Tag Archives: Sports

The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance by George Mumford


  1. George Mumford had to hit rock bottom before he was willing to gain mindfulness and change his ways. This book can help other athletes, or anybody really, achieve mindfulness and become a more calm and fulfilled person. 

Key Takeaways 

  1. Life is only available in the present moment. This is the central tenet in Buddhism 
  2. The five ancient superpowers are
    1. Faith
    2. Diligence
    3. Mindfulness
    4. Concentration
    5. Insight.
    6. These are the author’s spin on the Noble 8-Fold Path. These five are nonlinear. They are a multiplicative series (not an additive one) and if you take one away the rest fall apart
  3. Mindfulness helps us reach our peak potential and be our best selves
  4. Dr. J (Julius Irving) was a mindful athlete. He was a great team player, always adapted to the context and situation at hand, was kind and helpful, and always supportive of others – making everyone on the team better for his presence
  5. The only way out is always through
  6. George grew up in a really tough neighborhood with an abusive father and it caused him to seek refuge through drugs. It took him until he fell on his face and was desperate to find other means of dealing with his emotional damage
  7. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid and doors and people will open that you could never have imagined
  8. Problems cannot be solved with the same consciousness that caused them. You have to raise it to truly solve it
  9. Between stimulus and response is a space. In that space is where you can choose your reaction and this is where growth comes up. This is where mindfulness training helps as you can go back to your calm, still center rather than simply reacting
  10. Mindfulness training helps you observe yourself, your emotions, your thoughts, your behaviors. Without attachment, you can see things as they truly are and not simply how you see or feel about them
  11. Intention is incredibly important. It gives you the right type of energy and motivation to push through and succeed. Attention always follows intention and you have to put out into the universe what you want to receive. Keep listening to yourself, your body, your thoughts, your emotions, but deeply listening to others is as important of a skill. It helps in finding your intention and in helping others
  12. Deliberate practice is important to master anything and mindfulness helps you observe the frustrations and deal with the setbacks that come along in any journey
  13. Mindfulness helps you step up and thrive and enjoy the pressure rather than succumbing to it
  14. Insight and mindfulness are the best stress relievers in that it helps you get to the root cause of the stress rather than treating surface issues
  15. You are not your mistakes and when you gain mindfulness, you can gain that separation much more easily. Then you can use failure as a great way to learn and improve rather than using it to talk yourself down and de-motivate yourself
  16. Some sort of suffering is necessary to achieving maximum personal growth
  17. Masters are able to attain and keep a sense of wonder and curiosity even in the most pressure filled moments. This gives them freedom, energy, and flow to perform at their highest level
  18. Force and brute effort is very rarely the answer. In fact, it can hinder your progress and skill. Imagine Bruce Lee’s spiritual warrior where you flow like water rather than tensing up and simply trying harder. You must recognize, do away with, and avoid unwholesome qualities and cultivate and sustain wholesome qualities such as peace, loving kindness, empathy, and compassion. That is right effort
  19. Every aspect of our lives is deeply intertwined and feeds upon every other area of your life. You cannot be seeking mastery in one area and be a deviant in others and expect to transcend. Knowing this and honoring this in every thought, action, and arena of your life is what leads to an awakened existence
  20. The best teams are inwardly focused in the sense that they are optimizing for flow and optimal cooperation rather than simply beating the other team. It is a “we” mindset rather than a “me” mindset and one that is focused on growth rather than outcome. Right effort heightens energy rather than detracts from it – it allows you to be present and to become one with those who are working with you on the task at hand
  21. Flow or being in the zone can be summarized as being intensely focused while slightly not caring
  22. Filling yourself with love and awareness removes space for distractions, negativity, and noise. This is the space you want to get into to be mindful athlete

What I got out of it

  1. Great real world applications centered on athletes and athletics but these are lessons anyone can employ. Be in the moment, playful, don’t put too much stress on yourself to perform, enjoy the process rather than just the outcome

The Captain Class: The Driving Force Behind the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker


  1. Sam Walker does an in depth analysis of the best sports teams in history and comes to the somewhat surprising conclusion that the overriding factor in each team’s sustained dominance was their captain. 

Key Takeaways 

  1. In a great team, the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. The teams can go “all-in” and trust each other which lead to non-linear outcomes
  2. The captains serve as glue, uniting the team to reach greater heights than they otherwise would. A competent leader is one of the rarest commodities on earth and we are hard wired to seek it out and follow it 
  3. Individual commitment for group success 
  4. The teams studied:
    1. The Collingwood Magpies (Australian rules football)
    2. The New York Yankees (MLB)
    3. Hungary’s International Men’s Soccer Team
    4. The Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
    5. The Boston Celtics (NBA)
    6. Brazil’s International Men’s Soccer Team
    7. The Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)
    8. The Soviet Union’s International Men’s Hockey Team
    9. The New Zealand All Blacks (Rugby, 1986-1990)
    10. Cuba’s International Women’s Volleyball Team
    11. Australia’s International Women’s Field Hockey Team
    12. The United States’ International Women’s Soccer Team
    13. The San Antonio Spurs (NBA)
    14. The New England Patriots (NFL)
    15. Barcelona’s Professional Men’s Soccer Team
    16. France’s International Men’s Handball Team
    17. The New Zealand All Blacks (Rugby, 2011-2015)
  5. The captains exhibited qualities one would not typically associate with the stereotypical “captain”
    1. They lack superstar talent. In fact, clusters of talent did not correlate to better teams. The superstars knew they wouldn’t be captains and the captains knew they wouldn’t be superstars 
    2. Weren’t fond of the spotlight 
    3. They didn’t lead in the traditional sense – they were subservient to superstars and often didn’t take the “big shot”
    4. They were not angels – they played to the edge of the rules, sometimes berating opponents and even teammates in order to win
    5. They did potentially divisive things 
    6. They weren’t the usual suspects (Jordan, Jeter, etc.). They preferred to lead from the shadows 
  6. Barcelona is an outlier in spending as most of the Tier 1 teams were most dominant when they were relatively poor. Lavish spending gets you more wins but not necessarily more titles 
  7. Management and ownership is important but also not purely correlated to the greatest teams in history 
  8. Despite the three national championships and the endless accolades he received as one of the leagues best defensive ends, Willie Davis always played as if he was just above the cut line. The Green Bay packers always played as if they were clamoring for recognition 
  9. Coaching was not responsible for this success either. There was no correlation between the coach, their strategy, tactics, temperament, or anything else 
  10. It was a secret for nearly 40 years why Bill Russell never accepted his hall of fame stature but recently he revealed why. He thought of the award as an individual achievement when he wanted his career remembered as a symbol of team play. He was solely focused on internal culture and how many titles they won. He needed no recognition and in fact actively dismissed it. His atypical leadership style was not often connected to the atypical success the team had. All great captains shared this. Their seemingly erratic behavior brought their teams closer together and got them to play better 
  11. 7 traits of elite captains 
    1. Extreme doggedness and focus in the heat of competition 
    2. Aggressive play which tests the limits of the rules 
    3. A willingness to do thankless jobs in the shadows 
    4. Motivates others with passionate nonverbal displays 
    5. Ironclad emotional control 
    6. A low key, practical, and democratic communication style
    7. Strong convictions and the courage to stand apart 
  12. Tim Duncan is another elite example and his humility and how low key he was was a big part of his success. By lowering himself, he was able to coax the most out of his teammates. He was a “functional leader”, willing to do whatever was needed in order to win, even carrying water 
  13. The easiest way to lead is to serve 
  14. The best teams communicate enthusiastically outside of formal and competitive environments and talking time is doled out evenly. Most captains communicate little with the public but talk a lot with their team and foster constant communication. 
  15. These leaders are charismatic connectors – having energized and focused conversations, listening more than they talk, talking to everyone, and communicate well (and constantly) with words but even more so with their nonverbal cues. Styles differentiate but they’re all energetic, find styles that work for them and work on understanding their team and how to best approach each person
  16. Mirror neurons prove that mind and physical connections are contagious and the best leaders can infect their team with their enthusiasm, work ethic, confidence, etc 
  17. Some disagreement is good and the best captains protect their teammates and stand up to coaches and management when needed. Leaders must operate on the margin of what the team likes and wants rather than at the center of the collective consensus – often putting them in the middle of heated and difficult arguments. This type of positive dissent takes courage and was hugely important. Truth is more important than tranquility when told by a captain who protects his team and avoids personal attacks. It was never driven out of ego but for the desire to win 
  18. Emotional resilience and extreme emotional control is extremely important for overcoming adversity 
  19. We are programmed to respond to strong, steadfast, courageous and generous leaders 
  20. An Israeli study of decorated war vets lead to a leadership formula. Leadership = potential x motivation x development
  21. None of the great captains were named leaders early on. They were given a chance to study others and prove themselves 
  22. People actually get more power by slightly underplaying their skill – humility 
  23. Famous vs heroes – do something because others will approve vs doing something because it is the right thing to do
  24. Avoid a posture culture where people posture for the leadership position but rather one where the leader is chosen due to his ability to “carry water”, support others, have courage, and lead others, doing whatever it takes to get it right even if, especially if, it’s disapproved of by others 
  25. Great leaders do not need to be glamorous. They only need a solid idea of what success looks like and a road to get there. They do not need publicity and in fact often give the impression that they’re not worthy of leading at all 

What I got out of it

  1. “Extremes in outcome – both good and bad – often instruct best.” – Charlie Munger. Sam Walker appreciates this and his deep dive into the best teams brings about some fascinating insights on elite captain’s traits and some of their counterintuitive aspects 

Legacy by James Kerr

  1. The author describes some of the history of the New Zealand All Blacks and some of their habits, rituals and cultural traits that have lead to their incredible success
Key Takeaways
  1. The First 15: Lessons in Leadership
    1. Sweep the sheds – never be too big to do the small things
    2. Go for the gap – when you’re on top of your game, change your game
    3. Play with purpose – ask why, take nothing for granted and make no assumptions
    4. Pass the ball – leaders create leaders
    5. Create a learning environment – leaders are teachers
    6. No dickheads – follow the spearhead
    7. Embrace expectations – aim for the highest cloud
    8. Train to win – practice under pressure
    9. Keep a blue head – control your attention
    10. Know thyself – Only by knowing yourself can you become a great leader
    11. Sacrifice – find something you would die for and give your life to it
    12. Invent a language – the most cohesive teams have their own jargon
    13. Ritualize to actualize – rituals help reinforce and align key beliefs
    14. Be a good ancestor – plant trees you’ll never see, think longer-term than anybody else
    15. Write your legacy – this is your time
  2. When an opposing team faces the New Zealand All Blacks doing the haka, they know they are facing more than 15 individuals but a culture and identity and one of the most cohesive group working towards a collective purpose they have ever encountered
  3. The challenge is to always improve. Always get better. Even when you are the best. Especially when you are the best
  4. The team cleans up after themselves when they travel as it reinforces self discipline, humility and the fact that they take care of themselves, they don’t rely on anybody else.
  5. Character triumphs over talent. Winning takes talent. To repeat it takes character.
  6. Focus on getting the culture right and the results will take care of themselves
  7. A key competitive advantage of the All Blacks is to manage their culture by attaching the players’ meaning to a higher purpose
  8. Humility allows one to ask difficult questions such as “how can we do this better?” And reach results which might be uncomfortable
  9. Leaders create leaders by passing on ownership and responsibility
  10. Leaders must be prepared to change even when, and maybe especially when, they are at the pinnacle of their game. The goal of the leader is to know when one needs to reinvent oneself
  11. Leaders must enable mastery through the culture and environments they create
  12. The “non essential critical” are the dozens of small things which seem inconsequential but collectively can make all the difference
  13. True focus is saying no to everything except to what will help you achieve your main goal
  14. Leaders are teachers. Your legacy is what you teach others
  15. The first step in learning is silence. The second step is listening
  16. Constant repetition of affirmation is important to reach any goal. The story you tell yourself about your life eventually becomes your life
  17. If you expect the best, more often than not you seem to get it
  18. Train to win. Practice under pressure and practice more than you ever play. The competition should seem easy in some ways compared to how you practice. No matter what you do, it’s either reps or mileage. There are no shortcuts and nobody can ever do it for you
  19. Knowing how to act under pressure is key. It is the result of a long term mental training program. Many want to be successful but few are truly willing to put in the work
  20. Being aware of how you feel when you’re in flow and confident and when you’re tight and nervous can help you switch out of pressure and into flow
  21. Better people make better All Blacks – someone who is a genuinely good person has a better chance at becoming great than someone who isn’t
  22. Know thyself is wisdom as old as written human history. Development of authentic self is the essence of a great leader
  23. Champions do more than seems necessary to most people
  24. Language is an incredibly important part of a great culture as it helps to sufficiently and explicitly align people’s culture with that of the organization. Shrewd leaders create a unique language as cultural shorthand expressed via mottos, mantras, phrases and metaphors. Proper use of language becomes pure oxygen to a team and aids in communication of the vision and cultural norms
  25. The ability to draw a metaphor is a mark of genius as it exhibits an ability to draw connections that are often overlooked or ignored
  26. A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they will never see. Be a great ancestor
  27. Leave the jersey (or company, team, organization) in a better place than when you arrived
  28. Service is the rent you pay while here on earth
  29. “Be more concerned with your character that your reputation for your character is who you truly are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” –  John wooden
  30. The best example a great leader can set is the way he lives his own life
  31. Let someone else praise your virtues
  32. The ability of the person is reflected in the questions they ask
  33. Look for a leader who can bring people together
What I got out of it
  1. Some great, universal principles into how to achieve a great culture leading to sustainable and outsized performance

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

  1. Ultimate guide to Bill Walsh’s leadership principles. Told by his son through the perspective of 5 key pillars – Joe Montana, John McVay (director of football operations), Mike White (assistant at UC Berkeley and briefly at SF), Bill McPherson, Randy Cross (SF defensive lineman)
Key Takeaways
  1. Do all the right things and the score will take care of itself
  2. Bill wanted to attain perfection and one of his strengths was showing his team it was possible and the road to get there. His technical knowledge and attention to detail are legendary, brought in the best staff possible, taught everyone to hate mistakes
  3. Extremely demanding but quiet about it. Was extremely self assured but not cocky. Bill’s thinking and approach was always ahead of the curve and enlightened
  4. Most big things are simple in the specific, much less so in the general. Bill was a genius in making the complex comprehensible, the comprehensible achievable
  5. Bill was incredibly respectful to everybody on his staff
  6. Bill loved lists and believed it was a roadmap to his success
  7. What he loved more than anything was finding a great talent and teaching him how to reach his full potential
  8. There is no formula for success, no absolutes. But there are many things which can increase the probabilities of success (PIPER)
  9. Failure an integral part of success. Getting through this and knowing how to recover gives mental strength and confidence. Expect defeat, force yourself to move forward, allow yourself time to grieve, know you will stand again, begin planning no matter how small to succeed. No matter what, don’t blame others
  10. His process called the standard of performance. Planning, precision, poise. Do everything at the higher level and the outcome will take care of yourself
  11. An organization is a conscious and organic entity which needs to be consciously cultured. Follows your philosophy – what needs to be done, when and why. Primary focus always on the process and continual improvement
  12. Was a stickler for details and “trivial” details which add up to the overall image and performance. Culture always precedes results
  13. Most valued characteristics – Functional intelligence, talent, character, eagerness to adopt standard of performance, ability to work with others
  14. Winners act like winners before they’re winners
  15. All people want to feel like they’re part of something special
  16. Always be open to serendipitous moments and chance happenings. The best are better at turning lemons into lemonade. The west coast offense came out of a botched play (series of short passes to confuse the defense)
  17. Success doesn’t care how you get there (don’t be rigid and closed to innovation, be bold and remove fear of the unknown, desperation should not drive innovation, be obsessive in looking for the upside in the downside
  18. Few things offer better ROI than praise, giving credit where credit is due
  19. Vital to have plans for both situations when things are going well and poorly. First to script many plays before hand. ask self “what would you do if…”
  20. Leaders must be decisive once they have made up their mind. No good answer as to how to know when have made the wrong decision
  21. Leaders – believe can make a positive difference, Be themselves and the best version of it, committed to excellence, positive, prepared, detail oriented, organized (especially how you spend your time), accountable, able to zoom in while still seeing big picture, fair and ethical, firm on values, flexible to new situations, believe in themselves, be a leader (where you’re going and how to get there)
  22. Good details to fret about – patience, delegating, continuous improvement
  23. Great organizations are self sustaining and self perfecting. This is a prime role of the leader
  24. The leader has expertise and must have a hard edge beneath it all even if it isn’t often shown
  25. Joe Montana was not your typical alpha male leader. Above anything he lead by example and never had a sense of entitlement
  26. Bring out the most in people by treating people like people, seek positive relationships with all, afford everyone equal respect, blend honesty and diplomacy, allow for a wide range of moods, avoid pleading with players, make each person aware their wellbeing a great importance, avoid VIP treatment, speak well of former employees, treat families well, first name basis, don’t let animosity linger
  27. Good communication and lack of boundaries between different ranks is very important
  28. Find incredible mentors who will teach you and encourage you
  29. Mastery a continuous process of remastery. In fact, it is never attainable. A process rather than destination
  30. Argues that having a big ego (pride, self confidence) is necessary but egotism (arrogance) is to be avoided at all costs
  31. The bottom 20% of your team often decides victories (backups, customer service representatives). Make sure they understand they will have a big role to ply at some point and to be ready for it
  32. Few things inspire like hearing “I believe in you”
  33. Leaders must be acutely aware of pushing their team when necessary but also when to let off
  34. Bill had a no enemies policy for himself and the 49ers. One enemy can do more harm than 100 friends
  35. Wanted to create a unique and welcoming environment so disallowed hazing and it was expected that veterans would help train their replacements
  36. Like attracts like. Bill always aimed for character in his coaches and players
  37. Treating people right the core of sustainable success. Treat all fairly, find what a person does best and let them loose, set up most effective environment possible, acknowledge uniqueness of each employee, most talented people often strong minded and must deal with as appropriate, if good of group and individual not aligned must explain why, lay out duties and expectations very clearly, expectations must be high but attainable, interactions must be understood so no territorial feelings get hurt
  38. Those who perform best are those who best remove tension, anxiety and fear. Get in the zone
  39. Don’t underestimate or overuse humor as a pressure valve under serious stress
  40. A pretty package cannot sell a poor product
  41. Tips – don’t isolate yourself, create a network of smart and trusted individuals, delegate abundantly, avoid temptation to equate self worth with winning,
What I got out of it
  1. Awesome read. These books on leadership and coaching have been very influential for me this year (Holtz, Wooden, etc.)

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown


  1. Brown tells the story of the Washington crew team who overcame great odds in order to win gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin
Key Takeaways
  1. Joe Rantz had a rough childhood outside Seattle with an unhappy mother who accidentally dropped scalding bacon grease on her other son and disliked farm life. Soon after Joe’s parents abandoned him and he learned to never depend on anyone else for his happiness. Joe used his difficult childhood to toughen himself up and used this to his advantage during his grueling crew training at the University of Washington
  2. Joe never felt secure with himself or his surroundings and could never let up. This fostered a deep work ethic and insecurity which propelled him to great heights
  3. The regatta at Poughkeepsie was one of the largest sporting events in the world in the 1930s drawing hundreds of thousands of people with millions more listening on the radio
  4. The eastern Ivy League schools dominated for a while but soon Stanford and Washington could compete with the freshman boat with Joe on it dominated the field
  5. Context – Great Depression, dust bowls, famine, FDR is president, Nazi Germany growing in power
  6. On parents leaving him – I didn’t get angry because it takes too much energy to be angry and it eats you up inside. I need all the energy I can get
  7. Had great rivalry with Cal and some Ivy’s but in 1936 Washigton swept nationals and got the bid to go to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin
  8. The propaganda machine in Germany did an amazing job and the world didn’t know how dire the situation was there until some months or years after the olympics
  9. Although faced with a bad pole and a very poor start, the crew of 9 fought through the odds and came back to beat the Italians and the Germans in an extremely close race to win gold at that years olympics
  10. Joe found that in the middle of the race he knew he could not give any more of himself physically. The only thing he could do was believe in his boys with the entirety of his being. This was the first time in his life he truly trusted someone and would help shape the rest of his life
What I got out of it
  1. Beautiful and inspiring novel about boys overcoming themselves and outside adversity in order to row as one and win the biggest competition in the world

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

  1. Incredible and inspiring book. Caballo Banco (Michael Randall Hickman), the Tarahumara indians, Jen SheltonBonehead Billy, Barefoot Ted, and more are detailed in this book in relation to their ultramarathon adventures. Our ancestors were persistence hunters who could outlast any animal in the world. We are the ultimate long-distance running machine and the shoes and other technology often simply throw us off and injure us in the long run.
Key Takeaways
  1. We do not need fancy running shoes. The foot is perfect!
  2. Some incredibly courageous stories about a “different” breed of people who run just for fun and in the badlands. No publicity, no real money, just the thrill and the freedom to run 100+ miles.
  3. Humans are the most sophisticated running machine evolution has come up with. We sweat as the main way to cool down instead of just breathing so we can run more efficiently. Can go longer than any animal. There is even a 50 mile race between man and horse in Arizona and the human wins
  4. Running technique:
    • Knees high, toe down, short strides, feet land directly beneath you, heels flip back
    • Forearm parallel to the ground and pumping like Rock ’em Sock ’em robots. You are the only bi-ped without a tail and the arms provide stabilization
    • In slow motion foot looks like a swan landing on water, with toes splayed.
      • Pronation is good – meaning you land on the outside of your foot and rotation ends on your big toe. This is a mild twist that provides shock absorption.
    • Your ligaments and tendons act like springs, use them right and you will run more efficiently
    • Children are natural runners.
  5. Running tools and recommendations
    1. Evolution Running
    2. Chi Running
    3. Pose Method Running
    4. Vibram 5 Finger
    5. Run with a 180 beat metronome
    6. Supplements –  chia seeds, garlic, ginger
What I got out of it
  1. Had no idea our ancestors relied so heavily on persistence hunting and simply out running their prey. While I don’t think I am one of those people who loves running 100+ miles for fun (I haven’t tried yet so you never know…), it is amazing what these people are capable of

The Sports Gene by David Epstein


  1. A very intriguing book which describes real-world situations meant to bring into the light the very old old question of nature vs. nurture. The athletes he covers such as Michael Phelps, Serena Williams and Usain Bolt are extremely successful in their sports but are they natural athletic “freaks” or are they simply athletic people who have honed their skills to the highest level?
Key Takeaways
  1. Certain segments of the population have genetic advantages because of their ancestry. For example, more hemoglobin lets some train and recover faster, have better bodies and proportioned limbs for their sport, etc.
    • Just because people have those advantages does not mean they will be great, simply that they could have the tools to reach greatness
  2. Alaskan mamulets that run the Iditatarod are in fact a completely new breed. They train and are able to get in shape while training. No need to stop and recover. Unbelievable
  3. Average mile run time for the average student at St. Patrick’s high school in Kenya is around 5:30. The population in this area is extremely gifted naturally for this sport
  4. Stefan Holm is a Swedish high jumper who had trained his whole life and in this book is compared to Donald Thomas who trained for about a year and won the World Championships. Thomas had an unusually elastic achilles tendon which catapulted him like few others could. Great example of the natural talents some have.
  5. Best athletes don’t really have better reaction times, they can take extremely small amounts of data and make very educated guesses. Albert Pujols can predict almost exactly where the pitch is going to be as it is leaving the pitcher’s hand. However, when Jenny Finch, a gold medalist women’s softball pitcher, pitched at him he could not hit a single ball. It’s not that she was necessarily a better pitcher, he just did not have a data set to predict where her pitches were going to be. Alex Rodriguez would not step up to the plate against her for fear of being embarrassed
  6. 17% of men 7ft or taller are in the NBA. NBA players have much longer arms than the general population, with black NBA players having even longer arms
  7. Yao Ming was bred to be a great basketball player. His mom and dad were the tallest people in China and were both on the national team and were “brought together” to have Yao
  8. MLB player’s visual acuity is close to the theoretical limit of human eyesight
What I got out of it
  1. While some people definitely have genetic predispositions which give them natural advantages over others, it still takes incredible determination and commitment to turn these skills world-class. It is somewhat frustrating though to hear how in one year Thomas was able to beat Holm in the high jump. Holm was solely dedicated to this sport for his entire life but still could not match Thomas’ natural skills.