Dana Cavalea spent 12 years with the New York Yankees Organization, including many years as the Director of Strength and Conditioning, and he had the opportunity to train greats such as Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Justin Verlander.
Today, Dana brings those same performance optimization techniques to business leaders, entrepreneurs, and pro athletes around the world. We discuss the challenges and struggles business leaders face today, the parallels between sports and business, and the strategies you can apply to optimize your own performance.
The Struggle with Balancing it All
Dana finds that many executives are out of balance. They don’t own their own schedule, they may not have the right structure in their life, and don’t put up enough boundaries.
“It's like they're trying to accomplish so much in a very short period of time that they're compromising themselves in order to do that.”
And to be successful, you have to be a little bit out of balance – but when it goes on for too long, it’s not sustainable and you burn out But breaking that habit isn’t easy.
Numbers AND Gut
In today’s data-driven society, the numbers tend to drive everything. Dana certainly understands and appreciates the value of having that baseline, as he helped lead the Yankees to being one of the first teams using data to drive results and performance.
But he never forgot the actual people behind the numbers. It’s how he built close relationships with his players. Dana tells us that it’s when we overanalyze the numbers, we lose sight of our gut – those human instincts that are still very critical to performance.
“I never wanted to lose the individual on the team, and by doing that I was able to connect at a very deep level with the player right off the bat.”
Simplicity is Key
There is a myth is that optimizing your performance is complicated – but when you break it down, it’s pretty simple.
“What I find is that if you break everything down to its most simple form, you realize that we waste so much time overthinking, and when you're overthinking you're not doing. If you were to just do, that's really where the results come from.”
When it comes to executives, Dana tries to instill in them the same things that the Yankees would instill in players: the importance of routine, structure, and boundaries.
So keep it simple, break your routine down to many small steps with built-in transitions, and trust that you will achieve momentum through small actions and small victories.
How do the baseball greats become the greats? They build a routine, trust that routine, and know it’s going to bring out their best through thick and thin. “And in times of struggle, lean on your routine. Don't look outside for externals that can actually confuse you.”
Data is necessary to create that baseline but it’s still that combination of numbers and gut. It can’t be all one or the other. Without that, it’s going to be hard to optimize performance.
As a manager, you need to know who you’re managing – it’s important to not lose sight of the person and what may be going on in their life. They are more than numbers and stats. Without that context, you're never going to be able to lead and manage effectively.
You have to break the mindset of “this is the way I've always done it” or “this is what I have to do.”
Reframe your perspective and focus more on what you need to do in order to achieve the desired result that the company wants – and that you want for yourself! If you are rigid, you're going to run into the same limitations, challenges, and barriers that may have occurred in the past.
Optimizing your performance is simple – less is more. Have that routine, stay consistent. Set your boundaries. Balance what’s important vs. what isn’t.
Build momentum by taking it one step at a time and creating mini victories for yourself. You’ll get that feeling of winning and your confidence will go up, which will all lead to self-satisfaction
“Play the long game, stay consistent, chop chop away. If you are chopping every day, you’ll be a winner in the end.”
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