Imaginary Therapist: Hello everyone, welcome to this edition of therapy with Scott Fauble. Now Scott, what is bothering you today.
Scott Fauble: Wow, this is really public. Are we really gonna do this in front of all these people (I doubt many people will actually read this)? That seems like some sort of violation of doctor-patient confidentiality.
IT: Well, I don’t actually have a doctorate of any kind, because I don’t really exist. I am just a storytelling tool that you’re using in order to get the point you want to make across to your audience (Again, probably a pretty small audience). So, I don’t think doctor patient confidentiality really applies here.
SF: Ok, those are all fair points. I guess I did post this on the internet.
IT: That’s true. So, let’s dive right in, what is it that you want to talk about today?
SF: Well, I guess I’m scared that last year will end up being the best year of my career.
IT: Why do you think that?
SF: I guess I feel like last year was so good, and I got in such good shape, and I raced so well that maybe I met my quota for good races in my career last year. Or, maybe I am just gonna regress to the mean. Maybe I just had a string of above average races and now my race performance is going to drop because that’s a thing that happens with semi-random, independent events. Like, how people think that basketball players “catch fire” but it’s more likely that a string of made shots can be explained because sometimes random independent events just happen in a sequence and it’s not actually a “hot streak” it’s just our very human tendency to search for patterns in random events (I can't imagine that the 6-7 people who started reading this are still here).
IT: Hmmm. you’ve obviously thought a lot about this and feel very strongly that momentum doesn’t exist to the degree that we believe in it in sports.
SF: Yeah, I have thought a lot about it. You know how if you flip a coin 100 times there are gonna be long streaks of heads and long streaks of tails but eventually the percentages of heads and tails are going to level out to 50% each? Well, no one thinks there’s some sort of unseen force that controls the coin landing on heads if the previous flip was a heads. So, why can’t we use the same logic when it comes to sports and all agree that Steph Curry 3 point shots, and many other events, are independent of each other and there is no invisible hand that comes down and bestows players with some extra abilities at certain points in games (Everyone, or the one person still reading, please go read The Signal and The Noise and/or Thinking Fast and Slow).
IT: Wow, all very well thought out, rational, arguments. But, let’s get back to the reason you came here today, ok?
SF: Yeah, sorry for that tangent.
IT: It’s ok. I guess my question is, if someone else were to come to you with this concern, what would you tell them?
SF: You mean about the momentum vs. randomness thing?
IT: No, the best years of career maybe being behind them thing?
SF: Oh, that makes more sense. I’m not coming to you to give myself advice.
IT: You’re not coming to me at all, remember? I’m not real. So, actually, you are looking to give yourself advice. So, what advice would you give someone else with your fears?
SF: I guess I’d tell them that they’re crazy. That they just turned 25, they’re still so young. I’d tell them that unless they start getting perpetually injured, they have a bunch of years of training and racing ahead of them. And, I’d remind them that in the six years since graduating high school, they’ve only had one bad injury. I’d remind them that they’re in a good situation, they’re financially stable (I can finally afford to add guac to a burrito without fear of my card getting declined!!!!) and have a great coach and great teammates. They also have access to sports medicine and strength coaches. Why would they ever regress?
IT: That all sounds pretty reasonable, what is stopping you from believing all that wholeheartedly?
SF: Well, what if the magic is gone?
IT: Magic? What magic? What are you talking about?
SF: I don’t know man, THE magic.
IT: Do you mean all the training you did?
SF: No dude, like, ugh. It just felt like magic. I could always just do what I needed to do. You know? I don’t know. This is stupid.
IT: Scott, you came to me to talk, you can do it. Open up. What do you mean by “The Magic?” Do you mean the fact that you strung together a ton of really good workouts, and that you paid attention to all the little things more than you ever had in your career? Are you referring to the belief in yourself you had, and the belief that your coaches and teammates had in you ( The cool thing about seeing yourself for therapy is that they know everything about you because, as I have made a few bad jokes about, they are you)?
SF: Yeah, I mean, I guess when you say it like that, it doesn’t sound like magic.
IT: That’s very astute of you Scott.
SF: Well, technically, it’s very astute of you. Since we’re the same person and all.
IT: You’re right, thanks man. You’re so humble and smart and handsome (Yes, I see the irony of bragging about how humble I am)!
SF: Oh, thanks man! Well, you know so many big words.
IT: That’s true, I do know big words. Like, tinnitus or recondite ( I learned a bunch of fancy words when I studied for the GRE and if I had to look up all these stupid words, so do you. Dilettante, dirge, encephalopathy, thew!). But, let's stop bragging about ourself and get back to the point. Can you now see that “The Magic” you were referring to was just a level of fitness you hadn’t previously achieved combined with advantageous psychological and environmental factors that are still present in your life today?
SF: I still feel like it was more than that. All of that stuff is true, and maybe that’s it. It just felt so special. Like I could do special things last year and now I don’t know if I can make myself do that again.
IT: Do you feel like, maybe you got a little bit lucky?
SF: Yeah, like the universe was smiling on me at every race. Lucky sounds good, I guess. Maybe it’s not the magic that’s gone maybe I am worried that my luck will run out.
IT: A lot of really smart, successful people have said versions of, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” It seems like you are resisting the fact that maybe you earned all the things you got last year through training. Is that fair to say?
SF: Yeah, I guess you could say that.
IT: Why do you think you’re resistant to the idea that you earned everything you got last year?
SF: I don’t know. Humility, maybe. It feels like bragging to admit that it was me who made all the good things happen last year (Yep, I still see the irony here. Cut me a break, it's a therapy session).
IT: Well, we’ve already discussed the possibility that there were some environmental factors too. You mentioned your teammates and coach.
SF: Yeah, you've got me there.
IT: So, where’s our head at now Scott?
SF: I feel better. I feel like I can still progress as long as I keep doing the stuff I did last year. Working hard, being confident, taking care of the little things.
IT: I’m glad you're feeling better, because we’re out of time.
SF: Really? We’re out of time? I thought this was a conversation with myself. How are we out of time?
IT: Well, you're not technically out of time, but you’ve said all the stuff you wanted to say, made the jokes you wanted to make, and haven’t been able to figure out a way to end this piece that doesn’t sound like a scene from a mediocre sports movie… I thought “out of time” sounded nicer.
SF: You’re right, we’re out of time.