Friday, June 15, 2007

Book Review - In Pursuit of Excellence - Part II

This is the next part of the review of In Pursuit of Excellence: How to Win in Sport and Life Through Mental Training, Third Edition. In this posting I'll review part I of the book called Visions of excellence.

In chapter 1 we are introduced to the wheel of excellence:

  1. Commitment - sort of what we are doing with the team and ultimate at different levels. Summed up as do everything required to excel.
  2. Focused Connection - mind on the task at hand. means let go of everything else while you are in the activity.
  3. Confidence - to some degree belief that you will succeed and overcome obstacles. On a team you fear no opponent since you know we are or will be prepared for the challenge.
  4. Positive Image - speeds up achievement of your goals. Like a video game images and visualization allow you to perform without actually performing.
  5. Mental Readiness - getting the most out of your experiences.
  6. Distraction Control - maintaining a positive focus in while confronted with distractions
  7. Ongoing Learning - evaluating each experience and seeking more information to improve from.
Imagine a wheel where 1,2, and 3 are in the middle and are surrounded by 4,5,6, and 7. Why is there this arrangement? I'm not sure yet, but I'm sure they do it for a reason. These main parts of the wheel are included throughout the book.

Chapter 2 talks about why sport is such a popular activity and how it fits in to the meaning of life. Yes, I said meaning of life. Then in chapter 2 the author interviews Kerrin Lee Gartner on how she achieved success through the author's mental training. They talk about each part of the wheel and how it applies to her skiing and life in general. It's supposed to be a motivator and a practical view of the wheel and how it fits into an athletes life.

Pictured Above: The sequence on a Chris Lee catch (Goat) that two small passes later resulted in the win for Flowerbowl 2007 (sweet sequence of Photos Courtesy of Kirsten Taylor).

Section II is called commitment to excellence, and the main idea is that you need a reason to pursue excellence and you need to decide how committed you are to achieving the level that you want to attain.

Chapter 3 focuses on the commitment level you have to your goals. It talks about how two equal athletes in terms of potential can end up at very different levels mostly due to the commitment levels they are willing to give to the pursuit. A major part of this chapter discusses how NHL scouts and coaches look to pick players and what characteristics those players have.

Chapter 4 talks about focus. The chapter starts off using a cat chasing a mouse analogy where the cats focuses on the goal to the point of not noticing a car approaching. The cat and the mouse also don't worry about how they look or what will happen and instead are focused on achieving their goal. Similarly, in sport this focus is key (though not life and death). Focus, however, does not just happen and needs to be practiced. They provide a few guidelines on how to focus.

Chapter 5 reviews the concept of goals. First off you need a meaningful long term goal. Next, is how to achieve that goal. The book reinforces the concept of taking small steps to achieve big things. They state that everyday you should have some small goal that you try to achieve to build towards the bigger goals.

Finally, chapter 6 is about a positive mindset. This is a small chapter that claims that a positive mindset that means relaxed, content, and excited is better to achieve goals and perform well compared to one that is anxious, worried, and angry.

So, that concludes a brief review of section I and II. There are lots of good points that are connected to specific real world cases. I'll review section III and IV next week.