What we can learn about focus from a professional cliff diver

The thought of diving off a 27-meter platform eight stories above open water would stress most people out but for David Colturi sitting in a cubicle invokes much more fear.

“I am scared of the potential consequences of a cliff dive gone wrong,” he said. “Almost as much as having to hold a 9 to 5 office job.”

The California-based diver is the former US national 10m champion and was the youngest diver to appear in a full World Series in 2012, the youngest diver to finish on the podium and the youngest diver to win an event. Ladders spoke with Colturi ahead of the first Cliff Diving World Series stop in Texas about his immense focus when he dives, dealing with nerves and how he approaches his career.

On making those 90-foot leaps

“Most days it’s easy because I truly love what I do; that feeling of flying, flipping, and twisting through the air, it’s like nothing else in this world. There are some days where I need a little extra motivation though, or the conditions are harsher and scarier than usual. Those are the days I need to dig deep, stay calm and in the moment, and focus on the task at hand.”

On dealing with setbacks

“Compartmentalizing and Self Talk are two cognitive tools I like to use when things get rough. Package that setback or bad dive up and put it at the back of your mind to deal with later. It’s easy to go down the analysis road and beat yourself up immediately after a bad dive; however, if you can put it away for later, and build yourself up for the next immediate task, you’ll have a better chance at getting back on track and succeeding down the road. Positive Self Talk and just being mindful of your thoughts, in general, will keep you in a better mood and mindset for any situation.”

On finding the focus

“One of my favorite quotes my college coach used to always tell me was, “If you focus on the things you can’t control, it will adversely affect the things you can control.” It’s easy to get caught up in environmental stimuli, other people’s actions or behavior, but if you stay within yourself and stay in the moment you’ll have a much better chance at success. To get away from all the outside noise I like to find a quiet place or put my headphones in, and meditate or visualize my next tasks.”

On dealing with nerves

“Having a process and staying in the moment is key to dealing with fear and nerves. So many people get caught up worrying about the past, or focusing on an outcome, that they become overwhelmed with whats going on currently. Plan for a big day ahead of time, trust your process, stay calm and focused, and most of all keep it simple.”

On skills and mental tools

“All of these skills I’ve mentioned above can be used in professional and social settings: compartmentalizing, positive self-talk, meditation, visualization, and staying in the moment are all factors of high performance; whether in athletics, business, or your personal life, all of these tools can be used to help you be at your best, and enjoy life at its greatest potential.”

On what he wished someone had told him at the beginning of his career

“Just how fast it goes (which of course, I’m sure someone did). I can’t believe I’ll be competing in my 7th season of Cliff Diving this year. Enjoy the ride, work hard, and ask for help when you need it. It’s crazy how fast life goes by, and it’ll be over before we know it.”