After doing several talks referencing the performance mindset shift of chaos planning, I thought I'd write a simplified version of what the 'ole fing is about.
Chaos. It’s everywhere. Just look out the window, at footage of cars tearing around the Arc de Triomphe, at my hairline. We cannot hope to control it, we can only endeavour to embrace it and roll with the punches in as prepared a fashion as possible.
I read a book on Chaos Theory, surprisingly titled 'Chaos' by James Gleick. It's a fascinating attempt by a very clever person to make the study of chaos digestible for non physics-minded people. Judging by how much information I retained, it failed. But that’s because I’m thick and distracted by the endless memes Brad Hall sends me.
Irrespective of how much in-depth physics data my dense brain absorbed however, it was still interesting insight. The salient point was that chaos itself is not an arbitrary term applied when the shit hits the fan, but a fully recognised scientific phenomenon.
What's The Relevance?
How does that apply to bobsleighers? Well, sport is a chaotic endeavour. All four of you reading this (except you mum) will understand what I’m talking about. Injuries, deselection, loss of motivation, better athletes nicking our spots among many other experiences all seek to derail us from our goal of making it to the icy Promised Land - the Winter Olympic Games.
Outside of sport as a whole, let’s look at bobsleigh itself. The ultimate in sporting chaos. Pairs or groups of large, powerful individuals pushing a heavy implement off a cliff and leaning into the paradoxically warm embrace of ice and gravity.
(I posted that floating Winnie the Pooh meme on my IG story recently with the caption: ‘the atheism leaving my body on every bobsleigh run at every track ever’. Twenty messages later suggested that it resonated.)
If you’re a pilot, then lucky you, you are the only one with the ability to somewhat control that chaos. It might only be little rings of metal and some bungee ropes, but you have control nonetheless.
No, the real purveyors of chaos lie in the backseat. The completely tapped men and women of the braking persuasion. Knowing we have zero control over what’s to come, we brakemen push off the edge of a mountain and submit willingly to chaos without hesitation.
Ok, with some hesitation.
Wtf Is Chaos Planning Then?
Chaos planning is simply contingency planning. I just gave it a more evocative title to encourage a more active commitment to the mindset. Most well-run businesses will have some level of contingency planning. It tends to look something like this:
Define the possible risks in your industry
Rank them in order of importance
Assess what resources you’ll need to overcome these hurdles
Make a plan for each eventuality
Share it with your team
Or something to that effect. It’s not only legitimate preparation for disaster, but actually an important prerequisite for investors or potential business buyers.
But what about in sport? And what about when it comes to your athletic career?
Like watching a frisbee getting closer, it hit me. I realised some time ago that a devastating thing will likely fall my way when I least expect and/or want it to, and I need to be prepared for it when it does. If there’s one thing that really kills an athlete’s spirit during the chaos of injury, it’s loss of momentum.
When you’ve got momentum; session after session of quality training with minimal setback you tend to see personal best performances and happy gumdrop smiles. So we want to sustain that insofar as it is possible to do so.
I was around a group of top GB sprinters once whose coach had automatic training plans for certain injury eventualities. It was genius. If someone picked up an injury, depending on where it was and its severity, there was likely a training plan to follow to get back on track. Loss of momentum was minimal. Time sat miserably on the sidelines was minimal. The athlete might now be on a slightly different path, but they were walking a path nonetheless.
So, with all this inspiration I coined ‘Chaos Planning’ and made sure I had ‘return to play’ protocols for many different injury eventualities, amongst other practical planning solutions.
You F**king Liar.
Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘you’ve got a training/rehab protocol for every single injury eventuality? …Really?’ And you’re right to be sceptical, because of course I don’t. I have them for many setbacks but the true secret to Chaos Planning is the mindset it fosters. It does more than give a physical programme to follow for lots of disasters, it provides a mental embrace of chaos and the understanding that when it hits, if you work to maintain momentum you will put yourself in the best position to bounce back. It’s essentially a phrased shortcut to resilience.
Take my position right now. I have a grade 4c hamstring/tendon tear. It is months and months of rehab. Did I have a programme for that? NOPE. Have I experienced an injury this severe in my career? NOPE. Has thinking about Chaos Planning and practising what I preach helped with recovery so far? Actually, yes. Shit happens in life and sport, it’s chaotic init? But I can cry about it or I can get on with it. Having never had anything this serious occur in my career so far, I am living in the unknown. But, to frame it more positively, I have as much evidence that it won’t heal properly as I do for the fact that it will. So I might as well choose to believe the latter. And I have. Mostly.
Plan For Chaos
Short and sweet? Give the mindset and practical application of Chaos Planning a try.
Whether that is in business, at home, in sport or wherever disaster may occur and the strongest version of yourself is required to conquer it. Put yourself in the best position to help that inner Hulk come forth and remember to focus on the facts in front of you - not the worst case scenarios your neurotic little brain might throw up. You’re gonna be fine.
I wonder how many of you picked up on when this became just me talking to myself.
As always thanks for reading! Follow us for more sporadic content production at @the.brakeman on Insta and obviously make sure you tune in this winter to watch our community strut its stuff.