Don Akers's Blog
Turning Talent Into Performance


The blogs are blowing up about how Crowder got attacked. It’s a lie. 


Disclosure: I have never been in a union and I have had several less than positive experiences with union workers in my career. I am also a retired amateur boxer with seventy fights. 


There will be no prosecutions because in each case Crowder provoked the incident. He approached people and invaded their personal space, incited anger, and refused to move back.


And he did it over and over and over. If he wanted a discussion, he would have stopped when he realized that people were getting mad.


The first guys shouted, “back off.” When Crowder did, everything was fine.


Remember being in school? If one kid is in all the fights and he blames it on someone else, well, he was the one starting the fights.


Unless Crowder was drunk, he had a plan.  


He wasn’t afraid; he was calculating. He wanted the union guys to get mad. Look at the video. In every case, he is the bigger guy. He chose people who were smaller than he was.


Even more revealing, watch what he does when the union guys swing. People who are afraid lift their hands and move back. Crowder keeps his hands up, but he moves forward.


Fighters know that it’s safer to move in because punches aren’t moving as fast when you’re in close. Someone coached our “hero” on how to start a fight and not get hurt.


The only time Crowder ducks or really covers his head is when a guy pulls him from behind. When he is actually scared, he ducks. Every other time he kept his hands up and moved forward. That’s good boxing technique.


Now watch the protestors. When he was hit, the crowd did not attack. At no time do they act as a gang or mob to harm or threaten Mr. Crowder. They do not follow him. Each incident is one person venting their personal anger and only for a few seconds. Not even one other protestor jumped it.


Crowder got into altercations with several people throughout the day. Then he edited the video to look like it happened in a few minutes.


These people stood in the cold all day peacefully protesting an attack on their ability to collectively bargain, the only reason they get weekends off and medical benefits, and have retirement accounts at all.


Crowder is in fact a “crowder.”


Look carefully. No one chased him. No one kicked him. No one kept going after he backed off.


Not one person from AFP was attacked, or pushed, or otherwise touched. If they had been, they would have said so before now. (Prediction: There will be many who will now say they were intimidated. But there is no video to support it.)


At one point during a scuffle, Crowder held up his hands like we used to do in football. The first guy (Crowder) started it and then held his hands up so the referee would see the other guy retaliate.


This video is not evidence, it’s propaganda. It has been edited to hide the provocation – a post on reddit says they guy who punched him did do because he was in the face of his son. I hate violence but if Crowder were trying to intimidate my son, I’d step in.


Crowder set up these people up. He duped them into being stars in his career kick off video. He deliberately provoked innocent people and wants to capitalize on their frustration.


If that is not true, then Mr. Crowder and Fox should show the continuous video of minutes before and after each altercation.


Here’s the best part. Watch the end and you can see Crowder taking a bow. He’s not hurt, he’s not battered or bloody or bruised. He takes a bow, because he just traded a chipped tooth for his fifteen minutes of fame.


Take a look at the video to see what I’m talking about…


Thank you to everyone who contributed to our second annual trip to the World Vet Motocross Championships.


I won my race. Not the Over Fifty Novice race — the race with myself. I raced better, faster, safer, and I finished strong… instead of surviving like last year.

For the record I finished in twentieth place out of twenty-two competitors on Saturday. On Sunday I finished in thirty-first place, out of forty-one entrants.

But I was in the hunt (near the back of the pack) and racing all the way till the end.

The Glen Helen track is really difficult and it’s a challenge just to ride it. Last year I was honestly concerned that I might not finish the race. This year I rode better and moved from survivor to competitor. Progress!

NOW it’s time to say “THANK YOU” to everyone who contributed.

Eric Sullwold

~ Eric is one of my biggest supporters.
He is a true professional who’s got the skills to deliver and the heart to persevere. If your company buys or specifies industrial chain for traction, lifting, rigging, conveyors or tire protection, Eric Sullwold at Pewag Chain is the guy to call

Chris Fry

Chris Racing at Glen Helen

~ Chris my moto bud.
Without Chris traveling with me, I wouldn’t be here. We ride practice together in Houston, but Chris races expert class. He’s got a lot of years on the motorcycle and a real commitment to becoming a better racer and athlete. Chris is a “go for it” guy who’s a lot of fun.

After practice on Thursday and Friday in California, Chris took me up to Big Bear Lake for sightseeing and hiking.

On Sunday he raced his bike like a champ. He got a bad start then passed guys till he was racing at the end with Dave Martin from Honda of Houston — a great race for Chris.

If you or someone you know is remodeling or building a home and you want a beautiful job and a builder who you will still be friends with after the job, call Chris Fry at Dovetail Builders.
Dovetail Builders Inc.

Dave Martin

~Dave is a rocking fast over fifty moto racer who just happens to be the man with the plan at Honda of Houston. Dave epitomizes the heart and hands of our sport. He is way into riding and runs a great business where they support the sport and the people in it. When you need an ATV, scooter, motorcycle, watercraft, or power equipment call the good people at Honda of Houston

Honda of Houston

Nick Moomaw

Me With Nick Moomaw

~Nick runs the racing program for Honda of Houston and is a full-on expert class racer. Nick is a competitor who goes after it and is a great guy to hang with. If it wasn’t for the folk from Honda of Houston we would not be able to make it to this race. They truck our bikes to the track, let us share their pits, provide fuel and tools, and everything we need to race our bikes. Even better, we get to be part of the coolest pit set up — with a custom tractor trailer. Even better we get to hear Nick tell us what lines he uses on the track…worth every penny and more.

Honda of Houston

Choose well, live well, be well…Don


Getting Ready For Practice

Yesterday was great!

The track was wet with deep ruts early and then got rough as a cob in the afternoon.

In the first moto I went down on the big uphill when I glanced off a downed rider. I got tense trying to catch up and was exhausted by the end of the moto.

On the second moto I went out steady, then rode steady “slower” and built my confidence.

Today everyone is moving slower.

The nature of vet racing…you have to be in great shape to race motocross. Strength, cardio, core it all gets worked out.

The bikes are just getting started for the first practice….I gotta go!


It’s cooler today and the track is faster.

I’m racing my second moto in a couple hours…

I got toasted off the line in the first moto…hit a guy who fell on this huge hill and laid the bike over. I kept it running and got it off the track and back on, only lost about 45 seconds.

I passed a couple of guys and a couple passed me. The track is cool–challenging–the competition is what I expected.

Great fun! I need to get off the starting line sooner.


There were three things I wanted to get done yesterday.

First: Learn the track. We walked the track before it opened so we could see the lines and get an idea of what the lines would be. Then we talked about what we thought the best lines would be. By the time I started riding I knew what was coming after every corner before I went into it.

Second: Make sure I can ride fast through the first turn. In motocross the first turn is one of the HIGH LEVERAGE areas where you can make a lot of progress for a little bit of risk.

My buddy Chris and I decided to ride into the first turn going so fast it would scare us. The strategy worked. I didn’t get scared, but by planning to push it there, I was passing people. Now I feel good about the start.

Finally, I wanted to manage my energy. This is the toughest thing when I go to a new track. It takes a while to get familiar with the track and go fast. Once I do, I want to keep going until I’m bushed.

With four days of riding, I need to make sure I’m strongest on Saturday and Sunday for the races. In order to conserve energy, I stopped early.

It was hard to stop, but I knew I’d feel better over the weekend if I did. We recharged by going for a drive up to Big Bear Lake.

This is such great practice for my speaking and consulting work.

1. If You Know The Environment, You’ll Feel Confident
When I do my sound check before a keynote speech, I walk the room and the stairs that go up to the stage. I do this at least ten times. Meeting planners always comment about how many times I walk the room, but once I know the environment, I feel way more confident.

2. Start Strong
When I have any group, whether it’s a keynote, team alignment workshop, training, or facilitating a management retreat it is essential that we start FAST. We don’t go fast the whole time – you have to mix it up to keep people engaged. But if you start slow, you lose the whole part of the audience that thinks or acts quickly—the leaders of the group. If you start too fast, others will be patient and wait until you slow down.

3. Manage Your Energy
Keep some gas in the tank so that you never give 100% effort. Sounds like slacking but it’s not. Stephen Covey got this right with this P vs PC concept. If our production is too high we lose the chances for improvement and synergy because we don’t have that little bit of extra time or energy to take advantage of unexpected opportunity. Worse, if you get too tired your attitude goes south.

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” ~Vince Lombardi coach of the first world champions Green Bay Packers

Confidence Strategy:
Learn the environment
Start strong
Manage your energy


Last Saturday’s practice was great!

We dialed in the bikes, double checked the gear, rode a few laps to make sure, and we’re traveling today.

As I was putting my bike and gear on the truck to send it to California, I remembered the words of one of my coaching clients who needed to release some pressure he carried around his golf game. “I’d rather not play than take a chance at losing,” he said. “Losing hurts more than winning feels good.”

As my old boxing coach used to say, “I’m not worried, but I am slightly more than concerned.” What if I crash…? What if everyone laps me…? What if I fall and can’t get up…? What if?

That’s all in our head. Voices of the past…maybe a younger version of ourselves that vowed never to be embarrassed again.

I’m choosing to follow the belief of one of my other coaching clients who races triathlons, mountain bikes, and cross country. “First, last, or somewhere in the middle, you still feel great after the race is over.” ~Paul Copello, National Class Triathlete

Yeah, I’m scared, but we’re traveling today.

And we all know that fear leaves when we take action.

Action Eliminates Fear.

I’m pulling the trigger.

I’m going to do the best I can to win.

I’ll post my thoughts, my strategy, and my results every day.

Please help when you can with your ideas and encouragement.

God bless.


As boxers, we learn to manage our weight as part of the sport. People seem to think boxers must have incredible willpower to train so hard while eating so little. It’s more than willpower. It’s strategy. We depend on strategy to stay lean and strong. Forget dieting. Rely on strategy and see how easy it can be.

MYTH : The key to ideal body weight is willpower.

TRUTH : Willpower will fail. Good nutrition will ultimately succeed.

PROOF: The people on Survivor and the other shows who go to extremes of exercise and lack of food lose lots of weight fast. They all put it back on (and more) when they resume their normal life. Notice that the Biggest Loser teaches nutrition strategy, no junk food, and making better choices.

SECRET STRATEGY: Following is the Don Akers tried and true secret strategy for ideal body weight. I’m going to give you all my techniques, no holds barred. I urge you to consider that your mind, thoughts, and internal communication might work faster than you originally believed. (Be sure to check with your doc before beginning any weight loss program.)

How Things Are: The Big Picture (in your head) Most important, this is not a diet. It is a way of eating and acting that makes it natural to maintain an ideal body weight. My self talk is, “I am eating a little bit lighter; I am dropping some weight.” I don’t say or think, “I can’t have that on my diet.” Instead I choose to think, “I don’t want that; I’m eating lighter.” It’s simple but powerful. Try it yourself for seven days.

Next, our internal representation of our body is like a magnet that pulls on our consciousness and influences our behavior. If we see ourselves as big, we act in ways that support us being too big. Change the internal image and we change the influence on behavior. Too simple? Try it for three months and call me!

– Current body image: Close your eyes and imagine what your body looks like. Hold that image in you mind’s eye right in front of you.
– Vision: Next, imagine how you want your body to look in three months (not perfect, not a caricature, not Mr./Ms. Universe, but what is reasonable and healthy for you to achieve without too much stress).
– Path: Visualize your body melting from its current image to your desired image.
– Create a few different images that lead from current to desired body size and shape.
– Align the current image in front and let it be transparent.
– Align each of the other images behind the first one so you can see them all, with the desired image being the easiest to see.
– Important! Ask yourself, “Is it okay for me to hold this new image to help my body become more healthy?” If you are sure the answer is “No,” call me. If “Yes,” read on.

Principles (rules of the road)
-Diets don’t work.
-Making consistently good choices about nutrition does work.
– Good nutrition is simple.
— Eat whole foods, reduce the fats, avoid packaged, process foods, and eliminate sugar.
-Everybody is different. What works for one person might not work for you.
-Exercise is helpful, but it’s not a solution in itself. We can eat 2,000 calories in the time it takes to work off 200!
Movement makes it way easier to maintain your weight. Walk five minutes when you get up and before you go to sleep.
If you exercise, good on ya!

– One step, then another: Changing our body weight takes time.
– Pushing doesn’t work: Trying to take off weight too fast or starving ourselves creates emotional and physical push back. It doesn’t work. Small simple changes add up over time.

Using our Natural Tendencies:
o Eating before we’re hungry helps us makes better choices.
o Eating early tells our bodies that food is plenty and they retain less.
o Reduce, don’t eliminate fat and carbohydrates. No fat and no carbs causes our bodies to think they’re in starvation diets and they hold on to fat.

o Drink water every morning: I drink sixteen ounces of water every morning. It helps with elimination and hydrates the body.
o Eat breakfast every day: Readers Digest reported that people who eat breakfast lose more weight than people who eat the same amount of food without breakfast.
• If it’s not within reach we can’t eat it. The real discipline is needed while shopping for food. When we only buy and keep good food in our homes, we make for better choices.
• Keep something close. Get food in range before you get hungry or all bets are off. Carry nuts, vegetables, and fruits to snack on during the day.
o Never shop for groceries hungry.
o Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep has been linked to increased hunger, cravings, and weight gain.
o Never swim up stream: On holidays, birthdays, parties, have fun, eat what you want and enjoy it (go back to the routine when the party is over).
o Choosing Food: Rather than thinking about what is the best value for the dollar, consider what will taste best. Think about what will satisfy and nourish you and what will make you feel good when you get up in the morning.
o Prepare: Every Sunday I prepare snacks, cut up celery, carrots, radishes, sometimes green onions, broccoli, cauliflower, olives. I slice some cheese and put cashews and almonds in easy reach. We need to have low-fat, high energy food available.

Why RIGHT NOW is the best Time To Lose Weight:
o August was made for weight loss. It’s so hot that we aren’t hungry, and there are lots of great fresh fruit and vegetables available.
o Start today by drinking water every morning and eating a good, light breakfast. Then, after a week, start cutting back on fat and starch (choose lean meats instead of fatty cuts and substitute whole vegetables for breads or processed carbs).

Here is my daily breakfast during hot weather: This is adapted from the breakfast drink in Overachievement by Dr. John Elliot:

8 ounces of orange juice
1/4 cup of tofu
1/4 cup of yogurt
1/4 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
1 banana
1 packet of Stevia to sweeten
1 Tbs Flax oil

Blend it up. This excellent breakfast drink will keep you going with protein and some varying qualities of carbohydrates. It is a great breakfast that will get you all the way to 11:30 or 12:00, feeling good.

Managing our body weight is easy if we change the way we see ourselves and take simple steps to stay emotionally strong and make it easy to make excellent, nutritious choices.

This might look like a long list or it may be a few simple changes for you. Either way, we all get there the same way.

Start where you are.

One step, then another.

Keep going. God bless you.

Don Akers


Fear, anxiety, worry, trouble, trouble, trouble seems to be the only thing in the news these days.

So what?

Our state of mind is like a lens that filters and influences our interpretation of reality. When we’re afraid, everything scares us. When we’re ecstatic, everything seems funny.

Think about the last time you stayed up late to watch a scary movie, and then you hear a tree brush against a window. It’s just a tree, a sound you’ve heard before, but now you’re scared, because what if it’s more than a tree?

It’s all in our imagination, but the energy to create and hold negative imaginings is as real as the energy needed to do the work that creates value. As leaders we must pay attention to the emotions of our team or risk losing lots of time and energy to useless mental wandering.

Worry, anxiety, and fear, no matter how well intentioned, are nearly always harmful to our emotional well being and business performance.

The ROI on worry and fear is beyond negative.

Practically speaking, we can’t change the whole world, and we aren’t being asked what we want the news media to report. So what to do?

We don’t want to pretend it’s not out there (even if we don’t share that point of view). Even more important, we don’t want to seem uncaring or callous to the real concerns that our people have for their jobs and families.

Final Keynote Prep Work

So what can we do?

First, let’s get clear on why fear is so persistent so we can understand how to work with it. If we are in a cage with a shark, the fear is real and it helps us focus, move faster, and be more deliberate.

When our fear is about something remote (not here in the room threatening us), like business being down, or competition calling on a longtime client, we can get stuck and think, think, think, asking ourselves lots of useless questions that we have no good answer for… What if they decide to switch? What if other clients do, too? What if we can’t pay our bills? What if we end up homeless…?

The logic goes like this… If I lose the sale, I could lose my job; if I lose my job, I won’t have any money. If I don’t have money, I won’t be able to get food; if I have no food, I’ll die.

What we’re really afraid of is not business being down, but dying because it’s down.

How absurd is that? What is the probability that we’ll die because we lose an account or sales are off? It doesn’t matter. When we’re afraid, our brain is in survival mode and doesn’t reason so well.

The disconnect is that being afraid helps us deal with the shark by putting us into action. But fear hurts us if we freeze up. When we ask questions that we don’t have answers to (like, “What if I end up on the street?”), fear takes over and our brains stop working.

So fear and worry is bad, and it won’t go away on its own, and we can’t make it go away when we’re afraid. So now we’re really stuck. Right?

On the contrary, when we take immediate action, the fear goes away. Relax.

Inspired leaders can get out in front of their people and make minor changes that dramatically improve their state of mind.

There are three areas that lend themselves to minor tweaks that make anxiety a thing of the past. I have been very fortunate to work with leaders who naturally create confidence in their people.

They do this by addressing three aspects of their workplace: environment, activity, and attitude.

One of the best leaders I know for creating a positive work environment is Erwin McGowan, a State Farm insurance agent in Houston, TX.

Erwin is emphatic that all office space be clean, well lighted, and organized. Even better, he makes sure to keep cold drinks and snacks available at all times (so his clients and their children feel welcome). The effect it has on his employee/team members is tremendous. How can we pretend that we are starving or the end is imminent when we have cold drinks and food in the break room for free?

Next he puts 8 X 10 portraits of each of his team members on the wall in the entryway. When they walk in the door, they know they are important – and so do their customers.

Erwin does not allow employees to have side conversations in front of clients or gossip during work hours. He rewards his team for everything they produce, everything their group produces, and everything the agency produces.

To say that they work well as a team is an understatement.

The environment is full of life, live plants. It’s clean, has good lighting, it’s organized and supportive of the people and their needs as human beings.


Speaking at the CHART Conference in San Francisco

Action eliminates fear.

When we’re fully engaged in what we’re doing it is impossible to be afraid. As long as we’re moving forward it’s impossible to hold onto fear or worry.

That’s right. When we stay busy, it’s easier to manage our emotions. So the best leaders use anxiety as raw energy and channel it into their work.

Take a page out of the playbook of former high school football coach turned insurance top producer Steve Allen of Flower Mound, Texas.

Steve is one of the big time insurance agents in State Farm’s Texas region. He has lots of people working for him. As a former football coach, he knows that the way people start work dramatically affects their performance.

Steve is the first one at the office every morning and he’s the last one to leave at night. (He may, however, take some time to exercise during the day.) He wants to make sure his people start fast and end strong.

How does he do it? He greets his employees as they come in the door and asks, “How are things?” After listening to what they’re thinking, he says, great, or good, and then he adds, “Well tell me what you’re doing here today.” As they speak, he enthusiastically nods and says, “Yes, yes, good, nice, excellent. Let me know how it goes.”

Steve always gets more excited, speaking faster, and getting louder as the conversation goes on. Within two minutes, his employees have left their worries at home and they are ready to work.

At the end of the day, he reverses the process. He asks, “How did it go? What went well? What are you doing tomorrow?” He ends with, “Great! And now I want you to leave everything at work. It will be here tomorrow. Have a great evening.”

By doing this, he helps his people start faster, and he makes sure they know what to do first. There is no time to dither,
pine, or worry in his office.

Steve influences people in a very subtle way. He uses his position without force. He ensures that home problems stay at home. Work becomes a sanctuary, safe from worry and anxiety. Work issues stay at work, allowing people to be fully present for their families.

Strategy One:
Keep your environment in shape — warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Make it look like talented, committed, and confident people work there. Never cut the coffee budget in hard times. What does it tell your team if you go from great coffee to less-than-great coffee after you layoff a few people? “We can’t even afford coffee.”

Strategy Two:
Start fast and stay busy. By starting fast and staying busy, we won’t have time to worry. Stay busy and you won’t be afraid.

…Stay tuned for more strategies!


“Enjoy your Olympic experience.” That’s what the volunteers at the Olympics, the staff at the hotel, and people in the stores keep saying. It seemed a bit strange–as if they had all been to the same customer service seminar. But the Olympic experience, at least my Olympic experience–is different.

A Pause In The Flow of the River of Humanity

The games are great. World-class athletes, over-the-top sports fans, and news media crews from all over the planet, the best of the best competing on difficult courses, with bigger crowds than they have at any other event–well that was predictable.

But it’s the crowd, the vibe, the energy that makes this experience Olympian. It’s restorative to the body, mind, and soul to be around so many people who know where they’re going and going there happy.

The Olympics is way cooler than I ever imagined–better than I thought it could be.

Whistler Village Concert

I’m staying in the Whistler Village. In the street there is a never-ending, never stopping river of humanity flowing in both directions. The river moves briskly. With people going in both directions on both sides of the streets, you’d think it would be chaos, but this crowd is different.

The crowd is smart and respectful. Rarely do you find anyone stopped in the river, and never at a busy intersection. At the events, going through security, everywhere. People keep moving. There are no sheep in this crowd. It moves baby, and it feels good.

The people are fit, wearing ski gear and team uniforms from this and past Olympics. They look like retired–former and current athletes–and everyone is in such great shape.

Crowd At The Men's Downhill Event

At the events you’ve got long walks up the mountain, security, and more climbing to get near the event. Perfect for this crowd–far from slowing you down, they pull you along and show you the way. They know where they’re going, move when the line does, and they wear the right gear to hang outside in winter weather for hours. Even better, they are psyched without being rude or offensive. No one boos, they just cheer for their guys–it’s so cool.

And everyone is an expert or a novice. Expert at the sport they follow or a novice watching a sport they wanted to see because they have time to fill…this makes for bigger crowds than the athletes see at any other time (except hockey–but they’re pros anyway).

Imagine being an athlete, training in obscurity…running in the morning alone, practicing at all hours to get access to the track or ice rink, then getting to the top of the sport in your country competing at national championship with only hundreds watching. Suddenly you’re at the Olympics being interviewed by twelve television crews before your event performing in front of thousands…that’s why some athletes perform so far over their “ability” and others lose their composure: E-N-E-R-G-Y!

Great Turn Out For The Luge

And it’s contagious.

I feel so pumped up, so ready to go after my life, so willing to compete.

Can it be that simple? If we hang out with people who are going for it, we go for it and get it. They say birds of a feather flock together, and I believe that’s true. But what if birds that flock together become like each other?

Now I’m on the hunt for the crowds that fill my soul, my heart, my mind, and restore my body with the energy of possibility.

As a young man I liked the Olympics, but I only knew them through television. Today I know the Olympics up close. And I love the Olympics.

What if we thought about the energy we get from our “crowd?” What if we choose where we go and who we associate with by the way we feel after we’re around them? Could we make the hard choices to avoid the whiners and crazy makers in our lives?

What if they’re family…? Is it okay to only see them at the places where they’re at their best? Visit one early because they get cranky late or someone else in public to avoid their political pontifications, maybe avoid others if there’s going to be booze around?

Are the people we’re surrounding ourselves with filling our lives and restoring our souls with the juice of life? If not, who’s responsible for choosing better places and crowds to feed us? Who’s going to put “better” sources of energy in our life?

Now, I’m on the hunt for the good crowd, like the people who are in the power punch class at the YMCA at 8 a.m. on Monday. Every time I join them, I leave totally jazzed.

And I’ve decided I’m going to more Olympics for sure.


Going for it on fourth down in the red zone. Calling an onside kick at the start of the second half. Blitzing to put pressure on the quarterback when they keep driving down the field.

Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints made some gutsy calls in Super Bowl XLIV and since the Saints won, he made the “right” calls.

Were they smart calls? What if New Orleans had lost?

Do you remember Jonny Moseley? The US skier won the Olympic moguls competition in 1998. He finished fourth in the 2002 games in Salt Lake City because he performed a “Dinner Roll,” a radical double flat rotation trick that was considered questionable by the judges since inverted flips were not allowed.

Moseley’s Dinner Roll was not inverted but it was the most radical, new, difficult, even hard-to-imagine-how-to-do it trick on the planet at the time. And he nailed it!

Gutsy? Yes. Smart? Well that depends. The judges scored his run, arguably the best of the event, as a fourth place. No medal. Not a big deal to him as a competitor since he’d won Olympic gold in 1998.

He knew in his heart of hearts that he was the best. Jonny Moseley lifted his sport by being willing to push the envelope in front of the world–even when it meant losing the endorsement cash that comes with winning the Olympics.

Moseley asks, “Was I bummed? Sure.” He shrugs. “I knew the judges weren’t going to get it, but I had to do it anyway. I wasn’t going to look back at the Olympics and know that I played it safe. I needed to be progressive, to take it to the next level, for me. I already had a gold, after all.”

Now, according to Moseley’s blog, Shaun White is facing the same tough call. He is the baddest freestyle snowboarder on the planet–and he’s talking about throwing some tricks in the Olympics that have not been done in competition. Why would that be a problem? With sports that develop very quickly, the judges can’t stay current. It’s nearly impossible to judge a sport that is so technical unless you can do, or at least try to do, the same tricks.

The judges might not be savvy enough to appreciate how hard a trick is, particularly when the performer makes it look easy. So what to do? Play it safe and go with tricks they know and have a more predictable chance to win? Go for the gusto and throw the baddest trick you can find and hope someone remembers later when you need a J-O-B? Ride for the glory of the sport or win the gold safely and then ride for the glory of the sport in the events that “appreciate” you putting the free in freestyle?

At the end of the day we each have to decide. Are we going to play it safe or are we going to go for it? Never make the mistake that guts and smarts are at odds. If you saw the way Shaun White kissed the deck during the X Games practice session, you’d know he’s got guts. If you heard what he said, “I’m glad I got back on the board right away so the crash wouldn’t haunt me at the next event” then you know he’s smart.

And it’s not just about what’s right or wrong. In the end the sustainable decision personally and professionally is to have the guts to do what we deeply believe is the “right” thing whether it’s immediately recognized by others or not.

We learn more by doing what we are personally committed to, what we believe is best, right or wrong. My friend (and sustainable custom home builder), Chris Fry, says, “Sometimes you have to move forward just to know if you’re pointing in the right direction. The faster you go the sooner you know.”

The real risk is not that we won’t make the “best” decision but that we will lose the learning that comes from going for it when making decisions and living with the results. If we let popular opinion change our mind, we can always shrug off the responsibility with “I knew I shouldn’t have done that” (so we’re not as invested in the results–a sure prescription for failure). If we do what we want and we’re wrong, no one will learn more than we do. If we’re willing to be wrong often enough, we can learn anything.

We need to remember that no one knows more about our situation, point of view, capabilities, and potential gain than we do. Further, no one knows how we much we care about our choices or why.

In my current sport of motocross, we see lots of young and talented riders who fly off the jumps. It would be easy to think that they just do it (like the commercials tell us to). When we have significant risk to our health, we don’t just do it. We work up step by step.

First we get comfortable with the small jumps. When we feel confident we go for bigger and bigger air until one day someone says, “Wow you’re really talented.” We get there, one step, then another, developing the technique, muscle memory, and body positioning to land the big jumps.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains how top performers develop extraordinary skill and acuity in their craft–bordering on genius. The surprise is that they are not the most talented or the most intelligent. According to Gladwell, the difference between those who are the very best and those who are competent (but not gifted), boils down to better coaching, better training, and the fact they spend ten thousand hours in deliberate practice. It’s this deliberate practice that makes it possible to make a gutsy call and a smart call at the same time.

Deliberate practice, and the understanding and competence that we get from practice, is what gives us the confidence to make a gutsy call the smart call.

New Orleans had practiced onsides kicks hundreds of times; they’d practiced going for it on fourth down. They’d practiced blitzing their linebackers. They weren’t just going for it; they were pushing the envelope of possibility by taking more risk in an area where they were highly proficient. And it paid off. They weren’t throwing up their chips and hoping they’d fall in a good place.

Sean Payton showed his chops by being willing to take a chance, an educated chance, and his team pulled it off. He wasn’t rolling the dice–he was making a steely eyed, what’s-best-for-my-team-even-if-it-puts-me-at-risk leadership choice. That’s what Jim Collins called Level Five Leadership in Good to Great. Great leaders do what’s best for the team and leave their egos out of the decision.

Payton’s call could have gone the other way. The Saints could have lost. He would have taken the heat himself for the call, but shared the credit for the results of those calls with his team.

So is it gutsy to try something risky that you’ve never done before? What if you’ve always wanted to and this might be your only chance? No, that’s stupid. Real guts is about stretching the envelope in areas where stretching is in the natural order of things.

When anyone thinks they are “going big” the first time they ride a full race motocross bike you can call the ambulance–because they’re going down hard.

Operating outside our ability and hoping for good luck is stupid. Pushing the envelope of our experience and skill to improve ourselves and our professions, that’s smart–even if we fail to get what we want–because we learn faster when we move faster.

Shaun White previewed some of his tricks in New Zealand, but he could still lose Olympic gold if he goes for it and wows the crowd so big that the judges can‘t comprehend what he’s done and punish him with mediocre scores. Or he could go for it and blow one of the big tricks and still lose.

Will people question him, his contribution to the sport, if he plays it safe and gives the judges the tricks they expect? Probably not, but he will. None of us get to the top of our profession without a commitment to excellence.

Why not make “going for it, smart” a habit? “Going for it, smart” inspires our hearts with possibility and feeds our minds with real-time information about how things could work out in our favor. It’s part of our learning. More importantly, going for it, when it makes sense, puts the sparkle in living.

Should you go for it, or play it safe? What if you had a way to decide, for those times when you’re not completely convinced either way?

Here’s how to know for sure…

Answer these questions:
1. Are the odds acceptable (long odds are sometime better than no odds)?
2. What is the risk if I fail completely?
3. What if I make the safe call and fail?
4. What will I learn, either way?
5. Is this about me being right, or doing the right thing?
6. How will I feel tomorrow if I succeed? If I fail?
7. What about next year?
8. In fifty years?
9. Now, imagine you are fifty years older–looking back over a long and satisfying life. Remember now what it was like to make this decision. After fifty years, what advice would you give to someone like you who had this same decision to make?

So, should YOU go for it? Don’t ask me. You already know. What’s stopping you?