Eric Potterat, PhD, is a clinical and performance psychologist and a leading expert in individual and organizational performance optimization. Eric retired as a commander from the US Navy after twenty years of service, during which he helped create the mental toughness curriculum used during Navy SEALs BUD/S training. Eric spent several years as the director of specialized performance for the Los Angeles Dodgers and has also worked with Red Bull athletes, the US Women’s national soccer team, the Miami Heat, and numerous Olympic athletes, first responders, business leaders, and NASA astronauts. He’s been the performance psychologist on teams that have won the MLB World Series and the FIFA World Cup.

Show Highlights

Avoid knee-jerk reactions by having “trusted advisors” outside of your discipline.

Eliminate white space in your schedule by leveraging your time.

Practice the 4-4-4 breathing method to reduce stress and enhance cognitive performance before demanding meetings or events.

Avoid bias towards action and redefine performance to affect incremental value in your schools.

Modify evidence-based principles with thought management.

Minimize negative aspects of traditional teaching methods.

Eric suggests changing the term “visualization” to “sensorization” to perform at your best.

“When you look at the best performers in the world, they’re focusing on a process and a recipe, and they double and triple down on being consistent and efficient with a process that chips away through segments, through time.”
- Eric Potterat

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Read the Transcript here.

 199: Eric Potterat Transcript

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
All right. Eric Potterat, welcome to the show. 

Eric Potterat
Thanks for having me. Great to be here. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I just want to set the context for the listener, the ruckus maker that’s listening to the show, your book, I love it. And it’s all about leadership, right? It’s about performance, about excellence. And so people will see why I’m so excited. And just saying, ruckus maker, before you even hear a word from Eric, get the book. I’m really encouraging you to check it out. It’s ruckus maker approved. So let’s start with mental toughness. And from what I think I read, you created a curriculum at the SEal Bud school and that actually opened up a door. Then working with the LA Dodgers, which, that’s pretty wild, but can you tell us that story? 

Eric Potterat
Obviously, I did 20 years in the military, 30 year career, my 20 years in the military, my last ten of those years was as the performance clinical psychologist for the Navy SeaLs. So my first tour with the SEALs was, as you precisely said, at Buds, where kind of seals are made, if you will, and my charter, my job there, the first role was to create a kind of codified framework for mental toughness. And how do we teach empirically based, evidence based principles to those who are becoming Navy SeaLs? 

Eric Potterat
And that was a process that took a good two and a half, three years to kind of validate a curriculum because it had to be evidence based and really modified the program around four main principles, goal setting and segmenting what we call arousal control, or kind of controlling the human stress response through breathing, visualization and positive self talk. Thought management. So those were kind of known as the big four. Really did a deeper dive on again, building the framework on how to teach soon to be seals, and then ultimately, as they graduate buds and become deployable seals, doing our nation’s work.  I feel really comfortable about how that program evolved and really started to deliver on arming, if you will, from the neck up and between the ears, those principles. 

Eric Potterat
And then to answer your question directly, I stayed with the seals as their performance psychologist for ten years. I announced my retirement, which was at the end of a 20 year career, and the Los Angeles Dodgers made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. They had come to buds. They had been aware of the principles and the framework that was being taught. I won’t bore you with the details, but it led to various lunches and whatnot. And they essentially offer me a position to create from scratch, essentially move over the non classified things that we could move over and really change semantics around rather than warrior, hey, how do we draft an athlete? How do we draft a baseball player? And then how do we kind of weaponize or modify above the neck and between the ears evidence based principles? It was great. 

Eric Potterat
I stayed with the Dodgers for seven years and was very successful. And then I just wanted to move on and kind of retire and do the. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
So you mentioned that in the book, too, and you’ve said it a couple of times here in our conversation, but above the neck, in between the ears, seems to be a big focus. Right. When it comes to performance and excellence, I shouldn’t say sort of. It’s almost completely glossed over in, like, principal development programs. 

12:52Eric Potterat
I concur. It tends to be. In my 30 year career, I’ve worked with roughly about 25,000, the world’s best performers in multiple different disciplines. Right. The military, professional, sport, business, law, medicine, et cetera, first responders. And I think you hit the nail on the head when you look at the research of the biggest differentiator between the best and the rest. Not to sound too crass, it really is what’s going on above the neck and between the ears. And ironically, those principles are all learned. Like, there’s zero evidence that these principles are. We possess them from birth. So that got Alan and I passionate about kind of doing this book and trying to deliver actionable, practical, applicable techniques and principles and disciplines that anyone could use. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
There’s tons of practical activities that a ruckus maker read in the book will get out of it, and I just want to sort of spoil the surprise. But at the end, there’s even 30 9100 day action plans. So not only do you practice these things in order to get better when a reader has the question, well, how do I even begin? You provide roadmaps as well for success. I want to go back to sort of like this idea of above the neck and between the ears. And I’d love to hear you riff on visualization. Right. I have an understanding of what that is and try to use it, especially when I’m giving a talk like a keynote or workshop to hundreds of people or whatever. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
But again, something that I don’t think a lot of principals or school leaders are applying for, but we know, right, seals are using it. I know top athletes are for sure using this kind of stuff. And so what could you share on the show about visualization? 

Eric Potterat
First off, I think this is a technique that ought to be employed and deployed and used by our youth. Hands down. I mean, period. I’ll say that right off the bat. The reason visualization is so powerful as a technique, as a kind of mental toughness or mental strategy, is principally, it is designed around something called stress inoculation. The idea behind stress inoculation is if we give the human being a little bit of a bad thing, think vaccinations. Like if I go today, tomorrow, next week to get a flu vaccine. The idea behind a flu vaccine is the vaccine is giving my body a little bit of a bad thing in the hopes that when my body actually sees that strain of flu, it copes better. It has an immune response, it’s ready, it’s prepared, it deploys the necessary defense mechanisms around that. 

Eric Potterat
So if we take the stress inoculation vaccination model and we apply it to human performance and psychology, if we can get individuals to visualize, and here’s the key, with as many senses as possible, so how they see themselves, how the room looks. To use your example of giving a presentation in front of someone, how does it smell? How does it taste? That may be a stretch, obviously, but the likelihood is kinesthetically, how does the room feel if I’m sitting down or behind a podium or whatnot? If I do that, if I practice visualizing that five or six or seven times in my mind, the first time it actually happens in reality is the 7th or eighth time my brain has seen it. So thus it copes better. It’s ready, it’s prepared. 

Eric Potterat
Now, in my world, the ideal performer is one that learns to control the human stress response in high pressure, high performance situations. So the more that we get individuals to preemptively visualize what they’re likely to see, then they should not experience a stress response and should cope better. There’s a very famous neurologist who said, if your brain is firing, your brain is wiring. 

Eric Potterat
Again, this is almost like free brain training. The more that you visualize, we know that the neurons in the brain are acting accordingly. They’re starting to develop those networks, and then all of a sudden, we have a very confident performer whose brain has seen this before, and they just seamlessly go through their process. 

17:24 Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Yeah, I’m really into mindfulness and meditation. I think what I hear sometimes from those teachers’ neurons that fire together, wire together.

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
It’s the same thing you’re talking about there. I almost wonder if visualization is a poor name for the actual thing that you’re doing, because that makes it seem like it’s only what you see versus what do you hear out there in the crowd, or what do you taste? 

Eric Potterat
And that kind of. I’m glad you said that, to be honest. In the book, we talk about changing the word to maybe censorization, because I think it’s really trying to get adults or youth to think about, hey, how are we “sensorizing” what I’m about to do? Whatever that is, whether it’s a presentation in front of a class or whether it’s a soccer field performance, it doesn’t matter what it is. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
And visualization has some potential baggage, depending on who you’re talking to, as known. 

18:14  Eric Potterat- Exactly. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
It’s all good. I want to go back to the Dodgers, and this might just be me nerding out on a detail, but something I focused on. You mentioned working with the relief pitchers and that you had interviewed and profiled. So I’m getting a sense that there was some kind of assessment, and you knew how they were going to show up, especially in the toughest moments. And I’m wondering if there’s anything, if possible, you can share from that process. And I’m curious how a ruckus maker might translate that to the interview process in a school. 

Eric Potterat
So, look, I don’t want to talk about the Dodgers in particular. I’ll tell you that every professional sport knows whether it’s basketball, football, baseball. Obviously, when they think about drafting talent or talent acquisition, there are a number of things they’re looking at. They’re looking at physical talent. They’re looking at nutritional profile, strength and conditioning. And then the best teams, the good teams, are looking at what’s above the neck, in between the ears. So there are psychological types of assessments that really do look at traits, and so they can get a baseline and then, most importantly, how do we then have that baseline so we can help that person become the best version of themselves? How do we then get them to increase or improve certain trait areas? How that could be applied to Ruckus Makers within schools or within the youth? 

Eric Potterat
I think it is important to kind of measure, at some level, baseline traits, if you will, or attributes, and then with an empirically based approach, how do we then have ways to improve those trait areas that deliver on whatever field he or she is performing in, whether that’s business, whether that’s school, whether that’s athletics, et cetera? Yeah, I think it’s important to, obviously, the Dodger. There are plenty of teams that do this moneyball and kind of look at the cognitive personality approach on how that’s going to deliver in the end. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
So get that baseline, get a sense of how people sort of naturally are performing and showing up, and then have evidence based practices that help them grow in areas that matter to you and your organization. Does that sound right? 

Eric Potterat
And I think that at the end of the day, you want to measure strengths. And one of my least favorite words is weakness. And a lot of these assessments, unfortunately, characterize certain attributes as maybe a weakness compared to whatever a normative sample is. I don’t like that word. I like the word areas for growth. Every single person, every single child has areas for growth. And I think it’s incumbent upon the ecosystem, the village, the mentors, the teachers, the coaches, to identify those areas and then help him or her become a better version of themselves in those areas. 

21:09  Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
What’s your point of view on strengths and areas of growth? Because some people are all in on the strengths. Just make those great and build a team around you to sort of supplement your areas of growth. But how do you think about that? 

21:23   Eric Potterat
I kind of am in the middle. I like both, meaning, often when I work with clients, I’ll tell them to look at the top three or four strength areas and continue to leverage those, because by definition, those are outlier traits, meaning they’re a separator between you and the cohort you’re being measured against. I do think it’s important to leverage our strengths. At the same time, I think it’s important to choose two or three areas for growth every quarter, every six months, every year, and double and triple down on what I am doing to strengthen those muscles? What am I reading, what podcasts, what curricula, et cetera. 

21:59    Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
There’s a small book called bumpers. Believe me, this show is all about you, but I want to bring this one into our conversation just because I think you might find the perspective interesting. But it was only like 30 pages and was a super powerful and influential book in my life. But one of the core things that it taught me was, like, if you can eliminate your worst performance per day, per week, per month. And you thought about just performance, like a math equation, doing that is going to raise your average performance just almost immediately overnight.  I had never considered that. I’m sure you have. You’re much smarter than me, but I thought it was a cool idea and just wanted to throw that out there for you and for the listener. Let’s talk about why we are planning vacations. It might be easier that folks have a better process for planning vacations versus achieving performance goals. Yeah. 

22:59  Eric Potterat
So really there are five main differentiator areas when you look at the best performers in the world compared to others. And those areas really are about kind of identity and values, who they are, the mindset process, which you talked about, adversity, tolerance, and then balance recovery. On the process side, we devote an entire chapter through great stories of high end performers talking about how they’ve learned a certain process to become better performers. And I think at the end of the day, the bottom line is amateurs focus on outcome. Too many of us are so outcome based, whether I want grades, if I’m a student, or I want that certain job, or I want the trophy, whatever it may be, I want to lose x amount of pounds. Outcome. Outcome. Outcome. 

Eric Potterat
But really, when you look at the best performers in the world, they’re focusing on a process and a recipe, and they double and triple down on being consistent and efficient with a process that chips away through segments, through time. And ultimately, they know if they stay true to that process, they’re going to achieve the outcomes more times than not. Now, to your question. Unfortunately, human beings often have a bias towards action. When I feel like I’m not meeting the outcomes that I want, i.e. Grades, trophies, however you define performance. But in this case, we’re thinking about how we’re educating our youth. Oftentimes, students will become extremely outcome based. And I’m not naive, it’s important for college, for progression, all of those things. And what happens is people, when they’re not meeting the outcomes, they throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. 

Eric Potterat
They make a change to everything. If you’re a professional athlete and you go through that proverbial slump, that’s the equivalent of an athlete saying, I want to change my entire golf swing or change my entire baseball stance. And if you think that’s preposterous. Because these are world class individuals that are going through a natural slump. So what we want people to do is think about including our youth, okay? If you’re going to make a change, make sure you surround yourself with an ecosystem of trusted, valid, vetted people who can give you feedback, teachers, coaches, parents, and then make one change at a time and measure that change. Because then you’re going to be able to see, am I affecting incremental value in making that change versus changing everything?  And then if in fact you do have a performance outcome difference, you have no idea what led to that. You’ve changed too much. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I think two points I want to reflect back to you and to the ruckus maker listening, because this is actually very common in education. Oh, the test scores weren’t there or whatever. I’m getting rid of the staff. We’re changing the entire curriculum. It’s like we’re going to redesign the entire thing. And if I heard you correctly, it’s like not focusing on process inputs, what’s in your control, and changing a part of it and measuring what that change has made. I wanted to reflect back. 2 and it’s unabashedly just reminding the Ruckus Maker listening. We have a community for our leaders to help support their development and growth. But I think trusted advisors are so important. And not taking advice from baristas versus. 

Eric Potterat
That story in the book, of course. I really do. And we challenge the reader to, in the sound, somewhat egocentric, but really you’re in charge of your own life and your own career and who is on your board of directors. It’s important to surround ourselves with, it doesn’t have to be 85, 90 people, just three or four trusted advisors. Maybe one or two of them are outside of your craft or outside of your discipline. Maybe one or two are within our mentors and they can give you honest, clear feedback about what they see as well. To your point earlier about the educational system, perhaps maybe a knee jerk reaction to making change. One of the things that I would want to remind the ruckus maker audience is that there is something called regression to the mean. 

Eric Potterat
So whenever scores or batting averages or touchdown averages or whatever metric you want to measure, whenever those decline or slump, there is going to be a natural progression or regression towards one’s mean. If I go over ten, I can make a change or I can pause and say, okay, I’m going to stay true to the process, stay true to the recipe, the testing, the educators, whatever it may be, and then know that I may go five for six and the test scores may then ebb higher the next time. So we need to consciously be aware of the EB and flow of things, not just making an episodic decision. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Yeah, that’s powerful as well. If you pause for a minute and it goes back to the mean, I don’t know of any schools that actually just say, okay, let’s take a breath here. Right. So that’s a very interesting point. And again, just one more, just for a ruckus maker listening to 30 seconds of how this show got started. Right. I felt that leadership development opportunities didn’t really exist for me. Right. At least they weren’t provided by the system where I worked. So, Eric, I could either throw a pity party and say, oh, I’m the administrator with the know, mentorship or whatever, or I picked up this microphone, talked to the Erics of the world, learned from your stories of success and failure, and took action on an idea you gave me, and it changed my life. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
All of a sudden, people started asking me for support and answers. And then, I’m sure you’ve heard of the concept of a mastermind, but I introduced that to education. And now we gather school leaders on a regular basis to sort out the challenges of education. But again, back to the trusted advisors and the piece that’s non educated related. We don’t read any books in education. We learn not because education is broken, but because we want to have more tools, right, to put in our tool set and that kind of thing. So I think this is a good spot. Take a quick break to get some messages in from our sponsors. And when we come back, I’d like to hear more about how you use your calendar, and maybe that’s a place where you could actually operationalize and put your process onto paper. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
We’re back with Eric Potterett, and he has an excellent book. Ruckus maker approved. Everybody picks it up. It’s called learned excellence. I love it for its practical, actionable, and great storytelling. As you know, sometimes I highly recommend people mastering the fundamentals. And so I don’t consider this a sexy idea or something. It’s like, use your calendar. But when you talk to leaders, show me the bank account. Show me a calendar. I know what you always do. I don’t know why I’m surprised, but I’ll see a calendar with, like, one thing on now. Teach us how to use the calendar.

Eric Potterat
Essentially, this is reverse engineering our excellence. When you deal with thousands of the world’s best performers in multiple disciplines, you start to see things that they’re doing differently. And I’ll just kind of titrate it down to the most essentials. Essentially, all of us have the exact same 24 hours every day. I know that sounds preposterously simple, but there are 24 hours in a day. If we pay the tax, as it were, of 8 hours of sleep, the National Institute of Health says that we and our youth need seven to 9 hours of sleep at night. I know that will ebb and flow. Sometimes a little bit less, sometimes a little bit more. But generally, we pay the tax of sleep. That leaves 16 hours. The world’s best performers or the world’s worst performers have the same 16 hours every day. 

Eric Potterat
It became simple. As you start to interview these incredible people, they are just using their time, their currency, and we use that metaphor. I know it’s a bit cheeky. Time is money, but it really is the most important currency that all of us have is time. When you look at calendars, one of the challenges that I invite the reader and now the Ruckus Makers to think about is where is and how much white space exists in your calendar and why is it there? The reason I don’t like white space, and there’s going to be some resistance to this, is white space is letting life dictate to you or the audience member, the ruckus maker, what’s important? As opposed to fencing that time and saying, no, I’m going to spend my currency of time doing these things. 

Eric Potterat
There’s something called zero sum calendaring, which is fine, we go one step further in the book. We really like color coding. We ask the audience member to act as an elite performer, eliminate white space, and don’t, please interpret that as meaning, well, where’s my free time? Free time is there. You just have to fence it. You have to call it that. This is my time for thinking. I’m an hour thinking here, an hour of reading, and an hour of yoga. I’m agnostic as to how you spend that currency. I don’t care. But we know if things are in writing, they’re actually more likely to happen. And we go into the statistics of that in the book as well. The last thing I’ll say is our color code. We add the color coding to the calendar and time management as well. 

Eric Potterat
If something is red, it’s not moving. That’s really heavily weighted as an important time. That could be an anniversary, a birthday, a client meeting, this podcast with you, it’s a red for me. Yellow is something that we recommend someone putting down that is movable, but they prefer not to move. So for me, I’m going to offend my dentist, but that can be a dental appointment. I can move. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I’m not going to tell them, so it’s okay. 

Eric Potterat
And then lastly would be green. Green are things that you can move. Maybe that’s the yoga, maybe that’s a workout, maybe that’s whatever. And if you eliminate the white space and fill it, you find that efficiency goes up incredibly. I mean, it’s profound. So you start to then act as an elite performer. They’re just leveraging their currency of time markedly differently. And there’s a volitional piece. They’re choosing what they’re doing at the time as opposed to, let’s be honest with each other. When white space exists, the human being, sometimes that P word comes procrastination and it just happens and it prevents that from happening. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
I guess on some level, you have to have a sober conversation with yourself and decide what kind of person, leader, performer you want to be. There’s no right or wrong or whatever, but if you are going for top 1% excellence, and that’s something you aspire to be, this is the way. There’s no doubt about it. Very interesting. I appreciate you breaking down the color coding, too, because that’s something that you’ve taught me. I haven’t done that. I had just regular colors and then green for money making activities, but now I can change that for movable things that could be moved but prefer not to, and then things that I can’t move. So appreciate that very much. So that hits calendars and let’s talk breathing. You might find it interesting. I think my ideal breath is 6.5 /minute right? 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
So it’s 3.7 in and 5.5 out. And I try to do that 20 minutes twice a day for HRV and improve that. But you talk about a four four breathing method. And do you care to explain that to the ruckus maker? 

Eric Potterat
At the risk of offending anyone who is tied to other breathing methods, please, you’re allowed to take me off your Christmas or Hanukkah list. That’s okay. I’m not a fan of box breathing. I’m just not. I don’t think there are many organisms on the planet that hold their breath to control the human stress response. As a result of that, we just go back and we document in the book what the research tells us. And this could be taught to youth as well, from the administration, et cetera, down. The technique that we really like really fundamentally, as you precisely said, when you look at the research, breathing rates when people are in high pressure situations or stressed. 

Eric Potterat
And we can use, quote unquote for stress, whether that’s a math final, calculus social studies project, I’m trying to put it in the context of students as well. Whenever high performance kicks in, high leverage situations, we know for a fact that most human beings in high stress or higher stress situations, their breathing rates go from anywhere from 16 to 22 breaths a minute. So it’s rapid, shallow breathing that increases muscle tension, that increases or decreases the ability to problem solve and practice kind of frontal lobe functions, of executive functions, abstract thought, et cetera. We know that it affects human beings negatively. We know that when you look at how to offset that, ideally, not only physiologically, but cognitively, literally, ideal good things happen at about six breaths per minute. You had mentioned six and a half, which is great. 

Eric Potterat
But six breaths a minute, plus or minus is where kind of that human homeostasis is. And the best cognitive thinking, the best abstract thinking, problem solving, et cetera, happens. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that maybe the best way to modify breathing prior to or during high performance situations is to try to exact those six breaths a minute. A way to do that is we call them four four breathing, or theory of fours breathing. It’s 4 seconds in, no hold, just a natural pause at the top, and then roughly 6 seconds of exhale. So four to 6 seconds of exhale, you do the math. Four plus six is ten, and that’s roughly six breaths a minute. 

Eric Potterat
What we found is after about two minutes, and I want to invite the Ruckus Makers and the audience to not only practice it themselves, but get the students to start doing this as well. You start to feel it. Literally, this is one of the quickest ways to reverse the human stress response. It causes vasodilation, that is, diaphragmatic breathing, which then affects cognitive performance very positively. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
In linking it to a calendar, you have an unmovable, contentious meeting with a parent coming up. And can you just put five minutes of this kind of four six breathing in ahead? And you’re going to be served by that, I would think. 

Eric Potterat
Exactly. And it’s something we don’t need to go down this rabbit hole too much. But it’s the only thing that you can absolutely control. I can’t control the outside stressors of maybe a parent that’s going to come in frustrated, but I can control my breathing and how I’m preparing for that so that I know that all the blood is going to go to the important part of my brain to be able to problem solve, to be able to answer their difficult questions, et cetera. So the other thing that comes up is sometimes people say, students, athletes, first responders, well, I don’t have the time to do this. And if you’re worried about what people are thinking, if they’re looking at the way you’re breathing, then go to the restroom, close the stall, and do it on the john. 

Eric Potterat
It’s really not hard to find a few minutes to kind of decompress and get your cognitive state ready to perform. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
That’s what elite performers do. Last book question, I just want to talk about recovery, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dr. Michael Gervais. I’ve listened to his podcast, finding mastery before, but he has a quote that I always love and I think you’ll agree with. Basically, he knows at the world stage, all these elite performers, they’re all hard workers. And these amazing physical specimens or whatever. And so they don’t talk about how much time they put in the gym or how hard they work because everybody’s doing that. The thing that they find interesting to discuss is like, how are they recuperating? How do they recover in order to enhance performance? And you end your book there in your framework. That last piece is about recovery, maybe personally, what works for you? 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
What do you like for recovery? 

Eric Potterat
Yeah. So first off, I’m not familiar with his work. Secondly, when you look at these elite performers, they really double and triple down on the balance and also think of themselves as very high end performers, kind of like a high end sports car. You can only have that engine going at those RPMS for so long before you need to give it some garage time.  I think we interview a lot of high performers in the book, and there’s a lot of research out there, right. Sleep is probably the best thing you can do to recover. Yoga, float tanks, nutrition, nature walks. Again, I’m agnostic on how you’re getting that garage time, as it were. But it is really important for me. It’s exercise. For me, it’s nature time you asked specifically. 

Eric Potterat
We split time between our home here in San Diego and another home in. I really, that’s, for me, my recovery time, just getting out, nature, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, et. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Ruckus Maker, you’re worth it. And if you want to create more value for your school, your campus, you certainly need to figure out this recovery piece and how it would feel good for you. The last questions I asked all my guests. Eric, number one, if you could put a message right on all school marquees for a single day, what would your message be? 

Eric Potterat
Run away from the narrative of, I can never do what he or she is doing. It’s patently false. I think there’s an underlying belief in our culture, in our society, that certain high end performers were just born with certain advantages, whether they’re athletic advantages, intellectual advantages, process advantages. I would want to educate kids in every school that is literally a patently false narrative. When you unpack, literally, as we did in the book, from multiple disciplines, we’re looking at CIA officers, seals, businessmen, and women, first responders, cirque du Soleil surgeons to a man and to a woman. What got them there was learned. Run away. Here’s my marquee. Run away from the narrative of he or she was born that way. It is absolutely false. They’ve learned it. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
And so now you’re building your dream school. You’re not constrained by any resources, your only limitations, your ability to imagine. What would your three guiding principles be? Building this school. 

Eric Potterat
So my first one, and, yeah, boy, you’re tempting me here to not hop on my soapbox too much, I will say from my optic, and I don’t want to make any of your Ruckus Makers, audience members angry, but from my optic, a lot of the principles and disciplines we unpack in the book, they ought to be in curricula. I firmly believe that we need to start teaching these kids principles earlier. That said, my top one would be to learn by doing as well. Death by PowerPoint, death by instruction only, or learning that way, I think is. Again, I don’t want to offend any audience members, but I’m a big fan. 

Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Anybody listening to this is going to agree with you. 

Eric Potterat
I really like this concept. First, you need to teach, obviously, the fundamentals, but then there has to be an avenue or a process in place to have he and or she practice what they’ve just learned in doing them, actually. So that would be number one. Number two would be preparation with adversity tolerance. There isn’t much in the, and I’m not a tough guy at all, but there isn’t much in the world, I fear, except about a 25 to 30 year old who is in the working world who doesn’t know how to handle adversity. And this is why Alan and I talk about this near the very end of the book, that these principles need to start moving far upstream. 

Eric Potterat
We need to start from a practical standpoint, teaching our youth adversity tolerance tactics that control the human stress response and thus allow these individuals to think on their feet during adversity. Number two principle would be to absolutely programmatize adversity tolerance techniques that are evidence based and make those part of the curriculum and include those, for sure, 100%. I’m very convinced about that. We know they’re going to think better. We know that the uncertainty is only going to continue. Whether it’s pandemic, supply line, supply chains, economy, et cetera. The world is a difficult place, and we need our youth to know how to do that. And then I think, thirdly would be to get the students to understand that they choose their mindset. Mindset is not, again, something that they’re born with. 

45:40    Eric Potterat
I would invite them early to the schools to have the students understand that they play multiple roles. They’re there that day as a student, but they’re also a son or a daughter. They’re also community members. And to have and be able to choose different mindsets for those roles and to learn strategies to kind of codify that mindset. For today, I’m at school. I’m going all in as a student and then make a transition. Now I’m going to be a friend. Now I’m going to be a son or a daughter. And really to try to leave school at school and home at home, to teach them that they control, they choose the mindset for the role that they play. 

46:23    Chief Ruckus Maker: Danny
Thanks for touching on those principles and just reminding the ruckus maker, listening to pick up learned excellence, that five part framework is values and goals, mindset, process, adversity, tolerance, and then balance and recovery. We couldn’t cover everything, obviously, in a short conversation, but again, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. We covered a lot of ground, Eric, of everything we discussed. What’s the one thing you want a ruckus maker to remember? 

46:51  Eric Potterat
Keep challenging yourself to grow and don’t settle. I think that it sounds a little bit like a fortune cookie or a yodaism. But I think that ultimately, a lot of the Ruckus Makers are in positions of power and the positions of high authority. And don’t let that get to your head and continue to kind of branch out and don’t settle and continue to kind of move and be comfortable being incrementally uncomfortable. And I think that gets modeled for all of the people that they’re working within their ecosystems as well. And I think that modeling is really good because it tells community members, it tells family members, it tells students that, hey, this person, although they’re in a position of power and authority, they continue to embrace incremental levels of discomfort.



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