Parc del Segre, La Seu d’Urgell, Catalunya (Joe Jacobi photo, Winter, 2020)

On August 1st, 1992, two separate alarms on my night table start buzzing at 4:45 am. Two alarms… just to be sure.

It’s quiet at this hour in the satellite Olympic Village in La Seu d’Urgell, about two and half hours north of the main Olympic Village in Barcelona.

What started next was the “warm up” routine that my doubles canoe partner, Scott Strausbaugh, and I had been planning and rehearsing for months. This warm-up would lead us into the first of our two competition runs at the Olympic Games… at exactly 10:17 am.

Shortly after waking up, I did the following:

Eat breakfast
Warm-up massage
Walk to the competition venue, the Parc del Segre
Visualize ourselves paddling the race course
Change clothes, get into the canoe, and begin the first on-water warm-up
Get out of the canoe and change clothes again
Walk and analyze the course from one side of the river
Meet briefly with our coaches
Visualize the race course again
Walk and analyze the course from the other side of the river
Visualize the race course again
Change clothes again, get back in the canoe, and do the second on-water warm-up
Get out of the boat and do a final race course visualization

At 10:15 am, we stood up from under the small tree where we had been sitting and walked over to the start area. Then, standing next to the water, we watched the athlete, who had the 10:17 am start time for the first day of competition, drop into the Olympic whitewater channel.

Everything we just completed was simply a “practice run” for our race — the next morning.

To say that our race rehearsal exercise was seen by our coaches as over-planning would be an understatement. Some of them interrupted our “practice course walk” just to confirm to us that we were not actually racing this day.

To run the entire warm-up routine a day before our race could seem a little extreme. But the rehearsal was well-planned and our practice developed muscle memory and context for what we believed would allow us to perform at our best.

While normal life pursuits may not demand four years of intense preparation leading towards a single peak moment, putting ourselves in a position every day to better pursue contentment on the river of uncertainty requires careful consideration, not only to where we direct our energy, but also to the forces that try to pull it away.

Thoughtful routines serve as more than just a “warm-up” to get muscles fully firing. A thoughtful routine does something more — it assigns our energy to a specific job.

The step-by-step routine accounted for every single moment of our Olympic race preparation for five and half hours before crossing the start line at 10:17 am.

There was never an expenditure of energy about which to worry or ask, “What should happen next?” Or “Who should we talk to now?” Or “Are we doing the right thing?”

Every ounce of energy had been assigned a clear task, which made each task easier to practice and ultimately, to perform.

Here at the start of The Pursuit of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty, most of us do not require five and half hours — or even one hour — to better manage our energy. Just five minutes at the start of the day is sufficient.

Several years ago, at a low point in my life, this is the five-minute routine that I used to put energy to work in favor of tuning into my own voice and tuning out the noise. Upon waking up:

- No technology, TV, or news
- Drink a glass of water
- Answer these three questions in a journal

1) What are the themes for my day?
2) What is the focus of my relationships?
3) For what am I grateful?

Simple routines direct our energy to what is essential… and divert what is trivial from becoming our energy.

With gratitude, — Joe

PS — As we work our way into The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty, my conversation with Al McBride on the Dealing With Goliath podcast touches not only the backstory of this series but also a peak into what is to come. This is a really nice conversation — so refill your coffee and either listen in HERE. (recommended at 1.25 speed) or watch via YouTube.

Energy By Design is a part of my continuing Sunday Morning Joe series, The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty. Subscribe to Sunday Morning Joe HERE.

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5 With Joe Performance Coaching

I coach established and experienced professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.

My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.