WHOOP has changed the game in human performance and our ability to understand what our body is telling us so we can make actionable decisions about our physical, mental and emotional health.
In this episode WHOOP’s VP of Performance Science, Kristen Holmes joins host Fran Racioppi to break down human performance, the evolution of data and how we use it to reach our peak levels, the importance of rest as the driver of workload, her four characteristics of elite performance, how to build successful teams and athletes for the long term, and what we have coined Kristen’s Pathways to Attention.
WHOOP just closed a $200m funding round and is the fastest growing wearable technology in the world. They are now valued at over $3.6 billion. Kristen spent 13 years as the Head Coach of Princeton University’s Women’s Field Hockey Team where she won 12 Ivy League Championships and the school’s first National Championship. She is a 2021 Iowa Athletics Hall Fame Inductee, 3 x All American, 2 x Big 10 Athlete of the Year competing in both Field Hockey and Basketball and a 7-year member of the U.S. National Team.
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About Kristen Holmes
Kristen Holmes, WHOOP summary. Our body provides us feedback 24/7. It tells us when we need food, water, exercise, rest and sometimes even a little bit of mindfulness but how do we measure these needs? How do we understand and interpret what our body is telling us? Until it was guesswork. We were forced to individually interpret how we felt physically, mentally and emotionally with little to no hard data to support our actions.
WHOOP has changed the game in human performance and our ability to understand what our body is telling us and make an actionable decision based on that information. In this episode, I’m joined by WHOOP’s VP of Performance Science, Kristen Holmes. She works with most elite athletes and executives nowadays, shaping the way they interpret their individual performance data and helping them reach their peak performance.
WHOOP just closed a $200 million funding round and is the fastest-growing wearable technology in the world. They’re now valued at over $3.6 billion. Kristen spent thirteen years as the Head Coach at Princeton University’s Women Field Hockey Team where she won twelve Ivy League championships and the school’s first National Championship.
She’s a 2021 Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, a three-time All-American, a two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year competing in field hockey and basketball and a seven-year member of the US National Team. Kristen and I break down human performance, the evolution of data and how we use it to reach our peak levels. The importance of rest as the driver of workload, her four characteristics of elite performance, how to build successful teams and athletes for the long-term and what I call her pathways to attention.
Kristen, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me.
It is so good to be back in Boston. We’re here on Newbury Street and I was walking up and down the road before we came here, I know COVID has impacted so much but Newbury Street is like Europe now.
People are having their Spritzers on the sidewalk under an umbrella.
My dad used to work in his office, which was on the next block. Coming out here. seeing it now and it’s so good to be back in Boston. I also have to thank you for coming into Boston in one of the last, probably warmer days of the season and joining me here in the heart of traffic for the city.
It’s my pleasure. It is out there though. I love it.
On the drive to Elite Performance, we spend the majority of our focus on the work that we actually have to do to achieve the results that we seek. That means we have to run faster, work harder, train more, study, drive our teams past their failure point, understand how they can achieve more and set a new benchmark.
Rarely especially when you and I were growing up, did we ever think about recovery or the fact that recovery was an important part of being able to perform at an elite level? How our sleep cycles, nutrition, mindfulness affect and change the results that we can have on the field, in our work, wherever we’re trying to perform. In the military, for me, for so many years it was a badge of honor.
If you could go into work and say, I stayed up for 48 hours, 24 hours and we did all these training events and now we’re so much stronger for it. As a green beret, as a ranger, Navy SEALs, it doesn’t matter. You were always so proud. I remember being at Boston University rowing and saying, “I’m so sore today. That means I worked so hard. Today we got to work even harder so I can be sorer tomorrow.”
Now, I still live like this sometimes as a leadership coach, podcast host and business owner. I think about how many twenty-hour days can I string together to get all this done? I often think it doesn’t even matter. Let’s do it and see what happens. We spoke previously with Dr. Chris Frueh and he introduced us, I thank him for that.
It’s been amazing getting to know you. He talks about what happens when it becomes too much. When we go for too long, we push ourselves past those limits. We never take a step back and he calls that operator syndrome, the allostatic load on our bodies begins to affect us negatively. It leads to anxiety, depression, even suicide, for some. We saw this with Simone Biles in the Olympics.
We saw this with Naomi Osaka, the world’s number one tennis player saying, “I’ve just had too much. I can’t do it.” Here’s WHOOP. Your focus at WHOOP is developing high performance through recovery, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness, which becomes the driver of the workload instead of the afterthought. Essentially, WHOOP’s telling you, “This is how hard you can work based on your recovery,” which is a total mind shift.
There’s a tremendous amount of discussion. We’re going to talk about WHOOP. We’re going to talk about your role at WHOOP. We’re going to talk about field hockey because of an incredible career as an athlete and a coach. I’m going to press you on leadership because all these things you’re doing are important to the leadership world. Thank you again for coming.Technology should enable you to understand how to make changes so you can be a healthier, happier version of yourself. Click To Tweet
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Let’s start with WHOOP. You have the WHOOP on your wrist. I have the Apple Watch and we’re going to talk about the competition between these two. This is important because WHOOP, as most people know, has just closed a $200 million round of funding. They did another $100 million in 2020 so $300 million in the last several months. It’s valued at $3.6 billion was what I saw.
Apple is starting to look at WHOOP and get serious. They’re starting to say, “What features can we roll out?” We’re going to have a little, I won’t call it a competition but let’s call it a comparison of the data set throughout this conversation. You start yours, I’ll start mine. In the end, we’re going to see just what data we get back.
On the topic of competition, honestly, we look at just like I would if I were coaching, you understand your competition. You can develop the right strategy, a SWAT, if you will, to manage the opponent’s strengths. I find in this corporate world is slightly different than the coaching world. You escape competition through authenticity. I love that.
I stole that from Naval Ravikant who’s one of my favorite thinkers. He’s a philosopher if you will. I love that line. To me, that’s what WHOOP embodies is just this authentic point of view that’s grounded in science. Apple to me, frankly, doesn’t even feel like a competitor. It’s a fundamentally different technology. WHOOP doesn’t have a watch face. Apple is dinging you constantly with text messages, phone calls and emails.
I had to stop wearing it because it got so bad that I started having anxiety.
WHOOP is not a distraction. It’s just passively collecting data so you can understand your body. It transforms those data in a super elegant way into a mobile application where you can go in when you want to and look at those data. For me, not to burst your bubble but to take that off the table, I’ve never been one to compete in that way. It’s about, “What is it that I want to achieve?”
In this case with WHOOP, “What do we want to achieve with this product? What experience are we trying to deliver to our members?” We’re trying to help our members understand their physiology and have better control of their autonomic nervous system. That is our North Star. Thought leaders and human performance, are the things that we focused on.
For us, the competition falls away. It’s, “How can we do those things to the best of our ability?” As a result, we have a $3.6 billion evaluation. We’ve been able to raise another round of funding quite easily. Raising money is hard but this round was especially easy because the authenticity of the product and the value that it’s bringing to our membership.
Let’s talk about some of those features. Within the app, there’s the insights, analytics, strain coach, sleep coach, behavioral journal recovery and you’re tracking now recovery strain, sleep health. Now, how are the app and all of that data coming together? From the member standpoint, how are they then taking that data to change behavior?
We have this incredibly robust sensor technology via PPG that is looking at every single heartbeat. We’re transforming those data and then being able to deliver insights related to cardiovascular load, which we call strain, on a scale of 0 to 21. We have WHOOP Recovery, which takes heart rate variability, resting heart rate, respiratory rate and transforms those data into a proprietary metric.
That basically tells you your capacity to take on the strain, mentally, physically and emotionally. That’s on a scale of 0 to 100 that’s loosely bucketed into green, yellow and red. We analyze your sleep and give you tons of insight into your sufficiency, quality of sleep and consistency, which are the three pillars of sleep. We break down your sleep into stages as well so you can see how much time you’re spending awake versus light versus REM and slow-wave sleep. Those are the core three buckets, within that there are coaching features, which are helping members understand what those data are telling them.
How they can organize the settings to then be able to get feedback on when they need to go to bed and when they need to wake up or how much harder do they need to work if they want to gain fitness, for example. If they’re under recovered, what type of things do they need to be engaging in? In order to increase recovery and position themselves to be in a better spot to be more recovered tomorrow. It’s not just data for the sake of data, it’s real data so we can coach you to a better future is what it’s about.
You’re changing the behavior of the individuals and organizations when you have entire organizations who are adopting this.
To me, that’s what’s the most exciting aspect of our platform is we see incredible behavior modification over the course of the time that folks are on the platform. We see this to your point at a team level, individual member level and we will look at the data and aggregate and we’ll look at effect sizes. It’s pretty amazing. Folks end up drinking 79% less alcohol over four months.
They end up spending up to around 50 minutes more in bed. These profound lifestyle changes yield improved physiological changes. We can measure that with heart rate variability and resting heart rate. For example, we see increases in heart rate variability, which is a good thing. We want to have more variability between the beats of our hearts. That’s called heart rate variability and we want to have a lower resting heart rate in general.
Over the course of the time and the platform, we see that heart variability increases and resting heart rate decreases at a team level and we’re collecting a lot of subjective data. We see reported feelings of stress or people report feeling less stressed. They are less injured up to 69%. We see this when we’ve done some controlled studies on various collegiate levels, massive decreases in illness and an injury by controlling for some of the variables and committing to certain benchmarks across.
Sleep, in particular, is where he focused on but training appropriateness using recovery. For example, in managing load accordingly. We’ve seen incredible behavior changes on the platform. To me, that’s what technology should be enabling. It needs to be helping you understand how to make changes so you can be a healthier, happier version of yourself.
It doesn’t matter who you are. WHOOP is being used now by professional athletes in the NFL. It’s now launching a partnership with NASCAR. You’re seeing it in the PGA but it’s also being used by everyday people.
That’s what has been so cool. When I first got to WHOOP over several years ago, we were exclusively elite athletes. That’s where we started. Those are our roots and we’re super proud of that. We’ve been able to evolve the technology and educate the masses that, “This isn’t just for elite athletes. These markers are important for anyone to be aware of. If you’re interested in maximizing your potential as a human.”
These are things that you need to be conscious and aware of. It’s no reason to make you anxious but data does help you face the truth. If I can borrow from Dr. Jim Loehr, one of my favorite sports psychologists and just an incredible human being. He calls the data the face the truth moment. Sometimes the data can be a little bit jarring because it’s maybe not always pretty but it gives you a platform then to be able to ask more specific questions about your behaviors. That’s just an important source of insight. If in fact, you’re interested in maximizing your potential as a human.
The quote I have from you on that is that, “Use information as power and awareness allows us to make choices.” I want to circle back a little bit on the operator syndrome concept about pushing too far, mentally, emotionally and physically. A lot of WHOOP is involved in the physical aspect but I want to get into the mental and emotional aspects and the changes it can drive.
I see WHOOP as the indicator and a tool that can help you understand what Chris Frueh talked about. We talked a lot about the remedy. How do you remedy this when you identify it? WHOOP brings a different angle in that. Can you avoid it altogether by using this information and data that you’re getting to ward off and never get into this situation in the first place?
To backup, operator syndrome in a sense is you’ve got this state of hypervigilance. Where you don’t know how to deactivate, that constant activation comes at a huge cost. You can only do it and sustain it for so long before it starts to take a toll on your mental, physical and emotional health. With products like WHOOP, just helps you understand when you get it to a point where you’re in an activated state for too long, which will be represented in both heart rate variability and resting heart rate. When you’re in a hypervigilant state, you’ll have a decrease in your heart rate variability and generally, an increase in your resting heart rate.
Over time, you’ll see that trend continue unless you break it up with appropriate levels of rest. That’s honestly the skillset that we need to ensure that our operators and our frontline healthcare clinicians, people in high stakes, high-stress environments, need to understand how to go from activated states to deactivated states. You get used to it and you pointed this out at the beginning of the show, you get used to that hypervigilance.
That becomes your normal but it comes at a cost. That cost is usually reflected in the reward of what you’re doing doesn’t equal the cost anymore. That reward and cost being no longer equal, it starts to eat away at your soul and that’s where the burnout and the fatigue start to come in. Understanding what your baseline is, relative to some of these markers that I just pointed out, the role that sleep plays in it is huge.
Honestly, if we want to tackle operator syndrome and things like that, you need to start with physiology. You need to start with getting control over your autonomic nervous system. You can’t just talk yourself into a better future, you have to get your physiology on the right track. Sometimes where we fall down a little bit is we try to layer on, medications and things. While those are important, we have to also educate folks and give them the tools to create a bit more balance particularly in their autonomic nervous system.Data helps you face the truth. Click To Tweet
It’s understanding how does our breath play into this? How can I start to retrain my hardware through breathwork? There are lots of different types of breathwork but there are some that are certainly more efficacious than others and more specific as it relates to improving the ability of your autonomic nervous system to respond and adapt to external stress.
Anyway, we consider operator syndrome, it’s how do we give folks the tools on the front end so they have that robustness and resilience. They’re very clear about the recovery aspect and there is balance when they can. When they’re away from a mission and away from training, how do they recreate that? How do they create that balance?
When they go into a situation where their demands are high, it might be for extended periods. They have a stronger, more resilient foundation. They’re not going in with the gas tank at a quarter, they’re going in with it full. Over the course of that mission, four days being on call, for example, that gas tank is going to be depleted but you go home at a quarter, you don’t go home at a deficit. That’s what we’re talking about here.
Sleep debt is a term that you’ve used to and referenced in a previous discussion that you had. Sleep study that you did with physicians in Denver where you say that, “We see that folks are simply not getting the sleep they need to the degree that they are operating in a cognitively drunk state for a majority of the day.”
It’s frightening when we take what we know from sleep by folks like Dr. Russell Foster and Matthew Walker, some of our preeminent sleep scientists who’ve been inside this research and these outstanding data points for us to reference back to. When you’re getting less than six and a half hours of sleep a night, which is what we saw with these trauma surgeons, that’s the average that they’re getting, over the course of the time on the platform.
We know from the research that that is akin to having a blood alcohol level of 0.009 or something. When we think about it in those terms, it’s frightening. Imagine you’re in a car accident or your kid is in a bad accident and they’re arriving at the hospital and you’ve got a trauma surgeon ready to attend to them. You want them in the best position possible and they want to be in the best position possible.
What happens in the way our healthcare is set up unfortunately is they don’t have a big enough roster to pick from. It’s hard to be a trauma surgeon. It’s a very select amount of folks who can qualify and become trauma surgeons. There are inherent issues but the burnout that we see with those folks is obviously in the suicide rates, it’s profoundly disturbing.
This research is about highlighting these types of things and hopefully creating some policies where we can remedy some of this, whether it’s creating and this is the work I was referencing earlier. I’m on the Science Advisory Board for a company Arena Labs. Their whole mission is to bring high-performance tools to medicine.
It sounds like this crazy novel thing but the whole premise of the company is about, “What can we learn from some of these other high performing disciplines like from the military, the creative arts and professional athletes? What are these high-performance tools that these folks are using and have access to? Can we bring those tools to our frontline healthcare, clinicians?”
That’s what Arena Labs does. We’re seeing that just having access to these tools is improving outcomes. When we consider our high-stress, high-stakes environments, it needs to be just our mission to make sure that they have access to the tools they need to perform their job at the level that enables them to do their best work.
You see this every day. I slept maybe four hours. I went to bed and then my son woke up at 1:00 AM, he’s eighteen months. He had some problems. For an hour, I was with him, consoling him. I got up at 4:00 and when I got up, I took one step down the stairs, turned around to come back up and I tripped and fell. I thought of you when I composed myself after I woke up the whole house yelling about what just happened. I composed myself and I was like, “Sleep debt.” That’s immediately what I thought.
We just finished a study with McKinsey looking at a hundred of their CEOs. It was interesting because, in addition to all of the WHOOP physiological data we had some performance data as well. We had the Emback and the Stroop, which measures your executive functioning and working memory. What we saw was that, for every 45 minutes of sleep debt, which is the amount of sleep you need versus what you got. Let’s say you needed eight hours of sleep and you got four, you have four hours of sleep debt. For every 45 minutes, we see a decrease in working memory and executive functioning by 10%. In one night is one night, it’s okay. You’re fine now. You’re going to be functioning just fine.
Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, clear that up for me.
Caffeine can help short-term but there are some problems with layering stimulants on an under recovered system. I can talk about those data, too. The problem is that we can’t perceive our own cognitive and physical declines. That’s what’s so sneaky about this sleep thing. People are like, “I’m fine, I’m operating fine. I can drive.” You’re impaired.
The problem is we can’t tell that we’re impaired and that’s where data is so good because that impairment in manifest in our autonomic nervous system we can see it in our resting heart rate. We can see it in our respiratory rate and certainly, in the objective sleep data that says you have three hours of sleep debt. When we start to understand what those metrics mean and how they influence performance levels, we just can start to make better choices.
Let’s talk about your role. This is the coolest role. There’s no other word. I’ve tried to figure out an eloquent way to put this but when you go to the cocktail party and everybody asks what they do, you’re the one that everybody stops going around the circle when they get to you. They’re like, “You talk more about this.”
You get to work with the highest caliber athletes, executives. I phrased it in a way, I was talking to somebody about doing this episode with you and how excited I was. I said, “All of the elite performers in the world go to her to ask how they’re doing and to seek to get better.” That’s an amazing position. Can you talk a bit more about your role there and how it came to be?
I was at Princeton University and I was interested in exploring some of these questions related to human performance that hadn’t been figured out yet. This just emerged in my own coaching experience where I was trying to help my student-athletes achieve everything they want to achieve. We’re trying to perform to our potential, I’m trying to make sure they stay healthy and that I don’t put too much load on them.
They don’t get injured and then just helping them think about developing a framework for just their life in general so they can be highly functioning citizens. When you’re a coach, you’re trying to manage all of that. What I saw is just a lack of objective data to understand what the stress of the environment was doing to them. What were the origins of that stress? What behaviors were helping and what behaviors were hurting?
The ability to quantify some of that changes everything. The physiological stuff is easier to quantify. At that time, we had some pretty poor technology. We had a lower grade Fitbit but at least it was something. It gave us some insight. During training, we had lots of technology. We had GPS and robust heart rate technology but it was just a snapshot in time.
What was difficult is that timeframe and practice, it didn’t matter what volume and intensity I put on in training. It never seemed to correlate with next-day recovery. When they showed up for the next day, what I did yesterday, didn’t map in any way to the volume intensity. For planning practice, I couldn’t use yesterday to predict what was going to happen tomorrow.
Everything is in a silo so you just reset.
It’s like you’re guessing how much volume and intensity to put on. What it was is that it’s the other 22 hours outside of training, the other 21 hours, whatever it was that was more influential. That’s when I started working to develop some technology to quantify the other 21 hours that they weren’t on the hockey field. I raised some money, hired some folks from Cisco Machine Learning and Computational Biology.
Some folks in computation.
We just started taking the raw data from Fitbit and transforming it and creating some algorithms around readiness. I got pretty far down the path, got through beta in terms of just testing out this idea and then I was ready to go figure out, “How do we build the hardware?” That’s when I became aware of WHOOP.
They made me do it.
They did. They were so much further along, they had hardware and we’re getting ready to launch their 2.0. I ended up meeting Will Ahmed and for obvious reasons, there’s a lot of synergy in terms of just the passion I have for sleep and recovery and understanding how to apply volume and intensity in a smart way. A pretty big background in exercise physiology and psychology.
In my application, I’d built out the psychological side to account for our most important psychological needs and had some quantification around that piece as well. It was just like this. I wanted to think about this. I wanted to be a part of this movement to bring sleep and recovery to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness knowing how it transformed our environment when we started thinking more intentionally about it.You can't just talk yourself into a better future. You have to get your physiology on the right track. Click To Tweet
Just wanted to be able to have this platform to be able to impact lots of folks and get everyone thinking more intentionally. Will ended up offering me an incredible job. It has evolved over the years but started out getting WHOOP into the hands of these elite athletes and then helping them understand how to interpret the data.
What behaviors were most strongly correlated with the best biometric outcomes these guys and gals are calibrating their lives around these data points? What does it all mean? Deep inside, collecting a lot of data, doing a lot of the analytics and trying to suss out a lot of the causation here. What is most salient and being able to predict next-day recovery.
How can people manage behaviors in a better way and just pulling that all to the ground? As a result, all the repetitions of talking to thousands of athletes at this point, literally the tip of the spear, the best athletes, tactical, corporate athletes, people who are interested in performing at their highest potential. I’ve learned a lot in terms of what are the behaviors that move the needle the most. It’s been a cool journey in that aspect and very involved in the research and the thought leadership side.
You’re the definition of what we call on the show in the Talent War Group, “Hire for character, train for skill.” This is the concept that you have a role and the role within an organization requires a certain, I hesitate to say, skill or character but a combination of the two that somebody has to bring to the table. You look at their experience and say they may not have the exact experience that this role requires. What they’ve done in their past and achieved success correlates very nicely.
We can teach some hard skills once they get in this role that will bring them into the field hockey world and from the coaching athletic world into the more of a corporate startup environment in a lot of ways. I haven’t had the chance to ask someone yet on the show who’s been in that situation and say, “How have you adopted and as you saw that opportunity, you embraced it and jumped in?” As you look back on the last several years, how do you evaluate it? How do you think through that leap that you made?
It comes back to understanding my values and what I want to be thinking about, what problems do I want to solve and what impact I want to make. I’ve never been one to chase security and happiness. I feel those are illusions. I chase personal growth, professional growth, intellectual growth and trace impact. I want to feel I’m having a positive impact on the world. I saw this opportunity even though at that time we had maybe 6 or 7 months of runway.
It’s exciting. I’m all in.
I had essentially ten years at Princeton.
You walked away from a big opportunity.
I had the opportunity to be the Director of High-Performance at Princeton. I was getting out of coaching anyway and I had these two opportunities that I was weighing. I just believed in all the work I had done at Princeton around building my own version of this. I believed that we needed to have this concept of recovery in the mainstream that needs to be at the forefront of how people need something to be able to grasp onto and recovery is pretty easy to understand.
When I first arrived at WHOOP, people were like, “Recovery?” Even in these high-performance settings where you’d expect them to be thinking about load management. I feel like people were starting to think about that but it still wasn’t a part of the day-to-day, more was better, generally speaking, was the party line. I feel like we’ve been a part of transforming that narrative.
That is the narrative.
Being able to have a small part of that, evangelizing these concepts of sleep and recovery has been the honor of my life. I wake up every day grateful that I have this opportunity to help folks understand how to manage their recovery in a way that enables them to live their values with more joy and energy. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all trying to do. There is a clear path to that.
You mentioned values, the show is built around the nine characteristics of elite performance as defined by Special Operations Forces. How do you then translate these nine into the corporate world and in the assessment selection of your personnel, drive, resiliency, adaptability, humility, integrity, curiosity, team ability, effective intelligence and emotional strength?
Your role requires you to demonstrate all of these every day. I can imagine that in the conversations you have with the athletes, there’s such a wild variety of the characteristics that they display and their motivations and why they do that. You have four values that you have rallied around. Those are tolerance, innovation, presence and internal fitness. I’m wondering if you’ll just bear with me and go through these because each of these correlates to 1 of the 9 soft characteristics.
They’re important to highlight here and tie into your world, as in your role now, working with elite talent in a high-growth startup that is coming out of this startup phase now it’s certainly established as a coach and as an elite athlete yourself. I wanted to dig into these to get your perspective because it’s extremely valuable.
The first one, tolerance. You have a quote and it’s, “Tolerance and an open heart lead to less judgment. I don’t ever want to be in a scenario where I think I have the answer.” We call that humility and our ability to look internally and say, “I don’t have all the answers. Other people might have a better answer. I needed to be accepting of that.” Be introspective. Can you talk more about tolerance?
Humility and tolerance are extremely related. It’s easy to come loaded to a conversation or a situation with a preset. To me, coming at it from the sense that I’m approaching the situation with as blank of a slate as possible. Tolerance is just a reminder that I don’t necessarily have the answer to everything. Everyone has a different unique perspective and I need to listen, embrace that and be present with these different opinions.
I wouldn’t call myself overly opinionated but I always want to make sure that I’m keeping that in check. The word tolerance connects me to that feeling of being engaged and at peace with whatever situation I’m in. It allows me to take the stance of being a listener first.
I would say there’s the objectivity of that too versus subjectivity. If you approach a situation and you are objective about what you’re walking into, you can display humility, you can display tolerance and you’re not predisposed. It’s probably the direction that journalism has gone away from over the last many years into more of a subjective but I digress innovation is the next one. You say, “I think from first principles and I want to be able to take those principles and layer original thinking.” For me, that’s curiosity. I’ll learn it all, a constant problem solver. You want to push the status quo.
I love having a problem that I care about and then going down this path to solving it. An example of this would be some research that we’re doing with Stanford University. We wanted to try to create a taxonomy around these various breath protocols. Everyone’s talking about breathwork but no literature has emerged that tells us without a shadow of a doubt like, “What is the best breathing protocol for sleep?” For example, “That will help us get in and stay in a deeper stage of sleep.” These are questions that I want to try to unpack.
We were fortunate enough to engage with Dr. Andrew Huberman, a brilliant neuroscientist and is doing cool research in his lab. We engaged in his research and we were able to discover the breathing protocol that is most efficacious in helping folks get and stay into these deeper stages of sleep. I love the idea and I am so grateful to WHOOP to be able to have this platform, to be able to access folks and have this incredible physiological monitoring device that allows us to gather incredibly accurate, relevant data that help us be able to understand the impact of some of these recovery protocols that we’re talking about because it’s one thing.
We want to help folks understand the behaviors they need to grasp to improve their sleep and recovery and be more effective and efficient at building cardiovascular load. It requires research and discovery. I love this idea of just being able to discover and to innovate. At WHOOP, there is no shortage of that. When I looked at this when I was invested, trying to figure out, “Do I make this huge move for Princeton up to Boston?” These are unknown situations. That was one of the things when I look at my values and knowing that I value innovation, I was like, “I’m going to have the opportunity to innovate like no other.” This is the hub of innovation.
Also, medical research.
Knowing that I would be able to live this value every single day, wake up and to be able to innovate and be around other folks who are at the tip of the spear of innovation and of thinking about these problems related to physiology and psychology. It’s a gift. I’m living the value of innovation. No question.
There’s no shortage of it at WHOOP. There’s the technology side, the curiosity and the innovation of yourself personally. I think about getting the opportunity I have to talk to you and other people who’ve come on. I say to all my guests, “I take more away from these conversations because I get to take the totality of all of them and I get to think about how do I live my life? How do I get to become better?” You talked about that by looking at all the data you get to and then apply that to your role, your life, which takes us to the next one, which is presence. I call it effective intelligence.
When I’m not in the present when I’m thinking about the past, I’m thinking about the future, that’s when the anxiety creeps in. You can’t be present if you have a ton of sleep debt, you can’t be present if you’re putting crappy food in your body. This ties into the internal fitness piece. To be present, you have to be thinking about physiology, which is going to lead to more autonomic control, which is going to lead to more control of your physiology. Those are important aspects to being able to access presence.
Those work hand in hand. When you have the physiology, you can access the leadership and the mindset and show up to a meeting, even one that maybe you don’t want to be in with the right energy. When I am able to be in the present, I feel an enormous amount of peace. Being present is the path to peace. What I am chasing is being able to feel settled in my own and myself.You can't be present if you have a ton of sleep debt. You can't be present if you're putting crappy food in your body. Click To Tweet
Feel good about my interactions and ensure that they’re authentic and that I’m able to be present and engaged, which is hard sometimes. We’ve got a lot of demands on our time and our life and there are relationships and there’s a lot of complications to life. It’s not easy to be present but that’s where having a toolkit of the things that enable that is important.
You mentioned the meeting, you don’t want to go to the conversations you don’t want to have. One of the things that I’ve tried to do is before I go into the next part of my day because so many times we’re back-to-back and then you find yourself running from one thing to the other if it’s on in the last few years almost in Zoom. You click off one and you start another.
I’ve tried to consciously stop for a second. Stop at the door. When you’re walking from meeting to meeting or before you sign in to the next meeting, just take that. Even if it’s ten seconds, you pause and you just say, “What am I going to do?” If I can do that and then I enter that room, I feel so much more focused because I closed the door on where I was coming from. I’ve opened the door to where I’m going and now I’m not sitting in that room for the first 5 or 10 meetings thinking about where I just came from and all the other things that are going on. I’ve now reset my mind.
It’s setting an intention for what you’re doing next if you layer on some breathing because of what happens over the course of the day. One of the techniques that I’ve been good at having in my life over the last several years is incorporating these mini moments of rest in between these sequence of meetings or when I was coaching at 24 athletes.
I had one-on-one meetings pretty much all day long. Leading up to practice and planning practice. You’ve got recruits and families coming in and incorporating these pauses in between these meetings is probably one of the best things that you can do for yourself. Even though we might not be in the military or in healthcare, there is still this hypervigilance.
This vigilant state over the course of the day where you have to be on. If you can use these mini moments of breathwork, for example, in between the stress, that will basically allow you to not accumulate negative stress over the course of the day, which invariably impacts your sleep. You might be so tired, you end up falling asleep but it will fragment your sleep at night.
If you prioritize your exhale, that will activate the parasympathetic branch, which is the calming side of your autonomic nervous system. Shorter inhale, longer exhale you do that for 90 seconds. That’s how much time it takes for the vagus nerve to pick up on the lung expansion and release acetylcholine, which is going to tell your heart rate to slow down. Even as ten seconds, do whatever you can to get that in.
Even if you’re about to have a hard conversation with your child or if you’re just going to read them a book before bedtime. Do a bit of breathing and it does ground you more in the present and reduces your heart rate, which enables you to come into a conversation with more tolerance and more peace. The mindset that allows you to be closer to the best version of yourself.
I call it, “If you rev high.” That’s how it was phrased to me. In selection for Special Forces, we did the Myers-Briggs assessment and I’ve done it a few times since and I still get the same results. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it’s the same result. They told me and we don’t have volume dials anymore because the radio doesn’t exist, “If you think about a volume dial, it goes from 0 to 10.” I’m a ten. Unless I don’t care. If I don’t care, it’s a zero but there’s very little in between. It’s either you’re all in or you’re out.
That revving high correlates and you do that in anything that you do. I don’t think that I work any less hard now not being in the military than I did in. It’s just different. Sometimes I think, “I wish I was still in the military.” It was so different. It was often so much more focused then you start getting into all these other things. That takes us to the fourth one, which is this internal fitness. I call it emotional strength. How do you bring calm to chaos? How do you control your emotions so you react to it positively and negatively? What about internal fitness?
I alluded to it and it goes back to this idea that if there are two parts to it, it’s making sure that you have self-awareness. That you’re doing the work to make sure that you’re monitoring the internal dialogue and taking time in your day to be by yourself. To sit with yourself without any distractions and pay attention to the voice that emerges. It sounds like a little woo-woo but from my standpoint, a lot of those voices in our head are nonsense. We need to pay attention to those because then we have the ability to say, “This thought is not serving me.”
If I’m not aware of it and conscious of it, it’s going to creep up on its own. I feel like if I can just pay attention to what’s bubbling up. I’m like, “I can deal with that.” I can choose, “Is that serving me? Is that thought not serving me? If it’s not serving me then I can reframe it and find a new way of thinking about things.” Taking time by yourself to make sure that you’re paying attention to those voices, that you’re building that internal fitness if you will by taking control of your thoughts and being more in control of your attention. Those are very much pathways to enabling peace and tolerance. Internal fitness enables me to live some of these other values. The other side of the coin of internal fitness is just internal fitness. Ensuring that someone can be fit and look great but they’re eating donuts.
I wish I could do that.
That comes at a cost. You can look good on the outside but what is going on inside? That’s very much related to a lot of the behaviors that we can control. For the most part, getting the sleep that we need and being consistent when we go to bed and when we wake up if we can. Some professions of being a dad of a small child, some of those that there are challenges there.
Knowing what’s the suite of behaviors that are non-negotiables to be able to drive this concept of being internally fit gives me a platform to then be able to live some of these values that some come easy. The innovation that’s easy. I just want to do that but tolerance, I have to work at that. Some of these values when you consider your belief system, are aspirational like, “This is the person I want to be.” Does it come easy? No, but I put it in front of myself every single day because that’s the human being I want to be.
This idea of understanding your belief system or your value system is, “Where are my gaps? What am I deficient in? What is the person do I want to be?” If I understand who is it that I want to be then I can start to align my behaviors in the right way. You have to expose yourself to these things. Off the top of my head, I can talk about them because I’ve exposed myself to them every single day.
You’ve thought about it.
They’re in my notebook and I think about them quarterly. For the most part, I always referenced those four because those four have been with me for the last decade. I have a couple of others that are also relevant for where I want to go, where I see gaps, who I want to be and as I do the self-assessment. I bring in a few others to be more mindful about certain things. It’s an important exercise and having what we say we care about and ensuring that our behavior is aligned. Creating that alignment is probably one of the most important things that we can do as individuals.
You got to stand for something. At the end of the day, that’s what it is. People use the word authenticity. It’s used a lot now. Can you understand who you are and then live to that? Let’s talk about where you came from, the field hockey. We have to throw this out because it’s important but 2021 Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, three-time All-American, two-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year and you competed in field hockey and basketball, a seven-year member of the US National Field Hockey Team. One of the most successful coaches in Ivy League history because you did win twelve league titles in thirteen years and a national championship. Did I miss anything?
That’s pretty tight.
You transformed the culture at Princeton in your time there and you invested a tremendous amount of effort into performance education alongside the physical training aspect. You develop what you call the high-performance initiative. You’ve been very clear in your conversations with a lot of folks in your work now as a coach, as an athlete, that performance is a choice. It’s a conscious choice that you have to make as an athlete. Can you speak a little bit more about that theory of performance as a choice?
That’s always been the thesis. When you’re trying to do hard things and trying to be the best version of yourself, life is that binary. Your choices are either going to upgrade and help you live your values or those choices are not going to help you live your values.
I call it results. Every action has a result.
There’s Craig Biddle, the editor of The Objective Standard. I’m a bit of an Ayn Rand fan. I do read The Objective Standard. Lots of good blogs in there. He pointed out there’s this Principle of Non-Neutrality. There are no neutral actions. That’s always been in the background of my life and it’s something I’m always thinking about. Maybe that seems an unfun way to live but it doesn’t mean that I’m not fun, doesn’t mean that I don’t make choices that I know are not upgrading my performance levels or enabling me to be my best version of myself.
I do think about it. When I have to wake up tomorrow morning and drive my son to ice hockey at 6:00 AM, we’re going to leave the house, I’m not going to drink tonight. I’m going to go to bed early because I don’t want to wake up and be a zombie when I’m trying to be on the road with my son and get them to ice honkey safely. I think about my choices in that context. Personally, it provides, knowing that performance is a choice. I see it in my data. I wake up, I got an 80% recovery. It’s because I’m checking all my boxes.
When I don’t check all the boxes, I wake up and my recovery is just not as good. That gives me this great objective piece of feedback that I’m living my values. I brought this ethos into my recruiting and into our environment. My goal was to try to empower my student-athletes with the information they needed to get closer to that ethos like, “We can have way more control over our mental, physical and emotional capacity than we think.” If we understand the factors that influence our performance levels.
Education is important. We’ve spoken so much about everything you’ve done in your career, regardless of where it’s been as an athlete, as a coach at WHOOP, it’s all about education and information. How do we take what’s happening around us? Ingest that data. In the military, we call it intelligence. As a Commander, you want as much intelligence as you can.
Not for the sake of, “We have the intelligence and you see it on the news all the time. They had the intelligence.” What were the decisions that you made based on the information or the intelligence that you have? Based on how well you educated yourself on this topic, on yourself, on your team, on performance to then make a series of decisions, which lead to actions, which then lead to a positive or negative result.When you have the physiology, you can access the leadership and the mindset and show up to a meeting, even one that maybe you don't want to be in with the right energy. Click To Tweet
When you look at twelve championships in thirteen years, it’s helping the student-athletes understand. It’s building an infrastructure around the physiological and psychological variables that are going to influence their attentional capacity, mindset, motivation and effective effort. Choosing performance. They had probably the little birdie on their shoulder. For the most part, over the course of the season, no one’s going to be 100% making the right choice. If we can get 70% of the team making decent choices, a majority of the time it becomes hard to lose.
You’re in a good spot with young adults attending college.
They have to want to do it. That’s where it comes into recruiting. It’s like, “I laid all of this out. This isn’t super glamorous when you think about it but you’re going to come out of this program understanding what influences your performance, you’re going to be able to have control of your physiology. You’re going to be able to choose your level of performance.” To me, that’s a compelling recruiting case and the folks that didn’t want that, go down to their schools.
You don’t want them anyway.
It selected the athletes for me. I made it sound hard because being a student-athlete is hard. You wrote it, you understand the grind of being a student-athlete.
It’s the hardest thing, honestly, I’ve ever done in my life. Harder than being in the Army, harder than Special Forces, harder than being in ranger school. Being a student-athlete on the rowing team, waking up every day at 5:00 AM with the three ladies who lived under us, partying four nights a week was the absolute hardest and competition.
Find a way to do it. In those scenarios, you have to be almost perfect and everything else to just buffers some of the chaos of being in those types of environments. Being a student-athlete is hard and I didn’t downplay that. What happens a lot of times in the recruiting process, a little bit on the aside, we play up the glamor and everything that’s good about it.
What happens is student-athletes get to the environment and they’re like, “This is not at all the picture that was painted to me.” That dissonance is where you get a lot of problems in these environments where kids aren’t happy is because the expectation isn’t meeting the reality. It is a grind.
That’s going to trail down into everything they do. Their academic performance, their social performance.
That’s important. One of the things that I talked about with the teams that I work with is, “To some extent, you volunteered. You volunteered to be here. You owe it and we owe it as a coaching staff to give you the accurate picture of what you volunteered for.” One of the examples I use is when you’re in Special Forces, you’re in the selection or you’re out operating after your schools, it gets hard and sometimes it sucks.
What commonly gets said to you is, “You volunteered three times to be here. You volunteered to come in the Army, you volunteered to go to selection for this unit. You volunteer every day when you wake up and you come to this organization because you don’t have to be here.” Any day, you can wake up and you can say, “I’m out.” Nobody’s going to follow you for it. When you look at developing a team, often as leaders especially when we’re accountable for the performance of that team, we think like, “I can’t lose anybody. I got to retain them. I got to hold them.” Sometimes, losing some folks may be the best thing for the team.
No question about that. You sit down and you’re like, “What do I value? Is this thing an outlet for what I say I care about?” It’s such a great platform to make decisions and to help employees and your student-athletes, whoever you might be working with, mentoring or managing, bring them back to their values because you have a choice of whether or not you want to be a part of this. If it doesn’t check enough boxes in terms of being an outlet for what you say you care about, it’s probably not the right fit.
I take a lot of stock in ensuring that the behaviors that I engage with throughout the day are fulfilling the things that I care about. I know that when you’ve got this big gap between what you say you care about and what you’re asked to do on a daily basis, that leads to the distance we were just talking about. You very quickly can get down a path where you get burnout. It’s feeling you’re not on a path where you’re able to do the things that you care about.
There are three pillars to the performance that you talk about, purpose, efficacy and autonomy. Can you talk about each one of those pillars?
It comes when you consider the human performance optimization model. You’ve got the physiological factors and the psychological factors. The extent to which you manage them will determine your mindset, attentional capacity, motivation and your effective effort. Your ability to appropriately respond to the demands in your environment.
The physiological stuff is easier in the sense that it’s nutrition, hydration, sleep behavior and training. On the psychological side, it’s a little bit more abstract, in some ways I think simple and I distill it down to the stuff on the physiological side and the psychological pieces are around purpose, self-efficacy and control.
Those are the three most important psychological needs we have as human beings. This is based on decades of literature and research by some of the best psychologists in the world. We know that if we don’t feel purpose or meaning, which is very much tied to living our values. If we don’t understand what we care about and we don’t understand the things that we value, things will break down pretty quickly for us.
Regardless of what we’re doing from a physiological standpoint, if the purpose isn’t there, “Why are we here?” Knowing, understanding the interplay between physiology and psychology is important. Self-advocacy, “Do I have the skills and resources to do what’s asked of me?” I saw this over and over again at Princeton and Princeton University is academically a very challenging place.
You get there and you’re like, “Do I belong here? Do I have the skills to do what my professors are asking of me? I’m on this national championship team. Do I have the skills to do what my coach is asking of me?” When we don’t feel we have the skills and resources, we also start to feel psychologically and mentally unwell. Making sure that people in your environment and this goes back to leadership, understand their purpose and that the purpose of your company is front and center and everyone’s very clear on what that is.
Helping student-athletes understand how to ask for help and making sure your employees understand, “If you don’t feel you have the skillset to do this, let’s get you trained up.” Sometimes as leaders, we get disconnected from that. We push projects onto people and we don’t recognize when someone’s struggling until maybe at the end of the quarter.
When they haven’t produced anything.
That’s where one of the best things as a Manager, a coach can ask their athlete or their employees is, “Do you feel you have enough resources to do what’s asked of you? Do you feel you have the skills?” It’s easier in an athletic setting. It’s like, “I’m bad dribbling on my left hand. I need to get more repetitions there.” Sometimes it’s easier to identify.
Making sure the environment is set up where people feel they can develop the skills they need to do what is asked of them. Finally, having some autonomy or feeling you have control over a situation is another important piece of the puzzle. That’s why the new hybrid work environment has been good for a lot of people because it gives them a more sense of control over their life and allows them to have more control of their day-to-day schedule.
The same can be said for, in the military, there’s very little autonomy in a lot of ways. As leaders, we can be creative in helping people in the company, in the platoon or on the team. If feel they have more control, there are certainly ways to infuse that into an environment. Leaders need to be very aware that, “These are the core psychological needs.” These are the need to be present in humans. If they’re not, it’s going to be hard to help people achieve their potential.
When you went into Princeton, they had not won an Ivy League championship prior?
They had won a lot of Ivy League championships but never a National Championship. Of all of the eight teams, there had never been a National Championship won in the Ivy League for field hockey.
That’s impressive, number one, to take the team to win in the National Championship, finally but then 12 out of 13. I want to ask you about the performance of the team as a whole and the difference in the caliber of athletes and the preparation that has to go in your training to compete at various levels. What I mean by that is I think about a bell curve and if you are looking at the distribution of the performance of the athletes on a national team, that bell curve is tight. It’s tall and skinny and then if you go to a collegiate team, it’s a little bit wider. Standard deviation is growing.The problem is that we can't perceive our own cognitive and physical declines… and that's where data is so good… When we start to understand what those metrics mean and how they influence performance levels, we just can start to… Click To Tweet
We interviewed a few folks and we’ve discussed this. We talked to Austin Collie, a wide receiver from New England Patriots and the Colts. He talked about the fact that he thought he worked hard until he met Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Reggie Wayne and realized that he didn’t work hard at all and yet he’s in the Hall of Fame at his college at BYU.
Andy Towers talked about this in two episodes we did with him one before his team won the professional Lacrosse League Championship. After they won, a few weeks later he speaks a lot about the difference in the performance levels and how you have to now look at who you’re competing against and elevate your game to that. Having been an athlete at all of those various levels, can you just talk about the preparation that has to go in when you start to elevate to the next level and the next tier?
It’s the repetitions and committing to quality and not being distracted by the opponent in the sense that, we’re trying to live our values and we want to see that manifest in our training and our match play. We want to bring a level of quality every single time we step on the field. There needs to be a commitment to living your life in a way that enables the capacity to train with quality.
There are three pieces to that that are important. A little dismissive of the opponent is that can change your level of preparation and your level of focus and quality. When you take the opponent off the table, that becomes not a relevant marker of the attention you need to be applying in training. Let’s say you’re playing on a Saturday, you’re playing the number one team in the country. What is the preparation of the team look like that week? You can probably guess. It’s really focused. Everyone’s super energized. It’s easy to get up for the number one team in the country. What if you’re playing the 75th team in the country on Saturday, what does practice look like that week?
It should be the same.
I can tell you that it’s not because I can see it in the data. I have access to a lot of different team data. I can tell you the ones that win National Championships, there’s very little difference between how they train prior to the best team in the country or the worst team in the country. The strain that they put on, the level of detail, it doesn’t wane. I can tell you that. In my environment, it didn’t wane.
You would not be able to tell the difference in a practice environment leading up to a Saturday versus the 75th appointing a team or a Saturday versus the number one team in the country. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference because we weren’t about that. We were about just stepping on the field, living our values and playing with as much quality and intention as possible.
We had to create that culture. Not to say people weren’t aware of who they were playing, we’re taking stock in who we’re playing and that informed our strategy and the way that we might be approaching the game in terms of the tactics. How you get twelve Ivy League championships in thirteen years is over the course of the season, how much quality you can bring to the session and how much capacity.
If you can do those two things pretty well, you will not be disappointed with the results at the end of the season. Even if you don’t want a game, you can look at yourself in the mirror and be like, “We achieved our potential.” If you come to training with capacity and you then train with quality, it is very hard to lose.
What do you think about the preparation levels for the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers game? The return of Tom Brady.
That might be a little heightened.
Can you get that out of your mind? Can you have a faceless opponent?
Bill Belichick is the GOAT. I guarantee, every single week he is training and working at a very similar level. That guy is throwing the kitchen sink at every single game. His players follow suit and that’s what’s enabled them to achieve at the level that they have with the consistency that they’ve had over the course of the last two decades because that’s his approach.
Honestly, I admire that guy in terms of his preparation. I take a lot of the way he thinks about preparing athletes and preparing teams certainly brought that into my own thinking in terms of how I approached preparation and this relentless pursuit of quality. If we’re trying to have quality and the capacity, “What does that mean in terms of the promises that we need to make to each other leading up to the moment we step on the field?” I love Bill Belichick.
That’s the rhetoric going on over there is that, “This is another game.”
People are going to get excited about the match-ups but honestly, that’s for the media. That’s not for the players.
I want to ask you about what I’m terming and I’m putting a new term on this. I’ll license it to you after this. It’s called Kristen’s pathways to attention. I call this a little bit of a lightning round. These are things that have become important to you to maintain focus. I’ll caveat it this way with a quote from you it’s, “We live in a world where the physical and virtual environments drown us with carefully curated content tailored to manipulate our inclinations and drive behaviors. It seems the effort to gain agency over our mind and apply attention in a way that is truly rewarding is both a practical and worthwhile pursuit.”
In essence, I say, we think about a lot of shit and we are too often cannot decide what is important and what is not. I liked this from you because it’s forcing you to have this process to think about what is important. I’m going to throw them out and then you give me the 1 or 2 lines and what do they mean to you. The mental inbox is zero.
“You’re only as free as your attention is.” That’s a good quote from Sam Harris. You need to work every day to make sure that you’re getting yourself back to neutral. That’s what I alluded to being mindful of your thoughts and making sure that the thoughts that come into your brain are useful ones and are serving you. Paying attention and discarding the thoughts that are not serving you. Doing that daily keeps you at that mental inbox is zero.
The second one, awareness.
This is awareness of self, first and foremost, knowing who is it that you want to put out into the world and ensuring that your behaviors are in line with the things that you say you care about.
It’s about having a stable sense of self. Not that we’re completely alone in this world but at the end of the day, no one’s going to care more about you than you. Take care of yourself. Develop your emotional strength and become your own strongest asset. That takes a lot of conscious effort but if you can control those variables that we talked about, those influences, you’re on a path.
Reality is neutral, actions are not.
This goes back to that Principle of Non-Neutrality. Everything that you do matters. How are you spending your time? That very much ends up being who you are. Recognizing that your actions, that’s what people are going to judge you by and how you should judge yourself most importantly.
This goes back to the physiological and psychological variables. Understanding the interplay between psychology and physiology. They’re both equally as important. I might skew on the side of, you got to get the physiology. It’s hard to talk yourself into a better future. When you’re sleep debt or you’re under-fueled, over-fueled, dehydrated, the physiological stuff is important from a foundational level. Managing those influences, the physiological and the psychological, you need to have a framework around that.
Limit desires.If we don't understand what we care about, and we don't understand the things that we value, things will break down pretty quickly for us. Click To Tweet
This is constant work in progress but figuring out what is it that you want in life. Being very picky or selective about the things that you desire. The more desires you have, the more distracted you are and the harder it is to be present. The degree that you can limit desires is a path to being more present, if in fact that’s something you desire. I mean, for me personally, after a whole lot of things, it’s difficult to be grounded in the present. As a result, I don’t have as much peace in my life.
Last one. Don’t compete.
This might seem after this conversation, an obvious one, no one can be as good as being you as you. Just be you. Embrace who you are and pay attention to who you want to be. Think about that alignment. Don’t worry about what others think and want for you. It’s your own life to lead. It’s easy to compare with social media and to think someone else’s life is great. Focus on yourself. Focus on your own projects. There’s no need to compete with anyone but yourself.
Kristen, as we close out, I ask all of my guests the three things that they do to be successful every day. This is important on the Jedburgh show because, in World War II, the Jedburghs had to do three things as their core foundational tasks. They had to be able to shoot, move, communicate. If they could do these things with the utmost perfection every day, when other challenges came their way, they could divert their attention to those other challenges because their concrete core foundations were set. What are the three things that you do every day to set the foundation to be successful?
I go to bed and wake up at the same time as consistently as possible. I get outside in the sunshine within twenty minutes of waking. I breathe through my nose.
You consistently go to bed and wake up at the same time, sunshine within twenty minutes and you breathe through your nose. Kristen, we talked about the nine characteristics of elite performance as defined by the Special Operations Forces. You exhibit all nine to be successful in everything that you do and everything that you’ve done as an athlete, as a coach in your job and your performance at WHOOP. Now, helping others to achieve their maximum performance at whatever level they may operate at.
We referenced a nine but then I always pick one. I say, “This is the one that my guest exemplifies.” I think about you, the body of work that you’ve put together and curiosity. Constantly pushing that status quo, constantly understanding that there can be better. How do I get to better? How do I unlock that? How do I find it? How do I find it as an athlete? How do I find it as a coach? How do I find it now in what was a startup, is growing, is taking off as a company, changing human performance and changing the way that we as humans think about ourselves, our performance against others and competition?
Maybe it’s not even about competition against other teams. It’s just, “How do I compete against myself to be the best version of myself?” You’ve talked about growth. You’ve talked about impact. You’re truly in a role that is creating maximum impact for all of us who are reading. I thank you so much for your time. I sincerely appreciate getting to know you. I love what you’re doing. I love where you’ve come from and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
It’s so kind, Fran. Thanks for having me. It’s been an honor.