Do any of these people look familiar? Well, of course, I’m the guy in the middle pointing. To my left is the rock and roll guitarist Joe Walsh. On my right is world-renowned, card mechanic Richard Turner. Why have I pictured myself sandwiched between these two? Because they are both inspiring examples of what can be accomplished when individuals push beyond the “tried and true,” to reach the next level of performance.
Back in June, I read an article about Joe Walsh in the Chicago Tribune. Buried deep in the piece was a brief biography of the guitarist that exemplifies what it takes to achieve excellence. Walsh, who is 67 years old, began playing back in the late 1960’s. Like many of his generation, he was inspired by the Beatles. One day, he was listening to the band’s song, “And Your Bird can Sing,” which contains a “ridiculously finger stretching George Harrison guitar solo.” According to the article, Walsh worked tirelessly until he mastered the riff. It was only years later, long after he’d become famous, that he met Ringo Starr. Walsh related the story to the drummer who “looked at Walsh like he was nuts.” Harrison, Ringo told him, had played two guitar parts separately and tracked them on top of each other and later tracked them together in the studio.
Good thing no one told Walsh the truth. As a result, he did what no one–even now–thought posssible.
On to Richard Turner. Unless you are into magic or gambling, this may be the first time you’ve ever heard of this person. Author Alex Stone, in his phenomenally fun and informative book, Fooling Houdini, describes him as “a card handler without equal, a man whose prowess with a deck borders on the supernatural.” The supernaturnal? Really? I would have deemd such praise so much more hype, typical of “hollywood” and the media, if I hadn’t meet Turner personally and seen him work. Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do with a deck of cards.
Watch the brief video below filmed at this year’s “Training of Trainers” event in Chicago. At all training events, we bring in top performers to entertain, inspire, and inform participants about what it takes to achieve excellence.
Not bad eh? Especially when one considers that Turner is blind. And the video above is only the tiniest snippet of his performance. At one point, he dealt out hands of poker and black jack, asking audience members which position they would like to have dealt the winning cards. Sure enough, whatever position was called, luck struck there and only there. “Give me a number between 1 and 52,” he asked. Whatever number was called out, he cut the cards to that exact position in the deck. Did I mention he’s also a 6th degree black belt? Simply put, Turner is a performer that is always pushing the limits. Once he was cited for a driving motor cycle while blind! How does he do it? Practice. Yep, seventeen hours a day! For years, he slept with a deck of cards. Like Walsh, he persisted until he mastered moves that no one considered possible or, more accurately, no one ever even imagined.
So, what can mental health professionals do to REACH the next level of clinical performance? Over the last few years, together with my colleagues, we’ve been writing about the steps thrapists can take to achieving excellence. This year, I was privileged to summarize the current state of the research on the subject in a keynote address at the Psychotherapy Networker conference in Washington, DC. Here, for the first time, is “Part 1” of that address (the second half will follow soon). In it, I lay out what the evidence says it takes to excel.