Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld or Dan BC is a six-time world champion skydiver, BUSINESS OWNER and a motivational speaker.
In 1992, Dan survived a plane crash that killed 16 people, including one member of his skydiving team. He spent six weeks in a coma, with major injuries including a broken neck. Dan went on to win 6 world sky diving world championships.
Dan’s take on Mental Toughness is really interesting, “I think it’s the ability to approach whatever the task or endeavour is, and be able to perform at your best. The interesting thing about elite performers is that you can have two athletes of equal skill, but one can perform at the top of their game, under pressure, when it really counts, and the other one can’t. And that’s a completely mental and emotional process, so the best physical performance my not be enough.
“Every time we won the World Championships, it wasn’t that we were that much better than the other top teams. Our best and their best were very much the same. But our worst was much better than their worst. When we were having a rough jump, we were able to handle that – stay on top of it all, stay at the top of our game more frequently than our competitors were. And that was the difference.
“It’s all down to the preparation and the training. You can’t just show up and work miracles when you get to the competition. First is having a very clear goal of what you’re what you’re aiming to do. You have to have specific goals that you’re aiming for, and a clear plan of how you’re going to deliver.
“The first step in learning how to perform at your best is defining what your best is. Your best is not something that you do all the time – that’s your average. Your best is something you do 10 or 15% of the time. You have to look at what you’re doing when you perform your best – physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s vital to ask yourself; What am I thinking? What am I feeling? How did I prepare for that? How did I sleep the night before? Was I calm and relaxed? Did I have a confident care free attitude? Was I a bit angry? Which what was it? You need to understand what it was that you put together, that made those best moments happen?
“I’ve won competitions where we didn’t do our best, we really didn’t. But we were the best of the bunch, and we won the competition. When you win but don’t do your best is doesn’t feel like much of a win.
“Then you have to very carefully and clearly define what that best is, and then refine your goals to turn that best into your average. You don’t try to do any better than that and you don’t allow yourself to do worse. Once you’ve determined what your best is, you can start to turn your best into your average.
“In the process of that, pretty soon your best which you were doing 15% of the time becomes 25%, then 40% and then 60%. And pretty soon that best has become your average. In this process a new best will appear without you even trying to make it happen. At that point you reset your target and make the goal to turn your new best into your average.
“It’s important to put your focus in your new target – your new best. So not only have you identified what your best might look like, you are also practicing the skill of performing at your best; that’s a skill in itself! You need to practice the physical, the mental and the emotional angles of it all, and you have to have the best attitude, mindset and approach.
“It’s all about attitude. When you’ve trained yourself to perform at your best, you can start to trust your instincts and training. I learnt to stay focused, yet relaxed.
“As a team, we figured this stuff out together, as we went along.
When asked how Dan views his own mental toughness his view is a little surprising, “I am not as mentally tough as I’d like to be. I guess, you never get there, it’s something that’s always developing. You have to constantly work at it. The mentally tough are confident because they know they have prepared and feel confident, and they deserve to be where they are. Being mentally tough doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to win or accomplish your goal, but being mentally tough just having the goal itself will help you always to do the best you can.
“When mental toughness meets skill, that’s the perfect collision of everything you could want. That’s when you see the true champions.
“At high school and college. I really enjoyed theatre and performing in plays. Learning how to prepare myself to walk on stage in front of a lot of people taught me, at a young age, how to be mentally tough. You have to be, because you’re freaking out a lot! When I started competing in skydiving, and I was getting ready to exit the airplane I started to feel the same stress, worries and performance anxiety that I did when I was performing in the theatre. When I was getting ready to jump out of airplanes, I was able to put my head back in the same place it was as I was getting ready to walk on stage.
“The mental preparation was identical. Once you’ve learned the process, and once you’ve experienced it for yourself, it’s easier to recreate it again in another environment. The mental preparation to do your best, and to be tough, is the same regardless of what the task is.
“I have a simple strategy for ensuring my best performance. I tell myself ‘I got this’. But you can’t say that – believe it -unless you have done the preparation. You need to do the work. Then, all day long, you can say, ‘I got this’ ”
“I call it the 4 Cs. The first is being Calm. If I was at risk of getting anxious or stressed I could calm myself down, I’d remind myself that I’ve trained hard, and everything will happen as I’ve practiced it.
“The second C is Communication. You could also call it awareness, because if I’m seeing everything that’s going on, I’m aware of everything that’s happening. Even if it’s not what I planned, I’ll be able to to to handle it and to adjust accordingly. And that gives you control, right?
“The third C is Control. If you’re calm, you have great communication, you’ll be able to make the right decisions that give you control of the situation. And if you have control, then you should be confident.
“So the fourth and final C is Confidence. Once you’ve recognized you have control of the situation you have to choose to be confident. And you should, you earned it and deserve it. But many times because we’re still scared we forget to choose it!
It would seem that dan doesn’t have a weak spot, but he admits, “I think I am sometimes too trusting, naive and optimistic. But I’d rather be optimistic and trusting and naive than paranoid and suspicious and limiting myself or other people around me.
“In our team ‘Arizona Airspeed’, each person had different strengths. It’s no use to have a bunch of people who are just like you. That’s how you build a great team.
So what could possible drive Dan now, keep him pushing forward? “I’m 58 now, which kind of snuck up on me. For so long I wanted to win the world championships, I had specific goals, and either I won or lost. There was no in between. But now my goals have become more broad and more general. My goals are mostly around my family. My son is 20 my daughter is 25. They’re wonderful, fabulous young adults. I want them to be able to have the chance to achieve their dreams and go after the things they love in life. So my main goal now is supporting them in whatever way I can to help them do that. I also run Skydive Perris located in Southern California. It’s one of the largest skydiving centers in the world and I think the best. My goal is to continue to set the bar for other centers. I am also heavily involved in improving safety in international skydiving.
Dan is a one off, he is focused, committed and a bundle of energy, “In my lifetime, I have done about 30,000 jumps. Nowadays I do 300-400 jumps a year. I love it as much today as I did when I started jumping at 18.”
Dan feels that his mission is to help people to discover confidence in themselves that they didn’t know they had, and faith in the world they didn’t know it deserved. He aims to send his audiences away with a plan that will help them map out a path to achieving their dreams.
Read more about Dan at http://danbrodsky-chenfeld.com/
Dan’s book ‘Above All Else: A World Champion Skydiver’s Story of Survival and What It Taught Him About Fear, Adversity, and Success is available on Amazon
If you’re interested in developing your Mental Toughness, get in touch with Penny Mallory at [email protected]