3 Things: How to Achieve Peak Performance

10 minutes read

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What does it take to achieve greatness? How do you maintain it, and how do you continually find ways to improve – in every area of your life?

To me, the great “peak performers” out there are people who are driven by the notion that there’s always another gear. There’s always a way to get better.

Over the course of this podcast, we’ve been lucky to learn from multiple Olympic gold medalists, world-record holders, ultra-endurance athletes, and legends in their fields.

Here are just a few top takeaways from these guests, who have defined what it means to reach the peak.

Abby Wambach, soccer legend

  • Don’t make decisions based on “fear of.” Make decisions based on “what if.” The opposite of failure is not success – it’s not trying.  Setbacks enable you to re-think the game and figure out who you are when things are going poorly. The mindset of a champion is to give it everything you’ve got, every single time – and then to keep asking, what else is there?
  • Attach yourself to the times you feel most human. Abby has won two Olympic gold medals, but it’s the bronze one she keeps on display. Celebrate your wins, but honor the times you didn’t. Our failures remind us that we are on a journey.
  • Peak performance is truly unique on an individual level. There are still many gaps in the science behind men and women’s sports – but we can’t forget about the human element, too. Men, women – even those with different physiques – everyone experiences the world differently. Those experiences shape our unique perspectives, expectations, and performance. If we all went through life with more awareness, understanding, and acceptance of the things that make us different – the world would be a better place.  

Jesse Itzler, ultra-endurance athlete

  • We are capable of more than we think we are. The key differentiator in life, business, sports – everything – is our willingness to be uncomfortable. Jesse set a goal to run 2 miles, and through sheer mental toughness he pushed it to 100. In his words, “counter-punch your self-doubt” with positive self-talk. Telling yourself “I can’t” gives power to negativity, but changing your mindset to “I can” and “I will” – and saying it out loud – makes it real. 
  • Thinking of time in terms of “moments” creates more urgency for the things that matter most. Say no to things that don’t move the needle forward in your life. Invest in experiences, and prioritize yourself. Jesse finds a great balance between mapping out his time and living in the moment. Planning ahead enables him to eliminate multi-tasking from his life, which means he can be completely present in all aspects of his life.    
  • Paying it forward starts with being approachable. Jesse has never forgotten his humble couch-surfing beginnings, and he’s constantly looking for opportunities to pay it forward. He’s a friend to everyone. You never know who’s got the talent and the drive to become the next peak performer – but just needs one opportunity. It’s never about giving a hand-out. It’s about giving a hand up.

Andy Roddick, #1 world-ranked tennis player

  • Success isn’t about one make or break moment. It’s a culmination of thousands of tiny decisions. Many smart decisions and small actions over time will compound – and lead to big results.
  • Control the controllables. Instead of blaming external factors, always look inward first and ask what are you doing to contribute and what can you change. Apply this mindset to sports, business and personal relationships.
  • Use fear as fuel, and don’t be afraid to experiment.  It is human to fear failure; it’s the most common motivator. Even those who have sustained greatness suffer from self-doubt. But peak performers are those who can harness their fear – and failures- to become the best. The worst thing you can say is “I wish I’d tried that.”

Luke Kuechly & Christian McCaffrey, NFL stars

  • Never believe you’ve peaked. “Nobody’s ever played a perfect game, and no one ever will.” Focus on the process/journey, and get better every day.
  • Treat your body like your business. Luke and Christian use science to get a competitive advantage, but you don’t have to be a professional athlete to take sleep and nutrition seriously. The biggest benefit they both keep pointing to is just “feeling better.” Self-care improves your health, your focus, and your performance in all things.
  • Be a world-class practice player. Top performers treat practice differently, which leads to peak performance for themselves and for their teams.
Luke and Christian shared the science behind improving focus, energy, and health.

Jay Bilas, ESPN commentator

  • Short-term pain leads to long-term gains. It takes discipline and sacrifice, but when you take care of the things you have to do early on, you earn the ability to do the things you want to do later on.
  • When you have a chance to take a swing at the champ, you take it. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you step up to the plate.
  • Make your mindset all about the “next play.” Don’t let success or failure distract you or define you. Not just in sports, but at work and at home.

Dan O’Brien, Olympic gold medalist

  • Failure means different things to different people. To me, it’s only a failure if you didn’t learn a lesson. For Dan, it’s only a failure if you give up.
  • Life is a lot more fun when you focus on the inputs. Not the awards, not the medals. If you get a little better every day, success will take care of itself – especially if you’re passionate about what you do.
  • The only way you become a pressure player is by practicing under pressure. Those who are most comfortable with discomfort are the ones who will succeed more often.

Rick Hendrick, NASCAR legend

  • We are stronger together than we are by ourselves. Rick attributes his success entirely to the people around him – “If we bring our energy into a broken deal, we can always turn it around.” And the reason he was the first to win with multiple teams. “It only works if you’re willing to share.”  (Similarities to Red Ventures’ portfolio…)
  • The race begins with mental toughness.  NASCAR drivers are willing to get into cars that could melt their shoes, drive hundreds of miles an hour, 2 inches apart from other cars, losing 8 pounds in 4 hours. The mental conditioning that goes into staying calm under pressure and holding focus for hours on end is hard to see from the outside, but is 90% of a driver’s success.
  • Show up to win. There’s no point in competing if you don’t see chance to be the best. This explains so much about Rick – including how he’s never lost the grind, and how he’s been dominating a sport for decades.

Larry Fitzgerald, NFL star

  • With great success comes great responsibility. Larry understands that he’s a role model, and he uses humility to teach us all what it truly means to be successful.
  • The true greats don’t ever hear criticism. If it comes from the outside, they ignore it, and if it comes from the inside they listen to it as coaching. They understand what they’re good at, and what they need to improve. Even at 36, he’s looking to get better at everything in life.
  • Competition is really not an option. You’re either the one going after your competitor, or they’re coming after you. Why not lean into that? Be the one to set the tone of the fight.

Featured Episode: Jesse Itzler

Jesse is a dear friend, a serial entrepreneur, and an ultra-endurance athlete who explains how to push past mental and physical barriers to challenge what’s humanly possible.

Featured Episode: Abby Wambach

Abby is a soccer legend with a fierce approach to peak performance and unique insights into female athletics and equal pay.

About 3 Things

Ric Elias learned 3 things from surviving the Miracle on the Hudson. Now he’s sharing conversations with remarkable people, and 3 things we all can take away from each.


Hear more from Ric by following him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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About the Author:

Ric Elias | Co-Founder & CEO

Ric Elias is CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures. In 2009, he survived the "Miracle on the Hudson,” which led to his viral TED Talk, "3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed." In 2011, Ric was named Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year, and in 2016 he was inducted into the Carolinas Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. Ric has founded several social impact initiatives including RoadtoHire, Golden Door Scholars, LifeSports, and Forward787. A native of Puerto Rico, Ric attended Boston College and Harvard Business School.

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