Jay Larranaga: On Becoming the Best Version of Yourself That You Can Be

As a kid, watching TV was more of an occasional treat than a daily staple. Where my mom would usually tell me to stop watching Chips or Knight Rider, and do homework, read, or practice instead.

Except when the Olympics were on, at which point there were a few times she’d encourage me to watch more TV. Hoping, I think, that I’d be able to learn from and perhaps be inspired by the athletes’ dedication, focus, and resilience.

Which might explain why I’ve always been a big fan of “cross-training” or “cross-pollination.” Or finding ways to apply an idea or principle from one domain to another. Like taking a concept from practicing serves in tennis, and applying it to practicing difficult shifts on the violin. Or deconstructing a rhythm-enhancing hack gleaned from a piano master class, and using it to eliminate the tightness and hesitation I felt before a soft exposed passage.

So are there things we can learn from coaches and athletes who train and compete at the highest level?


Meet Jay Larranaga

Jay Larranaga is an assistant coach for the NBA’s Boston Celtics, and also enjoyed a long career playing professionally in Europe. Giving him a deep understanding of what it takes to handle pressure and achieve excellence not just as a player, but also as a coach. And, as the son of a coach (his dad is Jim Larranaga, head coach at the University of Miami), he can appreciate the challenges of the coaching/parenting dynamic too.

I think you’ll find Jay to be an extremely curious, thoughtful, and inquisitive coach/teacher, not just from the range of books he references in the course of our conversation, but from the evident commitment to continual learning and growth that underlies all of his remarks. Which reminded me of educator Parker Palmer’s quote “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” Or, as he has also said, “We teach who we are.”

In this 40-min chat, we’ll explore:

  • The two categories of “winning habits” that he believes lead to success in the NBA (3:29)
  • The difficulty of motivating people to make changes, and how he approaches this challenge (8:43)
  • The three types of players he sees in the NBA, and which tends to enjoy the most success (9:40)
  • The strategic reason why the Celtics might be in the bottom 10-20% of teams in terms of the amount of time they spend on the practice court (16:28)
  • Multi-tasking in practice effectively with “two-fers” or “three-fers” (17:08)
  • How to find out what your true priorities are (22:00)
  • How he went from worrying about missing shots and feeling apprehensive to embracing opportunities to succeed (24:26)
  • An example from his daughter’s life about how we have more potential than we often realize (31:04)
  • The importance of facilitating success, rather than frustration (32:55)
  • How his dad managed to demonstrate his unconditional support of Jay’s development despite many heated moments in workouts (35:12)
  • And where you should go for pizza the next time you’re in Boston (37:55)

Noa: Well thank you for taking the time out of, I don't know how the NBA season works, whether this is a crazy time or not, but anyhow thank you for taking the time out to chat for a little bit.

Jay: Calm before the storm.

Noa: Okay.

Jay: We have, it's kind of an unwritten NBA practice that after Labor Day, most of the players come back to town, and then you about two to three weeks of informal voluntary workouts, they'll start playing pick up on their own. We're able to work with them, but no more than a three on three setting. So we have some players in town right now, some of the younger guys, some of our younger players that are invited to training camp. But it's, no, it's a good time to get back into the flow before everyone gets here.

Noa: You know that's interesting because that kind of makes me think of how teachers and students, have this one hour a week generally, where they're very much in connect and supervised and they can listen to how things are going and provide instruction, but the vast majority of the rest of the week, every other hour of the week, they're kind of on their own. So, I know I saw on this interview, you wrote, you said something about the importance of developing winning habits, and I'm just kind of curious. You know you have players I'm sure who come back who through the off season maybe have kind of leaned on these winning habits and maybe others who maybe haven't, but could you expand a little bit on what some of these winning habits are that really help players be the best that they can be?

Jay: I think we'll probably cover a bunch of different books throughout our discussion, right now. I think we both like to read and like to learn and are constantly trying to get better, so I don't know. I've learned a lot from my dad. My dad has coached for a really long time. He's had a lot of success, but when he was a young coach, struggling to kind of find his voice and find his culture and do some mending himself and his career and being successful. His older brother, who as a successful businessman, recommended to him that he needed to really study more to become better at his craft, and I think the first book he recommended was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

Jay: So I don't think, whether it's sports or music or business or whatever, I think there are some habits that lead to success, and so we try and educate our players about that. I think I would separate it really into two categories. First of all, how to successfully prepare, and I think those are more general, getting a good night's sleep, having a good diet, having a daily consistent routine, getting to the gym at the same time everyday. You don't necessarily do the same thing everyday but just having a consistency in your life, which most successful people have. You follow successful people. There's a consistency to it, so that's the first part I think in just helping our young players. They come into the league so early of understanding, "hey, what you do the night before affects how you're gonna play the next day, whether that's a practice or a game. Having breakfast matters, getting to practice an hour before practice and stretching and warming up is better than rolling in five minutes before practice, throwing your shoes on and sprinting out onto the court without eating."

Jay: So we deal a lot with that because really our league is filled with the most physically gifted athletes in the world, and those physical tools, a lot of those were just god given. They are the elite of the elite. They've not had to get to practice an hour early ever before. They've not had to really spend a lot of time on their skill. They've just been bigger and faster and stronger and jump higher their entire lives.

Jay: So that's kind of in the preparation category I would say, but then, once practice does start, we believe there are certain playing or competitive habits that ring true as well. It's as simple as making a multiple effort on defense, of not giving up on a play, of if there's a loose ball that you dive for, if you drive to the basket and two people come over and help that you pass to the open man, making a quick decision when you get the ball, whether it's to shoot it to pass it to drive it, there's just, there's a right way to play. You know? And getting players to buy into that and develop that and making that a habit where they're doing it instinctively instead of having to really choose.

Jay: I forget where I read it. It might have been in the Power of Habit, but they talk about, basically where you eliminate the choice part of it. You're not making a choice to do the right or wrong thing. It's just this is what we do.

Noa: Both in terms of like the sleep, diet, routine part of it, but also the playing and the competition part of it.

Jay: Yeah, it's just what we do. This is what successful people do. We want to be successful. The one thing that was in the Power of Habit that I really liked is they talked about keystone habits. They referenced, I think Alcoa, and they said that they made their whole emphasis on safety, and we just want to be the safest work environment. And just by, because they I don't know how calculated they were in this, but the end result was by putting so much focus on safety, they're productivity, the success of the company, all those other things, they're job satisfaction, all went through the roof. So I think there are little things that you can really focus on and get good at those, which have a huge effect on your team or on your player.

Noa: You mentioned something about a buy in, and I think it depends, like I'm thinking about some of my students in grad school, and thinking about some of my younger students, high school aged, where sleep, diet, and routine. I mean, there's the school routine, but I think sleep and diet, exercises are some of things that are quick to go out the window because you just feel like you need to practice more or you need to study more, you just need to do more skill-based stuff, but kind of failing to realize that all that work that you do is at a lower level because you're tired or you keep nodding off, or your energy goes up and down throughout the day because you're not eating consistently and you're relying on coffee and so forth.

Noa: So it makes sense. [crosstalk 00:08:18], So I think it makes a lot of sense, but it's really hard I think sometimes to make that an actual behavior change. I mean do you run into that as well. Is it difficult to convince, I mean especially I think when you're younger, you just kind of get away with more, but how do you get that buy in from people who might have been fine up until a certain point, without the consistent routine or sleep schedule or diet and so forth.

Jay: Getting guys to make realistic changes in their life is difficult, if they're not in the habit of doing it, and I think that's as teachers or as coaches, that's what we try to do. I always fall back on the Daniel Pink of drive, of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Three things that actually motivate people, and in one of emails you had said "It seems like I like to make things enjoyable for guys or make competitive." That's really just based on his book and wanting players to take ownership of their careers, wanting them to take ownership of their workouts, wanting it to be enjoyable, ideally you don't need that. There are some basketball junkies, we've had a few. We had Isaiah Thomas was that way. Evan Turner was that way. That they eat, sleep, breathe basketball 24 hours a day. Getting them to go hard in a workout or be focused in a workout is never an issue. They're going home and watching games. They have this internal burning desire to be great.

Jay: But that's a very select few. I think there's a lot more guys who are kind of in between. I think the way I've tried to approach that is just to educate them as much as possible. Share as many different stories of successful people that I've known or I've read about, or introduce them to. And again just it's your choice. You add that autonomy, but I can give you the tools to be the best version of yourself, to be the best player you can be if you want to. And if you do, you're gonna have a really, if you're in the NBA already, you're gonna have a really successful and fruitful life.

Noa: You know that's interesting because you mentioned that there's some, these basketball junkies, and I think in the music world there's some equivalence. I have some friends who you can't imagine them not being musicians because they geek out about every aspect of it. They just love it. And that's really cool to see.

Noa: But then, there are a lot of other exceptionally talented musicians who are very successful and do well, and I see these at different levels too. You can kind of see those pre-collegiate musicians who can tell are gonna be those kinds of adult musicians. And then you see some others who are really great players and talented as well, but also seem to have other interests and balancing things. Sometimes I think there can be some guilt around not being that music junkie if you will. In your experience, is it okay to not be that? Can you still be really successful? How is it different when you're not that basketball junkie and still wanna be really excellent.

Jay: I believe that hard work pays off, and the more time you put into something, if it's intelligent time. You know? You have to work hard but you have to work smart as well. You can't just kill yourself. At least in the NBA, the players that I've seen be successful, you have the junkies, and all of them have to start with a minimum level of athleticism and size and other things that allowed them to compete at this level, but there are junkies. There's another group of guys that I just call competitors. They don't love the drills. They don't to practice, but they love to compete. And they have, they're really really gifted physically. To me, those guys don't ever realize their full potential because they can't commit to the practice part of it. But they're elite athletes and they're able to get by.

Jay: And then you have this whole other group that's really cool to watch. They don't, I don't think they love the sport, but they're responsible adults and they're professional, and they are gonna get their work, and they're not gonna go overboard, but they are very consistent and reliable and they take care of their bodies. And overtime, that group ends up having really long successful careers because they just, that quote we talked about earlier, they buy into the preparation part of it.

Jay: But yeah, I believe to realize your full potential, that does take a lot of time and effort. And you have to eliminate as many distractions as possible.

Noa: That's interesting because it reminds me of something I read somewhere about having a not-to-do list, that's not only a list of things you need to do, but things you need to actively avoid and make sure that you don't spend time on. Is there a range of things that are consistent, let's avoid these things during important parts of the seasons, as far as preparation goes that may be good in the offseason or may be useful at other times but in terms of really transitioning from practice and skill development to performance ...

Jay: I don't know if it's the one you're talking about but there was this one ... there was a book I got recently that was like 13 Things That Successful People Don't Do-

Noa: Right, yeah...

Jay: ... or something like ... it was a psychologist from Maine, around our area has written and then she wrote one, 13 Things That High ... I forget exactly but it was about parenting and it was like 13 Things That Parents Don't Do, Successful Parents Don't Do. During the course of the season, can you expand a little bit on ...

Noa: Yeah, and partly I'm trying to think of musicians but also pick your brain on this. I was talking to a diving coach, Jeff Huber, you might know, he coached at Indiana for many years and a few Olympic teams and he said that because they're competing with China and Russia, countries that don't have this 20 hour a week NCAA rule about how much time you can have athletes in training, they had to be really smart about what they had their athletes do because something might be a great drill, might be a great thing to do from a learning perspective or development perspective, but if it wasn't going to translate as directly to performance as something else they could spend those 10 minutes or 15 minutes doing, they had to pare it out, or eliminate it in favor of things that were really going to help in terms of performance.

Noa: I just wondered if there were things like that that might be great to do in practice in the offseason when you have more time but when it comes to, "Okay it's game time, we really have to perform at the highest level, we can't spend time on these kinds of drills," if there were things like that perhaps? Or kinds of practice approaches?

Jay: The two things that come to mind when you say that is first of one of Brad's go-to lines, going into every game is he wants our players to play with a clear mind and fresh legs. So if you time the amount of time we spend on the practice court, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that it would probably be in the bottom 10% to 20% in the league in terms of actually on our feet on the court. We try and be very efficient with the time we're on the court that we ask of the players and they do a lot of stuff on their own before practice, after practice, but in terms of the whole group.

Jay: And then, I think the other thing we do and I have a friend who's a successful businessman and he was one of the first people that said it to me, but we do it also in our practices, he said he gave up golf because he just wasn't accomplishing enough with it. He felt like we spend four or five hours on the golf course just to get a little bit of exercise and spend some time with some friends but he said in terms of all the things he wanted to accomplish in a day, it just wasn't very time efficient. So he said he was always looking for a twofer or a threefer or a fourfer, like how can I get as many good things out of one event? Can I do it with people I love? Can I work ... am I developing personally? Whatever you're trying to get out of it and we, I think, do something similarly, we call it a multitask.

Jay: So when we're covering the opponent's offense instead of a lot of teams will just say, "Okay, this is their play called horns and we're going to walk over this play and this is how you guard it." And then it's, "Okay, this is a play that they call fist down and we're going to walk over this." Instead, what we try to do is we'll take three plays and we'll say, "All right, we're going to run horns, then we're going to reverse the ball into what they call fist down and then we're going to finish with a high pick and roll, something like that." Just being efficient with our time and being able to accomplish what maybe one team, it takes them 10 minutes to do, if we can get it done in five minutes, we feel like we're winning.

Jay: So I think time is like the one commodity that is finite and at some point, you know ... so the more that we can use our time well and be as efficient and productive as possible, I think.

Noa: I like that. I was certainly guilty of this growing up and I think there are a lot of other musicians who are as well, where when you're a couple months out from a big competition or an audition, you feel like you have plenty of time and you probably don't use your time as effectively and then it starts to be like three weeks out, you can see on the calendar, it's two weeks out, one week out. I would tend to start practicing more and more and harder as the day approached and it sounds like from Brad's approach and your approach, I like this idea of clear mind, fresh legs. You're trying to not over prepare, over practice. Over prepare is maybe not the right word but you're trying not to get too worn out and do too much so that you can have that energy in the game and you said something earlier about burnout, maybe you didn't use the word burnout but in my mind it triggered the idea of burnout. How do you balance the incredible need to be prepared ... I like that story you told about Kevin Garnett and just knowing every player's go to move and what that level of preparation really looks like and means, is there a way of balancing that with also still not emotionally and physically burning out so that when the game comes, you really can be at your A game?

Jay: I've been very, very fortunate because I think Brad's self-discipline is about as good as it can be. Talk about his routine for preparing is so consistent and so balanced and I was very similar to you where if something's far off, I'm much more relaxed and as it gets closer, I'm going to work harder and I'm going to procrastinate and I'm cramming the night before every test and I think that's human nature but I think if you recognize that we all struggle with that and if you just have constant reminders of, "Hey I have to be organized with this. If this is important then I need to commit to it earlier."

Jay: I always fall back on you have to still be true to yourself, every person is a little different. The way that I'm going to be successful is not the same how you're going to be successful, or how Brad's going to be successful but ... and I'll actually reference another book I just read that I really love it's called, How You Measure Your Life, really good, and it just talks about balancing career, balancing family and it says, "Regardless of what you claim your priorities are, your actions of where you put your time, money and energy is where your priorities are."

Jay: So if you say your family is the most important place, you're doing 70 hour work weeks and not getting to see your kids then it's not. You're not really being a man of integrity, or a person of integrity. Your actions are not backing you what you're saying so that's a really good one and it's a real easy read that you might like.

Noa: Yeah, no that sounds interesting. This is kind of a transition from what we've been talking about but there is one thing that I feel like might be similar, I'm curious to get your take on. I think every musician has certain passages or certain shifts or certain notes that kind of freak them out a little bit, they lie awake worrying about and what's frustrating about it is a lot of times you can get it fine in the practice room where there's nothing at stake but when you get that one opportunity and it really matters, that's the time that it tends to not be so consistent, you worry about it.

Noa: It's hard to practice that because when you're in the practice room it's fine, right? So the only time you can really practice that or experience that is when there are people watching or when it's in a performance. I've heard that there are a lot of players that seem to be able to hit everything in practice but then not everybody has that same ability to hit it in a game. Are there things that you guys do in practice to help make that transition from what it feels like in practice to game less or to minimize that gap?

Jay: I think, I was fortunate, I played 12 years overseas and I was never ... I had never viewed myself as a great clutch player, I wouldn't say. I made some big shots in my career and missed some but it was never ... you've been around people, you've probably been around musicians where you just say, "They're clutch," they are confident, they have a swagger to them that you just feel like, "Oh they want the ball at the end of the game, they're going to make the shot, I've seen them make the shot, I've seen them make the putt." I was much more analytical and probably over-analyzed every situation and I struggled with that my first few years overseas and I think what helped me the most was I changed my whole perspective on those situations as opposed to ending up in those situations and feeling apprehensive or nervous in those situations.

Jay: I went into every game and I had a list of goals for every game and the last goal that I would either write them down or read them every game, last goal was, "Make big shots and plays to win the game." So when those moments came, I wasn't viewing it anymore as, "Oh man, I'm worried about this, I hope I don't mess up." Going from basically a risk of failure to an opportunity to succeed, I guess, and it really helped me a lot. I just approached the situation totally differently and really looked at it as more of an opportunity than a risk. So I try and communicate that with our players but for me it was a constant challenge. Some people just naturally feel a certain way and other people have to work harder at it.

Noa: That's cool because it seems like your goal approach, I'm just guessing what might have happened inside your head as you were playing, but is it almost like it switched too from focusing on the consequences of the game to just knowing, "Okay these are the goals that I have for myself as a player, as a teammate and if I take these opportunities, whether or not I hit the shot or miss the shot, at least I'm moving in the direction of my goals." Has that made it about you developing as opposed to whatever the consequences might have been?

Jay: Yeah, I just think I was ... you know what, it's a popular term right now, I think, but I was more intentional in how I played. I didn't just go out and play, I was very focused on, "I want to help us win the game. I want to do specific things, I want to make a game winning three." So I was searching that out more than it being a surprise because if you're surprised, then you're going to always default back to what your natural instinct is. So I just wanted to be much more ... take more, I guess, control of what I was doing.

Noa: Actually, do you mind ... I don't know if you remember but do you mind me asking how specific some of these goals might have been? Maybe some examples? Were they general goals or were they pretty specific?

Jay: Super specific. It was I want to take a charge every game. I wrote them going into what ended up being my best season overseas, and they were, I want to average this many points, I want to shoot this field goal percentage, I want ... and some of them were statistics like that, other of them were situations where if a big guy switches onto me, I want to beat him instead of just being passive. I was generally a pretty passive, team-oriented, unselfish player, and to be the best you can possibly be, there has to be a level of self-ownership, of selfishness, for lack of a better term. It has to matter to you. It can't be more important than the team goals, but at least for me having those goals and writing them down really helped me be more focused and especially under stressful situations where there was a lot of emotions or the end of games. They helped me refocus on "hey, this is an opportunity to accomplish a goal. Nothing more than that. Don't think about this an opportunity to lose. This as an opportunity to fail."

Noa: I wonder, when you wrote these goals down, especially these situational goals are the ones I find really intriguing. Did you spend time not just identifying them, but even visualizing them and kind of seeing it in advance of the game so that when it happened it was recognizable instantly?

Jay: For sure. So my dad's, besides his brothers, is the biggest influence on his coaching career is a guy named Dr. Bob Rotella. So he's a sports psychologist. He's worked mostly in professional baseball, but also in basketball, everything, all types of sports. His books are really really good, and he talks about visualization. He was actually really cool. He came to visit my family when I was in college, and it was during the world series and we were at dinner and he had to excuse himself from dinner. And he was gone for like an hour and a half. He came back down, and he's like "I'm sorry. I was just talking with Greg Maddox for the Braves. We were going through his entire line up for the other team, how he was gonna face each batter." He basically visualized three innings, five innings, whatever it was, but that was pretty cool.

Noa: I know that you have two kids, and I've read a little bit online where, it seemed like you were involved in some of the coaching. I'm sure naturally just as a dad and being around basketball your whole life and a grandfather and so forth, there's gotta be some interaction with them on a basketball level. How do you do that with your kids. How do you balance trying to share with, not trying to say too much at the same time?

Jay: Well, I think, first of all children and people in general have so much more potential than any of us ever realized. I think, so my kids were both born overseas. My daughter went up until first grade at a school in Italy, and I can still remember when she was in kindergarten. She went to a little Catholic school with nuns, and all they focused on was reading, and writing, and arithmetic. Right? It was just the old school learning, and it was a lot of repetition and memorization. I had these notebooks from her kindergarten class, and she had the most beautiful cursive handwriting and was doing math equations that she didn't get to in the states until, I wanna say like second or third grade. And we moved back to the United States, and she basically was not demanded all that she had been demanded of in Italy and lost all of that.

Jay: So that was pretty eye-opening to me. Kids can do so much more if we demand it of them, and I don't think that's a bad thing if it's done with love and understanding. What's the alternative? If you're not doing something productive, if you're not doing something to develop a skill, are you just watching TV, are you playing video games? I don't think it's wrong to be demanding of our kids, but obviously you wanna have balance.

Jay: I did like in the book I was telling you, the How Will You Measure Your Life, the author talks about, I forget exactly how he put it, but it's basically like what service is something providing. What do you need from this activity or what do you need from this person, whatever. He said school, what do children need from school. And he said they basically need two things. They need to experience success and they need to make friends. And I think that's affected me a little bit in whatever we're doing, I want them to experience success. I don't want to make something so difficult that it becomes frustrating and unenjoyable, and we'll do that even with ...

Jay: So when we're doing basketball stuff and we'll just stay really close and I'll just stay to the side. Everybody wants to the three point line and throw up shots. I just want you to see the ball go in. I want you start to understand how you can make the ball go in the basket.

Noa: That's cool. Is that sort of how you and your dad grew up doing things? I'm curious how he was able to demand excellence but also do it in a loving, considerate sort of way.

Jay: It's a challenge, right? Playing for your parent or coaching a child. There is a lot of emotion tied up in that. There is a lot of, from a child's perspective, when I'm being criticized or when I'm being coached, are they coaching me as a player or me as person, or is this when I'm being corrected, that's my father or is that my coach. There's a lot that goes into that that makes playing for anybody else so much easier once you've been through that.

Jay: When you emailed me, I was trying to think of what I thought was really impactful with my dad, and I think the one thing was I would say that 90 percent of the workouts that my dad put me through, when I was a little kid up until college, that ended with us fighting and me crying, at some point it got to that. But, the next day, he was always willing to go workout with me again, and so he never held a grudge. I never held a grudge. I kind of understood that we both want to do well. I made sure to always let him know I appreciated him doing the things he was doing with me, even if we had times where we argued and fought a lot. But he always came back the next day.

Noa: It's good to hear that because I think I had a lot clearer ideas before I had kids myself, and then once I had kids, everything that I thought I knew kind of went out the window.

Jay: And there's no ... every kid is different. My two, I have a 15 year old daughter and a 12 year old son, and their personalities couldn't be more different. So there's not, I don't think there's one answer for everybody, it's finding out what that individual child enjoys, making it enjoyable, and making them want to come back the next day. And part of that I think is just being successful.

Noa: And maybe that's a good place to wrap up, but I was curious, you mentioned a few books. Is there anything that you didn't mention that you would recommend everyone to read?

Jay: One of my favorites, because I have a bunch of favorites, but Peak Performance Under Pressure, I think is really really good. It was written by, the author's name is escaping me now, but he was one of the first instructors at Top Gun, at flight school, and it goes just very detailed into what fighter pilots, Navy, specifically Navy Flying Aces do to prepare that allows them to be so successful.

Noa: I don't know how into food you are, but I always like something food related to look forward to wherever I happen to go, so even though it's not related to performance, and actually actively bad for performance perhaps, but as someone who's been in Boston for a while, if I or someone else was to be in Boston, what do we totally have to eat when we're there?

Jay: For me, I would have to say Pizzeria Regina is the oldest pizza place in Boston. There's one by Boston Garden, but the one I actually prefer is out by Fenway Park and pizza is unbelievable. Not healthy for you at all, but it's also the restaurant is attached to a train, railroad so every hour or hour and a half a train just goes flying by and scares the heck out of anyone that's sitting in the windows by the train. So that I love.

Jay: For more of the foodie type people, that maybe is a little bit more high quality, there's a place called Tip Tap Room, which is again down the street from Boston Garden. It's a place my wife and I, and kids will go a lot after games. It's really good. They have excellent, excellent food. Really good turkey tips.

Noa: Okay, so that's pizza and turkey tips then.

Jay: Tips is a big Boston thing. Steak tips, turkey tips.

Noa: I don't think I've ever had anything other than steak tips. Didn't know it existed.

Jay: Yeah, no they do. I think maybe tofu maybe. Yeah, there's a wide variety of tips when you come to Boston.

Noa: Alright, well thank you so much Jay. I hope it's a good season for you guys, and thanks again for taking the time out to chat for a little bit.


[1] Jay mentioned that his dad was influenced by Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in the early part of his coaching career. (2:47)

[2] Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, came up when Jay was discussing the importance of getting into the habit of playing “the right way.” (5:58)

[3] Jay noted that motivating behavior change can be a challenge, and referenced Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  (8:58)

[4] I briefly alluded to the idea of a not-to-do list (and here are 9 examples to add to your list). (14:00)

[5] Jay mentioned Amy Morin’s books on things top performers don’t do – 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success

[6] And 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do: Raising Self-Assured Children and Training Their Brains for a Life of Happiness, Meaning, and Success (14:35)

[7] I alluded to Jay’s Kevin Garnett story, which is a great anecdote about what it means to be truly prepared. (20:21)

[8] I think Jay brought up this Clayton Christensen book a couple times – How Will You Measure Your Life?. (21:46)

[9] And told the story of sport psychologist Bob Rotella visiting his home during the World Series. Here are a few of Rotella’s tips that are meant for golfers, but are totally relevant to musicians, too. (29:27)

[10] One of Jay’s favorite books – Peak Performance Under Pressure: A Navy Ace Shows How to Make Great Decisions in the Heat of Business Battles, by Bill Driscoll and Peter Joffre Nye. (36:52)

[11] And his go-to pizza place in Boston – Regina Pizzeria (37:55)

[12] And a post-game family favorite – Tip Tap Room (38:33)

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice...
Why Are Performances Still So Hit or Miss?

For most of my life, I assumed that I wasn’t practicing enough. And that eventually, with time and performance experience, the nerves would just go away.

But in the same way that “practice, practice, practice” wasn’t the answer, “perform, perform, perform” wasn’t the answer either. In fact, simply performing more, without the tools to facilitate more positive performance experiences, just led to more negative performance experiences!

Eventually, I discovered that elite athletes are successful in shrinking this gap between practice and performance, because their training looks fundamentally different. In that it includes specialized mental and physical practice strategies that are oriented around the retrieval of skills under pressure.

It was a very different approach to practice, that not only made performing a more positive experience, but practicing a more enjoyable experience too (which I certainly didn’t expect!).

If you’ve been wanting to perform more consistently and get more out of your daily practice, I’d love to share these research-based skills and strategies that can help you beat nerves and play more like yourself when it counts.

Click below to learn more about Beyond Practicing, and start enjoying more satisfying practice days that also transfer to the stage.


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