LEARN TO ATTACK FEAR FROM NATHANIEL HOLCOMB
What do you fear?
Is it failure? Are you overly consumed by your image and what people think of you? Or is it a past mistake that you keep replaying over and over? Or maybe you suffer from one of the most crippling fears, which used to often plague me - negative anticipation. You worry about events that haven't even happened yet. You use words like "don't let this happen," or "avoid this."
This negative thought pattern can be summed up by this statement: "What you resist, persists."
Fear feeds off of fear. The more you avoid, the more you attract.
Whether you think positive or negative thoughts, you often times attract positive or negative outcomes in your life. When you create pictures of what you "don't want," you are creating that image in your mind, and thus attracting that very event.
Here are a few examples. Have you ever played baseball and been on defense and thought, "Don't hit it to me, don't hit it to me." What happens? The ball always finds you.
Or you didn't do your homework for school. You show up to class and you keep saying to yourself, "Don't call on me, don't call on me." What happens? Without a doubt, the teacher calls on you. These are examples of "what you resist persists."
An amazing story of the power of thought and fear comes from the Puyallup High School class of 2017 standout quarterback, Nathaniel Holcomb. As a sophomore, fresh out of Kalles Junior High, Holcomb earned the varsity starting quarterback position for the Vikings. Like many first time performers, the desire to not fail consumed Nathaniel's mind; more than thoughts of making positive things happen.
"I didn't want to screw up," Nathaniel said. "I didn't want to throw an interception. I was afraid of what people thought of me - even if I didn't know them."
This internal dialogue sounds very familiar to my old self-talk and many young athletes that I work with. Ironically, this "don't screw up" mindset leads to more screwing up. One of the biggest mental hurdles for Holcomb that season was the fear of injury.
"I played timid and hesitant," he said. "I was afraid of getting hurt."
Playing to avoid injury instead of playing to make things happen proved detrimental. In week four versus Emerald Ridge, Holcomb suffered a concussion that kept him out for most of the season.
Entering his junior season, Holcomb grew stronger and more confident. He was more comfortable with the offense and he knew his playbook. His production improved early in the season, which was evident by leading a come from behind victory over Curtis High School. However, after amassing over 1,000 yards passing and 11 touchdowns, that negative mindset crept back in.
"I remember thinking, 'your doing good, just don't get hurt,' " Holcomb said.
However, during a game mid-way in the season, his fear of injury manifested itself again. After throwing two touchdowns, a hard hit to his left knee forced a sprained MCL. Holcomb was once again out for the season.
According to performance psychologist Heidi Grant from Columbia University, "The brain can process five to seven different thoughts at a time. But when the brain is anxious, it can only process two or three." This function may be for our evolutionary survival (when avoiding lions and tigers, it's probably important to have a narrow focus). However, when needing to process a great deal of information at once (like playing quarterback), a relaxed and calm mindset is much more beneficial.
Going into his senior season, Holcomb knew he wanted to make that year different. He committed himself to train even harder, and more importantly, spend less time of worrying about things out of his control - like being consumed by other people's opinions and the fear of injury.
"The word 'injury' was not in my mind," Holcomb said. "My mindset shifted from 'don't get hurt,' to 'I'm going to stay healthy, and have a good year.' " The College of Idaho commit added, "I said to myself, 'I'm not afraid of throwing a pick.'
A healthy internal dialogue makes all the difference.
I had the pleasure of delivering several mindset workshops with the Puyallup High School football team that summer. One of the messages I gave was on the concept of "attacking fear." I encouraged the players to not run away from adversity and challenge, but to attack it head on. True champions have the courage to face their fears and use that energy as a tailwind to push them forward; not as a headwind that holds them back.
Why did Bruce Wayne (Batman) choose a nocturnal flying creature as his alter ego and symbol of justice? Because of his fear of bats as a young boy. By embracing that fear, and facing it, it gave him courage and strength.
Author and motivational speaker Jack Canfield says, "Everything we want in life is on the other side of fear."
When talking with the PHS football team, I challenged the seniors to come up with a slogan and a hashtag for the season to serve as their mantra and battle cry. This word or phrase would spark vision and action. Holcomb decided to embrace the concept of ATTACK FEAR.
"I never heard those two words together - attack fear," Holcomb said. "I liked it, and wanted to use it."
Oh, and attack fear he did. When week four came again his senior season, Holcomb didn't get hurt, he dominated. Against South Kitsap, Holcomb set a Washington State 11-Man football record with 10 touchdown passes. All while overcoming two early interceptions.
"I wasn't scared," he said. "I was smarter and more loose in the pocket. I was able to avoid defenders and make more plays."
By attacking his fear, Holcomb went on to finish the season with a clean bill of health. He torched the SPSL, finishing the year with 42 touchdowns (only nine interceptions) and 3,649 yards passing. This performance earned him several postseason honors, and a spot with the College of Idaho in the Frontier League.
NFL veteran and College of Idaho Head Coach Mike Moroski is singing Holcomb's praises, "Nathaniel is a big time recruit for us. Very strong arm with the ability to put the ball wherever he wants."
We can learn from Nathaniel Holcomb's story. By facing fear, adversity, and challenge head on, we take away it's power - and in turn - become more powerful.
Like Holcomb learned, when faced with FEAR, we have two options:
The choice is yours. So let me ask you:
WHAT FEAR ARE YOU GOING TO ATTACK TODAY?
Use Nathaniel's story to inspire you. You got this. Let's go!
Collin Henderson is the founder of Project Rise, which is a platform to help individuals and teams improve their mindset and performance. He is also teaching an eight week course on the power of mindset (Flow Mental Performance) at Northwest Prospects Academy this fall (information coming soon).