Find your “flush it”

I was first introduced to the term “flush it” in sports as a Positive Coaching Alliance tool for getting players to forget mistakes and move on to the next play. Back in the day, we used the terms “forget about it,” “shake it off,” or “move on.” But since most everyone has flushed a toilet, and knows the result, this seems like a reasonable universal metaphor! 

Simply asking someone to “flush it” may not have the intended effect as each person responds to adversity and success differently. While flush it is useful when you’ve had success, it’s most commonly deployed when dealing with setbacks or mistakes. The objective is to get yourself or someone else back into the mindset of moving ahead. Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke teaches the “next play” concept to keep his basketball teams looking forward. 

Recently, I was listening to an episode of Against The Rules, a podcast hosted by Michael Lewis, whose season two is all about coaching. The Coach in Your Head episode explores one example of how a youth softball player overcomes obstacles to achieve success. This athlete is an accomplished player on a club team dealing with performance anxiety and a coach that swears and berates players as her coaching method. The players love the coach as they know how much she cares, yet in the case of this player, she needed to come up with a way to mentally deal with her coach and her own fear of failure. So she came up with the phrase “loose and aggressive,” which she repeats to herself during stressful situations or when dealing with her coach. This phrase puts her in the forward mindset and actually acts as a mental buffer and soothing technique. What happens when you are calm and in control of your emotions? Performance gets better.

When it comes to performance, we all can use coaching, whether in your personal or professional life. The ability to control your emotions and put yourself into that forward state can be highly beneficial to you and those around you. It’s hard, especially in the heat of the moment, demanding commitment and practice. Or you might just be one of those people that never experience fear, panic, loss of confidence, or being rattled! 

The first step is coming up with your own “flush it” or trigger that snaps your mindset into a productive mode. Whether it’s a phrase, deep breathing, or some signal to yourself. I have experimented with a few over the years, and the one that works for me is a combination of deep breathing and counting down from five! The second step is preparation, even though sometimes that cannot be controlled. The better prepared you are for a situation, the more confident and ultimately calm you will be when faced with adversity while tapping into your “flush it” technique. A calm mind is a focused mind, and hopefully, you find that this makes you feel that you did your best even if the situation does not turn out the way you want it to. 

One infamous example of losing it during the heat of the moment was Ryan Leaf’s post-game interview during his NFL rookie season with the, then, San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately given the public nature of this example, this interview has followed Ryan ever since! An example of remaining calm during adversity is Colin Kapernick. In 2016 when sitting, then kneeling, during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and violence against Blacks, many erroneously conflated his peaceful protest as disrespecting the Flag and the Military. Throughout all the intense heat this has generated for Colin, he remains educated (see prepared) and balanced during the many interviews, some of which routinely attempt to provoke him into lashing out. Colin has been able to control or “flush” the negatives while Ryan could not, particularly in the moment. 

Throughout my professional career, the concept of “flush it” resonates as a way to push the negatives away, regain mental balance, and focus on what’s next. I haven’t always been great at this. There have been times when my dislike for someone’s actions or rhetoric affects my emotions and subsequent effectiveness in that moment. The good part is that my ability to control my voice and body language routinely masks the internal boiling, so I can for the most part get away with it without being noticed. But, I am always better served when deploying my flush-it routine. This brings me quickly back to center and allows me to focus on the moment, resulting in a more positive outcome. And afterwards, I feel much better! 

What is your “flush it?”