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Nate Zinsser: Taking Control of Your Story

By March 1, 2022 No Comments

Today, Commander Divine speaks with psychologist and human performance expert, Dr. Nate Zinsser (@DocZinsser). Dr. Zinsser has coached cadets at West Point for the past 30 years. He’s also worked with several high profile athletes, including professional football player Eli Manning. Dr. Zinsser shares how he became interested in the psychology of human performance in high school by noticing the connection between expectations and outcome in team sports. Today, he discusses his new book, The Confident Mind, and shares many different ways we can leverage our minds to increase performance in everything from business to athletics.

“When you affirm something in the present tense. It just becomes more immediate.. It just becomes more palpable.”

“Being able to say to yourself: I am enough for this moment.”

“Our human nervous system in so many important ways does not distinguish between something that we actually experience and something that we vividly imagine experiencing.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The self-fulfilling prophecy is real. Although it sounds a bit cliche, our expectations truly do influence outcomes. It’s not magic. Our expectations guide our actions along the way. 
  • Detailed visualization with a multi-sensory approach is a powerful tool that can benefit anyone in any type of performance field. This tool has to be developed by starting small; layers of complexity can be added in slowly.  
  • Train your mind to look for the good things! We need to be deliberate about reinforcing our positive memories and reminding ourselves about what worked well.
  • Don’t focus on imperfections. Sometimes we just have to power through with whatever training and preparation we’ve had and focus on doing the best we can.

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Mark Divine  0:08  

Welcome to the Mark Divine show. This is Mark Divine, your host super stoked to have you here in the show I discover I dive in I go deep and I discussed just what makes the world’s most interesting, inspirational and compassionate, resilient leaders so courageous, and why they do such great things in the world. We talk in depth to people from all walks of life, martial arts grandmasters, meditative monks, CEOs, military leaders, Stoic philosophers, proud survivors, and performance experts like today. Every episode, we dig into our guests’ life and experience and deliver actionable insights that you can use to follow, lead and live a life filled with compassion and courage. Today we’re going to be talking about the role of confidence in performance. You may have the ability to perform well, and you may have trained hard but if you don’t believe in yourself and your ability, then your performance ultimately will falter. Dr. Nate Zinsser is a sports psychology expert and director of performance psychology at West Point. His research has been published in the Journal of sports and exercise psychology, the Canadian Journal of Psychology and he’s a widely used textbook applied sports psychology, personal growth, the peak performance factors in slurs, also mentored two times Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Flyers for 12 seasons, we work with flyers a bit is consultant for the FBI, the Army’s world class athlete program, or they mentor Olympic medalists. He’s mentored for US Army’s Recruiting Command, the Marksmanship unit, and even the Fire Department of New York. He’s a true human performance expert. He’s got a new book out that we’re gonna be discussing, called the confident mind. Battle tested guide to unshakable performance. Super stoked to have you here, Dr. Nate Zinsser. 


Nate Zinsser  2:04  

I am super stoked and psyched to be with you, Mark, I really appreciate this opportunity. I have spoken with a few navy seals in my time, and it’s always a real pleasure and a privilege to have this opportunity with you.


Mark Divine  2:18  

Yeah, no, the privilege is mine. Yeah, thanks for being at West Point. How long have you been there?


Nate Zinsser  2:22  

I started here in July of 1992. And I’ve never looked back. 


Mark Divine  2:26  

Holy schmoly. Yeah, that’s a long career. That’s a lot of graduating classes.


That’s a lot of graduating out. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of changes there. Wow, I want to talk about training army folks, as well as elite athletes, because I know it’s very different. But first, let’s talk a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? What were some of the formative experiences that got you interested in what you do and led you to West Point?


Nate Zinsser  2:50  

Sure thing. I’m a refugee from the state of New Jersey. And I attended, starting in the sixth grade, a small, private boys school. And something that I noticed, pretty much from the very first day I arrived, were all the signs and posters around the school, attracting people to the next upcoming game of the soccer team. And the soccer team was good. And the next year, I saw it again. And the team was good. And the next year, and the next year, and it seemed like there was this considerable belief and expectation that the soccer team would be a powerhouse year after year. And indeed, it was, interestingly enough, the soccer team was the only team at the school that was a powerhouse a year after year after year. And even more interestingly enough, you could take half that soccer team, put them on the basketball court, or put them on the lacrosse field or baseball field. And, you know, again, my business back in the days when guys played two or three sports, right, you know, before modern specialization, but even when you take these guys who are are really excellent soccer players, put them in another context. You know, they’re only just sort of so so. Right. And it struck me as interesting, curious, somewhat odd that this particular soccer program was so darn good year after year after year, whereas none of the other teams at the school seem to have that. You know, I didn’t understand what was going on for a while. But I learned and I, you know, had the experience of being around an institution that had formed a really constructive, self fulfilling prophecy right about itself. You know, this program, fed on its own Mystique, the whole school bought into it, and the whole state bought into it. The coach of that soccer team, a fella by the name of Miller Bellard One of the greatest soccer coaches that ever lived, I never had the opportunity to play for him because I played football and other sports. But he had succeeded in convincing young kids seventh grade maybe, that if you were diligent stuck with the sport, maybe went to a camp in the summer, you had a really good chance of being a starter by the time you were in 11th or 12th grade. And so we always had a very deep bench. And there was always this positive expectation, this self fulfilling prophecy about success for that soccer team. And I remember vividly one day in the ninth grade, when I’m sitting at the lunch table, and I’m telling some of my classmates, you know, we got a lot of talent on the wrestling team coming up a lot of guys in our class. And I think once we get some seasoning, once we get some good quality competition under our belts, dang it, we’re gonna be good. And a fellow looked at me from across the table and said, Nate, shut up. You’re never going to be any good hook. Guys at this school don’t wrestle, well, quote, unquote, I’ll never forget those words. He said, we’re good in soccer. Sometimes you’re good in tennis, sometimes we’re good in swimming. But we’ve never been good at wrestling, and we never will be. Now, on the one hand, the guy was asked as loosely correct, because at the time, the wrestling program was pretty much a doormat, right? But I kept thinking man, who gave him the crystal ball, right. And it was just such a clear example of how people’s ideas about themselves individually and collectively, when we’re talking about a team, those ideas have a really powerful effect on what actually happens. That’s right. And I’m really proud to say that in my junior year of high school, our wrestling team had first winning season in a long, long, long time. We did it again, my senior year, I won the Independent School State Championship, and the team hasn’t been a doormat ever since. So that was a really early experience in me understanding, you know, how powerful the mind and how powerful your sense of yourself really is.


Mark Divine  7:09  

That’s fascinating. I love that. And the fact you were kind of self aware of what was going on at that age, you know, to build to reflect upon the power of that kind of collective story. both positive and negative, is really interesting, right? So did that shape that experience shaped your decision to study psychology in college?


Nate Zinsser  7:28  

Very much. So that experience led me to think a lot about the whole psychology of human performance. In the broadest possible context. I went to a small college in Western Massachusetts, where I wrote a senior thesis on the psychology of performance even for the term sports psychology had ever even been coined, right. So you know, all my experiences as a competitive wrestler, as an alpinist, you know, climbing all over the North American continent, studying martial arts. From the time I was 14, right up until today, all of those performance activities of mine have really been shaped by an interest in an exploration of exactly how your mentality how your collection of thoughts, affects you physically, and influences how you perform.


Mark Divine  8:21  

That’s fascinating. We have interesting kind of overlaps both, but you didn’t actually get in the did you have military experience?


Nate Zinsser  8:27  

None whatsoever. I was hired for this job at West Point to be the sort of subject matter expert and source of continuity right to a program that was started here in 1988. As a very small pilot, just to support the army football team or interest, a visionary graduate, bird Colonel combat veteran by the name of Louis Ciocca. Si, si. Okay,


Mark Divine  8:51  

I know this phenomenal guy. Yeah, he recently had some health issues. I know. So he is not able to continue his work. But um, he had a stroke recently. But yeah, Louis


Nate Zinsser  9:01  

Lewis was the guy who had, who had this blinding flash of the obvious. He said, Come on, we are preparing cadets, for potentially the most stressful human activity possible ground combat, right? We ought to really look at the intangibles of what creates or enables success in that context. We’re going to get them physically fit. We’re going to give them the best equipment possible. We’re going to teach them all about geography and engineering. Maybe we ought to be teaching them a little bit about confidence, focus, composure under pressure, can we actually come up with a curriculum that will help our cadets understand those things? He came up with the skeletal program in 1988 began to pilot it. It flourished here at West Point. And late in 1991. He put out a search for a civilian subject matter expert with a lot of applied experience, and I ended up with a jab and I’ve been here ever since. That’s awesome.


Mark Divine  10:03  

Yeah, Louis was quite a pioneer. Speaking of pioneers, you know, you talk about sports psychology be kind of nascent in the late 70s, early 80s. But um, I had a swim coach at Colgate named Bob Benson, who had me visualize my race with a stopwatch. Yeah. And so he was like, putting himself out there. That was really early in the day before there was any real chatter about the power of practice visualization. I’ve told the story before he had a profound effect on me, like, literally, I had to trust him. Because as you know, it’s really hard to do that, especially to swim an entire race in your head. You know, with your eyes closed, it took me months and months before I could actually concentrate deep enough to do that. But when I finally did was able to do that, my time kind of settled in at the same time, every time I do it roughly, you know, within a few hundredths of a second, and it was always three seconds faster than ever swam in my life. Hmm. And the way the story goes, not I’ll be really brief here is that that was my sophomore year. And then Junior fall, I did one of those overseas study groups. So like, I didn’t swim that year, I was kind of off the team because I was overseas, and I came back in the spring, and they were finishing up the season, I ran into coaches like, Hey, Mark, you know, blah, blah, blah, how was your trip? You know, oh, by the way, we’ve got our championship race coming up next week, and you want to get in the pool? And my head’s going, nodding, yes. And my mind is saying, I don’t want to do that course. But there I was standing on the block, and I jumped in for the 200 meter breaststroke, and I was like, Oh, my God, I feel like I’ve swam this race before and, and I got that time that I’ve visualized full year before.


Nate Zinsser  11:37  

That doesn’t surprise me in the least right. Great. Coaches have always understood this. Whether they wrote books or conducted research on it. The great coaches have always known about how powerful the mind is and how you have to leverage it. I had a great experience very similar to that mentoring, the first Cadet to run a sub four minute mile. No kidding. Yep. That fella Dan Brown, who just retired as an oh five. He coached in the Army’s world class athlete program for a while, he ran the 10,000 meters and the marathon into 2004 Olympic Games. But in February of 1997, he became the first Cadet to run a sub four minute mile. And he and I had worked together, lots and lots prior to that. And he sat in one of our special ergonomically designed recliners, we would go to the Fieldhouse in his imagination, you know, picturing in vivid detail some of his warm ups, some of the sights and sounds of that particular meet that was coming up in two days, this was on a Thursday. And we took a very detailed visualization right up to the starting line, we had a simulation of a starting gun, go, hit the stopwatch, and he ran that sub four minute mile, he ran like 358, something in his imagination, hitting every split that he wanted to hit. Two days later, he runs about four or five, maybe four tenths of a second slower, but it’s still the first four minute sub four minute mile and Academy history. And that record still stands today, by the way, I’m grooming his successor to run a little faster. But the idea of you can visualize an outcome that you want, and your nervous system gets adjusted to it. Right. So when you’re there in the moment, there’s still a sense of excitement, right? But there’s a sense of certainty about it as well. Because it’s happened before that word


Mark Divine  13:52  

I’ve used often, because I had another similar experience where instead of visualizing an athletic event, I visualized myself basically going through SEAL training and graduating. It’s not a fast process like this took months and months and months of work. And I would say around nine months, I had this shift in my psychology where suddenly I didn’t hope to be a Navy Seal or desire to Navy SEAL. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going to be a Navy SEAL. I had 100% certainty. And it was that week that shift came across me that the recruiter called and said, Hey, Mark, congratulations, you’re one of two guys were selected this year. And then when I went to SEAL training, similar to experience, like when I jumped off the blocks into the pool, I was like, Ah, this feels really familiar.


Nate Zinsser  14:39  

This feels familiar, even though you had never been there. Right? It felt familiar, because your nervous system had spent so many hours practicing, practicing that did the same neural circuits that you needed to employ. Once you got to Coronado beach or wherever the you guys were during your training, those same neural circuits that you exercised there in the actual environment, you had already been exercising them in the theater of your own imagination, right? I’m sure many of your listeners are aware of this, but it bears repeating our human nervous system in so many important ways, does not distinguish between something that we actually experience and something that we vividly imagine experiencing. And so the implications of that are vast, extraordinary. If you want to be comfortable playing a piano recital in Carnegie Hall, it’s very, very advisable for you to get a whole lot of photos of what that place looks like and be able to insert yourself just as you described, insert yourself into those pictures, feel the glare of those particular lights, sense what the floor looks like, sense what you might be seeing, as you walk out onto that stage, sit at that piano stool, take your breath, and begin to play. And then feel your fingers on the keys, feel the emotional content of the music, hear the precise tones coming out of that Steinway, or whatever you’re playing, that process can benefit anyone in pretty much any human performance activity.


Mark Divine  16:26  

Yeah, it’s difficult work, though. And especially the way you describe that is so interesting, because it is for it to be effective. It’s got to be a multi sensory, enriched, embodied experience. Right? And so most people don’t use their minds that way. So how do we, how do you train a cadet or a new athlete? You know, how do you take it from zero to what you just described, you know, a full sensory envisioned experiences if you were there in person,


Nate Zinsser  16:53  

I start with something really simple, and then work up to complicated scenarios, the simplest thing that I can do, gosh, just imagine that you’re sitting at your kitchen table, and you have a nice fresh lemon in front of you on a plate with a nice sharp knife, and youcut into that lemon, and you feel the weight of the lemon in your hand and you feel the texture of it. And you can see the way the light glistens off the cut surface, and you bring it up to your face, and you can smell that lemony, citrusy, aroma. And you may just take a little tentative, like lick at it, and then a little careful bite and you can taste the juice. And now you imagine taking a great big mouthful of it and chewing it up, and really feeling it in your mouth and just doing simple things like that. Tell me where is your mouth watering right now?


Mark Divine  17:43  

Yeah, I just ate a lemon. It’s delicious. You just


Nate Zinsser  17:45  

ate a lemon. No, you didn’t eat a lemon. But your nervous system, the taste buds in your tongue were activated, they sent a message back to your cortex or cortex sent messages to your sublingual glands to start producing saliva. All in the absence of anything that was real, it was just your imagination, literally changing your biology. So you were doing that to prepare your biology to swim a really good 200 meter. Breaststroke, you were preparing your biology, to do to swim tasks to do the lifting tasks, to do the runs, the push ups, etc, etc. At SEAL training. We’re doing the same things here with the athletes with firefighters, and with cadets who are doing things like preparing to interview for a Marshall scholarship or a road scholarship. All your listeners out there, who are entrepreneurs assembling a team bring new product to Market, this kind of detailed envisioning can pay huge dividends right. But to get back to your question, you have to start with something small. Right? Okay, and be able to create a multi sensory representation of it. And then you can move on to bigger things. And all right, I have guides I have guys do visualizations about a football, if that’s their game, being able to see the texture of the leather and the exact contour of the laces and feel it in their hands and and move it around. And then can you imagine that you are now on a field and you’re holding that ball that you can feel the turf under your feet. And you look around, okay, there’s the goalpost, there’s the scoreboard. Now, let’s imagine there’s one other member of my team and I’m just throwing a really simple, you know, 15 yard out pattern, you can build up, build up build up endless layers of complexity, just starting from those simple things.


Mark Divine  19:30  

Do you guide the visualizations for your your athletes, or do you have them kind of do it themselves?


Nate Zinsser  19:36  

There’s a mixture right at times I have to guide them, especially in cases when we want to make sure that we are preparing for certain situations right? Would that where we are rehearsing particular skills, a lacrosse player trying to learn a particular dodge and get a shot off to a particular part of the goal. If that’s a goal of hers that she wants to achieve and improve that skill. Well then we We’ll guide that visualization exactly narrating it, and then let her take it over. Later on. As people come more sophisticated, boy, I can sit them down, I can do a little deep breathing, we can relax into a nice, easy quasi meditative state. And then all I have to say is, you’re on the field, it’s the fourth quarter, ball, starting at our 15 yard line, we need a touchdown, there’s no field goal option, run the offense, see the sequence, let me know when you’re standing in the endzone, celebrating that touchdown. And they can just run with it and go with it and produce all those wonderful pictures.


Mark Divine  20:40  

Now that’s cool. So I can see how stimulating and training your nervous system for the when in advance has a big effect on one’s self confidence, which is the topic of your book, what other things do you work with other tools are parts of an individual’s psychology and you work with to improve confidence.


Nate Zinsser  20:59  

I start out typically making sure that people get a good handle on their memories, managing the memories that you have of yourself in a particular performance situation or with regard to, you know, your given profession, those long term memories, what are the most successful moments you’ve ever had? What are the seminal moments that really established you as someone who might be really good at a sport, or a musical instrument, or a particular academic subjects, and then I conduct people and advise them to do a daily fairly in depth reflection of their experience of the day journaling, deliberately journaling, an episode of success, an episode of effort, an episode of progress. And in this way, we sort of assemble a collection of encouraging optimistic thoughts about ourselves by deliberately selecting out the right kinds of memories, right, that’s a process that anybody can do doesn’t take a lot of time, you just got to understand, you know, a few principles in the value.


Mark Divine  22:10  

And the corollary outcome to that, as you’re training, you’re training your mind to look for the good things, as opposed to be dwelling on the bad, you know, or the negative or the suboptimal and so many people dwell on the, on the failures, or the you know, the things that didn’t go well. And unfortunately, that just keeps greasing the groove that negative conditioning.


Nate Zinsser  22:30  

Exactly. You’re greasing the wrong kind of groove, right. So I encourage people to take a very active selective, deliberate role in managing their memories. And I counsel people to take an active deliberate role in telling themselves stories about themselves. In terms of, I have this quality, I have this skill level, I am achieving a given outcome, the sort of affirmation or process that is very specific and very detailed, rather than just looking yourself in the mirror and saying, oh, every day, I’m getting better looking. Okay, not every day, my footwork, from the baseline, to the top of the paint gets more precise. My shooting mechanics are quick and precise. My defensive presence on the field is felt by all my teammates, really getting people to tell stories to themselves about themselves, which are empowering, and which subtly but significantly, force them to take the right actions to become what they tell themselves that they are. And this goes again, right back to that soccer team. Yeah, you’re going to tell yourself, we’re a powerhouse, which means you’re going to practice like powerhouse player. It’s very interesting the way that relationship works.


Mark Divine  23:57  

That’s fascinating. It’s so true, that we are just a collection of stories individually and as a team or a community, and that we can architect those stories. And that’s the key is like, successful people have figured this out throughout the centuries. And it’s just like, architect the story that you want to live and then that story will show up, right? You know, got to take action, of course, but the action is built upon the thought back to imagery and self talk. Why do you think it’s important that when we’re doing this work, we talk to ourselves as if we’ve already accomplished it, as opposed to it a sense of like, it’s still out there and I’m grasping for it, I’m reaching for it, I desire.


Nate Zinsser  24:35  

When you affirm something in the present tense, it just becomes more immediate, it just becomes more palpable. I’m sure it accesses a deeper level of neurology. When you think, you know, my feet are in perfect rhythm as I round that turn for the 400 meters, as opposed to my feet will be theirs. A very different level of physical immediacy that comes when you phrase it in the present tense. Yeah,


Mark Divine  25:07  

it’s a subtle difference, but it makes a big difference in the outcome. Do you work with non athlete cadets, you know, like the general population to prepare them for combat?


Nate Zinsser  25:17  

Absolutely. Well, let’s be fair. Every cadet is an athlete, okay. And warrior athlete, Every cadet at West Point is training to be a tactical athlete. And we have, as you’re well aware, pretty strict physical requirements. We have physical fitness testing twice a year, we have a mandatory indoor obstacle course test that you must take every year, we have a mandatory survival swimming class, mandatory combatives mandatory boxing. Every cadet is indeed an athlete. Some of those cadets struggle a little bit with some of those requirements. Some of our cadets struggle with the academic grind of West Point. But the same mental skills that we employ for the cadets who you’re going to see participating in the Army Navy football game every year in December on television, those same techniques are a value to the cadet who was looking to maybe be the have the highest fitness test score in his or her company, or the cadet who wants to ensure that they’re going to get an acceptance to medical school upon graduation, because their vision, their desire goal is to become an orthopedic surgeon for the army. So all of the skills are applicable across the board to all Cadet performance endeavors. And I spend just about as much time with non varsity athlete cadets as my program does with our football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, lacrosse, rugby, swimming, etc, etc, etc.


Mark Divine  26:59  

How does that work? I mean, you can’t obviously can’t work one on one with everybody at the school,


Nate Zinsser  27:03  

we have the 10 lesson mental skills for Cadet Success course. My staff and I are embedded with various teams. So we can do some collective training, we will do workshops for cadets in different performance situations like the survival swimming class. So we do try to scale it up as best we can.


Mark Divine  27:23  

Got it. So so far, we’ve talked about imagery, work and self talk, what other tools, what are their powerful tools you use with? Those are kind of like the most probably potent, you got to get those right, but what else works,


Nate Zinsser  27:36  

I think you got to have a certain perspective, I think some of the other the skills of regulating your self talk are based upon some understandings about the function of the mind, the mind body connection, the fact of simple human imperfection, and being able to deal with that, without a great loss of energy and enthusiasm for yourself. I spent an hour just about two hours ago, with the cadet educating him about how to deal with the negative self talk, and how to interpret his own imperfections in competition, instead of having something go wrong, and that voice in his head and immediately jumps to oh, here we go. Again, I’m in trouble. No, being able to interpret that mistake that imperfection, just as a temporary process. It happened, but it just happened then, in time, it happened just there in place. And no, it’s not the definitive statement about how good a player he is. So you have to kind of leave those mistakes as temporary, limited, really non representative of who you are, right? It’s getting people to accept the fact that they have a choice to make, about how they view themselves in moments of competition. And once you understand those principles, and as you say, you practice and you practice and practice them, man, eventually it gets into your neurology, and it becomes natural for you to rise above or not be dragged down by the difficulties that we all face by the inevitable imperfections that we all commit at times.


Mark Divine  29:22  

That’s great. So that speaks to kind of like the emotional aspect of self confidence. You can be a great athlete and have all the skills dialed in and still torpedo your own success, you know, at the one yard line because of some emotional shadow issue or trauma that’s unresolved,


Nate Zinsser  29:43  

or perhaps just simply because you’re wondering, okay, we didn’t get a whole lot of reps on this goal line, right? I wish we practiced it more. You know, instead of saying, Okay, well, we got the reps we got and those reps are enough. That’s right. We’re putting it in the Being able to say to yourself, I am enough for this moment, even if, you know you really gave it a whole lot of sober reflection, you can come to the conclusion. And we really didn’t practice this a whole lot. But I have no choice but to be certain about it. At the moment, we’d all love to have the perfect level of preparation. We’d all love to have enough opportunities to study for that upcoming exam, and make sure that we had enough time to cover every chapter in every possible detail. So we could walk into that exam feeling like, hey, I really know this subject matter. We don’t always get that time. But you can’t use the fact that, Hey, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to study as an excuse to walk into that exam room, chicken in your boots, you got no choice if you actually care about doing well, right. But to say to yourself, Okay, I studied what I studied, I know what I know, I’m going to learn everything I know, let’s see if this professor can stump me. And it’s coming into it with that kind of borderline cockiness, that I think is really valuable. And our schooling system tends not to teach that, right. And our whole society is very ambivalent, about confidence. Yeah, we know you got to have some, but you better not have too much kid, you better not think too highly of yourself, are cadets in our society at large is drilled with those sorts of messages. So there’s plenty of work for me to do to straighten folks out.


Mark Divine  31:28  

Ya know, I’m definitely certain of that. I heard stories from the seal instructors, you know, dealing with youth today as they come in. And it’s interesting, they have low confidence with an attitude. Which is a strange combination. Right? Very strange. Yeah. So you got to unwind some things. That’s interesting, what motivated you to write the confident mind, because


Nate Zinsser  31:52  

of the number of people who kept coming into my office, and saying, you know, I used to really feel good about my game. Or I used to feel really, you know, comfortable with myself. And now, here I am. And I just don’t have any confidence in myself anymore. And it’s so funny, because a lot of these people, you know, we’re highschool all Americans, all state, this all state that team MVP, team captain, so this year had plenty of success in their past. But they somehow discounted the value of that success and did not choose to use it, to allow themselves to feel more and more certain about themselves in the present. So in answer to your question, I was moved to write this book, because, jeez, this to me is where it all starts. If you can learn how to be confident, your ability to be present and fully absorbed in what you’re doing, very much happens by itself, you cannot be absorbed in the moment and experience, you know, what the literature refers to us flow or being in the zone, if in the back of your mind is a heck of a lot of uncertainty, right? So let’s address that uncertainty as best we can. And give yourself the chance to be, you know, I use the expression flow friendly or flow ready or flow accessible, right? I love that.


Mark Divine  33:22  

So much of performance in a team based setting is built upon collective energy, right? The collective confidence. And so I’m curious, do you do any like Team visualizations where everyone is experiencing the same outcomes? So that’s something that I’m working on are kind of encouraging my clients, organizational clients and team based clients like power of the team experiencing the same vision is unbelievable. Geometric compared to what any individual can accomplish,


Nate Zinsser  33:56  

exponential, I would say, yeah, so you know, here we are with, say the lacrosse team, which is a externally paced, team sport, all kinds of things happening. Can we all imagine being on the field and we can we all imagine other members of our team executing beautifully, you know, the goal is making a beautiful save. That save is getting out to one of the defenseman. That defenseman is finding space, getting the ball of field to a midfield or that midfielders bringing the ball across the midfield line. He’s passing off to one of the attackman who’s cutting forward that midfielder is running off on comes the offensive midfielder. And now we’re seeing this particular offense go into into play, getting people to see not just their own execution, but the execution of the people who are on the field with them at the same time, right and building that sort of collective understanding that collective enthusiasm for one another, right. That’s cool.


Mark Divine  34:58  

So Have you been at West Point now? Since 92? That’s 30 years. Incredible. Yeah. Well, you’re gonna be there for another 30 Or what’s next for you?


Nate Zinsser  35:10  

Well, you know, I have to say, you know, once upon a time I had some hair. You’re looking good. Oh, appreciate that. Yeah. Shade that. Yeah, I have seen a lot of things changed. I mean, God, you go back 30 years, no internet, no computers, everything was done on manual typewriter, communication done in person, a completely different world that we have moved into, just in my short lifetime, right. But curiously enough, human beings still a human being. Human beings are still human beings. We are still these Pleistocene based kromagg nones. We are essentially cave dwellers, we have the same nutritional requirements, right, we still crave human contact and social connection, despite the fact that you know, we were close and shave parts of our bodies and use computers, we’re still that animal that is motivated by certain basic needs. And we still have a brain and a nervous system that is the product of the Pleistocene, meaning, we have a very highly developed sense of what could go wrong. Or Han, you know, we’ve got a built in, you know, alarm system, which elevates our energy level when we perceive any kind of threat, or we perceive ourselves to be engaged in something that has consequences. That’s why we all experience a fight or flight response episode, when we’re about to take a test. It’s not a threat to our existence. But because it’s something important, our primitive biology elevates to a certain degree. And that primitive biology has us looking over our shoulder a lot. Because our Pleistocene ancestors lived a very uncertain life, we didn’t know where the food would come from, if the water would be pure. We had some built in wired in tendencies to try to take care of everything. We also, by the way, have a built in tendency for optimism as well, I should balance that out. But we still have to deal with these very basic aspects of human being, right, despite the fact that we can shoot with missiles instead of bows and arrows.


Mark Divine  37:38  

It’s true. Yeah, the human architecture hasn’t really upgraded much. Although I would submit that sports psychology performance psychology, mindset training, and the ubiquitous nature of it these days, I think is set to really upgrade kind of the human being,


Nate Zinsser  37:56  

I like to think that we can make some minor software modifications on you know, taking advantage of the somewhat primitive hardware that we are all equipped with. I agree with that.


Mark Divine  38:08  

That’s awesome. And it sounds like your book, which I look forward to reading will help with that software upgrade. The Confident mind a battle tested guide to unshakable performance. Love that title, available at Amazon or anywhere books are sold. I imagine. He’s quite right. Where Can folks learn more about you and your work? The book? Do you have a website social media?


Nate Zinsser  38:30  

Yes. Need Okay, is up and running. I look forward to connecting to any and all of your listeners. And again, I thank you for this opportunity to be part of your podcast. I thank you personally for your service to the nation. Thank you and I wish the best all your listeners for a safe and healthy 2022.


Mark Divine  38:50  

Who job to that? Well, that was an incredible, credible discussion with Dr. Nate Zinsser the army sports psychologist show notes and transcripts will be on Mark Divine calm, and the video will be up on the YouTube channel. If you want to reach out on Twitter. It’s Mark Divine at Facebook and Instagram. It’s at real Mark Divine. Or you can hit me up at my LinkedIn profile. quick plug for the newsletter that’s coming out called divine inspiration. love to have you on the email list the subscriber list because you’re gonna want to catch this weekly update for me with new interesting content around things I’m fascinated with and lots of real cool things that will inspire you. So go to to subscribe if you’re not on the list. Special shout out to my amazing team Jason Sanderson, Geoff Haskell, Michele Czarnik and Amy Jurkowitz, who helped to produce this podcast every single week with incredible guests. Incredible video and editing and support, couldn’t do it without them. Love reviews reviews help other people find the show we’ve got over 1005 star reviews my goal this yours to get to 5005 star reviews over at Apple. So wherever you listen to the show, please consider reviewing it and share this show. As you know, we are in challenging times. And that is both a blessing and a curse. It’s up to us to be the change we want to see in the world. Let’s do that at scale. Our goal at unbeatable mind is to train 100 million people to be more caring and compassionate and world centric in their perspective and their leadership. And that takes daily effort to train our minds, to train our bodies to train our spirits and to integrate. And so I encourage you to do the work every day. If you want to learn more about unbeatable mind please just go to unbeatable and learn about the incredible programs that we have there. Till next time, be unbeatable, stay focused, and be inspired.

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