Meta-Skills of the 1%


Meta-Skills of the 1%

Austin Einhorn


I just returned from the December 2018 Altis Apprentice Coach Program. During one of the “pool side chats,” Stu McMillan confidently stated that 99% of athletic programs are terrible. I wholeheartedly agree—it’s quite accurate. Just as with any population, there will be a natural hierarchy. However, the divide between the 1% and 99% is no gradual asymptotic line. In sports, the best are outliers on an unimaginable scale. They are not even in our solar system… The 99% reside on a misshapen and dynamic bell curve (If Stu’s statement upsets you, then consider the following written just for you, although your ego may reject the information, and that’s O.K.).

After Stu said this, I was reflexively curious about that 1%. I asked him what he thought the common traits were amongst that %1 of coaches and therapists. We agreed upon three things: humility, creativity, and sensing abilities. These are timeless and universal traits. I believe the best athletes of all time also possess these (being the best does not just mean you won a lot). A great list of the best athletes is compiled in the book, Captain’s Class by Sam Walker, though this list does not include any individual or small team sports. These characteristics are also true for the best in any other profession and those who are destined to the be in the 1%.

Below, I have continued beyond our conversation to clarify and expand on why these three traits are so vital.


  • Humility stokes curiosity. Curiosity is a precursor for lifelong learning.
  • Humility helps develop quality relationships.
    • No one wants to be around, teach, coach, or mentor an egotistical asshole. Unless you yourself are an egotistical asshole. Then you might be two peas in a pod.
  • Humility leads to dynamic and adaptable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors instead of rigid egoistic characteristics. The NFL wins the award for breaking this humble rule.
    • These dynamics lead to a perspective of long term development and delayed gratification. Those who want to win now usually fail.
    • Humility leads to an understanding that there is more to life than sports, sports eventually will end, and failure happens.
  • Humility creates the opportunity to embark on the path of eternal growth and mastery and understand its difficulties.
    • Problems are seen as opportunities.
    • Humility is essential to admit failures and grow from them.
    • Humility is needed to question one’s own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
    • Humility allows for problems to be seen and remedied before they turn into catastrophic failures. The ego clouds judgement and observation.


  • Mother Nature is probably the most creative problem solver on Earth and will not hesitate to terminate non-useful entities. Thus, Mother Nature is also one of the best resources for learning.
  • Creativity is needed to solve diverse, difficult, and ever-changing problems.
    • Many problems need to be observed from novel viewpoints for solutions to be made.
  • Creativity is needed for abstract and lateral thinking and then the ability to connect dots from far and wide.
  • If you’re bored, that’s a red flag.


  • The ability to feel, hear, see, think, taste, and intuit with clarity and sensitivity.
    • Then the humility and curiosity to advance these senses to notice smaller and smaller stimuli.
  • Understanding when to trust your experiences and intuition and assert yourself (Stu demonstrated this quality when he made the bold statement about the 99%).
  • Feeling: accurately feel with hands and other body parts.
    • The ability to feel quality motion and tissues and aberrations in quality.
  • Hearing:
    • Movement, objects, and interactions.
    • Conversation architecture:
      • What is being said.
      • What is not being said.
      • The theme of conversations.
      • Tone and pacing.
    • The ability to hear (and admit) when you are lying to yourself.
  • Seeing:
    • Seeing accurately and unbiasedly.
      • Body language.
      • Movement.
      • Patterns.
  • Thinking:
    • Remembering clearly.
      • Knowing that memories are not as accurate as they may seem.
    • No attachments, illusions or self-deception.
      • No hesitation to terminate non-useful entities.
    • A balance of patience and expedience.
    • Reflecting & Awareness of:
      • One’s own biases.
      • One’s own patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
        • Subsequently, the biases and patterns of others.
    • Compassion, empathy, and sympathy for self and others.
      • This leads to quality relationships with self and others.

There is one more thing that we did not discuss that I would like to add. That is desire. You could be the most humble, the most creative, and best sensing person in the world, but if you do not have the motivation to get better, you will go nowhere. The best in the world authentically braid these together. The best are perpetually refining and improving themselves and their craft. Paradoxically, many of the best do not believe it. However, one can be humble and know he or she is amongst the best in the world. Confidence is not a sin.

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