The most important question

March 3, 2014 |  by  |  Linkedin Blog

The swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He’s won 22 medals of which 18 have been gold medals.

Phelps says that his ability to perform under pressure is one of the key factors behind his success.

From the age of 8, his coach Bob Bowman trained him to have a gold medal attitude, whatever the circumstances. Bowman introduced Phelps to the formula:

E + R = O

(Event + Response = Outcome)

No matter what happens in your life (E), you can change your response (R) to that event until you get the outcome (O) you want.

Bowman would intentionally make life difficult for Phelps by,

  • rearranging training times at the last minute,
  • cancelling the transport which took him home,
  • hiding his water bottle so that he would have to swim thirsty and
  • treading on Phelps’ swimming goggles before a race so that he would have to swim without them.

Bowman wanted to see what impact these events (E) had on Phelps attitude by monitoring his response (R).

Initially, the young Phelps would get frustrated, angry and feel like giving up, but when anything negative happened Bowman would get Phelps to ask himself the W.I.N. question: What’s Important Now?

Just after he had dived into the water, in the final of the 200 metres butterfly at the 2008 Olympic Games, Phelps’ goggles began to leak, which meant that his vision was completely blurred.

At this moment, Phelps asked himself the W.I.N. question.

He realised that the only thing he could control now was his reaction.

Although the turns at the end of each length became a bit tricky, Phelps won the race in a world record time.

After the race, Phelps was asked how the water in his goggles had hindered him. Phelps replied, “The fact that I couldn’t see allowed me to focus even more on my stroke, rather than on what the other guys were doing.”

In the words of Bob Bowman, “Your attitude will determine your altitude and how high you will fly in life.”


Tony Blair and David Cameron went to the same barber shop.

As they sat there, each being worked on by a different barber, not a word was exchanged.

The barbers were afraid to start a conversation, for fear it would turn to politics.

As the barbers finished their shaves & trims, the one who had Blair in his chair reached for the aftershave …

Blair was quick to stop him jokingly saying, “No thanks, my wife Cherie, will smell that and think I’ve been in a brothel …..”

The second barber turned to Cameron and said, “And, how about you, Mr. Cameron …..?”
Cameron replied, “Go ahead mate, my wife doesn’t know what the inside of a brothel smells like …..”

Sunil Bali

As well as being a recognised authority on personal branding and peak performance, Sunil is a critically acclaimed author and blogger. His corporate experience includes roles as Head of Talent on behalf of Vodafone Group, Santander (UK) and Cable & Wireless Europe. Sunil has also run a multi-million pound recruitment business, and is a Non Executive Director. Sunil’s first degree in Sports Science and Psychology fuelled his passion for the psychology of human achievement and well-being. As well as possessing an MBA, he is a qualified Psychotherapist and Executive Coach.

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