: yeah the podcast is called the Mental Training Lab and it’s just so much fun and really one of the reasons why I started a podcast was because I’d listened to yours and you sound like you’re always having so much fun and the conversations are always so tasty and so, for me, it was the opportunity to get a little bit more than that my life, so I guess what I’m trying to say is Thank you. You can also find me on Instagram at @alldayDr.K, so all day Dr K.

Cindra Kamphoff: that’s awesome.

Pete Kadushin: I like to make sure that I’m not taking Instagram too seriously and so with a ridiculous name like that I at least giggle every time I open the APP. And then my website is DrKcoaching.COM, so if you hop on the website, if you have questions about anything we talked about, or just want to reach out and connect there’s a there’s a form that you can fill out and it’ll shoot me an email. And yeah the other spots I’m looking forward to at least in some more podcast episode soon and I’d love to have you on the show if you’re willing.

Cindra Kamphoff: You know it.

Pete Kadushin: Yes, there it is it’s now official because it’s been it’s on record. And so yeah those are those are the three main ways people can track me down and connect.

Cindra Kamphoff: awesome Pete I had so much fun and I found our conversation incredibly insightful I most appreciated what we talked about actually just smiling through the suffering. And the importance of like exposing ourselves to discomfort is really important love your idea of the suffer club I’m going to encourage everyone to try that for a week what is. Maybe a behavior or something you’d like to change that maybe isn’t serving you or if you change it would really help you grow or learn or step into your potential I liked that you said failure is the thing that we need to or a thing that we need to activate our growth and love the idea of like grace under pressure and what we discussed today so good, what final thoughts, do you have for people as we wrap up.

Pete Kadushin: I mean you just you did a great job of putting a bow on everything I think, the last thing I would leave people with is that. This is, these are all skills that we can improve and so when it comes down to it, we have all these buttons and levers on our control panel and we generally ignore a whole big section of that that could enable us to live happier and healthier and more meaningful lives and so in whatever way that looks like whether it’s working with somebody like us, or just investing in yourself, not from a traditional self improvement lens. Right, but really from a place of being more congruent with your values being able to live a more meaningful life that there’s things that we can work on every day that allow us to do that that’s a that’s my what I want to push out into the universe today.

Cindra Kamphoff: Thank you Pete I was so grateful for your time and your energy and thanks for being on the podcast today.

Pete Kadushin: Thank you Cindra it was a blast.