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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

The Confident Mind by Dr. Nate Zinsser

I finished this book in February 2022. I recommend this book 10/10.

If you are looking for ways to raise your confidence, this book will show you how. You can use the same techniques before your next presentation that sports stars use to stay calm and have the courage to demand the ball with 10 seconds left or on the clock.

Get your copy here

My notes and thoughts:

  • Most people only allow themselves to feel confident when good things are happening. Their inner state is contingent upon outside events, and thus they are trapped on a roller coaster—flying high when life is a bowl of cherries, and wallowing in the depths the rest of the time. If we are to build, maintain, and apply confidence in the real world of human performance, this common misunderstanding and several others equally ineffective must be put to rest.

  • "I'm a very modest person," Drew Brees told interviewer Steve Kroft on 60 minutes in 2010. "But I'm also extremely confident. And if you put me in the situation or in the moment, I'm gonna have some swagger, I'm gonna have some cockiness, and there's nothing I think I can't do." Brees clearly has both the internal, private confidence needed for success and the external, public modesty that puts people at ease.

  • Confidence:

    • A sense of certainty—that feeling of having complete faith

    • About your ability—that you can do something or that you know something

    • Which allows you to bypass conscious thought—so well you don't have to think about it

    • And execute unconsciously—so you perform it automatically and instinctively

  • That truth is this: confidence has relatively little to do with what actually happens to you, and pretty much everything to do with how you think about what happens to you.

  • Frankl recognized that confidence in the face of very real and life-threatening challenges was an ongoing process, that one's attitude was indeed a constantly changing running total of everything one thought. "Every day, every hour," he observed, "offered opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom.

  • Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

  • A small amount of perfectionism is absolutely required if you're going to develop your knowledge, skills, and fitness, just as small amounts of spice are required in most cooking recipes to give the meal some excitement. But too much perfectionism will derail your progress and ruin your life, just as too much spice ruins any meal.

  • Johnson replied, "Definitely, my heart was pounding. I was nervous." Then he added, "and when I'm nervous, I'm comfortable."

  • The way to minimize that frustration and set the stage for your First Victory is to understand that every minute of quality practice, every rep, drill, and practice session properly conducted, creates beneficial changes in your nervous system that ultimately, over time, bring about substantial improvements. Each of these changes is small, but they add up, and once they reach a certain critical mass, they result in a noticeable "aha" moment; your tennis serve suddenly becomes more accurate, your fluency with French more automatic, your sales pitch to clients more authentic.

  • "To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, enjoy the inevitable spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them. To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life."

  • One of the best features of your mental filter is that you have control over it. You can choose to let in the thoughts and memories that create energy, optimism, and enthusiasm or those that create fear, doubt, and worry. We all have a human ability called free will—the ability to choose the thoughts that make up our waking consciousness every passing minute.

  • Get a blank piece of paper, put "My Top Ten" at the top of the page, and write out a list of ten accomplishments in your chosen field.

  • By taking note of each day's highlights and allowing yourself to feel good about them, you subtly but powerfully encourage yourself to repeat the actions that produced that success and progress.

  • "I live happily in the awareness that I control my thoughts and therefore my destiny...I remain calm when confronted with a difficult situation...I catch any self-criticism and instantly throw it away."

  • "Imagery, or the stuff of the imagination, affects the body intimately on both seemingly mundane and profound levels. Memories of a lover's scent call forth the biology of emotion. The mental rehearsal of a sales presentation or a marathon race evokes muscular change and more: blood pressure goes up, brain waves change, and sweat glands become more active." In other words, your imagination is not some passive series of slide shows and movie clips, meaningless pictures that flash before your eyes then disappear with no consequence. Quite the opposite is true; your imagination, whether you realize it or not, is exerting a powerful influence on every system, organ, tissue, and cell in your body every time you use it.

  • Instead of berating the players for the poor quality of their execution, he stepped to the middle of the practice field and shouted, "We're better than this! I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm sure this isn't us."

  • You can change the way you look at bad events and protect your mental bank account by treating those inevitable bad events as temporary ("it's just this one time"), limited ("it's just in this one place"), and non-representative ("that's not the truth about me").

  • The "champions," on the other hand, hear those same voices as often and as loud as everyone else, but for them, each utterance of those voices is a signal that it's time to tighten their minds down and replace the attacking thoughts or voice with a helpful one. Just as courage is not the absence of fear bit the proper action in the presence of fear, confidence, as Lieutenant Colonel Anazagasty observed, is not the absence of Self-doubt but the ongoing resistance to it, the proper thinking in its presence.

  • The first of the two habits is the tendency to think that any mistake or setback is actually bringing you closer to success rather than keeping you away from it. The second habit is the tendency to think that once any success is achieved, it will continue and will make other successes possible. In the Shooter's Mentality, misses are indeed interpreted as temporary, limited and non-representative, but they are also seen as signals that a return to fortune is about to happen. Success, on the other hand, is interpreted as being permanent ("It's going to happen again") and as universal ("Now other good things are going to happen too)." If you are willing to cultivate these habits (and the will to do so is the only thing you need), you will have a thermonuclear psychological weapon on your side.

  • Please pause for a moment and consider what "uncertain situations" you face every day in your work, or your sports practice, or your professional life. Do you share Deion Sander's "It was meant to come to me" attitude about each of them? I counsel every athlete trying out for a team to think. That roster spot was meant for me! I counsel every athlete on a team to think, That spot on the starting lineup is MINE! And I counsel every starter on any team to think, That all-league or all-American award is MINE! Deion Sanders says, "I think that's the attitude a defensive back must-have." Dr. Zinsser says, "I think that's the attitude every athlete, every professional, and every performer must-have."

  • First Victory:

    • Remember what you want more of that alters your brain and body, so you'll get more of it.

    • Always be your own best (and most honest) friend.

    • Use both logic and creative fantasy to create your own reality.

    • The key is enough knowledge consistently applied.

    • Beliefs produce behavior, so confidence comes first.

    • Know thyself and trust thyself, for every competitor is human and beatable.

    • Above all else, play to win

  • Enter the arena with confidence:

    • Take stock of yourself—What's in your wallet.

    • Take stock of the situation—What, who, and where.

    • Decide that you are enough—Switch from save to spender, from workhorse to racehorse.

  • Once he's passed through the doorway into the operating room itself, he stops and hits pause, taking a moment to completely silence his very busy mind. Like most of us, McLaughlin wears many hats in his life. He's husband, a father, a youth wrestling coach, and the owner of a medical practice in addition to being a surgeon. Hitting the Pause is how he deliberately and intentionally puts all those other roles into their respective boxes so they won't become distractions during the challenging hours ahead. His Pause can take as little as thirty seconds or can last as long as five minutes, all depending on what's going on in his life on that particular day and how difficult the surgery he's about to perform might be. Standing just inside the operating room with eyes closed, hands at his side, the transition from preparation to performance begins.

  • Follow the SO rule and make statements instead, both to yourself and to the people around you who matter—"This is a great opportunity...You're gonna get it done today...We have a chance to do something great right now!." The SO rule applies to all of us even if we don't have a designated weekly "game day." Every day that Dr. McLaughlin enters an operating room is "game day." Every nightly patrol that Lieutenant Rob Swartwood leads his platoon into is a singular "game day" experience. Every time writer Steven Pressfield sits at his desk to write the day's pages, he is in "game day" mental gear, no longer planning or preparing but "performing."

  • Workday athletes are no different: working a "confident day" from start to finish, slugging through those endless messages in the in-box, or monitoring a floor of patients during a twelve-hour nursing shift calls for one little First Victory after another. The pre-shot routine or pre-engagement routine is like the combination of the padlock or the passcode of the cell phone. Dial the correctly or tap it incorrectly, and you're "in."

    • Step one: Cue Your Conviction - Affirmation card

    • Step two: Breathe Your Body

    • Step three: Attach Your Attention - Mental Checklist music

  • But controlling your thoughts and hence your attention is the essence of winning each First Victory. You can choose to take back that control one moment at a time, no matter what is going on around you. Where you put your attention onto thoughts about what might happen as a result of your actions or onto those actions themselves is a choice you make minute by minute and engagement by engagement. You can attach your attention and focus your senses only whatever you choose, onto whatever is most important or helpful at the moment. You can always win the next First Victory by following your own version of CBA before each rep of a practice drill, before each heat in the swim meet, and before each meeting throughout the workday.

  • The misconception is that the more "important" something is, the more careful, cautious, and "thoughtful" we should be while doing it. But as we have seen throughout this chapter, both the objective neuroscience of high performance and the subjective experience of people engaged in their own high-performance moments argue against that overabundance of thought and in favor of a task-focused state of informed instinctiveness, where you know what you're doing because you practiced enough, and you are relatively automatic or unconscious while doing it.

  • "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win."~Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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