I recently read Toughness Training for Life: A Revolutionary Program for Maximizing Health, Happiness, and Productivity by James E. Loehr. One of my development plans last year was to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Loehr knows a thing or two about mental toughness since he is a sports psychologist who helped out some of the top professional tennis players in the 90s.
Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading…
- This book shows you how to toughen up so that you can handle more stress and be healthier, happier, and more productive. (Pg.1)
- [Toughness means] nice guys and gals who know how to lead happy, productive, and healthy lives. Toughness Training for Life is a system of thinking, feeling, doing, and living that offers practical ways to solve some of life’s most challenging problems. (Pg. 1)
How You Can Get Tough
- Health is health, whether physical or emotional. In addition, I realized that toughness, as I had come to use the term, is health at a very high level. This is the fundamental element of Toughness Training for Life. (pg. 19)
- Whether emotionally or physically, the capacity to respond with flexibility is an indication of health. (pg. 24)
- But to be emotionally tough–a key element in every kind of success–we need to learn how to control our emotions through a toughening adaptation. Emotions are based on body chemistry, not on that “old black magic.” Understanding this fact is the first step toward emotional toughening…Emotions are biochemical events. (pg. 30)
- Physical and emotional stress share common biochemical and neurochemical foundations, and because of this, physical toughening often leads to automatic increases in emotional toughening. Similarly, emotional toughening generally brings about a higher level of physical toughness…Everything we do has energy expenditure and energy recovery properties. Life itself can be viewed in terms of expending and recapturing energy. For those reasons, balancing stress and recovery on a daily basis is essential for achieving maximum happiness and health. (pg. 32)
The Importance of Laughter and Fun
- Motivation is a great barometer of the vital balance between stress and recovery. (pg. 58)
- The best single measure of the balance of stress and recovery in your life is pure positive energy: fun. As the amount of negative stress in your life increases, your sense of fun and joy tends to decrease–although you don’t have to let this happen…Fun means excitement and arousal (energy expenditure) without physical or psychological pain (negative stress). The more you love an activity and continue to have fun doing it, the lower your risk of overtraining. (pg. 59)
- Key point: When fun stops, pay attention; pain is probably not far behind. (pg. 59)
- Laughter quickly reduces the flow of emotional stress hormones. In terms of recovery, laughter is serious business. (pg. 85)
- Fun is the single best barometer of your recovery strategy’s effectiveness, and often of the recovery itself. Fun generally indicates a healthy relationship between stress and recovery. When you’re having fun, you’re literally recovering emotional energy. (pg. 89)
Getting Tough Emotionally
- Emotionally tough does not mean emotionally hard, cold insensitive, or calloused. It simply means being in control, as opposed to being controlled. Being tough emotionally means being able to deal with life in flexible, responsive, strong, and resilient ways. It means you control your emotions rather than the other way around. It means you can weather life’s storms and seize life’s opportunities. It means that when the going gets tough, you’re tougher. (pg. 120)
- Emotions are the key to productivity, health, and happiness. Therefore, to control our lives we must learn to control our emotions. (pg. 123)
- Keep in mind that feelings and emotions should be messengers not controllers…Think of feelings and emotions as flight data from Mission Control, faithfully guiding your journey through life. (pg. 124)
- If the emotion is a negative feeling–either a physical or a psychological one–it indicates imbalance. The imbalance could be too little stress against too much recovery, but more often it reflects too much stress against insufficient recovery. (pg. 124-125)
- A healthy person consistently sees through and ignores unimportant feelings while at the same time correctly interpreting and responding to genuine and appropriate needs. (pg. 125)
- Negative emotions are like a phone ringing in your body. Don’t block the call; instead, give it a clear line into your brain…The feelings and emotions you’re hearing are stress/recovery talk. Work at learning the skill of understanding and interpreting the meanings of negative emotions. (pg. 131)
- Five steps for taking emotional control (pg. 133-134)
- When the phone starts ringing (when you start feeling negative), answer the phone by asking, “What am I feeling?” For example, are you sad, lonely, depressed, tired, angry, or what?
- What is the unfulfilled need? Is it physical, mental, or emotional? Write it down. Be as specific as possible. If you’re not sure, take a guess.
- Tell yourself, “Thanks for the call,” and commit to yourself that you will fulfill the need as soon as possible in the healthiest and most appropriate way.
- Change your emotional state back to a positive one–an empowering one, if possible.
- After you change your emotional state to a positive state–preferably an empowered one–begin to problem-solve how best to meet your most pressing unfulfilled recovery needs. Then put your best plan into action.
Getting Tough Mentally
- The key to all success is having –and using–enough mental toughness to control our emotions and thus our actions. (pg. 180-181)
- Develop your ability to visualize positive images by loading them with positive emotion. (pg. 181)
- Mental toughness means that under pressure you can continue to think constructively, non defensively, positively, and realistically with calmness and clarity. (pg. 182)
- Find challenging subjects and activities, and spend a few hours each week studying them. Look for things that exercise your mind. Learn and play chess and other mentally challenging games, learn and use memorization systems (a lot of good books have been published on this subject), and study astronomy and math, do crossword puzzles, increase your vocabulary by looking up every unfamiliar word you encounter, learn a foreign language, master a new computer program. (pg. 183)
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over!
- If you want to get better at something, you’ve got to track it. (pg. 259)
- In many ways, balancing stress and recovery is like balancing a checkbook. Stress is writing checks and recovery is making deposits. It’s much easier to write checks than it is to deposit money. For most, it’s much easier to expend energy than it is to recapture it. (pg. 264)
- The most important factor is clearly our emotional state during the work situation. When we are feeling motivated, relaxed, determined, energized, calm, and confident, high productivity will naturally follow. Sustaining an Ideal Performance State during work is the most important factor in productivity.
- What area of toughness do you need to focus the most on: mental or emotional?
- Based upon the highlights above, what is one step you can take to start increasing your toughness in that area?
“The key to all success is having –and using–enough mental toughness to control our emotions and thus our actions.” James E. Loehr
As many of you know, I am trying to become more of an avid reader. Each year I have tried to increase the amount of books I read. This year my goal is 38 books.
Throughout the year, I am going to post a summary of a few of those books. My hope is that this summary will help you decide if this particular book is worth adding to your reading list and also provide some insight on some of the key points and nuggets of wisdom.
My first book summary of this year is Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath.
The most effective leaders:
- Are always investing in strengths
- Surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their team
- Understand their followers’ needs
Part 1: Investing In Your Strengths
- If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.
- When Clifton was asked, just a few months before his death in 2003, what his greatest discovery was from three decades of leadership research, this was his response: “A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths—and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.”
Part 2: Maximizing Your Team
- The Four Domains of Leadership Strength
- Leaders with dominant strength in the Executing domain know how to make things happen
- Those who lead by Influencing help their team reach a much broader audience
- Those who lead through Relationship Building are the essential glue that holds a team together
- Leaders with great Strategic Thinking strengths are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be
- Mervyn Davies, Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank: “If you focus on people’s weaknesses, they lose confidence.”
- What high-performing teams have in common:
- Conflict doesn’t destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results
- Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward
- Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work
- Strong teams embrace diversity
- Strong teams are magnets for talent
Part 3: Understanding Why People Follow
- Warren Buffett: “A leader is someone who can get things done through other people.”
- The most influential leaders display these four qualities:
- When Gallup studied the impact that leaders can have throughout an organization, the single most powerful question they asked employees was whether their company’s leadership made them feel “enthusiastic about the future.” Sixty-nine percent of employees who strongly agreed with this statement were engaged in their jobs, compared to a mere one percent of employees who disagreed or strongly disagreed. Based on this data, it appears that this may be the one area in which higher level leaders can have the most influence in their organization.
Conclusion: Leadership That Lasts Beyond a Lifetime
Leaders stay true to who they are—and then make sure they have the right people around them. Those who surround themselves with similar personalities will always be at a disadvantage in the long run to those who are secure enough in themselves to enlist partners with complementary strengths.
- Read the full book here (using our affiliate link)
- Which of the four Leadership Strength Domains are you strongest in? (Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, Strategic Thinking)
- Out of the four key qualities of influential leaders (trust, compassion, stability, and hope), which one are you strongest in? Which one are you weakest in?
Like many of you, I create a reading list for the upcoming year.
Before sharing my list, I want to remind you that reading is not about accomplishment. It’s not about quantity. As Charles Spurgeon once stated, “Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading.” I’d rather someone read, learn from, and apply the principles of 3 books rather than skimming 30.
So read to gain knowledge and insight. Read to learn a new skill or refine an existing strength. Read for pleasure and inspiration. Just make sure that whatever you read, you allow those books to benefit both your personal development and also add value to the lives of the people around you.
With that being said, here is my reading list for 2022…
- Concise Theology by J.I. Packer
- City of God by St. Augustine
- What Christians Really Believe and Why by Stanley Grenz
- Pensees by Pascal
- A Ready Defense by Josh McDowell
- Do You Believe? 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life by Paul David Tripp
- Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo
- Cribsheet by Emily Oster
- Parenting by Paul David Tripp
- The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
- Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley
- Talk like Ted by Carmine Gallo
- Secrets to Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis
- The Accidental Instructional Designer by Cammy Bean
- Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen
- e-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Clark
- e-Learning by Design by William Horton
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by J.R.R. Tolkien
- J.R.R. Tolkien: A Life Inspired by Wyatt North
- The Fellowship: The Literary Lives by Carol and Philip Zaleski
- A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte
- Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
- C.S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric, Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath
- Aesop’s Fables
- Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother LawrenceParenting by Paul David Tripp
What’s your reading list for 2022?
Send me a message and let me know which books you’re looking forward to reading this year (or maybe the books you’ve already read!).
I recently read Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink. One of my development plans this year is to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Willink knows a thing or two about mental toughness since he was a Navy Seal. I love that he doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t allow any room for us to make excuses.
If you are looking for a field manual to help you with both mental and physical toughness, I encourage you to read this book. You can purchase it here. (Affiliate Link)
Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading…
Part One: Thoughts
- We are the product of our mistakes…The most important thing to learn is that we have so much to learn…The most important thing to understand about regret is that in and of itself, regret is worthless. It does nothing for you. In fact: The only thing valuable in regret is the lesson you learned. (Page 51 · Location 545)
- How do I deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeats, or other disasters? I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with these situations, summed up in one word: “Good.” This is something that one of my direct subordinates, one of the guys who worked for me, a guy who became one of my best friends, pointed out. He would pull me aside with some major problem or some issue that was going on, and he’d say, “Boss, we’ve got this thing, this situation, and it’s going terribly wrong.” I would look at him and I’d say:“ Good.”…So I explained to him that when things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that will come from it…Oh, mission got canceled? Good. We can focus on another one. Didn’t get the new high-speed gear we wanted? Good. We can keep it simple. Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better. Didn’t get funded? Good. We own more of the company. Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good. Go out, gain more experience, and build a better resume. Got injured? Good. Needed a break from training. Got tapped out? Good. It’s better to tap out in training than to tap out on the street. Got beat? Good. We learned. Unexpected problems? Good. We have the opportunity to figure out a solution…Accept reality, but focus on the solution. (Page 60 · Location 664)
- Don’t worry about motivation. Motivation is fickle. It comes and goes. It is unreliable and when you are counting on motivation to get your goals accomplished—you will likely fall short. So. Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline. (Page 68 · Location 738)
- People ask me, “How are you doing?”…If I were to speak truthfully when people asked me how I was doing, I would tell them: “It doesn’t matter how I’m doing.” Because that’s the truth. It doesn’t matter if I feel good or bad or excited or bored or happy or sad. IT DOESN’T MATTER. I am going to do what I am supposed to do. (Page 105 · Location 1096)
- DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY…When you view things in your life from a long-term, strategic perspective, then absolutely: Do what makes you happy. The problem comes when people decide to let that ethos drive their daily life…These actions all result in short-term happiness. The problem is they all also result in long-term misery…Don’t do what makes you happy. Do what makes you better. (Page 107 · Location 1115)
- THE COUNT IS ZERO. Wake up with that attitude every day. You have to prove yourself all over again. You have to earn your seat at the table. You have to GET AFTER IT. (Page 111 · Location 1145)
Part Two: Actions
- By working out, you will increase your endorphins, testosterone, growth hormones, cardiac volume, insulin sensitivity, and natural killer cells. Those changes will help prevent or treat the following health issues: high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insomnia, and depression…Working out will make you smarter. Yes: Smarter. It improves blood flow to the brain. It boosts growth hormones that promote growth of new nerve cells. It improves synaptic plasticity, the ability for neurons to send and receive messages. It releases brain chemicals that help cognition, like: dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It also boosts the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps with mental processes. (Page 141 · Location 1422)
- Discipline begets discipline. Will propagates MORE WILL. (Page 148 · Location 1481)
- Everyone should train in martial arts, just as everyone should eat. (Page 166 · Location 1614)
Fuel: Feeding the Machine
- Fasting will recalibrate what hunger is to you. You will realize that you aren’t actually hungry most of the time. You are just bored. And, at the end of a fast, your food will taste better, too. (Page 201 · Location 1895)
Repair and Maintenance: Injury Prevention and Recovery
- My theory for overcoming injuries and illnesses is simple: DO WHAT YOU CAN…Take advantage of physical injuries and sickness by doing something you don’t normally have time for. (Page 207 · Location 1933)
The premise of this book is that being mentally and physically disciplined will lead to freedom. Freedom from anxiety, insecurity, and most importantly a self-defeating mindset. In which area do you need more discipline: mental or physical? After determining that, what is one thing you can start doing this week to increase your discipline in that area?
I recently read It Takes What It Takes: How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life by Trevor Moawad. One of my development plans is to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Moawad has been the mental coach for elite athletes such as Russel Wilson and championship teams like the University of Alabama Football Team.
If you are looking for a book to help you cultivate mental toughness, then I highly recommend this one. You can purchase it here.
Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading…
- Neutral thinking is a high-performance strategy that emphasizes judgment-free thinking, especially in crises and pressure situations…Neutral thinking shuns all attempts at illusion or outright self-delusion, which are often the foundation of other motivational systems. Neutral thinking strips away the bull and the biases, both external and internal. (Page 24 · Location 327)
- Staying in the moment, giving each moment its own history, and reacting to events as they unfold. It takes away emotion and replaces it with behaviors. Instead of asking, “How do I feel?” you should be asking yourself, “What do I do?” (Page 42 · Location 538)
- People aren’t defined by the past unless they choose to live there. (Page 60 · Location 726)
- Confidence is the belief that you can do what is demanded. (Page 63 · Location 767)
- Our choices ultimately determine our behaviors and those behaviors ultimately determine our outcomes. (Page 74 · Location 884)
- Reflect on your successes as much as on your failures. (Page 83 · Location 986)
- The human mind absorbs negativity seven times more easily than it absorbs positivity. We also know that language is the most powerful carrier of negativity. (Page 88 · Location 1036)
- Negativity affects you negatively 100 percent of the time. (Page 93 · Location 1094)
- Negativity, in any form that we choose to bring into our lives, is poison. (Page 114 · Location 1318)
- Words are tools, and they both predict and perpetuate performance. (Page 117 · Location 1351)
- Conscious competence is knowing how to do what you need to do when you need to do it and why you are doing it. (Page 175 · Location 1957)
- As tennis great Billie Jean King said, “pressure is a privilege.” (Page 180 · Location 2001)
- Average people become average by doing average shit. (Page 181 · Location 2014)
- You can’t confront people who don’t know they don’t know. (Page 200 · Location 2211)
- A role model is a heat seeker, not a heat deflector. (Page 228 · Location 2499)
- The late comedian Gracie Allen said to never place a period where God has placed a comma. The idea of living neutral is putting a comma at the end of an event—good or bad—and knowing that the next words will determine how the sentence continues. (Page 233 · Location 2559)
- I encourage you to pick up this book. You can purchase it here. (Affiliate Link)
- Select one of the quotes above and ask yourself, “How can I practically apply this to my life?”
I recently read Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. One of my development plans is to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Holiday does a great job of diagnosing some of the common mental obstacles and challenges that high-achievers face and gives practical, time-tested principles to manage our ego and ultimately get us out of the way of our own self.
If you are looking for a book to help you manage success and/or cope with failure, I highly recommend this book. You can purchase it here.
Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading (any emphases are my own)…
- Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego.
- For people with ambitions, talents, drives, and potential to fulfill, ego comes with the territory. Precisely what makes us so promising as thinkers, doers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, what drives us to the top of those fields, makes us vulnerable to this darker side of the psyche.
- The aim of that structure is simple: to help you suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline when we experience success, and to cultivate strength and fortitude so that when fate turns against you, you’re not wrecked by failure. In short, it will help us be:
- Humble in our aspirations
- Gracious in our success
- Resilient in our failures
PART I: ASPIRE
- So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.
- The power of being a student is not just that it is an extended period of instruction, it also places the ego and ambition in someone else’s hands.
- Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results.
- “The first product of self-knowledge is humility,” Flannery O’Connor once said. This is how we fight the ego, by really knowing ourselves. The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see?
PART II: SUCCESS
- Ego is a wicked sister of success.
- Sobriety, open-mindedness, organization, and purpose—these are the great stabilizers. They balance out the ego and pride that comes with achievement and recognition.
- A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of the limits of their power and reach.
- Ego needs honors in order to be validated. Confidence, on the other hand, is able to wait and focus on the task at hand regardless of external recognition.
- Creativity is a matter of receptiveness and recognition. This cannot happen if you’re convinced the world revolves around you.
PART III: FAILURE
- Ego loves this notion, the idea that something is “fair” or not. Psychologists call it narcissistic injury when we take personally totally indifferent and objective events.
- As Goethe once observed, the great failing is “to see yourself as more than you are and to value yourself at less than your true worth.”
- Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.“ That’s all there needs to be. Recognition and rewards—those are just extra. Rejection, that’s on them, not on us.
- Ego kills what we love.
- He who will do anything to avoid failure will almost certainly do something worthy of a failure. The only real failure is abandoning your principles…If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place.
- From the book: I want to conclude this book with the idea that has underpinned all of what you’ve just read. That it’s admirable to want to be better businessmen or businesswomen, better athletes, better conquerors. We should want to be better informed, better off financially . . . We should want, as I’ve said a few times in this book, to do great things. I know that I do. But no less impressive an accomplishment: being better people, being happier people, being balanced people, being content people, being humble and selfless people. Or better yet, all of these traits together. And what is most obvious but most ignored is that perfecting the personal regularly leads to success as a professional, but rarely the other way around.
Take some time to assess your ego. Which aspect of your life is your ego creeping into: aspirations, success, or failure? (Or if you are like me, you see your ego in each one of them.)
What is your ego telling you and how can you begin to combat it?