Brad Alan Lewis
- the path to peak performance requires rigorous practice and unbending intent. This approach to athletic training is easy enough to describe in the abstract, but it is extremely difficult to grasp and embrace in practice.
- His struggle to maintain a focus of mind and body, moment to moment, in both practice and performance.
- The process of athletic training was for Lewis a relentless pursuit of competitive success. Beneath each episode of competition, whether in practice or performance, raged a far more profound and private struggle – a struggle of will. Lewis’s intensely personal struggle mirrors the struggles of all who pursue perfection, whatever the discipline. One’s competitors are, on a deeper level, merely reflections of one’s own possibilities and limitations, of one’s strengths and weaknesses, one’s hopes and fears. This is the exquisite mystery, and the majesty, that lies at the heart of the sport. It is the mystery of personal exploration. It is the majesty of personal exploration. It is the majesty of self-realization through an unending quest for completion.
- The challenge of perfection is a potent seduction to the human spirit. Even the first moment of involvement with a discipline such as rowing potentially embodies the promise of perfection. And each incremental advance in strength, or endurance, or technique – each confrontation with and extension of personal limits – hints of some final moment of completion. It is this possibility of perfection, this promise of completion, that guides and motivates the practice. The material rewards, the praise and exaltation, although powerful, are secondary.
- Intuitively, instinctively, we seem to know that such moments of completion are accessible. For some, the purposeful quest for perfection becomes a passion, even an obsession. It may be that an athlete must be obsessed to achieve the level of performance that Lewis and Enquist attained. Passion is certainly essential. Yet passion and obsession are by no means sufficient. To often this potent energy is twisted and deflected in the heat of elite competition, as the focus narrows and the intensity builds. Perceptions become distorted. One opponent becomes a barrier to success rather than an indispensable partner in the pursuit of peak performance. Losses in competition are perceived as defeats at the hands of an adversary rather than failures of one’s own will, leading to despair and blame rather than insights and growth. And because personalities and passions frequently are inflated in the heat of competition, their clashes and embraces can be dramatically intensified. The deep mutual respect among competitors – a fatigue and frustration – may be forgotten, lost in the fervor of the competitive moment. Put simply, navigation in the rarefied atmosphere of consummate practice and elite competition is profoundly difficult. Everywhere there are distractions and seductions that threaten to blunt or deflect the focus.
- Passion simply is not enough. It must be harnessed to the will. Then, through a relentless exercise of will, this energy must be brought to a focus of maximum intensity, and the point of focus must be directed with precision and purpose within each successive present moment of practice. If left unharnessed, the passion to excel will deflect the mind from its focus on the present moment of practice, moment to moment, day to day. Properly focused, passion can propel the practitioner to the edge of perfection.
- Assault on Lake Casitas charts Lewis’s course in his pursuit of perfection. It is not a straight and narrow path. It is a path paved with defeats. Along the way, there were mistakes of judgment and failures of will. There were dead ends and detours, distractions and seductions. But Lewis persevered, even when seemingly lost in the depths of adversity. He rose from each failure stronger and more focused in mind and body.
- And ultimately, in concerti with his doubles partner, he reached the summit of his discipline.
- Lewis analogizes his quest for completion to the assembling of a great puzzle. In the finals the puzzle can together; in these precious moments of peak performance, the years of practice found expression as a unified whole that was vastly greater than the sum of its parts. And then these magical, almost religious moments of near perfect wholeness were gone. The center could no hold. The monumental force of will that bound the puzzle pieces in perfect sync for those few minutes of peak performance could exist only in the present moment of total focus. And as the puzzle fell apart into its pieces, and as the pieces themselves gradually disintegrated over the months and years following those glorious moments of completion, this simple truth emerged:
o the force of will that binds the puzzle is found only in the focus of mind within the present moment. It is this truth that lurks between the lines of Assault on Lake Casitas.
o It is a truth that cannot be learned too often or too well
- I loved the simplicity of (sculling). No one was to blame for a bad (stroke). No one got mad at me when I was late for practice. If things didn’t go well, I had no one to look to but myself.
- do everything as if your life depends on it. Sign your name to every job. Every word and every actions counts.
- a saw guard was too dangerous. It made you sloppy, unaware of the madly spinning blade. You couldn’t trust a saw guard. Better to work without a net, without a saw guard. He intensity was greater, more concentration, total commitment, better results.
- “you don’t ever want to feel too good”
1) “You must approach each test with the seriousness and passion that you would use to prepare to challenge your death. You must prepare – not to die – but to battle for your life in each moment, with every faculty and power available to you.”
When compared to the ordinary concept of winning and losing, “battling for my lie” required a whole different level of consciousness. Mike’s words reassured me that I was right to be obsessed, to train as if nothing else mattered.
2) “You must purge yourself of all thoughts of self importance and all inclination to judge either yourself or others. You must go to power with humility and deep respect.”
A conscious effort has to be made to go after humility, to maintain respect for coaches and other (scullers), along with various helpers, spectators, and even more prejudiced onlookers. The opposite spectrum is pride.
3) “You must assume full responsibility for choosing to pursue power. Know that you alone have chosen to be tested, and then proceed without doubt, remorse, or blame. You alone are responsible.”
Abandon all the usual excuses. Taking complete responsibility is the premier rule.
- The guy who cut the rafters screwed you up, but you should’ve known better than to put them up without checking the length. The bottom line is – you have to start over.
- Do it right, and finish it. Very simple – do it right, and finish it. If it takes you a month, then take a month. You can’t quit, and you can’t do it wrong. Get a payday out of this roof, or it’ll haunt you until you die. Now you know: Do it right, and finish it.
- Carl Hilterbrand
cover: The Sculler by: Scott Roop