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Do the First Things...First!

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Mindset Made Simple Tip #113 – Watch or listen HERE.

Well. If that wasn’t the Browns being the Browns, I don’t know what it was!

If you live in Cleveland or root for a football team that wears brown and orange, yesterday was a rough one.

For those of you who aren’t Browns fans (I’m not either, but I do root for the hometown team when they are playing anyone other than the Steelers – yep, I was a front-runner as a child!), the Browns were up by 13 with less than 2 minutes to go…and lost to…wait for it…the New York Jets (lead by Joe Flacco who knows how to win!).

Cleveland’s problem really came to a head with a blown coverage that led to a 70-yard touchdown (it really started with an off-season trade, but that’s a whole other story).

The receiver got behind the corner and could have walked into the end zone.

Even so, throughout the game, there were mistakes that could have changed the game had the simple pass, tackle, cover or kick been completed.

We know that we don’t control the outcome.

A quarterback can make a great pass and the receiver can take one too many steps and that perfect pass does not connect.

A kicker can strike the ball perfectly and a huge gust of wind can come off of the lake and there goes nothing.

All we can do is do the first thing first - like read the coverage or follow the receiver :)!

How many times this weekend did you see a pass hit a guy in the hands and get dropped...or the guy who hit a 58 yarder to win the game last week, miss the extra point?

Is it that the receiver can’t physically catch the ball or the kicker not get it through the uprights?

I think not. They make millions of dollars to do so and are the best in the world at their crafts.

How can such simple skills…those they can do in their sleep…get botched?

When does the mistake really happen? Is it when it falls out of the receiver’s hand or well before the ball arrives?

This is where doing the first thing first comes in…and our brain screws us up!

It has been said that we live in three time zones – the past, the future and the present.

Unfortunately, we spend more time in the past and the future than in the now. The problem with this is that the only thing we can affect is the now!

So when the ball hits a receiver’s hands, but he is thinking about running up the field at that very moment, he cannot execute the simple skill he works on every day because he is thinking about the future.

Or…because he is thinking at all!

I remember someone questioning our lineup numerous years ago (isn’t that a novel happenstance). We had an outfielder who had the yips. It was painful to watch, but the kid was a beast in every other way. Someone asked how we could start a kid who couldn’t throw. My answer was quick and succinct. You have to catch it before you can throw it. Who cares how far you can throw it if you can’t run it down (or hit in runs on the other side of the ball 😊).

The point is, if you don’t have the ball, you can’t run. So, if you are not focused on catching the ball, the whole thing is a bust!

We don’t control the pass or whether we can run after.

All we can control is how we prepare to execute.

According to Dr. Joe Parent, in his book How to Make Every Putt, we can “make” every play if we execute and trust the route, the swing, the pass, etc. Does this mean every route, swing and pass will connect? Of course not! What it means is we determine what we can do in the situation, make the best read possible and focus on the ABCs of making it happen…in that order A – B – C!

We don’t hope for a positive outcome. If we do, we are focused on the goal, not the execution.

We don’t fear a mistake. If we do, we are focused on what can go wrong instead of the execution.

We focus on the process.

If we follow the process…and focus on it…we commit to it….we trust it…which means we are working in the present, we can affect what happens but we still can’t control it!

We are creating the best opportunity for success.

It is almost like this. Ok, I’ll run my route, receive the ball at the 20 and pick up the yardage. If I can then turn up the field and get more, I will react to the defender and get more.

Either way, I executed and gained yards…which was the end goal anyway!

I have a plan that I trust and am committed to and then add in an “if…then” that allows me to do more. I did my SAY IT (to myself or out loud), SEE IT (in my mind’s eye…now I have “done it” twice) and now it’s time to DO IT (execute the plan)!

With the first thing first! And the very first thing was my mental prep…SAY IT, SEE IT…committed and ready!

Chances are you make a great catch and get lambasted and the ball pops out because the helmet hits it just perfectly. Or, you run the perfect route and can see the ball coming into your hands, and a defender steps in front and knocks it away.

Did you execute? YES! You did all you could. You were in the right spot, at the right time with the right focus. In fact, you probably gave yourself an opportunity to make the best of the situation by being ready to react because you were present and ready to react…not thinking ahead or behind!

Parent contends that this approach is the best way to stay consistent in performance. It gives us the opportunity to evaluate your performance on what we can control as opposed to an outcome-based evaluation.

It also allows us to learn from the experience.

I executed my plan. Maybe it didn’t turn out the way I expected, but I now have an opportunity to respond to it, knowing I did my job and avoiding the old “what the heck is wrong with me” eval.

No beating ourselves up. We executed. But what may we have missed that we need to consider? Is there something else I could have paid more attention to that would have given me a better opportunity? What else can I learn from this experience?

Champions are curious and ask great questions.

Asking questions demands that we look for solutions. Looking for solutions keeps us moving forward, improving on each opportunity.

So first things first...we skip through our time zones to make progress. We visit the future to plan. We then become mindful of the present to execute. We then move to the past to respond and educate our future thinking/plans.

This keeps us on a steady climb toward better performance. Plan, get yourself in the right place to execute. Execute as the environment allows with your full commitment, focus and trust. Evaluate based on the fact that you know you executed but can always learn more.

You can “make” every play…if you can manage your time zones…and do first things first!

Manage the moments and have a great week! GO STEELERS on Thursday 😊!


P.S. We all know so much of the game is played between the ears, yet working on the tools takes time we don’t have. Contact me at any time to talk about how we can help your athletes through my 5 Minute Mindset™ program and customized team sessions to help them “make” every play. Email me at or call/text 234-206-0946.

Julie Jones

Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946


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