How To Be Good At Anything: The Process Model

Felix Baumgartner“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Bene Gesserit “Litany against fear,” from Frank Herbert’s Dune

The honest truth is I played poker to escape working. I found something that excused me from the obligation of dead-end jobs and college classes, so I did it.

This is part 3 of my “How to Be Good At Anything” series. Here is part 1 and part 2.

It wasn’t that I was lazy, it’s that I just didn’t care. Video games, porn, pizza, even sports made me feel like Han Solo in a tuxedo gone back in time to win a fist fight with the guy who would otherwise invent cursive. And I was a pro at all of them, so who cared about the low volume and especially normal effects of real life?

Only, I didn’t really care about the rest either.

It all felt good, for a bit, but I didn’t feel alive. It felt like sleepwalking; every day the same dream. Video games, or scoring a goal made it feel a bit brighter, or louder, but it didn’t make the experience feel any more awake.

I was addicted.

The result, hypersensitivity to the above activities, coupled with an across the board dampening of pleasure. In other words, life was boring, except my addictions, which were both making life boring and what I relied on to escape boredom. I lacked passion because I couldn’t like anything new, and I wouldn’t try long enough to love it. I knew how to be good at anything but I would never be great because I was incapable of having the necessary honest conversation with myself about if I wanted to be.

The great ones dedicate themselves to their dream every day because they are motivated by love. To the great ones, being good is an insult and a form of settling that is simply incompatible with their level of desire. Their passion drives them to do the work and the homework right every day, and in turn they become great.

Yet here I was, talking about arguably the most important part of my life as if it was something I had no control over. I had been going with the flow for years. Wishing for an outcome and waiting to see if it would come. I was the limp, powerless ego I detested in other people. – Chad Fowler

be fearful of mediocrityThen I experienced the most important moment of poker, and perhaps of my life. I woke up unusually early for a morning following an un-particularly numb night of video games, but I didn’t get up. I was contemplating my life the way you can only do in a bed when you’re unable to sleep. Why did I feel so unexcited? I spent every moment doing whatever I wanted; surely, if anything was, that was reason to just be happy. I realized I hadn’t been doing whatever made me happy; I had been doing what was easy.

Suddenly, I was awake and in that moment I realized poker was something I had to do. I had found something I loved. All the shenanigans in my life that kept me at arms length from being great were simply fear: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of responsibility. If I dedicated myself to something I knew I would find out who I was, and I was god damned scared I might not like it. And I accepted my fears. I didn’t know what would come, but I was curious again. I now possessed greater desire than fear, and with it all of my self-sabotaging addictions no longer belonged in my life. Without a place to exist, they ceased to be.

I deleted and destroyed my video games, adopted a primal lifestyle of fitness and diet, learned to cook, and took up non-competitive practices of yoga, meditation, hiking, biking, and rock-climbing. I erased porn from my life. I began writing, and returned to playing both guitar and piano. I moved to Calgary and joined a group of friends dedicated to growth, awareness, expression, new experiences, and generally outliving the hell out of life. All because anything else was a compromise to the focus and passion fueling my desire to do what I loved.

I love poker because its challenges teach me who I am. I love poker and its something I have to do.

The moment of realizing you have something you have to do is the first step towards greatness. Without it, there is no point in even getting started.

Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping… waiting… and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir… open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us… guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love… the clarity of hatred… the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we’d be truly dead. – Joss Whedon

Forward Acknowledgement: This is an article of strategies I learned from The Mental Game of Poker on the foundation of how to learn. The ideas, many terms and lines are taken directly, or slightly modified, from Jared Tendler’s book. Though the theories are nothing new(some frequently attributed to the psychologist Abraham Maslow), Jared Tendler brilliantly explains them and it was in his book where I truly came to understand the content. If you are interested in these topics, or if you like poker, pick it up.


“The Process Model” organizes the naturally recurring parts of your entire development so you can put the principles of the ALM (Adult Learning Method) and Inchworm into action day after day. It does not create anything new, but creates a foundation for mastery through organizing what you already do. The process model improves results-oriented thinking, and ultimately leads to a consistently high level of performance while maintaining steady improvement. It relates to every decision, as well as every event, a month of performance, a year, and even a career.

There are five parts of the process model that all work together:

flow chart

  1. Preparation/warm-up: What you do before you perform. Whether it’s planned, random, or nothing at all, it’s how you prepare.
  2. Performance: Doing it.
  3. Results: The outcome.
  4. Evaluation: A review of your results right after performing.
  5. Analysis: Actively working to improve away from the activity.

The process model is something that applies to anything in life involving performance. You’ve already used it in countless areas of your life, including sports, dating, music, art, writing, and business. Even if you weren’t aware of it at the time, in some way you were using the process model.

Here is a more in-depth look at the process model when applied to professional football:

Preparation/Warm Up

While the details differ greatly by activity, the intent of preparation remains the same: to be ready to perform at your best and win.

In professional football, preparation starts shortly after the last game, and ends just before kick-off. Throughout the week, coaches and players review game tape, run drills, lift weights, analyze opponents, formulate a strategy, and practice that strategy – all with the intent of getting ready to play at a high level and win. The day of the game, the players and coaches follow a structured routine to warm up their bodies, focus their minds, and review their tactical strategy so they’re ready to compete. They run drills, rehearse plays, listen to music, double-check equipment, and fire each other up.

Part of the reason preparation is so important is because of the range that exists in your quality of performance. In every moment you can be great, or you can be terrible. Preparation allows you to more likely perform at the peak end of your range, and sets you up to perform better than ever.

How you prepare is a matter of personal preference. There are no strict rules because ultimately it’s about doing what works for you. So you’re going to have to try things.

Here are some general things you can do to prepare:

  • Review your long-term goals and set goals for the session.
  • Review the corrections to your common mistakes.
  • Review your strategy for improving your mental game issues.
  • Use deep breathing, power poses, meditation and/or visualization to steady and focus your mind.
  • Listen to a favourite song


zig ziglar quotesPlaying the game is the players’ and coaches’ only opportunity to put their skill and hard work to the test. In football, performance includes everything from the first play of the game to the last.

Performance in anything is just as obvious and doesn’t need to be repeated. What isn’t obvious are the consequences when preparation and evaluation happen during performance.

Ideally, preparation has you ready to perform at a high level at the beginning of your performance. However, if you do nothing to prepare, the first 15 minutes of performance become your preparation. During a warm up, your mind isn’t yet fully in the action yet, and as a result your performance is marginal. Consequently, you make mistakes and fail to notice details that set up future mistakes until you achieve focus. You also become susceptible to other issues of frustration, fear, motivation, and confidence that snowball from poor performance.

Optimally, evaluation only happens after the session when you can objectively look closely at how you performed. However, people often review their performance in the middle of an activity, fixate on past mistakes, consider what they should have done, the position that would put them in, and how they would imaginarily feel. Basically, they are evaluating how they are performing while they are performing. In other words, they’re multitasking and play worse for that reason alone.

Removing evaluation doesn’t mean eliminating adjustments. Adjustments are how you stay at least one step ahead of the situation. Adjustments are key; evaluating while engaged is excessive. If you’re spending too much time reviewing previous activity, your adjustments aren’t known well enough. Ideally, they should be so well known that they are made automatically and without thought (Unconscious Competence). Otherwise, you’re no different from a quarterback making up a play at the line of scrimmage rather than calling an audible (a predetermined alternate play his teammates already know well). Instead of evaluating, take a quick mental note, and refocus on the action.


Not being results oriented gets a lot of attention these days, especially in the poker world. The solution given is often to ignore, block out, or detach from your results. People know it’s a mistake to focus too much on short-term results because of variance, but stopping is easier said than done. When you only focus on wins and losses, your emotions go on a rollercoaster because they are attached to winning and immediate results. Being focused on winning in the short run is not what causes problems; it’s the set of results you’re ignoring.

You also need to focus on qualitative results in the short run so your emotions can attach to factors that you have 100% control of in the short run. The process model provides the structure and organization to capture qualitative results since they aren’t easily calculated at the end of an activity. Use the process to focus more and more on the quality of your performance, your mentality, and overall improvement; and steadily your emotions will reorganize around this set of results.

If it’s all skill in the long run, then you need focus on skill in the short run. – Jared Tendler


In football, there are many ways to measure the outcome of a player’s performance. Typically, people think of results mainly in terms easily quantified, such as score, yards run, yards passed, interceptions, fumbles, and of course wins. However, it’s also essential to account for qualitative results, such as how well you performed, your level of focus, degree of emotional control, and your improvement of weaknesses.


The first opportunity to gain an objective view about what happened during play in a football game is immediately after you finish playing. When you’re actually performing – whether it’s football or anything else – you performing your best by focusing intensely on the activity itself and far less on how you are performing.

After football games and once back in the locker room, players talk with each other and have time to reflect on the game. Coaches also start a formal review of player performance, going through game tape and reviewing their own decisions to get an initial impression of what needs work before the next game.

Remember, although people tend to focus immediately on quantitative results such as wins, losses, and other easy to calculate statistics, because of variance those results alone are unreliable measures in the short term of how you performed.

Here are a few better ways to evaluate:

  • Look closely at tough decisions to see how you responded.
  • Estimate how much variance influenced results.
  • Evaluate whether you achieved the qualitative goals you set before the session. If you fell short, why?
  • Review how you did in the areas you’re trying to improve. Did you see any progress?
  • If you’re going to analyze any situation later, right down any notes of how things had been feeling immediately before then or any other thoughts that you may otherwise forget.

Spending a short time to evaluate is also a great way to put down your activity after you’re done, so you can get on with the rest of your life, and to reset your mind before the next time you perform.


successAnalysis is the stage where you actively work on yourself away from the activity. It’s the best time to go into greater detail assessing your performance and the performance of others around you, as well as bring in additional resources to ensure your perspective has the right information.

In football, this includes a more detailed analysis of the game tape, such as scrutinizing the mistakes a quarterback made in reading the defense. Perhaps an audible was mistakenly called because he saw something that didn’t actually happen. While watching the game tape and reviewing his decision-making process, he can figure out what went wrong and then use the week leading up to the next game to fix it. Doing this kind of tedious work isn’t necessarily the most fun part of a player’s week, bit is often the most valuable.

Analysis doesn’t have to be done immediately after an activity; in fact, sometimes it’s best to take a break before diving in. There are many ways to work on your performance, such as analyzing situations you’ve noted, watching training videos, working directly with a coach, talking with others, studying experts, and of course posting on and reading articles online.

After you’re done analyzing, take what you’ve learned and adjust your preparation or warm-up to include the most up-to-date information. That way, you’re even better prepared the next time you perform.

Use the Process Model Every Day

Ultimately, the process model makes your approach to performance and improvement more active, organized, measurable, and efficient. When you use it over long stretches of time, you also improve your ability to learn and achieve results. Too often, people only start working hard on their performance when they’re feeling bad, performing poorly, or their success rate drops. Why wait until something negative happens? When pursuing and competing for their dreams, people gain an advantage by continually learning and improving. Use the process model every day to keep your learning curve steadily rising, so you never plateau.

What’s one part of “The Process Model” you can implement into your life right now? Share with us in the comments below.

P.S. If you want to accelerate your success in implementing these strategies and reaching your goals, we’d love to help you. Apply today to our Mentorship Coaching program and we’ll gladly offer you a free coaching session to see if we’re a good fit.


  1. Dear Ben,

    I’ve learned a lot from this 3-part series of articles. I’ve found I had to read many of your points over and over to truly absorb all of your insight. These are profound meditations on the trajectory of human independence as we feel and experience it as young thinkers and marchers towards a greater relationship to choice and will, and struggle to maintain the quality of depth within ourselves that our ancestors constantly remind us of through fantastic tales of remembrance.

    I find that I relate to a lot of what you write so succinctly and clearly in this series of articles, titled, “How To Be Good At Anything”. I appreciate your writing style, as with much of the contributions to this fantastic web resource, as you openly seek to communicate to the largest audience possible, which is admirable and essential to the pertinence of the material at hand.

    Reading your highly meticulous thought, I draw from my experience this past year publishing my creative writing for the first time ever since embarking on this lifelong creative passion in my early youth, when I made the psychological leap to dedicate the major portion of my heart to creativity in the written word. This past year has been a pathless journey of successes and failures. I’ve heard that many working writers find their success rate in publishing at around 20% and many don’t see a first publication until they’ve seen hundreds upon hundreds of “rejection letters”.

    “Rejection letters” is in quotes because truly, in the subjective business of publishing creative writing, it is relatively rare for the actual work to be “rejected” and more simply a matter of the publication itself following a different thematic course, and more, an agreement about placing the work in a more appropriate context.

    After two “rejections”, I saw my creative writing in print with a literary publication. One year later, my writing (and visual writing art – which is a-whole-nother story) has been featured in over 30 independent publications in Canada, the U.S. and the UK. That being said, I continue to self-publish, and actually feel quite a small degree of progress in terms of success in publishing.

    I haven’t yet become entrepreneurial nor especially eager to sell and disseminate my own work, which is something I’d like to do in the future as I become more active in artist sustainability. However, I feel I very much need to continue to develop my craft and become more successful, as a way to prove to myself that I’m worth a damn. Is this healthy? I am constantly at work, often for eight hours a day, trying to shift my creative writing focus into some form of sustainable independence.

    After the year’s end, I am still hungry for more publications, and often get extremely down on myself when I receive a note from a literary publication not interested in my work. I often wonder, “why is this emotional uphill battle necessary?” and “how can I continue to be inspired towards seeing my creative visions come to life, and not just metaphorically, but into a life that is my living?”

    It is such community dialogue as featured on kingpinlifestyle that I feel is necessary to invigorate this quality in each of us in our generation and beyond as we look back on a century of economic depression, world war, civil unrest, genocidal impunity, financial hubris, environmental catastrophe, and on, and think, “what will be our legacy?”, and “how will we confront our unique challenges?”

    Let’s continue the dialogue.

    I’m so pleased to have met you, Ben, and consider you a great friend, and wish you the very best with everything as I eagerly await your return to Calgary!

    Equally, it was great to have met the highly insightful Kevin Choo tonight as well.

    Thank you all for this space.



    P.S. I so appreciate your curiosity in getting to know what it is that I mean by “my writing” in which case, I look forward to future sharing in person, as I’m sure you’ve just about had it with my voice, so I’d like to end my comment with a quote from the poetic genius of Shelley on the theme of our expressed collective aspirations.

    “For when the power of imparting joy
    Is equal to the will, the human soul
    Requires no other heaven.”

    – Percy Bysshe Shelley; from “Queen Mab” part III

  2. Thank you for sharing Matt! You have a gift; when I read your writing I can hear your voice. I don’t know if that comes from familiarity, or just quality raw writing, but I really enjoy it! I think the true story of writing is the story of the reader experiencing it. If there were a heart button on posts to show I loved it, I would have given this all the hearts. 😀

    I want to share I’m honored and inspired to be sharing paralleled paths of personal and creative development with you. You’re a great friend and a generally kick-ass dude, and it is so appreciated!

    I connect a lot with your story, especially the sensations “However, I feel I very much need to continue to develop my craft and become more successful, as a way to prove to myself that I’m worth a damn” and “why is this emotional uphill battle necessary?” I feel two things very strongly in relation to both of these (and I’m just going to stream of consciousness these out! Hahaha):

    1) Our value is in the experiences we can offer and share others. One of the most must universal needs of humanity is the intrinsic need to be understood, accepted, and to belong. We must experience something (not necessarily directly or presently) to understand it, and feel it to emotionally evaluate it. Emotions, like all experiences, are a sensation in consciousness. I think they are the rawest form of feeling alive, and I don’t know why, but it’s so powerful that when we share them it bonds us, allows us to empathize, and gives birth to that invaluable togetherness. All this is why I value the paths of awareness and communication so much. Our mind is all we have. It’s all we have to offer other people. It’s all we’ve ever had.

    2) Emotion is not the problem. It’s the key to mastery. You give a damn about the purpose of writing, and you have goals; emotions naturally accompany that. The fundamental understanding to channeling emotions effectively comes down to how emotion is viewed. When emotion is viewed as the cause of problems, it makes perfect sense why conventional wisdom would urge you to become robotic, trick your mind, or become desensitized to emotion. In essence, traditional tactics are suggesting that anger, fear, and overconfidence are inherently bad, so you must get rid of them. Of course, my end goal is to get these negative emotions out of my mentality, but they are the symptom – not the true cause of failure. Remember one of my favourite quotes, “Would you like me to give you the formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But isn’t that at all.” -Henry Ford

    Finding the cause of your emotions requires digging a little deeper, and when you do, the role of emotion completely changes. Emotion, once seen as the problem, now serves a valuable purpose: highlighting flaws in how you are mentally approaching the situation. In essence, emotion is a messenger telling you exactly what to work on in your mentality. (If you have no idea what the messenger is saying, you try to kill it.)

    Emotions that cause problems are created when flaws in your approach are triggered by certain events or occurrences. Let’s look at poker for an example. A “bad beat”(losing an expensive hand wildly against the odds) does not cause overwhelming anger and superstitious fear. If it did, then every player would have the exact same reaction to one, but some players continue to play well no matter how many bad beats they take. Thus, it can’t be the nature of a bad beat that causes anger and fear; anger and fear must be caused by something else. It’s caused by a flaw in a player’s approach to poker, such as a form of entitlement where a player believes he’s too good to lose to a weaker player. When that player, with that belief, takes a bad beat from a weaker player, he predictably becomes angry and superstitious. So a bad beat causes anger and fear only when that flaw (or others like it) exists within a player’s mentality.

    When you view resolution as the symptom and not the problem, an entirely new solution emerges: “resolution.” When you resolve the underlying cause of emotions, such as anger and fear, they disappear. People often talk about his concept, but few understand how to truly build these mental muscles. Instead they believe mental strength happens simply by taking on a certain mindset. That perceived strength is temporary because you’re essentially pretending that underlying flaws don’t exist. So you feel confident, fearless, or anger-free for a short time, but there whatever mental strength you feel is really an illusion. The flaws are still there, hidden in the background, until they pop back up and take you by surprise.

    Achieving resolution means developing real mental strength. Resolution can be complex. It often involves taking a break to get our heads on straight, and a sometimes difficult to have but necessary honest conversation with ourselves about very deep perceptions of ourselves and others, variance, injustice, jealousy, competitiveness, expecting perfection, overconfidence, respect, respect of others, confidence, fear, the nature of motivation, hopelessness and so much more. Resolution is a process of building mental muscles that takes time, just like building literal muscles. But when the problem is truly resolved, any negative emotion involved don’t just go away in that moment – they never show up for that reason again.

    I plan to write my next pieces on my understanding of emotion and strategies for resolution so I won’t go further than this now.

    I loved the quote of Percy Shelly you shared. I’m going to share it some more! 😀

    Please feel invited to share any piece of writing of yours you feel a strong connection to! I’ll definitely check it out and share my experience.

    “Keep broin’, keep growin’!” – Kevin, yesterday 😀

  3. Ben,

    I think you have an exceptional gift for written elucidation yourself. Quite the stream-of-consciousness output!

    When I first read your comment I was struck by the authoritative depth with which you address the topics at hand. You seem to have a natural swing for the kind of development work you are immersed in. I can see you are the man for the job!

    I really like this thing you said here, “I think the true story of writing is the story of the reader experiencing it.” I was privileged to have an intimate meeting with a well-renowned and very successful Irish-Canadian author this past weekend. His insights into the areas of readership were eye-opening. I think you’ve just about summed it up with a bit of innocent wisdom!

    Thank you for your clear language. A sense of personal value is something that I struggle with, especially as someone who works so much in the arts. This month I’ve been writing an article on wild foods in the urban economy for The Dominion newspaper, and as I’ve interviewed more people, I’ve found that even though there is a lot of activism to get wild foods into the economy, to give something that really has a lot of value the kind of “real” value that we attribute to monetary trade, there is another side. The more people form a living relationship to their land based on the actual physical sense of taste, the more that connection becomes truly invaluable, and further, a sense of respect and even veneration.

    This has an uncanny relation to your notion about emotion as the “rawest form of feeling alive”. And I think I need to hear more about valuing the importance of awareness and communication from your perspective. As I read your comment, I feel I could really respond to every sentence, maybe even every phrase with a thousand words, but I’m thinking it might be ideal to continue this conversation in person again. If you’re into it, I would love to collaborate with you on a writing project.

    I can’t help myself…here’s a couple more comments:

    For example, I’m into meditating on failure, not necessarily as a negative, so I dig your attention there.

    On resolution, man, you’re onto something, I’m sure. Have you heard John Coltrane’s piece “Resolution”? It’s the SECOND piece in one of my all-time favourite albums, “A Love Supreme”. The Jazz Master did have some wisdom, as with your comment, that Resolution is one of the initiatory steps in achieving something that takes real mental strength. ( )

    An interesting coincidence: the day you added your comment here, one of my short stories was published for a literary collective blog based in NYC. The link is ( ). FYI, I often use creative writer pseudonym “Rusty Kjarvik”.

    Good to hear from you,

    Much gratitude for your thoughts,


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