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The Legends Club

John Feinstein's The Legends Club looks at three great basketball coaches, Dean Smith , Jimmy Valvano and Coach K, and the great rivalry they shared.  It's entertaining and definitely worth your time. All these coaches are obviously successful and the book is filled with insights about their methods, their successes and their trials, as well as their character. 

A couple anecdotes that popped out that I had not heard before.

The first is a great recruiting gem.  Dean Smith used to write notes to recruits after they chose another school. The notes were congratulatory and gracious. He was a gracious person. But the interesting thing was the dividends it paid off in Carolina's recruiting.

Smith also wrote to recruits he had ardently pursued who decided not to go to North Carolina, to wish them luck. It was an act of extreme grace--most coaches will tell you they'd rather not hear the name of a player who turns them down ever again--but it also paid dividends. I can'…
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The Great Work of Your Life

I am loving this book. When I finish it I think I will turn around and read it again.

The essential questions it is asks:  What is your gift?  How will you fulfill it?

"Krishna teaches Arjuna that our gifts are sva dharma--literally, one's own dharma. Yoga sages later went on to teach sva dharma, your own dharma, is equivalent to sva bhava, your own being. These gifts are somehow close to the center of who we are.

As kids, Randy and i almost knew this. The go-cart and the piano were doorways into our own true natures. Full of infinite potential. They were possibility itself.

I say almost knew it, because we only knew it energetically--in the secret and ineffable places kids know these things.  But this energetic knowing, this connection to the aliveness of the gift, is a very tender plant, as fragile as any unrooted sprout.

Don't get me wrong; The gift itself is indestructible. Fire cannot burn it, Krishna teaches. But the connection to the gift? The trust in the gift? The fai…

Quick thoughts on an Interview about Mindfullness

This process requires perseverance. You need to train again and again. You can’t learn to play tennis by holding a racket for a few minutes every few months. With meditation, the effort is aimed at developing not a physical skill but an inner enrichment. This quote is from an interesting interview in the Atlantic about the intersection of buddhism and neuroscience.   It also intersects with my reading of other experts on learning.

You have to train at anything, including meditating, to become proficient at it.

The book referenced, which I have not yet read, is Beyond the Self.

The interview also intrigues me after listening to an On Being interview with Ellen Langer.  She also highlighted mindfulness, but had a different definition.

As I recall from the podcast she did not think it required a meditation practice, but rather training yourself to notice the changes occurring around us all the time.

Just notice the change around you. See what's really happening.  Langer spoke as …

Peak Performance

Two of my favorites to follow on twitter are author Brad Stulberg (@bstulberg) and coach and author Steve Magness (@stevemagness).  So, when I saw they had co-authored a book --Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout and Thrive with the New Science of Success-- I bought it.

I enjoyed this book.  It covers a lot of ground, which makes it a good resource to direct further reading. 

The book focuses on the central question, can we excel in our work, art or sport and still maintain some balance in our lives?

Can someone use the science of performance to achieve results, but also manage to avoid burning out?

This is an important question.

As you go deeper into the book another large question starts to emerge.

Can you change your mindset or opinions about stress in such a way that you can promote growth and health?

The authors work to connect the research on performance from multiple fields in order to bring new and richer insights to each individual domain.  Their stated goal i…

Churchill and Orwell

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."  George Orwell, Animal Farm

"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."               --Winston Churchill

I just finished reading--well actually listening to--Tom Ricks' biography of two greats, the politician Winston Churchill and the writer George Orwell, as I walk each day. The book, Churchill and Orwell The Fight for Freedom, has been an interesting listen each day.  It has been a timely reminder that the confusion and chaos that exists around us right now has historical precedent.

Both men took a long road to the moment in history where their excellence emerged.  They were each independent thinkers, steeped in both knowledge and experience. They each relished action. And, by that I don't simply mean war, but involvement in the issues that dominated their time. They were critics of both the left and the right and neither fits into a …

Why Guess When You Can Know?

"Why guess When you can know?"

A great question embedded within a wonderful little book entitled How to Support a Champion, The Art of of Applying Science to the Elite Athlete written by Steve Ingham.  The book focuses in on the different processes and techniques he employed in the course of working as a sports physiologist with  series of elite athletes in different competitive fields.

The stories are entertaining and the insights are sometimes subtle but rich.

Some key points that will stick with me:

1. Continue to make all that we do as coaches athlete-centered. It is really their journey and their competition. Put the team first, or the individual competitor, and take a step back when it's time to compete.  Let it be about them.

2. Coaching staffs are teams too and need to work well together. This matters on multiple levels. For one, it's a good model of team for your team. Everybody playing his or her role well and accepting his or her role is crucial.  Also, …

Notes on Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

I just got back from a great quick trip to Chicago. I was there for an informal education session with a consulting firm I work with a few times a year.  A few of us shared notes, ideas and presentations we had heard or read over the past few months.

I shared my notes from a recent Anders Ericcson lecture I attended. Creating presentations always helps to deepen my understanding of a topic. Much of what I shared overlaps with what is in the outstanding book Peak.  (I'll list those notes below.)

There was one section of the book that was not covered with depth in the lecture, but seemed particularly interesting and important to me. This was his section on "mental representations."

This section matters for two reasons:

First,  the actual idea of mental representations, which he introduces and credits as one one of the key differences between peak performers and the rest of us.

(Much of the book discusses how someone becomes a peak performer or an expert. This is covered w…