May 3, 2022

Developing Visualization in B2B Marketing — 3/4

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Episode Highlights

Confidence can be shaken when a marketing initiative falls flat. How do we train our sight to achieve long-term goals? In this episode, we learn how Dudley Tal Stokes overcame disappointment after the 1988 Olympics in Calgary and mastered the art of visualization to compete again in the Winter Games in Lillehammer. We also hear from Dr. Frank Niles, Kevin Bailey, and Randy Frisch on how visualization can empower ABM and business-to-business marketers to hit elusive targets.

Topics Discussed

  • Recap/Introduction [00:00]
  • After the Crash [01:43]
  • The outcome of visualization [03:50]
  • Peak Performance by Charles Garfield [07:50]
  • Mental energy is a finite resource [08:22]
  • Turn mental visualization into a drawing [10:58]
  • Kevin Bailey - Neuroscience behind some of the forces that actuate on our visualizations [12:22]
  • Two kinds of visualization [14:07]
  • Dr. Frank Niles - Build visualization muscle [15:29]
  • Our eyes are just a light collector [18:21]
  • Randy Frisch - Beer in a basement vs beer on a beach [20:19]
  • Noa Kageyama - Engage all senses in visualization process [21:21]
  • Return to the Olympics [22:19]
  • Strength of visualization [23:55]
  • Success in Olympics [24:43]
  • Next episode preview [25:18]

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[00:00:00] Hiromi: You were given an impossible task. You gave it your all and it blew up in your face. Can you see yourself trying again? In this episode we continue the story of Tal Stokes in the wake of the crash of the '88 Winter Games. What gave him the clarity to see himself rising to the Olympics in '94? How can we train our own sight to achieve greatness? This is a podcast about summiting B2B marketing and the account-based mindset. This is Reach. Thanks so much for joining us today. My name is Hiromi and I'm here with CEO and agency founder, Jaycen Thorgeirson.

[00:00:49] Jaycen: Hello everyone.

[00:00:50] Hiromi: And Chief Creative Officer, Garret Krynski.

[00:00:53] Garret: Happy to be here.

[00:00:54] Hiromi: So we left off last week with Tal overcoming every obstacle to get to Calgary with his team and then, due to a string of misfortune, they crash and the whole world is watching. And, of course, this is where Cool Runnings, the movie, ends. That's kind of the end of the story, right?

[00:01:12] Garret: I was just going to say. It's an interesting thing to consider with regards to visualization because, in our visualizations, we're probably constantly thinking about success. So for Tal and his team, it's almost like unfinished business, it would seem like, if he just left it in '88. That was his legacy. Big crash and Cool Runnings, and that's it.

[00:01:32] Hiromi: Yeah, and Tal said as much in his interview with us. You know, he could not imagine his life ending there. He said he was determined not to let this moment define him.

[00:01:43] Dudley Tal Stokes: Ah. I was fearing the worst. When we got home back home after the crash, you know, we had opposition going after the Olympics, especially from the elite sporting sectors. The journalists and commentators, very proud of Jamaica's sporting tradition, thought that this was not a serious undertaking. I believe that we had confirmed that.

[00:01:49] Speaker 1: Disappointment , I'm sure, but they're not able to complete the event. Maybe they should just be thankful that they're able to walk away.

[00:01:54] Dudley Tal Stokes: When we got home, the reception was overwhelming. The people were proud of what we had tried and what we had pioneered as a small Caribbean nation and as Black people getting into winter sport. They really, really received us very well and I was pleasantly surprised as to how we were treated by the general public once we got back home.

[00:02:41] Hiromi: I was listening, recently, to this other podcast where they were interviewing an Olympic historian, David Wallechinsky, and he mentioned that bobsleigh was one of these original sports for the first Winter Olympics, you know, in the start of the twentieth century. Some of the sports that we think of today, like snowboarding, has its root in a very different counter culture because anyone with a couple hundred bucks can learn to snowboard, but you think about a bob sleigh, you have to have access to one of a handful of very special tracks in the world in Germany, Switzerland, or New York, right? And the bobsleigh itself is surprisingly expensive. It's, like, 30K at the low end. So this is really, let's face it, a sport for historically rich, privileged, elite white people, and this is what these four Jamaicans were up against from a cultural perspective.

[00:03:33] Garret: You know what? I think they were taking on their own culture, they were taking on Olympic culture, they were taking on cultural clashes on all sides.

[00:03:44] Jaycen: Yeah. Sometimes we can't imagine, maybe, what it's going to look like in the end until we ultimately experience it.

[00:03:50] Hiromi: Yeah. If I'm reading you right, you're saying sometimes, maybe you're visualizing to solve for one problem and you fail at solving that problem, but you inadvertently accomplish something that wasn't even on your radar. Is that what you're kind of getting at?

[00:04:04] Jaycen: Yeah, exactly. I mean, now looking in hindsight where we're at today in 2022, the Jamaican team is part of now consecutive Olympic endeavors. All this, basically, due to them going for it and then getting the nation rallying around what they were seeking to achieve. And that's probably a greater outcome than whether they would have placed in a medal.

[00:04:28] Hiromi: Yeah.

[00:04:29] Garret: And maybe sometimes we think about the problem that we're solving as limited to that specific endeavor, like getting down the mountain or placing at the Olympics or winning the medal, but when you start to think about it in retrospect, changing culture is a much higher, more noble kind of endeavor.

[00:04:47] Dudley Tal Stokes: The military considered it to be a great one-off, but they couldn't spare the resources and the manpower on a continuing basis to pursue this bobsleigh. So by the end of that year, I was out of the army and planning my next moves. Now my first job was to make sure I kept George Fitch and William Maloney involved in this program. They had the contacts, they had the resources, and they had strong entrepreneurial streaks and they knew how to make things happen, and I needed that expertize. And the way to get it was to blackmail them, so I told them, "This is not a good look. You took a Black guy from a beach in Jamaica and you put him on his head in front of all these people, and so now you just can't walk away. You're going to have to back me here a bit," and they did. They stayed with it for another four years, spending their money and their time and I actually developed good relationships with both of them.

[00:05:46] Going to the Olympics in Calgary was, really, the culmination of a lifetime of experiences. I don't think it could have happened in any other way, and what we've gone on to achieve since then in bobsleigh came about because of the many diverse experiences, but also the nature of the experiences that I had growing up that prepared me to take on such a challenge. In my childhood I did a lot of daydreaming and seeing different things allowing what was quite a vivid imagination to run wild, but I needed discipline and that imagination and training it to simulate reality in as much color as possible that could enable visualization toward specific goals. Sitting in the simulator in Calgary learning to fly and just closing my eyes and imagining myself through all the [inaudible 00:06:36] changing that from a static simulator into a real, moving machine. That prepared me for the kind of visualization that I would have to do in bobsleigh.

[00:06:45] The top bobsleigh drivers do three, 400 runs a year, just to put that in perspective. In terms of numbers and what we could afford to do, I calculate that I have probably had 600 descents in a bobsleigh over my entire career, which would actually work out to less than a hundred per season. But I have made up the gap by becoming very good at visualization and getting into a state of deep mental relaxation and visualizing bobsleigh tracks and bobsleigh runs. Basic tenet is that the brain cannot differentiate between actually doing something and something that's vividly imagined from a condition of relaxation. And then drawing on it to rehearse again and again and again to get up to my three, 400 hundreds a season, 80% of them were between my ears. One day I walked into a book store thinking I needed some book on mental preparation, mental training. The first thing I saw was a book called Peak Performance by Charles Garfield. A massive impact on my life.

[00:07:56] Speaker 5: Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Charles Garfield. [inaudible 00:08:01]

[00:08:02] Dr. Charles Garfield: How many of you, by the end of this presentation, would like to be peak performers leading a stress-free life?

[00:08:06] Dudley Tal Stokes: And I really used that as a basis of what I did, I have since developed in bobsleigh. Just as in life, it's about setting the proper tension for the activity that you're going to be involved in and that's a very important concept. There's a proper tension. You can't be too tense, but neither can you be too relaxed and you can't be at the same tension for everything because the mental energy is a finite resource that needs to be renewed, just like your physical energy. Set the proper tension with your mind after visualizing what you need to accomplish.

[00:08:44] Hiromi: Tal says that there's a need for proper tension, that mental energy is a finite resource. Devon Harris, in a separate interview, was talking about how it's not even consistent, the amount of energy that you need to exert. Like for example, he said at the start of a bobsleigh race, it's very important to have an utter contempt of the sled, to tackle it kind of like he... he talked about American football, that level of confrontation that you'd expect. And then once you hop in it and you're driving the thing, you need to now adapt that and start to work with it and remain present and calm. Does that resonate with you? Is it important to you as well to regulate your mental energy?

[00:09:24] Garret: Absolutely. I remember when I was learning to play tennis and it was like I would just stand around with my racket, kind of dragging it on the ground, and I wasn't ready for anything. But so tense that it's, like, paralyzing isn't good either. But it also applies to teams, it also applies to strategies. There needs to be a certain amount of flexibility and agility behind these concepts, behind you as a person even, but not so rigid that it doesn't allow you to move.

[00:09:52] Hiromi: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

[00:09:53] Garret: John Donahoe, the CEO of Nike, wrote on his LinkedIn about how he takes a thinking day and he maps out everything he's doing. Could be corporately, could be personally. And in mapping it out on a whiteboard, he can see how he feels and what the actual roadmap for the whole thing is. He sees something holistically or completely and then he can visualize through where the challenge is, what needs to happen, where there is enough tension, or where, maybe, they're too relaxed personally or corporately. And I just love this idea of scheduling that time to just see the whole thing from 30,000 feet, map it out. It's basically a visualization process that he uses in order to not get lost in the weeds.

[00:10:35] Hiromi: Yeah.

[00:10:35] Jaycen: I love that, too, about stepping away. When do you feel like some of the best ideas come to you, right? It's when [laughs]... when you have some mental energy to allow your mind to wander a little bit. And so this idea of getting idea and then focusing on, maybe, what are those external or internal concerns and thinking about them frees us up to spend the right amount of energy on that process.

[00:10:58] Hiromi: Yeah.

[00:10:58] Garret: I do like the process, also, of literally drawing something out, literally mapping something out on a whiteboard or on a table or something. That helps us think through what comes next, what's related to what. Connections start to form, where the weaknesses are start to form. Until you put it down, you're just kind of carrying it and it's not clear what all that connective tissue needs to be.

[00:11:22] Hiromi: In a way, it kind of reminds me of what Patti Dobrowolski advocated in a previous episode about turning your mental visualization into a physical drawing. I suppose having a record of your visualization helps you to commit a bit as all these other forces in your life are imposing other influences or attempting to distract you from that trajectory.

[00:11:44] Garret: Yeah. Tal talks about this book that changed his life: Peak Performance by Charles Garfield. And in it he talks about how sometimes we impose limitations on ourself and what ends up happening is it's negative, real, or imagined experiences that actually limits what we're allowing our brain to think about, which limits performance. So maybe we would find, similar to these athletes, an increase in performance if we'd expose and change the roadblocks that we view as insurmountable.

[00:12:18] Hiromi: Yeah. That actually reminds me of the interview you did, Garret, with Kevin Bailey. Kevin in the CEO and founder of a company called Dreamfuel, but he was explaining the neuroscience behind some of the forces that actuate on our visualizations.

[00:12:33] Kevin Bailey: Visualization is a very powerful tool that high performers can use to align the subconscious mind with an outcome. And the reason I say that is that semiconscious and subconscious thoughts dominate the majority of our thinking. About 95% of our thoughts semiconscious, subconscious, about 5% of our thoughts conscious. About 70% of our subconscious or semiconscious thoughts are disempowering or limiting in nature. So if you think about that, we've got 5% of our conscious mind trying to control a game that is very much rigged against us. So we use visualization as a tool to get the subconscious mind to accept that the outcome that you're going after is possible, if not probable, and neuro-chemically releases neurotransmitters like dopamine and hormones like noradrenaline, which are extremely motivating and positive forms of energy. The heart beats, the mind thinks. Automatically. It's not a conscious process, so we're just constantly getting these thoughts just firing at us. Our job and mindset is to get those thoughts to be aligned with our goal instead of the opposite.

[00:13:36] Hiromi: This is a relatable sentiment, isn't it? There are always multiple voices or influences in our mind pushing us towards potential outcomes. And of course we know that deliberate physical effort is required for deliberate physical outcomes. It would only make sense that conscious thought is required for desirable mental outcomes. I think the question we're all left asking is, how? How do you do that?

[00:14:07] Dudley Tal Stokes: There are two kinds of visualizations. Firstly, there is a view of the bigger picture: what you want to accomplish, where you want to go. And if we look at an Olympic cycle [inaudible 00:14:18], it starts the moment you decide to go to the next Olympic Games. You need to know where it is and what time it is. Then you need to start seeing yourself there. See yourself on the start block waiting to go. See yourself being successful at being at the Olympics. And then there is specific visualization which is about execution. Whether you're going into a business meeting or you're going on a bobsleigh track, it's having firmed in your head what you want to accomplish. From a state of deep mental relaxation, going over that plan time and time again. And then we can put changes on that plan. What are you going to do if things go wrong? If this doesn't work here, if this doesn't work there, and you can see those things and see your reaction, you prime yourself to execute.

[00:15:11] Jaycen: Yeah, so it was interesting. Frank Niles, he's a principal business psychologist at BSM Partners and he had written some articles on visualization. I liked his perspective and that he had some specific studies and research to back it up. So we went out and talked to him, asking him some questions like... can we be trained to practice visualization better? Is this something like a skillset that we can develop?

[00:15:35] Dr. Frank Niles: Yes. Absolutely visualization is a skill or a competency that we can develop. I'll share with you how I work with clients to help them build their visualization muscle. It's often most effective to tie it to some practice that you maybe do in the morning, like, say, a mindfulness meditation practice. What I encourage clients to do once they've articulated, once they've identified a goal, be it getting a job, be it losing weight, being it stopping drinking, becoming healthy... the list is endless.

[00:16:10] I first have them focus on that outcome. Remember, back to when I talked about outcome versus process visualization. I invite them to take a comfortable posture and it's best to do this in the morning, if at all possible, because it sets a positive tone for the day. And then draw in their mind a vision of what their future looks like. So let's say I want to become more healthy. What does that look like? Could it mean running a 5K in six months? If you've never run before, that's probably the place to start. And so envision what it's like completing the 5K with your family around you, the crowd clapping, really giving you something tangible to focus on. Not only visually passing over the finish line, but also, what does it feel like? Sometimes you can also take a third person perspective. Imagine yourself a spectator in the stands or on the sidelines watching you cross the line, and just the feeling that it evokes in you.

[00:17:08] But then, of course, to keep motivated and moving, we need to focus on the process. So if working out or walking or running is brand new to you, focus on what you're going to do today. Envision yourself after work putting on your workout clothes, strapping up your shoes, going to the gym and getting on the treadmill or, better yet, being outside in nature. Drawing that visual picture in our mind increases our motivation to actually convert our intention into action. More we do visualization in the morning or as part of a daily meditative practice, the more comfortable we will become at leaning into the skill that we've developed whenever we are facing a new challenge or wanting to achieve a new goal.

[00:17:55] Hiromi: Okay. This is... this is good. We're getting to the real meat of this mindset. So there's two parts to the visualization. Process and outcome. And it's deliberate, it's rooted in reality, real experiences, so it needs to adapt to reality. Maybe what we haven't fully explored yet is how. How does it relate to reality? Or the things that we actually see and experience?

[00:18:21] Dudley Tal Stokes: The key thing to understand we don't see with our eyes. Our eyes only collects light and sends it to the back of the brain where it gets inverted. And then it comes forward and as it comes forward, it comes through a set of filters which eventually produce what is imprinted on the front of our brain and we think we see. So what we think to see is more a function of our brain than of our eyes. Our eyes are just a light collector.

[00:18:53] One of the biggest mistakes that I've seen coming back to bobsled is the rise of technology. There are iPads everywhere, everybody is looking on a screen, everybody is looking back [inaudible 00:19:03] two-dimensional image of the bobsleigh track. You miss so much with that. What is your orientation? How is the sled? [inaudible 00:19:13] your body feel? Where is the pressure coming? What should it be at this point? If you really spend time looking on a bobsleigh track, looking in the curves, just taking in as much of it as you can, eventually over time, you're able to create in your head a three-dimensional image of what you're doing. That's what makes a bobsleigh driver. If we limit ourself to a two-dimensional image, we're leaving the vast majority of the information that we need to optimally manipulate the bobsled.

[00:19:49] Hiromi: So we've established that our visualizations need to adapt as we take on new influences and experiences, but it seems like what Tal is suggesting is that even though visualizations by nature are visual, our minds are capable of storing a much richer set of senses to draw from. And one of our writers, Riley Smith, was able to speak with Randy Frisch, who's a co-founder and evangelist for the platform Uberflip, and he was describing a similar concept that they refer to in content experience design.

[00:20:19] Randy Frisch: The reality is the layout, or the environment as I often call it, is just as important, sometimes, as the content itself.

[00:20:28] The analogy I've used for many years is envision drinking a beer, whether it's a Corona or a Heineken or whatnot, and that Heineken tastes great pretty much anywhere, but there's a difference in terms of how good it is in your dingy, dungy basement versus the beach. You know, there's something about the beach that just takes it to that next level. It's the exact same content inside that bottle. Like, same beer, same ingredients. It could even be the same temperature. But it's everything going on around you. It's the view, it's the breeze, it's the sand at your feet. For whatever reason, the beer just tastes better. It's very much the same in terms of marketing.

[00:21:09] Hiromi: I could get on board with that. I think a beer would taste better on a beach than in my... in my basement. Weren't you telling me about a kind of a similar concept in a post by Noa Kageyama, Jay?

[00:21:21] Jaycen: Yeah. I thought... I mean, that was an interesting article. Again, this idea that it's not just, like, wishful thinking. But I think the one point that I got from his research is, like, when forming this mental imagery, trying to imagine yourself and engage all the senses as well, because if you close your eyes and try to imagine a scenario and... he gives the example of golf and trying to sink a put, you can imagine yourself doing that, but you may not hear the sound or you may not feel the ball or you may not feel the wind or the smell of the grass and all these things, but by adding those things, engaging all of our senses in the process, we're basically creating the familiarity with what we're doing so that once we are doing it, there are studies that show that that actually improves the results that you get to. This is obviously in a sport, but there's other ways in our life that we could take the same path and get to a better outcome if we take the time to do it.

[00:22:18] Garret: MmHmmm...

[00:22:19] Dudley Tal Stokes: So the winter and summer Olympics used to be in the same year and that happened up until '92. The Winter Games were in Albertville, France. Summer Games were in Barcelona, Spain. Catalonia. But this is a pressure for the IOC. To have those two big events in the same year, it's hard on the sponsors and it's hard on the people who organize it and make it happen, because it's the same people. So to alleviate this position, their plan was to move the Winter Games and they did that by having a two-year cycle between the '92 Games in Albertville and the '94 Games in Lillehammer. And this coincided with our real transformation into a bobsleighing force as a nation.

[00:23:03] A very close friend of my brother's and mine actually worked at the Olympic Games. He lived in Lillehammer, so I went there, stayed with him, and stayed on the track in the evenings and the night, just with the local people, gaining some experience, getting to know it. And for the first and only time in my career, I was close to par with other athletes on the track in terms of the amount of experience and the amount runs that I had on that track physically. Because I had knew the Lillehammer track so well and I spent so much time looking at it, I was able to convert that into some really high quality visualizations. We had recruited two world-class athletes to go along with my brother and I, and we went to the games.

[00:23:55] On the morning of the second day of the four man race, we started 23, we're a line in eighteenth position, which is already a massive movement. Our start times were up there in the top 10. I woke up that morning and, as was my practice, I did a full blown relaxation and visualization. There are mostly track... you're looking in curves... timed to make sure that the rhythm is in the [inaudible 00:24:18] pack. Usually I get within 10 seconds. And when I finished the first run on that morning and looked at the clock coming up the stretch, my visualization had been correct to the hundredth from that morning. I've never been able to do it again and I'm sure there was an element of luck. It just showed how much my mind was in tune with what was actually happening.

[00:24:43] We were tenth on the two runs that day. Moved from the eighteenth overnight into fourteenth position, which is in the top seed, the seed being at 15. We had spent $60,000 for the entire season and we beat all the American sleds in the race that has spent $6 million for sled budget alone, much less the rest of the program. It's a monumental performance which hasn't been matched since. We're going on 30 years.

[00:25:18] Hiromi: In 1993, Disney introduced a comedic version of Tal's story to the world at a time when Tal was working his hardest to move beyond the past, but no one was laughing the next year when the Jamaican bobsled team beat all the American teams who had all the historic and financial advantages. The movie would haunt him now.

[00:25:41] Dudley Tal Stokes: They had the Austrian premiere in Innsbruck and I went along to that and it was very in German, apparently, from all the laughter, but I thought the movie portrayed a version of Jamaica bobsleigher I was trying desperately to escape.

[00:25:59] Hiromi: How did Tal's experience change his outlook? And how can we as marketers add this mindset to our own experience? All of this in the final episode of the series next time on Reach.

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