Unlocking Experience, Enabling Action

In the last week Bret Easton Ellis has visited Australia. He attended his first writers’ festival in twenty-five years. I caught up with his visit through Margaret Throsby’s interview with him on Classic FM.

What was interesting about the interview with Margaret Throsby was his perspective on how interviewers unlock personal experience. This is the link to the podcast of the interview and his statement about the enjoyment of the interview with her.

It was interesting to read of Ramona Koval’s interview with Bret Ellis at the Byron Bay Festival:

The ABC’s Ramona Koval opened an onstage conversation with Ellis on Friday night by asking about character development and morality in Imperial Bedrooms. Ellis paused, looking puzzled and pained, then began a manic dialogue about having discovered the Australian singer Delta Goodrem while watching music videos in his hotel room.

A podcast of the interview between Ramona Koval and Bret Ellis can be found at this link.

These interviews encouraged me to reflect on watching the broadcast of the Raiders v Panthers rugby league game on Monday (9 August). There was a great glimpse of David Furner (the Raiders’ coach) at half time speaking with his players. It would have been interesting to be in the changing rooms at that time.The Raiders were losing by fourteen points and were facing exit from the competition for the end of season play-offs. They won the second half 18-0.

This is a link to an ABC interview with David after the game.

One newspaper report noted:

Asked what had sparked the turnaround, Campese had no hesitation in nominating Furner’s half-time address. Rather than give the players a spray, as Furner admitted he wanted to do, the former Raiders great calmly told them they could still win but had to keep an opposition side scoreless in the second half for the first time this season.

”… he just told us to get our breath back and sit down. He then said we only got two opportunities in the first half and we scored off both of them, so if we could hold them out, which we had to, and get the ball down their end we could score the tries.

”He said all we needed was about five good attacks and we got that and we scored three tries. That was about all he said and we just talked about shutting them out in the second half. I think what he said just gave us confidence and we went out and did it.”

Furner said: ”I wasn’t happy but I think the big thing we needed was belief and confidence. We talked about discipline in our game and discipline in defence, but the main thing was that they couldn’t score a point in the second half. It was about 40 minutes of character. It was 18-0 in the second half and I said that is what it would take to win that game.”

The Canberra Times observed that:

Whatever David Furner said to his team at half-time last night, the Canberra Raiders need to bottle it and use it for the rest of the season. With their season on the line, Furner’s words ignited the Raiders to help them storm to a 30-26 win over the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium. Down by 14 points at the break and with their finals hopes slipping away, it wasn’t a verbal lashing that spurred the Raiders to just their second come-from-behind victory this season. The players said it was Furner’s restrained address that inspired them to a rare fightback.

What no one has discussed to date is what David said before the game! The second half turn around may have a lot to share about how to trigger action. This I think is the essence of the Bret Ellis interviews too.

I am hoping to write more about unlocking performance and triggering athletes readiness (and willingness) to perform. This week Bret Easton Ellis and David Furner are unlikely but fascinating partners in starting that journey.

Photo Credits

One Conversation and a Half

Fire Wings

Performance and Auto Suggestion

A fortnight ago I wrote a post about deliberate practice. Whilst writing that post I was thinking about Sergei Rachmaninoff.

I had read about his anxiety after the premiere of his first symphony. Maurice Kougell quoted Martin Bookspan:

The year was 1897 and the place was St. Petersburg. The occasion was the premiere of the First Symphony of the twenty four year old composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff. It was a complete fiasco; Rachmaninoff himself described how he sat in rapt horror through part of the performance and then fled from the concert hall before it had ended. At a post concert party which had been arranged in his honor for that evening, he was further shaken and ill at ease but the crowning blow came the next morning when the reviews appeared in the News. Cesar Cui wrote: “if there was a conservatory in hell, Rachmaninoff would get the first prize for his symphony, so devilish are the discords he places before us.”

Maurice Kougell observes that “this combination of events was too traumatic for a personality as sensitive as Rachmaninoff’s. He was seized with a fit of depression and apathy from which he could not rouse himself. For two long years it lasted. Finally, friends persuaded him to see one of the pioneers in the field of autosuggestion, Dr.Nikolai Dahl.” Some years later Rachmaninoff dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor Opus 18 to Nikolai Dahl.

Peter Chou adds the following information:

From the beginning of January 1900 until April, he went daily to Dr. Dahl to receive treatment while lying in an hypnotic doze in an easy chair in the doctor’s apartment. This treatment consisted of the almost ceaseless repetition to him of the words: “You will begin to write you concerto… You will work with great facility… The concerto will be of an excellent quality…”

So remarkable was the success of this principle of auto-suggestion over the inertia of his inner self that his creative powers began to function by the beginning of the summer. He wrote anew with increasing fluency. Ideas and thematic material welled up with all the facility of those now so seemingly far-off days when he wrote “Aleko” in little over a fortnight. The andante and finale of the C minor Concerto, Op. 18, came to him in this way, before the opening movement, and were completed by the autumn of 1900, and given their first performance at one of the Prison Charity Concerts organised by Princess Lieven in Moscow in connection with a prisoners’ aid society. Siloti conducted when Rachmaninoff played; and at these concerts as well as the composer other notable artists who appeared were the cellists, Pablo Casals and Brandoukov, the violinist, Eugene Ysäye, and Fedor Chaliapin.

The C minor Piano Concerto was completed by the spring of 1901, and also the Suite, Op. 17, for two pianofortes, briefly sketched out the previous autumn. As already mentioned the concerto received its first performance in England at a London Philharmonic concert of 1902, the soloist being Basil Sapellnikoff. Rachmaninoff dedicated the concerto to Dr. Dahl as an expression of his gratitude for the success of his care. As no one saving the doctor, the patient, and his cousins knew of the “cure” there was considerable speculation as to the reason for the dedication. The completion of this large work shattered whatever remained of an inferiority complex in the psychology of Rachmaninoff.

Marianne Tobias (2003) points out in a book with the delightful title Classical Music Without Fear that, after spending time with Dr Dahl, Rachmaninoff produced his second symphony “which weighd in at 320 pages in the original manuscript”. She observes that “herein you can find all the Racmaninoff hallmarks: luscious melodies, boisterous dances, passionate introspective writing, emotional fervour, and bold, rich orchestration.”

This story and the discussion of deliberate practice focus my thoughts on the confidence coaches and athletes need to perform. I am particularly interested in how coaches develop their narratives with athletes and how athletes themselves use (if at all) self talk. Perhaps this is why I am so interested in the possibilities of horse whispering.

Photo Credits

Like Whispers in the Fog

When photography turns social experience

Play: Sliding to Catch a Train

Last year I wrote a post about playfulness inspired by an installation at the Odenplan train station in Stockholm.

Seven moths later I have found another delightful example of playfulness in a railway station. Volkswagen have set up a slide at Berlin’s U-Bahn station at Alexanderplatz.

Just like the Odenplan piano the Alexanderplatz slide elicits the playfulness in travellers. I like the response of non-sliders to sliders!

This is the 1 minute 42 second video:

Photo Credit

Same Place, Same People