What Jeopardy! Champion, Brad Rutter, can Teach You About Mindset.

I’ve loved the game show Jeopardy! since I was a little kid.

My grandpa used to watch it religiously…

And from the time I was five or six years old…

I’d watch alongside my grandpa whenever I could.

During college, I’d record Jeopardy! and watch it almost every night…

And, even today…

My best friend, Cameron, will often come over to watch several episodes in a row with me…

While Laura keeps track of who’s winning on a big yellow legal pad.

So, yeah…

I’m a big fan of Jeopardy…

And I’m loving the Jeopardy! Greatest Of All Time Tournament that’s happening this week.

Now, in case you don’t know what I’m talking about…

The GOAT Tournament is a multi-night Jeopardy! competition…

Where the contestants are the three winningest Jeopardy! champions of all time:

  1. Ken Jennings, who holds the record for the longest winning streak in Jeopardy! history with 74 games. He won $2.5 million during that run, plus he’s brought in another $1 million in subsequent tournament victories.
  2. Brad Rutter, who is perhaps less famous than Ken Jennings, but equally accomplished. Brad has earned over $4.8 million playing Jeopardy! since the year 2000. Going into this tournament, Brad has never lost to a human (he did lose to IBM’s Watson once).
  3. James Holzhauer, who is the most recent Jeopardy! champion to capture the public’s attention. James is a professional sports gambler here in Las Vegas. He also went on a tear in 2019, winning $2.46 million over a 32-game period, then winning another $250,000 during 2019’s Tournament of Champions.

So, you can probably see why the Jeopardy! GOAT tournament is like my Super Bowl…

Except frankly – it’s even more exciting and special to me…

Because these guys really are the best of the best…

And, because it may be one of the last tournaments that Alex Trebek hosts.

Alex is fighting Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer…

And I can’t imagine that he’ll be able to do the show for much longer…

Which, while heartbreaking…

Also makes this tournament even more special…

Because you can tell that Alex is really enjoying himself…

And that he knows that this is one of the last great climaxes of his legendary career.

So that’s the backdrop…

But this email isn’t just about how you should watch the GOAT Tournament (although you should – 8 PM on ABC).

The other reason I decided to write about Jeopardy! today…

Is because of something Jeopardy! Contestant, Brad Rutter, said in the competition last night.

Brad hasn’t been having a great tournament so far (don’t worry, it’s still early)…

And at one point in yesterday’s competition…

Alex asked Brad how he handles the nerves that come along with a tournament like this…

Especially when things aren’t going the way he’d planned.

Brad Rutter’s response seems pretty straightforward, but it’s very important.

Essentially, what he said:

“No matter if I’m doing well or bad, I don’t let it phase me. I just take it one question at a time. A lot of things will happen that I can’t control, but my response isn’t one of them. So I focus on the things I can control.”

In my opinion…

This reply gives you an immediate insight into why Brad has been so successful.

This mindset of focusing on what you can control is very common in high-performers and “winners.”

The great Steven Covey refers to it as “response-ability”…

Which is his way of explaining that while we don’t always have power over what happens to us…

We always have the power to choose how we respond to what happens.

I also remember hearing an interview with Dree Brees a few months back…

He was asked about the previous year’s NFC Championship Game – where the refs made a horrible call that cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

The interviewer asked Brees if he’d gotten over that bad call yet, or if he ever would…

And Brees said he’d gotten over the call as soon as it happened.

The interviewer was skeptical…

But then Brees explained it further:

“Look, he said. Can either of us go back in time? Can we change the outcome? Can we influence what happened? No. So there is ZERO benefit to me dwelling in the past. Instead, the best thing I can do is to focus on what I can control. That means practicing the right way, taking care of my body, leading my team, and continuing to get better.”

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the crux of it…

And Brees isn’t an anomaly here.

It’s often said that NFL Quarterbacks need to have very short memories…

Because when they throw an interception or miss a wide-open receiver…

They’ve got to immediately put that mistake behind them…

And get ready to throw their next pass.

It makes sense, right?

They can’t do anything about something in the past…

But they can still influence the future…

So that’s what the focus on.

Really, all of the great champions have this characteristic…

They miss a shot, or a pass, or a goal, or whatever…

But instead of being affected by it…

Or letting that mistake define them…

They shake it off immediately…

And keep pushing forward.

Bob Iger talks about something similar in his recent autobiography…

During the period when he was competing for the position of CEO at Disney…

The company was going through a lot of turmoil.

The current CEO, Michael Eisner, was being pushed out…

Roy Disney (Walt’s Nephew) was publicly blasting the company and threatening to sue it…

And the company’s market value was plummeting.

This presented a big problem for Bob…

He’d been Michael Eisner’s right-hand man for the last five years…

And there was a general feeling among many shareholders…

That if Bob Iger was made CEO…

It would just be a continuation of everything that had gone wrong.

Well, during the CEO Selection process, Iger was interviewed by the board 17 different times…

And at first, when they asked him questions about the past five years…

He tried to do this delicate dance…

Where he defended himself…

Defended his record…

And defended Michael Eisner while also distancing himself from him.

It wasn’t going well…

But then a friend told Bob Iger that he was making a huge strategic mistake.

His friend said that Bob shouldn’t be talking about the past at all…

He should only be talking about the future.

So that’s what Bob did…

Anytime he was asked about the past five years…

He’d simply say…

“Look, we can’t go back and do anything about the past. But we can have an influence on how things play out in the future. Here are the three core priorities that I’ll focus on during my first year as CEO of Disney.”

Bob got the job…

And again, this isn’t an anomaly…

It’s a common strategy among winners.

In fact, the friend who told Bob to focus on the future was a political strategist…

Which isn’t all of that surprising…

Because President Trump uses this exact same approach.

When journalists or political opponents ask Trump questions about something unpleasant from his past…

He just ignores them and talks about the future.

It can be infuriating to liberals…

But it’s actually very smart.


To sum up the big points here:

  1. Focus on what you can control (a la Brad Rutter)
  2. Embrace your response-ability (it’s a superpower)
  3. Have a short memory (the most successful people don’t dwell on the past; they focus on the future).

Just doing those three things will make a huge difference in your life…

And if you want a 4th Action Item to add to your list…

Then make sure you watch the Jeopardy! GOAT Tournament too…

Because it’s probably the last time we’ll see something like this hosted by Alex Trebek…

And it’s a really good time.

 

– SPG

P.S. Just a prediction here. My guess is that when Alex Trebek steps down as host of Jeopardy!, his replacement is going to be Ken Jennings. It just makes so much sense: besides Trebek, Jennings has been the face of Jeopardy! for decades. He truly loves the game, is an ambassador for the game, and seems to have a lot of spare time on his hands. You heard it here first!

P.P.S. This post originally came from an email I sent to my private list. If you want to see more stuff like this from me, you can apply to join my list using this link.

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Stefan Georgi

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