Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg, Steve Magness

3 Bullet Book: 2020, book #44: “It’s isn’t experience that sets top performers apart but the amount of deliberate practice.” — Brad Stulberg, Steve Magness

Finished on July 2, 2020

This book was one that I had in my wish list on Audible for quite a while. I decided that it was time to really dive in and understand what the authors were going to be focusing on here. The authors emphasized not only what good work looks like but also what is required to ensure that we are working under optimal conditions. There are numerous things that different people do, some like to go hiking, some read, some watch movies, and some do something completely different that helps them stay focused on the task at hand and overall mission. Whatever it is, one of the core ideas for me was that we all need a combination of stress and rest — that’s how we empower ourselves to create optimal growth levels.

The 3 Bullets

1. One of the most important parts of this book was the emphasis on deliberate work and deliberate effort. Brad and Steve wrote, “It’s isn’t experience that sets top performers apart but the amount of deliberate practice.”

2. The author spoke a lot about intentionality. They continually reiterated the importance of designing our days around what is most important to operate at the highest level and get the most out of ourselves. Being able to operate at 80–90% every single day is much more valuable than being able to operate at 100% one day and 40% for the next three days. If we really want to experience success, what we need to do is narrow in on what is important to us and set ourselves up for continuous pursuit of our goals every day.

3. The final main standout point was that of blue light. People talk about blue light a lot and for a lot of different reasons. But this author emphasized some important research and data — our internal clocks can shift by as much as 6 time zones! All because of blue light. Do you get affected by jet lag? (I don’t so I don’t know what it’s like really) but I know it hits a lot of people hard. Can you imagine living every day as if you’ve got jet lag? That’s what lots of people do when they continually expose themselves to blue light. Why do people continually do something they know isn’t good for them? Lack of intentionality. It’s just like anything else: decide, commit, execute, repeat.

The typical workweek in America is actually 47 hours, not 40. Most Americans are skipping lunch or working through it. Over a quarter of Americans are also doing some work between 10pm-6am and on weekends. They also leave 5 vacation days unused at the end of the year.

It’s no surprise that people are experiencing burn out. Studies have shown over 50% of medical residents meet the criteria for burnout; 30% of teachers also meet the criteria.

Stress + rest = growth

A common process amongst almost all great creative and intellectual performers regardless of their field:

1. Immersion: complete engagement in their work with unwavering focus.

2. A period of rest and recovery when they are not at all thinking about their work.

3. Insight: the occurrence of aha or eureka moments. The emergence of new thoughts or growth in their thinking.

The best learning occurs when we really have to work for it. The biggest gains come after periods of intense stress or struggle. Stress needs to be viewed as positive and powerful if you want to succeed in everything you do.

“It’s isn’t experience that sets top performers apart but the amount of deliberate practice.”

Maintaining the physical, cognitive, and emotional energy required for peak performance is best possible when working in blocks of 50–90 minutes of intense work followed by 7–20 minutes of recovery breaks.

Blue light has been shown to throw off our internal clocks and shift our internal clocks by up to 6 time zones.

The growth equation: stress + rest = growth

Great performers leave nothing to chance rather than engineer particular states of mind and body. They design each and every day to get the most out of themselves.

You can only become a maximalist by becoming a minimalist, we must understand that we have limited energy. The key to becoming a minimalist is making a routine out of just about everything that is not core to your mission. This way you move directly from the conscious deliberation to the action without expending energy — thereby cheating fatigue and saving energy for what really matters to you.

Burnout is intimately linked to our fight or flight stress response. After a prolonged period of too much stress, our flight trigger kicks in, urging us to flee from whatever it is that is causing the stress. One solution is “giving back to get back.” This way you are directly reminded of your lasting impact.

I gave this book a 4.5/5

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