Whether in sports or business, the difference between Champions and the rest is a matter of millimeters. For over 20 years, Adolfo Gómez Sanchez has been working with with pro athletes and leading corporations to help then achieve those millimeters of advantage and unlock the path to optimal performance. Excellence under pressure is the result of consistent application of a series of basic principles. Adolfo breaks these success habits down and explains not only how to incorporate them, but why they are so important and how they work to drive our most powerful asset: the mind. Realizing full potential begins by challenging limiting paradigms and understanding Adolfo's slogan "Impossible only means that no one's done it . . .YET!”
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In Reality There Are No Limits
A Success System For Sports, Business And Life
Adolfo Gómez Sánchez
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used; reproduced, or transmitted in any manner whatsoever without permission in writing from the copyright owner - except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Copyright © 2010 (first edition), 2016 (second edition); Adolfo Gómez Sánchez
Original Title: En Realidad No Existen Límites, Printed in Spain (ISBN: 978-84-92849-42-0) and deposited in the registry of intellectual capital in Madrid with number: M-000784/2010
PRAISE FOR ADOLFO GÓMEZ SÁNCHEZAND HIS WORK ON OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE
“Each session with Adolfo made me grow and mature as a tennis pro. He helped me believe in myself again and know that anything is possible. We set a goal of reaching the Top Ten and began working with the tools and techniques he designed… and with a lot of hard work, we achieved it”
Former ATP Top Ten
“Companies that work with Adolfo and implement these principles in the DNA of their organizations will have a competitive advantage in any market”
Tobías MartínezCEO, Cellnex
In professional tennis, mental strength marks the difference between being a top ten and a top hundred player. Adolfo brings tools I’d never before seen to achieve that strength”
ATP Tennis Pro
"Fantastic! Adolfo achieves immediate results”
Founding Partner Sassola Partners
Former Managing Director UBS Private Banking (Spain)
Former Managing Director A&G
"We had the tremendous pleasure to have Adolfo speak to our Mental Conditioning team at the IMG Academy. His competence and passion for the field of sports psychology coupled with this sincere care for his athletes left us with the desire to be better practitioners”
JUSTIN SU’A, M.S.
Boston Red Sox Head of Mental Skills;
Former Head of Mental Conditioning
“Required for those who want to perform better, suffer less and enjoy the process. A revelation!”
Virginia RuanoEx-Doubles Number One in the WTA during two yearsWinner of 10 Grand Slam doubles titlesGrand Slam winner in mixed doubles categoryWinner of two Olympic medals in women’s doubles
“Adolfo not only makes you feel alive, he know how to bring out your greatest strengths. His work is amazing and his ability to engage even more so”
Multiple Spanish National Champion in jetski and quad cross, 60 first place finishes in Motor-Cross, First Spaniard to pilot an F-1 powerboat
“Anyone who aspires to reach the summit in their field should study these concepts”
Carlos MoyàFormer World Number 1 in the ATP rankings (1999)Winner of the French Open (Roland Garros 1998)Member of the winning Davis Cup team (2004)
"Practical, Intelligent, exciting . . .Adolfo provides principles which bring balance and meaning. He reframes day to day challenges from a more efficient and rooted perspective”
JOSÉ LUIS DORADOCFO Crèdit AndorràFormer CFO Fortis Spain,
“Marvelous! I apply what I’ve learnt in both my life and my training and the difference is noticeable in both areas”
Gold Medal European Championships 5000 meters
“Adolfo helped me understand how my mind works, and how to turn it into a weapon on the court. I’ve never felt so confident under pressure”
ATP Tennis Pro
Highest Ranked Colombian in ATP history
“Adolfo 100% integrity and deep expertise. He treats each assignment/partnership opportunity with great seriousness and delivers results”
Istithmar World (Dubai)
“Working with Adolfo is indispensable for any coach who wants to optimize his players’ performance and for executives who aspire to build elite teams”
JOSÉ MANUEL “PEPO” CLAVET
ATP TOP 10 COACH
(Alex Corretja, Tommy Robredo, Feliciano López, Juan Mónaco, Fernando Verdasco)
“If you know you have talent but you don’t know for what. . .If you know you don’t have talent because you recognize it, but you are wiling to work hard . . . If you’re not mediocre and want to live life with passion, work with Adolfo”
Pop star; Founder of MECANO music group
“We achieved that plus for my players of being present and fully focused
on every shot, thanks to Adolfo ”
JOSÉ MARÍA CASTILLO
ATP Trainer and Physiotherapist
This book is dedicated to my family.
Every day you show me what it means to be truly great with your love, your generosity and your brilliant view on life.
Together, I know that there truly are NO LIMITS
It has been six years since the publishing of the first edition of this book in Spanish. Those years have provided wonderful opportunities to meet and work with spectacular people both in the field of professional sports, as well as in the world of business. When you have the fortune to share experiences with this caliber of people, it invariable changes you; it makes you better.
While preparing the translation of this book to English, I have tried to enrich the content with nuggets of wisdom and learnings gathered from these years, however the base principles have remained the same.
Additionally, I have incorporated feedback from readers of the previous edition and have modified the presentation of some concepts to increase clarity and comprehension.
Adolfo Gómez Sánchez has dedicated over 20 years to working with professional athletes and leading multinational corporations to drive them to optimal performance. His mission is to mentor individuals and teams to achieve the best version of themselves and to gain the “millimeters” of difference that separate champions from the rest in every field.
Before mentoring others, Adolfo was CEO of a 300 person services firm. He holds and MBA from Yale University and an undergraduate degree from McGill University. Early in his career he worked in leading firms such as Procter & Gamble, Gemini Consulting/Cap Gemini Group and Coopers & Lybrand.
For over 30 years Adolfo has practiced and taught martial arts (Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jujutsu, Aikido, Tai Chi) and has applied many of the key concepts to his work with athletes and multinational corporations . In the 1990’s, he moved to Tokohu’s region in Japan to study Aikido under Master John Stevens, under the lineage of the legendary Rinjiro Shirata Sensei, 9th Dan, who was one of the original students of Aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba.
He has taught his methods in different countries within Europe, North America and South America, and has worked together with executives, professional athletes and individuals from all walks of life.
His personal slogan is “Impossible only means that no one has done it . . .YET!”
I would firstly like to thank my martial arts teachers. I have had the great fortune of studying under, and training with, true masters in every sense from Japan, to Canada and the US, and in Europe. During the more than 30 years that I have been teaching and training, the philosophies of Budo (Martial Way) and Bujutsu (Martial Science), imbued with Zen teachings, have become an integral part of who I am, serving me in every aspect of my life. These teachings have provided the cornerstone for many of the skills and techniques that have helped my clients (both athletes and executives) achieve dramatic improvements in performance, focus and happiness. It is said that achieving the level of black belt signifies that you have reached the point where you are ready to start learning the subtle and transformative lessons of the arts, and one must continue to train, meditate and grow until the belt gets so worn out that it loses all color and becomes white again. The objective is to attain the “beginners mind” as Zen masters refer to it. That unquenchable thirst to learn and integrate new information, viewpoints and nuances into one’s training with no concern for the traps set out by the EGO. My belt has begun to fade, and everyday I understand a little more of the true, deeper meaning of what these great masters tried to teach me, and as a result, I realize what a long way I have to go. Thank you for teaching me that this is a good sign and that the value is in the journey.
I would like to thank all the great tennis coaches and players (active and retired) who contributed in one way or another to this book and to my broader work on optimal performance. Tennis is a wonderful metaphor for business and life and their profound knowledge of the tactics, strategies and dynamics of the game have allowed me to include illustrative examples of the application of the elements that drive optimal performance. To include all their wisdom would have required five additional volumes, but even with the little I was able to capture and share, this book has been enriched by real experiences from the world of professional sports that have added an immeasurable value.
Thanks also go out to those unique captains of industry that I have been fortunate enough to work with, who have shown that it is possible to be a disruptive, innovative leader, while being a kind and caring human being. You are a living example of how passion, courage, purpose and compassion are essential qualities for business leaders.
Finally, thank you to my mother, who at the time of publishing this second edition, has lost herself in her battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and so she sadly can not understand this message. Nonetheless, thank you for having taught me to never give up and to believe that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. That spirit has been the seed of this book and for the coaching programs that form the basis my company, Zentro.
When I first saw the movie The Matrix I felt chills throughout my body, not because of the amazing special effects, but rather because I was witnessing a sobering metaphor of how the vast majority of the population spend the days of their lives. We find ourselves tricked into fighting incessantly to create and maintain lives that don’t make us happy, trapped in a world defined by rules which we never question and which we never participated in defining. We wander blindly, like mindless robots down a path which leads to what others define as “success”, without stopping to appreciate the most sacred blessings in our lives: our loved ones, our health and the opportunity to live each day with unbridled passion. If someone points out this tragedy, we quickly search for ways to invalidate the observation and remain apathetically trapped in the false reality that provides us with the proverbial “security” of what we “know”. We abandon all too easily our most ambitious dreams, believing that they are unrealistic and impossible, simply because we have been told that is it thus. Well, the time has come for you to learn the truth:
In reality, there are no limits!!!
As in The Matrix, most of us need someone to pull us out of the labyrinth in order to realize that our lives have a greater purpose than simple feeding the system with our bodies, minds and souls; beaten into submission by fear of being ostracized from society. My purpose with this book is to serve as a guide, just as the character Morpheus did when he freed Neo from the Matrix, and to help everyone who knows deep inside that there is another, more correct way to live. For this purpose, I have structured and detailed the variables of my success system called SAN CHI E ZU. I created the name from the Kanji (Japanese characters), which mean;
To hold sacred life energy, happiness and the “path”
In essence, the system teaches the basic principles necessary to live according to these parameters, which are essential to achieving greatness in any field.
SAN (to hold sacred)What you most value will determine where your energy and focus go. Make sure you care for the most vital things in life above all and don’t get sidetracked bleeding energy into irrelevant concerns, false fears, and other people’s objectives.
CHI (vital life energy)If you don’t have a strong and healthy CHI [vital energy], to provide vigor and health, forget about everything else.
Sadly, modern society scarcely values caring for one’s health, resulting in an alarming high number of its members becoming passively ill. Their symptoms are not acute, but they drag themselves through life with little vitality, scarce flexibility and very limited cardiovascular endurance. All this translates into premature deterioration and aging resulting from having to endure ridiculous levels of stress during prolonged periods of time. And if your health is not world class, you will lack the energy, focus and persistence to overcome all barriers on the road to making your dreams a reality.
E (Happiness)If we are honest with ourselves, we will find that the search for happiness is the main driver behind the decisions we take in all areas of our lives. Anthony Robbins stated this truth with brilliant clarity when he said,
“The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your emotions.”
In other words, you can have all the money, fame and recognition in the world. Society may consider you a “success”, but if your days are characterized by anger, stress and other negative emotions, then the quality of your life is very low. Although most of us are not aware of it, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, we do is to seek happiness. If you want more money, it’s not because of the money per se, but because you associate it with a series of advantages and/or sensations which [you believe] will make you happy. The problem resides in that we have been taught to chase that which we “should” have, without stopping to think whether these things would make us truly happy. This is why there are so many “successful” people in today’s society who are profoundly unhappy. My definition of success is being able to live as I WANT, in other words, in the fashion which makes me happy, because in the end, when your life is over, the only thing you can take with you is the love and happiness you have lived and given to others.
ZU (Path)1The third element of the system, the “path”, refers to taking control of your own life and truly deciding which path you want to follow. Just as companies develop and revise their strategic plan periodically, as human beings we need to do the same. Surprisingly, the vast majority of people defined their objectives many years ago, if at all. Even worse, many have adopted the dreams and goals of others as their own. In either case, rarely do we stop and review where we’re going and what we really want. One of the main regrets of people on their deathbed is not having dedicated enough time to thinking about what they wanted to do with their lives. I believe that it is necessary not only to plan, but also to measure and constantly evaluate if we are on the right path. If we don’t take the time to do this important practice, we run the risk of one day awakening to discover that certain parts of our lives, far from making us happy, generate huge stress or simply make us feel miserable.
How, and in what area of your life, you apply the SAN CHI E ZU system is up to you, as it is equally effective for pro athletes who want to optimize their performance and break through their current limits, as it is for the working mother who is sick and tired of feeling suffocated by her obligations and life style. The method can be employed with great results by entrepreneurs, artists, housewives, students, or any person who simply wants to improve the quality of his/her life and demolish the limits which have, until now, impeded him/her from turning their dreams into reality.
With this system you will disprove the false myth that your limits are real. If limits were real, mankind would never progress. Just because something hasn’t been achieved yet, doesn’t mean it is impossible, and history is full of examples that prove this is so. However, society is laced with mechanisms that impede you from realizing this awesome potential. All the sages “knew” that the world was flat, until Columbus proved the contrary. It was also commonly “known” that no one could run a mile in less than four minutes, until Roger Bannister broke that mythical barrier in 1954. When you apply and practice the system, you will learn to trust that inner voice which knows, without a doubt, that you can achieve whatever you set you mind to. And it knows that with faith, you can achieve incredible feats.
Many people are so terrified by the idea of venturing away from the security of being good and obedient members of the flock that they completely reject the possibility that another alternative can even exist. Merely admitting that another way of living is possible is enough to shake the foundations of their false world, and thus they label the proposal of liberty as unrealistic, immature, or any other of a plethora of adjectives destined to suffocate even the smallest flicker of hope. I invite those people dominated by fear to turn to this system when the pain of continuing to live as they currently do, giving up on their dreams and accepting the life others design for them, becomes greater than the fear of venturing naked and fragile out of their artificial world and discovering the incredible magnitude of their true potential as human beings.
For those of you who have decided that, to be true to who you are, you must follow your instincts, I issue a warning. As you advance along the path towards your destiny, you will find yourself the object of bitter comments and criticisms from those who continue “trapped”. Know that they aren’t motivated by bad intentions. They simply need to invalidate any effort to break free from their prisons and define one’s own path, in order to ensure the survival of the virtual reality in which they live.
Let me offer you a technique that has been immensely helpful in protecting me from the downpour of negative affirmations regarding how unrealistic or immature I am in wanting to live life with passion: value every decision from your deathbed. I have never heard of anyone using his or her last breath to say “I should have spent more time in the office” or “I wish I had worried more about what society expected of me”. This simple, but effective, exercise allows you to put things in perspective and remember what is really important in life. Doing this exercise provides you with the strength and courage to avoid falling victim to social pressure, and to follow your unique and personal path in life.
Throughout this book, I have introduced small “alarms” in those places where I have found people generally feel most pressure to “stop dreaming” and get back to “reality”. These are moments in which the emotion to believe in a dream is turned into vertigo by fear of falling, failure, or simply fear of being misled, just as our parents, teachers, colleagues and every other person of our entourage have taught us. These alarms will have the following format:
*******WARNING: DANGERRemember that these voices, those of people around you, as well as those that you will hear within your own head, are nothing more than waves of panic trying to draw you again to the path that has been decided for you. *******
Lastly, I ask you to remember that so-called experts sometimes (and only sometimes) know what has been, but tend to have a limited capacity to imagine what could be. Your duty is to become the best person you can be and live the best life you are capable of. Only thus can you aspire to leave a positive legacy in this world, which essentially is the closest any of us can aspire to achieving immortality.
1Japanese Kanji can have various pronunciations, depending on the context and origin. The most common reading of the character which represents “path” is “TO”, but I have chosen the older and less common reading of “ZU”, as advised by some dear friends who are much more qualified than I in the nuances each reading can have
This system is the result of many years of taking risks, managing failures, making mistakes and even having a few successes. For a long time, I also followed the path that others had chosen for me. I went to the best universities, enjoyed a very successful professional career, I obtained economic compensations far above what my parents could have dreamed of, and I boasted the most prestigious job titles on my business cards. However, at every step, my anxiety and stress increased as the degree of control of my own life decreased. In the end, I was very close to losing everything that was really important, for the sake of “success”; thankfully, the love and inner strength I received from my children saved me.
I abandoned my position as CEO of a company with several hundred employees and during a few years, I aimed to solve the inner conflicts between what I thought I should do and what I really wanted to do. My professional career was pushing me into management positions that demanded I commit every single one of my waking hours, as well as every ounce of energy in my body and soul. However, my spirit aspired to do other things. I understood that the greatest achievements I can obtain in life are to be the best father and make the world a better place. Yet, I had to pay my mortgage every month.
One day, I heard Steve Jobs, in those days Chairman of Apple, stating that one can only be happy when working in what he or she really loves. This affirmation touched me deeply and I knew that I wanted, or rather, I deserved to do what would really make me happy. Right at this moment, I felt vertigo and my own inner alarm went off:
*******WARNING: DANGERWho do you think you are? You have a responsibility towards your family. You must get a stable job and put food to the table.*******
As you can see, we are all assaulted by the voices of fear at times. The key is to know how to silence them and make a distinction between the useful messages and the noise variables, as mathematicians would put it. It took me years, but at last I understood that doing what I love, which is what I do best, is not just a whim, but is actually my responsibility.
Responsibility? Yes. Responsibility! Responsibility to my family, because when I do what I’m passionate about and what makes me happy, I have more energy and love to give to them. Instead of coming home exhausted and burnt out by a job I hate in a toxic environment, I am capable of coming home full of energy and excitement and focusing on making them happy, instead of spending the evening thinking what a poor devil I am. I am convinced that when we receive the gift of finding our true purpose in life, we have the obligation to use it to make the world a better place as well as to improve the lives of every person we can help.
What would have happened if Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi had not used their impressive talents, their gifts, to lead the causes they defended? Not everybody is called upon to defend the rights of an oppressed population, but every one of us has something unique to contribute and it is our obligation to find that gift, work to become the best in what we do and offer it to the world. Don’t think in Cartesian terms whether your contribution is big or small, epic or irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that your gift is true and it is yours. The SAN CHI E ZU system introduced in this book, as well as every program delivered in my Zentro for Excellence and Optimal Performance, represents my contribution; my grain of salt as it were.
Following eight years of research, I managed to understand how to combine and use my own gifts to make a positive impact in the world. Having reached a good balance in my life, in the areas of my family, health, work, leisure, spirituality and adventure, I noticed that most people suffer from almost constant stress and anxiety. It saddened me to see talented athletes, students and entrepreneurs who did not dare to dream of reaching the peak in their fields simply because they did not think they had the stuff to succeed. I set out to help as many people as possible so they would stop suffering their lives and could start enjoying them and fighting for their dreams. I discovered that many of them wanted to break free, but they just did not know how. I started hearing frequently phrases such as “I am trapped by economic pressures”, “theday to day is killing me” or the saddest “I would love to, but it is not realistic”. I came to realize that a system was needed, which, if applied correctly, would improve the performance of anybody and allow them to reach their objectives in any field. With this revelation, I had identified what was needed; now I only needed to figure out how to do it.
Inspiration arose, like so many things in life, from an unexpected source. For over thirty years, I have been in love with martial arts and I even travelled to Japan to study with legendary Masters. Despite continuing to train four times a week, it had been a long time since I had acted as a teacher, or Sensei, until one day some friends convinced me to restart a self-defense course I had delivered several years ago in Canada and the USA. As a result of these classes, two enthusiastic pupils convinced me to teach them everything I had learnt from the various martial arts. I opened a traditional school in the basement of my house where I only admitted students by invitation and I gave lessons free of charge. In exchange, I demanded a commitment to attend all classed and respect for the arts, as well as their promise that they would use everything they learnt only to help others. As I shaped my students as full martial arts practitioners, I realized that the basic pillars of their training were the same that I had used in my life to obtain my highest achievements. One of the key pillars is to be really free, or stated in terms of the metaphor used in the introduction, to have escaped from The Matrix.
Since I defined and detailed the pillars of the SAN CHI E ZU method, I have applied it with people from all walks of life who have contacted me to take a step forward and we have obtained exceptional results, not only with athletes in various sports, but also with business people and others who were looking to make a change in their lives, decrease stress and increase their level of happiness.
Throughout this book I will illustrate how very different people have reached the peak of their field by applying one or several elements of the method.
We live in a society that stresses immediate gratification. The most popular weight loss solutions are miracle pills and surgery. But we all know that the only viable and sustainable solution, in addition to being the healthiest option, is to follow a healthy diet and do exercise on a regular basis. The equivalent in the field of personal development are those methods that promise results without any effort, hoping that what we want will be “attracted” simply by our desires. These processes suggest that action is not just unnecessary but even counterproductive. Prophets who spread these systems declare that if they do not work, it is because you are thinking incorrectly or because you are hoping with too much intensity and they put forward any kind of arguments to justify its ineffectiveness. The problem however is that at no point do they mention the fact that the person has to take action and work to improve and achieve his/her dreams.
The SAN CHI E ZU system is based in the principle that the results you obtain DO depend on the passion, intensity and diligence with which you prepare yourself for your specific challenge. The most illustrative metaphor would be that of an elite athlete. Despite possessing a strong genetic potential, if the individual does not learn and apply the fundamentals and techniques to his/her activity, whether these be explosiveness, flexibility, speed or strategy, he/she will never reach his/her maximum potential. Heed this advice; the objective is to reach YOUR maximum potential, not to go further than your friend, colleague or enemy. John Wooden, legendary basket coach at UCLA, expressed it to perfection when he coached his players by saying,
“Do not measure yourself by your achievements, but by what you should have achieved with your potential”
Wooden’s statement also warned of a very common trap in all the areas of our life. He explained to his players that, at the end of a game, if the scoreboard were in their favor only because the other team was less talented, then the victory would not be true since the players did not perform to their maximum potential. In other words, it is very easy to trick oneself with arguments such as “the neighbor does it worse”, but this is just a weak excuse to feel validated when we do not develop our full potential.
To conclude, in order to benefit from any system, you will have to apply it to your life in a consistent and rigorous fashion. Excellence is never reached by making average efforts or by trying only when one feels like it. Legendary NFL Football Coach, Vince Lombardi, made a brilliant statement in this regard;
“Winning is not something we do sometimes; it is something we do all the time… you do not do things right from time to time, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
What I really want to impress upon you is that, if your goal is truly to realize your full potential, doing the basics perfectly only when it is easy simply does not cut it. Another great man in history, Martin Luther King, illustrated this when he said:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Success requires a burning desire and a will to improve, as well as the acceptance of a very basic truth; it is YOU who will most influence the quality of your life. You are responsible, in the vast majority of cases, for the results you obtain in life and, if this makes you uncomfortable, you should think about it, because it is something magical; it means that the potential to improve and achieve anything is in your own hands.
It is key to clarify that, when I talk about reaching your goals, it does not mean you will succeed immediately or at first try. But that’s precisely one of the big differences between those who have obtained incredible results and the rest: the former never stopped trying. Roger Federer had to lose three Roland Garros finals before wining the title and completing his Gran Slam. Had he given up following the first (or third) defeat to Rafael Nadal, he would have never achieved his dream. Therefore, remember a basic rule of boxing: defeat is not getting knocked down; you only lose if you don’t get back up again.
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