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<<First Name>>, Welcome back to The 90%!
"90 percent of success is not getting distracted," says Shane Parrish, writer of the Farnam Street blog. This thought really hit home, as I believe that attention is one of the most important factors in student-athlete success. Focus is the theme of this edition.

Last week, I had the privilege of interviewing Missy Franklin, the 5-time Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming. It's always refreshing when an athlete is the same in person as they appear in public. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
  1. Balancing your priorities is like juggling. The key is to know which balls are plastic, and which are made of glass.
  2. Ask for help. Missy candidly explained that she once thought mental toughness involved going it alone. She came to realize that asking for help is the true sign of strength.
  3. Communication is vital. If you have questions, struggles, or challenges, talk to someone - friends, family, coaches, or a therapist.
  4. Be present. Whether it's at practice, school, or work, give your complete focus to what you are doing. Compartmentalize your day so that you're focused on one thing at a time.
  5. Be relentless. You won't always feel 100%, but you can give 100% of what you have, every single day.
  6. Be elite. The good athlete just tries to get through practice. The great athlete tries to get something out of practice. The elite athlete wants to see what they're capable of.

Each player selected in the NFL draft comes with a unique story. One that stands out in this year's draft is that of Georgia running back Zamir White. The Raiders' fourth round draft pick has overcome challenges his entire life, and even before. Doctors advised his mother to have an abortion. Born with a cleft palate, he was given two weeks to live. His kidneys malfunctioned. He tore the ACL in each knee. Through it all, Zamir demonstrated an incredible work ethic and resilience. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart described him as, "A five-star talent, an unbelievable kid, but he has a 10-star character," When he's not running over opponents on the field, he inspires kids with craniofacial abnormalities off the field. Zamir White is not just an impact player, he's an impact person.

Keeping Shane Parrish's quote in mind, let's look at how to avoid distraction. Johann Hari's new book Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention - and How to Think Deeply Again provides an excellent explanation of how personal, cultural, and environmental factors conspire to rob us of our attention. To counteract these factors, we can play defense (by reducing distractions), and we can play offense (improving focus).

To reduce distractions:
  1. Limit task-hopping. Devices like the kSafe and apps like Freedom can help.
  2. Take a social media sabbatical. The algorithms are designed to addict you, so don't give them the opportunity.
  3. Utilize a trigger or cue word. Employing a phrase like WIN (What's Important Now?) is a great way to redirect your focus after being distracted.
To improve your focus:
  1. Read books (on paper). Reading this way improves linear focus and recall, as opposed to skipping and skimming on a screen.
  2. Sleep for 8+ hours per night. Enough said.
  3. Allow for mind-wandering. Go for a walk, sit in nature, be still. Doing so allows the default mode network to function freely, enhancing focus and creativity.
  4. Play freely. Kids and adults alike benefit from inventive and self-directed pursuits.
  5. Seek to reach flow. Pursue a meaningful, clearly-define goal, one that challenges the edges of your abilities.
  6. Reduce exposure to environmental and dietary pollutantsRefined carbs, junk oils, dyes, preservatives, pesticides, plasticizers, flame-retardants, cosmetics, BPA, and PCBs harm both the body and the mind.
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