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How the Georgia champion quarterback cut the noise to focus on winning

The sports world is in turmoil over the unlikely story of University of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, the former replacement who led the Bulldogs to their first national title in 41 years with Monday’s victory on Alabama.

After his freshman year in Georgia, Bennett transferred to junior college for playing time. Upon returning to college, he was still supporting five-star rookies. Even during this championship season, “critics never seemed to believe that a former extra had a strong enough arm or a high enough football IQ to lead a team to a national title.” according to to the The Wall Street Journal.

As criticism grew louder, Bennett made a life-changing decision: he replaced his smartphone with a flip phone to drown out the noise and get his attention back.

Bennett’s Simple Act worked effectively because it eliminated three types of noise that behavioral psychologists identified as distractions.

1. Exterior noise

It’s no secret that tech products and social media algorithms are designed to keep us hooked on the platform. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has acknowledged that the firm’s fiercest competitor is sleep.

Bennett bought a flip phone for making calls and receiving texts, an intentional move to minimize distractions from his smartphone and to stay focused on winning football games.

“I was spending an hour a day on my smartphone doing nothing,” Bennett told ESPN. “I have all of these important things to do and I didn’t want anything to prevent me from concentrating.”

The story reminds me of Bill Gates who bought a car and asked for the radio to be removed. He was only focused on building Microsoft and wanted to avoid outside distractions. According to Gates ‘friend Warren Buffett, “focus” was the most important habit that led to Gates’ success.

You don’t have to give up your smartphone, but you do need to be careful about how much time you spend on outside distractions that keep you from achieving your goals.

2. Critical noise

In his famous Stanford opening speech, Steve Jobs spoke about the importance of eliminating the noise of criticism that will derail your way if you let them.

“Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner voice,” Jobs said. “And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and your intuition. They already know what you really want to become.”

When i wrote Steve Jobs’ secrets of innovationI’ve spoken to psychologists who say entrepreneurs always face skeptics because not many people have the courage to take the risk of starting their own business. The majority of people simply cannot imagine that you are going to be successful in making your idea come true.

The hardest thing to do is dream a big dream and cover those voices telling you it can’t be done. You have to be intentional to drown out the noise. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and avoid those who will bring you down.

3. Internal noise

Psychologists use the word “chatter” to describe those relentless negative thoughts that fill our internal conversations. Ethan Kross, bestselling author and psychologist at the University of Michigan, told me that negative thoughts or “chatter” undermined our performance.

One of the best ways to deal with negative thoughts, according to Kross, is to reframe setbacks into challenges. Reinterpret a difficult situation. Don’t say you can’t handle it. Instead, see it as a challenge that will make you a better person, expand your skills, and potentially propel you to the next level of your career.

Stetson Bennett made college football history because he actively identified the distractions that held him back and took action to eliminate them.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.

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