Getting to Yes, And

Learned Excellence


Eric Potterat & Alan Eagle

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Kelly bridges the world of Navy Seals training and Second City improv training with Eric Potterat, a performance psychologist and retired US Navy commander and executive communication expert Alan Eagle. They explore their book "Learned Excellence."

You’ve worked with Navy Seals and professional athletes – but the crux of the book is that all of us ‘perform’ in our line of work.

“I spent 30 years on my career working with about 25,000 of the world's greatest performers. And at the end of the day, it's great to work with these extremely high performers, but I was also able to kind of read the tea leaves or follow the breadcrumbs, as it were. And I had a bit of an epiphany that, regardless of the vertical that these elite performers were working in, they generally we're doing the same things, and the book kind of consolidates that. But the overall goal is to continually move people away from the narrative of ‘I can never do what he or she is doing.”

The difference maker, in your opinion, is the mental approach we have to performance.

"The metaphor I really like here is the hardware/software metaphor and the computer metaphor. I think we, as we within society, have really focused a lot on the hardware: the physicality, strengthening, conditioning, nutrition, etc... When, at the end of the day, I think one of the untapped horizons, one of the untapped verticals is that it really is the mental side that makes the difference. I think the software piece makes everything else work.”

Tell us why the number 6 is so important.

“The other thing I'll add as almost a bumper sticker statement for the audience or for those to kind of remember, is the magic number is 6. If we can get to 6 breaths a minute, magic happens performance-wise. When we get to 16 to 20 breaths a minute, we know that's rapid, shallow breaths, and bad things are going to happen with executive thinking, solving strategies, abstract thinking, etc. So, at the end of the day, if you can manage 6 breaths a minute, you're going to see performance improve significantly.”

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