Art Turock | Midlife Fulfilled Podcast

Ep 178 Redefining Elite Performance in Midlife Fitness and Career

An elite performer embraces methods like deliberate practice, accountability, and reframing mindsets to prioritize long-term goals over short-term comforts.

Episode 178 features Art Turock.  Art has excelled in business and sports over the past three decades, delivering speeches to Fortune 500 companies and competing as a pentathlon athlete in his 50s. In this episode, Art shares his “bizarre reboots” and discusses achieving elite performance in fitness and career during midlife.

Art reveals practical methods to separate oneself from the pack and achieve elite performance.

Here are 3 key discussion points from our conversation:

1️⃣ Deliberate Practice: Art explains that deliberate practice involves pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and continuously working on skills to achieve higher competency and growth.

2️⃣ Accountability: Art shares his philosophy on accountability and how traditional methods of holding people accountable often lead to blaming and rationalizations. Instead, he emphasizes inviting accountability through a series of questions that challenge individuals to assess their behaviors and mindsets in relation to their desired results.

3️⃣ Colossal Deception: Art explains the concept of colossal deception, the tendency to prioritize immediate comfort over long-term goals. Art shares strategies for reframing mindsets and focusing on passionate values to overcome this deceptive mindset.

Art inspires you to separate yourself from the rest of the pack, aspiring to be an elite performer by embracing tools like deliberate practice, accountability, and reframing mindsets to prioritize long-term goals over short-term comforts.

Questions to ponder:

How can the methods used in performance fields like music, theater, and sports be applied to separate oneself from others?

How did deliberate practice help Art Turock excel in both his speaking career and as an athlete?

How does the red flag drill influence people to shift their mindsets and take greater ownership of their actions and outcomes?


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6 Questions for Inviting Accountability Practice Guide


Art’s Book: Competent is Not an Option

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Episode Transcript

Bernie Borges [00:00:00]:
Art Turok, welcome to the Midlife Fulfill Podcast, a maximum episode.

Art Turock [00:00:06]:
Well, thank you so much. And it is absolutely my pleasure to share some of my bizarre reboots, I guess, is your word, your language, and also give your audience some great methods that are very unique. Wow. Thank you for

Bernie Borges [00:00:22]:
your conversation, Art. I wanna give my, my listener a little bit of background on you, a little bit of introduction. You are an elite performer, not in one field, Art, but 2 fields, business and in sports. And over the past 3 decades, on the business side, you have been a speaker. You’ve delivered speeches on the topic of sustaining exceptional performance. You’ve spoken to 125 of the Fortune 500 companies, which is an amazing feat. It’s one of the highest totals all time in the speaking industry. And you also have competed as a pentathlon athlete in 2015 and 2016 at the USA Track and Field Masters champions, where you earned a silver and a bronze medal as well as a number 8 world ranking in your age group, and we’re gonna ask you about that age group.

Bernie Borges [00:01:23]:
So that is an amazing feat, and it’s even more remarkable because you also had a birth, defect that impede your blood circulation. Now, Art, you’ve published 4 books, including Competent Is Not an Option, invent fitness opportunities that no one else can imagine, and also getting physical, how to stick with your exercise program. There’s so much that we can discuss here. We’ve only got about 30 minutes as you know. So I’ve asked you to really discuss how to achieve elite performance elite performance in fitness and in career in midlife. And so let’s begin with a part of your backstory, Art. Talk to us about some of the reboots that you have experienced in your career and fitness.

Art Turock [00:02:07]:
Well, the reboot, let’s look at fitness first of all. I’ve been involved in weightlifting and jogging for years years decades. I got bored and fitness is too important to get bored. So picture the scene now. I’m watching TV and all of a sudden there’s a track meet going on in Japan and this 94 year old sprinter runs a 100 meters in 22 seconds. And I went, oh, that’s it. That’s what I’m gonna start doing. I’m gonna take up sprinting.

Art Turock [00:02:42]:
And it was done.

Bernie Borges [00:02:42]:
And what what what was your age? When you had that experience, how old were you?

Art Turock [00:02:47]:

Bernie Borges [00:02:48]:
55. How old are you now?

Art Turock [00:02:50]:
74 yesterday.

Bernie Borges [00:02:52]:
74. Happy birthday. Okay. 74 years young. So 20 years younger than that 94 year old sprinter. Okay. That that is amazing. So now were you also when you had that moment, that moment, and you devoted yourself to a new level of fitness, were you also in the depths of your speaking career at that time?

Art Turock [00:03:15]:
Yes. Yes. And there were major implications. 22 things happened. I discovered in in my track career, I started sprinting. And I’m winning some medals state level, local legacy, and I said, okay, it’s time to compete Nationals at US and World. Now picture this scene. I’m sitting on the floor in the Sacramento airport totally dejected.

Art Turock [00:03:42]:
I just finished 30th in the 200 meter dash at worlds. A few weeks before, I had finished 10th in the 100 meter dash in the 2, I’m sorry, the 200 meter dash in US Masters and my goal was to get medals and I’m totally frustrated. One of my master’s track buddies, Charlie comes over he says, Art, why don’t you try pentathlon? You’ve got a strong upper body. You’ll be good in the throws. I said, Charlie, I don’t even know the events in the pentathlon. I couldn’t even name them. Mhmm. He goes through.

Art Turock [00:04:16]:
He says, well, there’s discus, javelin, 200 meter dash, 1500 meter dash, and long jump. I said, Charlie, I’ve never even touched a discus or a a javelin. And we both concluded you better get some good coaches. So I went out recruited coaches. Little did I know there was fabulous community of coaches in the area. Took a couple years, but I ended up, get this now, Bernie, in the javelin, the toughest event of the 5, I had 2 former Olympians as coaches.

Bernie Borges [00:04:48]:
Wow. That’s amazing.

Art Turock [00:04:50]:
That’s sometimes a hurdle that a reboot requires.

Bernie Borges [00:04:54]:
And do you remember what your what age what your age was at that time?

Art Turock [00:04:59]:
Well, I was 60 when that happened, and, 5 years later, I’m winning medals.

Bernie Borges [00:05:07]:
Wow. That that is, that is amazing.

Art Turock [00:05:10]:
Yeah. Even as I said that, I went, wow. That’s amazing. That’s startling.

Bernie Borges [00:05:14]:

Art Turock [00:05:14]:
But it’s what great coaching can do and also knowing how to practice.

Bernie Borges [00:05:19]:
Well, you you you kinda read my mind. I wanted to go there because I know that, you feel very strongly about that. And you actually kinda framed it up around performance improvement methods. So unpack what you mean by practice.

Art Turock [00:05:35]:
Well, there are 2 ways to practice. 1 is what I call going through the motions practice, which is the way most people practice. And really, what you do is get reps in. Rep, rep, rep, rep, rep. Only problem is you’re not getting any better. If you look at the formal definition of deliberate practice, it really is making practice both requiring you to get higher competency and discomfort in the practice in order to relentlessly keep improving or adding new skills to your skill set. That’s deliberate practice.

Bernie Borges [00:06:11]:
And does that happen through coaching as well? Is that part of the coaching process?

Art Turock [00:06:17]:
Coaching can be part of the process, but none of my coaches knew the formalities of deliberate practice. I picked that up from as a speaker. And I studied the research of doctor Anders Ericsson, who had looked at experts in a variety of fields, violin, a whole bunch of fields. It looked like as they got their deliberate practice, they became outstanding in their fields. Elite performers, not just competent.

Bernie Borges [00:06:46]:
Can you give me an example of what you mean by deliberate practice? And and you can give me an example either on your on your athletic career or in your speaking career.

Art Turock [00:06:57]:
Well, in my speaking career, here’s a great example. Toastmasters International. I didn’t call it deliberate practice when I became a Toastmaster. But when I became an expert in the field, I said these meetings are designed beautifully for deliberate practice. This is like a deliberate practice library. Now please understand when we talk about speaking, 75% of the world’s population has fears and upsets about public speaking. I’m a rare cat. I’m in the 10%.

Art Turock [00:07:30]:
They can’t wait to get up in front of an audience. But Toastmasters design is all about deliberate practice. Couple of things to know. What they’ve done is broken down the skill of speaking into set into various isolated skills. So it could be using pauses, using vocal variety, using gestures, being able to have a great opening that grabs people’s attention. So I could go on and on. But what they’ve done is broken down a large cluster of subsets of skills. That’s a key part of deliberate practice.

Art Turock [00:08:06]:
You break things down. Then you provide vehicles for feedback. So feedback could come in terms of looking at a videotape and and doing some self fulfillment. But you’ve gotta have clear criteria. And that’s another brilliant thing that Toastmasters has. They develop specific criteria to be able to evaluate and give feedback. Very key to know what is represents excellent performance. What is deviations from those

Bernie Borges [00:08:36]:
standards? It’s interesting.

Art Turock [00:08:37]:
And they’re getting feedback from other people.

Bernie Borges [00:08:39]:
Yeah. It’s interesting, Art, that you you share Toastmasters as an example of deliberate practice. I happen to be very familiar with that. First of all, I’m in the same club you are, and I’ve I haven’t been I I don’t remember the last time I was nervous speaking in front of an audience.

Art Turock [00:08:56]:
I’m going all

Bernie Borges [00:08:56]:
the way back to my twenties. I was always very comfortable in public speaking, but I also participated in Toastmasters. And the one deliberate practice that was my favorite at Toastmasters, which was also the most challenging, was extemporaneous speaking.

Art Turock [00:09:13]:

Bernie Borges [00:09:14]:
And and I did that very intentionally, very deliberately, little pun intended there, so that I could feel comfortable when put on the spot, you know, in a work situation or really any situation. Right? And and it was very helpful. It was it it kept me on my toes. It pushed me outside my comfort zone. So that’s a that’s a great example of of deliberate practice. What about I know you’re really big on accountability

Art Turock [00:09:42]:

Bernie Borges [00:09:42]:
In every area of career and fitness. So why don’t you unpack your philosophy on accountability?

Art Turock [00:09:50]:
Starts with saying stop holding people accountable. People, What? Stop holding people accountable? The key is the method you go about doing it. So often when people hold someone accountable, they’ll ask questions like, well, what caused you to fail to to to get the result we were counting on? What got in the way? Well, as soon as you pose the question, what are you gonna get from the recipient of that question? Blaming, rationalizations. All the circumstances didn’t work for me. Stop holding people accountable. The missing piece is most the time when managers health people accountable, they’re not getting at their mindset. Their mindset looks at what are the thoughts and beliefs that will help you cope with whatever circumstances you deal with. And that’s what inviting accountability is different from the typical stuff that you get in a business environment.

Bernie Borges [00:10:49]:
So how do you invite accountability? So I’m I’m struggling with that a little bit. Unpack that. What what does it mean to invite accountability?

Art Turock [00:10:58]:
Well, you’re asking questions that allow someone to be able to say to themselves, okay, let me go through a couple of these questions. When you invite, you’re basically saying, first of all, 6 key questions. What are the results that you aspire to? And the results could be behavior changes, habit changes, tangible metrics, projects completed, question 1. Question 2, the undermining behavior question. What actions have you chosen to take or avoid that undermine your ability to get the results you want? 3rd question, the self justification question. What difficulties or justifications do you choose to accept as valid reasons for not having your desired results? And then the colossal deception question. I’ll explain the colossal deception later. But, basically, what you’re doing is acknowledging all the short term comfort that you’re getting.

Art Turock [00:12:00]:
The short term payoffs that you choose to accept and tolerate missed results. So short term payoffs could be, I avoid feeling stressed. I avoid taking on extra responsibility. I avoid any chance of failure. I avoid raising people’s expectation. I avoid time demands. Massive list of all the discomforts that we can avoid. The colossal deception question.

Art Turock [00:12:29]:
And then, what I call the jigs up question where you actually ask yourself, what are the long term consequences of not doing what you set out to do? And that’s the real killer.

Bernie Borges [00:12:45]:
So With

Art Turock [00:12:45]:
the undermining behaviors that you get, that you’re doing that lead to short term payoffs, but in sure that you’re not gonna get the long term outcome. And in fact, you may be leading yourself into very serious consequences in terms of outcome.

Bernie Borges [00:13:02]:
So these questions are questions that I would ask myself. Right? So I would understand the questions and hold myself accountable by running through these questions and then being honest with myself as I respond to these questions.

Art Turock [00:13:17]:
Can go either way. Either you ask the questions of yourself or you ask them of someone else. Both ways.

Bernie Borges [00:13:24]:
Okay. Well, that that I was kinda going in that direction, Art, because it seems to me like a valuable exercise for 2 people to go through together or for a coach whose role is coaching an individual and for the coach to ask that person. I could see it working either way. It just depends on, you know, the relationship that you have with someone. I could see 2 people who are have a close, honest relationship asking each other, and I can see the the coach and, I guess, the client, if you will Mhmm. You know, going through that that together. Have you seen people actually have that conversation and have breakthroughs, have, like, major light bulbs go on in their life?

Art Turock [00:14:06]:
Absolutely. Here’s something that had to happen to for me to be able to be an athlete. Okay? So I got this speaking career going and will use the questions on me. And, you know, I’m getting on planes and flying. And all of a sudden I realized, hey, if you keep doing this, it’s gonna undermine your track and field. You’re not gonna be able to spend time with your coaches. And now you’ve gone from one event sprinting to 5 events. You’re gonna have to rethink your fitness.

Art Turock [00:14:36]:
Reboot. Wow. Yeah. And so what I came up with is the notion of mission unreasonable projects, which are you long projects with typically senior management teams or sales teams. And we would have me come in. I do a 2 or 3 day workshop and then I was pretty much gone. And what happened is the group formed accountability partners. And I would coach the accountability partners from my desk at home, and they would set breakthrough goals.

Art Turock [00:15:08]:
It’s mission unreasonable. What that means is unreasonable effort, unreasonable risk compared to what you’ve done in the past. And that’s where we would a breakthrough is. A breakthrough is a result that goes beyond what would logically be predicted based on past performance. So everyone in that group is playing with the unique breakthrough that they’re after. As I say it, isn’t that exciting to be part of that unit and for me to have some some leadership and coaching? And they’re learning the the they’re doing deliberate practice. I’m the coach watching them deliberately practice with these very questions, these 6 questions.

Bernie Borges [00:15:48]:
Now as you’re going through either a workshop or a coaching session, is that when you throw a red flag?

Art Turock [00:15:56]:
Yes. That’s where it all began. So here’s the red flag drill. And, obviously, it’s a National Football League.

Bernie Borges [00:16:04]:
For those that are listening right now, Art is holding up physically holding up a red flag. If you’re listening out watching on video, he’s physically holding a red flag. Go ahead, Art. Sorry.

Art Turock [00:16:14]:
Folks, you’ve seen this at football games in the National Football League. The coach wants to protest a referee’s call and have it reviewed on video, tosses the red flag. So I started doing it in seminars. So if I heard someone, in a group say, you know, people are always pestering me. I don’t have any control of my schedule. I tossed a red flag at them. And they’d catch it and I’d walk over to them and begin a short coaching conversation. When I’m at the supermarket and the checker starts moaning about not getting into the gym, I’ll toss a red flag and sometimes I’ll write his excuses on a grocery bag.

Art Turock [00:16:59]:
Now, my all time favorite, you don’t wanna be riding with me on an airplane. So picture this scene. I’m seated with a army colonel and his wife and we’re in a row together. And we started this long trip from Kansas City to Seattle and we’re having just a fabulous conversation, just riveting and exciting. He’s talking about West Point, I’m talking about masters track and pentathlon and things like that. We’re having a great time. And all of a sudden, he says to me, you know, Art, I’m I’m just not very creative. I just left the workshop and I had my red flag.

Art Turock [00:17:39]:
I tossed it to Kirtle. He catches it and starts to laugh. And I say to him, former airman, US Air Force jet engine mechanic, Turok, wishes to offer immediate coaching, sir. And I just gave it my best military bearing. And he starts cracking up. He says, go ahead bring it on. And I said to him, sir, what you just said is talking about genetic defects. You can’t do anything about that.

Art Turock [00:18:10]:
The way you cast that statement about lack creativity, you were born with the efficiency of genes. No possibility there. I think what you really meant to say in a more accountable way is in the past when I’ve had projects that called for creativity, my results haven’t met my expectations and you could see his face shifted. Oh. And he actually saw a potential at that point. Now he joined my group of Intrepid Freedom Crusaders, the colonel and worked on stuff and had major innovations going on at the base. So he would have mastermind groups. He would get creative people in different functions and departments.

Art Turock [00:18:55]:
He said, hey, you should be speaking to to Pete over here. And the 2 of you get together, there were all kinds of things he was doing in staff meetings that were much more creative. It was like his creative juices were totally unleashed.

Bernie Borges [00:19:10]:

Art Turock [00:19:11]:
Even with a short coaching session. And then, of course, he began to take, you know, more of the, the methodology that we were talking about. And boy, did he put it into practice. I should also mention, he’s a general today at Fort Leavenworth.

Bernie Borges [00:19:26]:
Oh, wow. That’s awesome. So it was a reframing that really was a big epiphany for him, so that’s fantastic. Now, Art, earlier in the conversation, you mentioned colossal deception, and you said you’d explain it. So let’s go there. What what is your colossal deception concept?

Art Turock [00:19:44]:
Yes. It’s really the ultimate mental trickery of human beings. And so what happens is we size up a situation and begin to look at, well, what’s the immediate guaranteed comfort that I get? There it is. I’m gonna do it and then we block out, diminish. I’ll get around to it someday. The long term result that we really were interested in. I say interested not committed. And so you see what happens.

Art Turock [00:20:15]:
The short term comfort that’s guaranteed is so appealing that who knows what’s gonna happen to the long term outcome. So to give you an example, it might be, someone who has a very complex mental task to do. Maybe they’re unfamiliar with it. It looks very, very challenging to them. And they put it off. And they might say, let me organize my files on the computer. Short term comfort, immediate. Let me, Google and find some plastic surgeries gone wrong by celebrities.

Art Turock [00:20:51]:
I think I’ll hook on that. And so they just waste time with distractions but it’s not a waste of time in their mind. The deception is I’m safe. I’m immediate. That’s the priority. The long term result that’s not gonna happen someday. You see how we trick ourselves?

Bernie Borges [00:21:11]:
Yes. It’s it’s it’s putting off the uncomfortable. It’s putting off getting outside of your comfort zone. What about the old, start with why? Right? Everybody needs a why to do anything. A reason, a motivation, something that gives us the reason to go do this thing, especially if it’s gonna take us outside our comfort zone, especially if it’s gonna take us outside our comfort zone in a really big way. You know, this is gonna hurt whether it’s physical and mental, whatever. Don’t we need that that reason to do it?

Art Turock [00:21:45]:
Absolutely. What I talk about is passionate values. So in coaching, you can have someone come up and tell you all the excuses they’ve got. And then I’ll ask them, what are your passionate values? Or what are the things that stir you to really want to achieve this goal? And so for instance, my passionate values are freedom, career, and extraordinary. And I’ll link that back to the task that I’m faltering on and say, wait a minute. Forget about that excuse. Let me focus my attention on my passionate values. That’s what I’m really striving for.

Art Turock [00:22:22]:
And then once I’ve done the passionate values, the very next thing could be these accountability questions. You move into full accountability. So you see what happens. You just get rid of the excuse. As you said, focus on your passionate values, your why. And then it becomes natural to take accountability with the questions.

Bernie Borges [00:22:43]:
Okay. I like that. I like that. So I know, before we start recording, you mentioned that you’ve got a PDF download that you wanna make available to our listeners. Mhmm.

Art Turock [00:22:54]:
Why don’t

Bernie Borges [00:22:55]:
you explain what that is? And then we’ll provide a, a little URL where they can go get that.

Art Turock [00:23:01]:
Yeah. 2 things. Number 1, this material is covered in my book, competent is not an option.

Bernie Borges [00:23:07]:

Art Turock [00:23:07]:
And then as far as my gift to the audience, I want them to have the 6 questions. And so, basically, it’s a 12 or 13 page document that really explains the usage of the questions and allows them to actually have them in a organized fashion that they could actually bring to bear in coaching themselves or even coaching someone else. So it’s it’s really set up for application and usage. Okay. And the other beauty is when they apply for that, and it’s it’s very simple. Go to art, and that’ll be in the show notes I know.

Bernie Borges [00:23:47]:
Yep. Yep.

Art Turock [00:23:48]:
They go there. Not only will they get those questions, but they’ll get access to 5 other downloads on my practices page on my website. So there’s a glut of great material to be had.

Bernie Borges [00:24:01]:
Fantastic. Health, again, as you said Art, it’ll be in in the show notes. Any any closing thought in this whole, I this whole conversation about achieving elite performance in both fitness and career in, in our midlife seasons?

Art Turock [00:24:17]:
The point would be that if you wanna be an elite performer and separate yourself from the rest of the pack, using some of these tools that performance fields use, whether it be music or theater or particularly sports, that will set the rate you from people who are merely competent and using what the business world routinely distributes. You start using these tools, deliberate practice, start using accountability and these various methods. Red flag drills. Heck, you find yourself coming up with excuses? Throw a red flag on yourself. Have fun. Play with it. I just want people to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and be elite.

Bernie Borges [00:25:00]:
Love it. I love it. Very inspirational, Art. I really, really appreciate you joining me for this episode of the Midlife FFO podcast, a maximum episode. You have delivered a lot for us to think about. I really appreciate all of your expertise. You’re an inspiration. I love to see the the the achievements that you’re enjoying, both on your fitness side, your your sports side, as well as in your career.

Bernie Borges [00:25:26]:
Again, a lot for us to be inspired by. And, again, thank you for joining us today.

Art Turock [00:25:30]:
My pleasure, and thank you.

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