I believe that pressure and stress can bring out the absolute best in athletes.
This isn't anything new or revolutionary to think about. We have all seen endless clips of Jordan beating the buzzer, third attempt PRs, and last chance throws winning a comp.
The pressure is a unique combination of things. Training, preparation, mentality, timing, environment, competition, adrenaline, and focus all come together to allow an athlete the opportunity to perform bigger than they are.
It creates the moment of flow state. The senses sharpen, and all that's left is doing the thing you've trained for.
I got to watch my long time friend Hafþór Björnsson pull a world record deadlift. Not just a record but THE record.
He successfully deadlifted 1104 lbs. This the most weight ever picked up off the floor. Seeing it happen and knowing all the controversy around it made it something to watch.
But back to my point.
It wasn't just the training, it was his crew being there, the added fuel from people saying it was impossible, and his own drive. All this combines to form an equation that, occasionally when mixed right, allows otherworldly performances.
Looking at this as almost magic or alchemy makes more sense. You can't bottle it or buy it. It's the things you can't create and the added pressure that finds you. What you as the individual do with all these ingredients in your cauldron is the alchemy.
Like creating gold out of mercury or other materials, you mix a bunch of things together, and somehow, they come together at the right time and improve your performance beyond imagination.
This experience on a grand scale is rare.
But we can all find those little moments a spark catches. That extra "thing" that can't exactly be measured or weighed that enables you to perform at your best.
For those that don't compete and don't push yourselves into dark waters won't ever get to know this magic. For the rest of us that have done it, we all know that power, and it's part of what we chase.
The best you can do is prepare diligently and lean into the voice that says we can't. Yell back, "f*ck you!" We do this at the moment, and we do it now. You have to be used to rising and performing when it counts in life.
Find ways to test yourself. Figure out what you're made of.
Is it gold, or is it lead?