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Michael Gervais, and The First Rule of Mastery

Michael Gervais, and The First Rule of Mastery

EL SEGUNDO, California — In May of 2019, Michael Gervais touched a nerve. Quite a few of them, actually. For 12 months, though, he just didn’t know it, not to the extent that the editors at the Harvard Business Review did.

In his first contribution to the Harvard Business Review, Gervais, one of the most well-known sports psychologists in the world, wrote a piece titled How to Stop Worrying About What Other People Think of You.

“If you want to be your best and perform at a high level, fear of people’s opinions may be holding you back,” he wrote as his opening sentence. It’s a concept that Gervais had espoused many times on his popular podcast, Finding Mastery, shortening the fear of people’s opinions into an acronym, FOPO, an easy-to-remember spin-off to the more well-known FOMO. But the story in the Harvard Business Review exposed readers who may not have been familiar with Gervais and his work to the concept, and for 12 consecutive months after the article’s publication, it was the most downloaded piece on the site.

“It’s not just me. This is really about something I grew up with, something I was overwhelmed by, which is the fear of others opinions,” Gervais said. “But when I was working with the best in the world, it kept showing up as well. There was no name for it. It was ‘I don’t want to let people down, I don’t want to look stupid, going for it is hard for A, B and C reasons.’ We are social beings. We are biologically wired to fit in, so belonging is safety, being pushed out of the belonging is very, very dangerous to our existence if you will. Those intrepid, elite performers who are going for it are going out on the edge.”

He should know. Gervais has worked with individuals and teams in virtually every high-stakes environment there is. He has coached men who have broken skydiving records as well as the CEO at Google. He has been on the sidelines of a Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks team and on the sand with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings as they reeled off gold medal after gold medal, just as he was there when Walsh Jennings had to overcome perhaps her biggest obstacle to date: losing in the semifinals of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and bouncing back to win bronze with April Ross. On his podcast, he has examined the inner workings of a Navy SEAL and ultramarathoner in David Goggins, an F1 dynasty builder in Toto Wolff, a World Cup winner in Carli Lloyd, and a big wave surfer in Ian Walsh, among…

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