Mind Gym explains why the performance of world-class athletes isn’t only a result of their physical training, but just as much due to their mentally fit minds and shows you how you can cultivate the mindset of a top performer yourself.
“If you do the work you get rewarded. There are no shortcuts in life.” ―Michael Jordan
It’s simple, to the point, and, as I’ve become more and more aware over the past two years: plain true. Did you know that he was cut from his high school basketball team? Yes, someone once thought his Airness sucked at basketball.
What few people realize is that Jordan did about just as much work on his mind than he did on his body, over the course of his career. This is where this book, written by Gary Mack and David Casstevens, comes in.
In Mind Gym, they explain what mental workouts top athletes subject their minds to, and how you can do the same to help your brain prime your body for the work needed to succeed.
Here are my 3 favorite lessons:
- Cultivate willpower with the seven C’s of mental toughness.
- Slowing down can help you move faster.
- Make love, learning and labor the three pillars of your lifeto succeed.
Let’s take our brains to the weights section, shall we? Walking into the mind gym!
Lesson 1: Mental toughness is made up of seven things.
It’s a good thing our short-term memory can hold up to seven items, because that means if you lock and load this list of what the authors call the “Seven C’s of Mental Toughness,” you’re good to go:
Competitiveness. If you just want to be nice, not bash into any walls, please everyone and not rub any elbows, you’ll just be steamrolled by those who don’t mind.
Courage. The thing that enables you to be competitive in the first place. It’s not that you can’t be afraid of your competitors. But you have to consciously decide to challenge them anyway.
Confidence. Helps a great deal with being courageous.
Control. The thing all Stoics focus on. Forget about what you can’t do. Look at what’s in your power.
Composure. What to keep when you lose control. Dwelling doesn’t move you forward.
Consistency. The result of not letting motivation or a lack of it derail you. Show up to practice anyway.
Commitment. In the short and the long term. Forever and always. Until you win.
A pretty cool stack of good traits, huh? Think 3-2-2 in bundling them, but add them all together and you have all the attitudes you could ever need to succeed.
Lesson 2: Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.
You’ve heard that one before. Take regular breaks, give yourself down time to recover, muscles only grow when they get rest, etc. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about actually going slower while you’re moving.
Let’s say you’re running a 10K. In this case, that’d mean for you to run at maximally 90% of your capacity, no matter which section of the run you’re on. Even on the last 100 m. And you’d be faster.
The individual muscles in groups fall into one of two categories: agonists and antagonists. They’re push-and-pull types, meaning the agonist muscle will work to push you forward, while the antagonist muscle simultaneously pulls you back and slows you down.
So if you run at 100%, both of them will work their hardest and struggle against one another the most. But if you cap it at 90%, your agonist can use its power advantage over the antagonist better, because the antagonist won’t work as hard – and thus, you’ll be faster.
Lesson 3: Live a life of love, learning and labor.
Forget external yardsticks to measure your success by. Those by definition always depend on other people, so screw that. What you can instantly answer every time you look into the mirror is: Am I living a life that’s filled with love, learning and labor?
Loving your work is one of the best things that can happen to you. It may take a while to develop and it doesn’t make work fun all the time, but if you love what you do, it’s a lot easier to get up every morning and push right through the hard parts.
Of course loving your work also makes you work more and harder. Ironically, this isn’t a one-way street though. The more you work, the more and faster you’ll grow to love it too. Most importantly though, how much labor you put in is up to you. You can’t get more talent, or luck, or time. But you can sure work more.
Lastly, learning not only connects love and labor, it also ensures that once whatever talent you do have subsides (which is more a problem for athletes than for thinkers, of course), because you get older and less fit, you capitalize more and more on your brain.
He who learns, loves and labors has nothing to fear of life. Only good things to look forward to.
My personal take-aways
I like how memorable this book is, because it uses so many alliterations. Seven C’s, three L’s, and so on. This makes the concepts easy to recall. Very good book for athletes, but even for mental marathon runners, this one has a lot to offer!