The Winning Mindset - Notes

5 step process for a winning mindset based on the authors work with and observations of high performing sports coaches.

5 Steps, Simplicity, Thinking, emotional intelligence, practical and storytelling (STEPS)

Jose Mourinho – guided discovery, coaching through questions that help people makes insights for themselves. Psychologically different and more powerful than telling people what to do.

Dislocation of expectation. Susan Boyle is so memorable precisely because she was the opposite of what was expected.

Old boxing maxim, ‘A fight is never won on the way to the ring, but it can be lost.’

Allodoxaphobia – the fear of being ridiculed by others.

Courage = to speak your mind with all your heart


What is the core of the message – in order to be as simple as possible.

Michelangelo story welcomes a stranger to his studio and shows him a great uncut block of marble from which he intends to carve a lion. Where do you begin asks the stranger. Its very simple replies Michelangelo I just pick up my hammer and chisel and knock of all the bits that don’t look like a lion.

Simple ideas are preferred by our brains to complex ideas we preference simplicity over complexity.

John Wooden’s coaching was exhaustively analysed by 2 educational psychologists they coded over 2,326 acts of teaching. 6.9% were compliments, 6.6% expressed displeasure. 75% were pure information. Very often this came as a 3 part instruction showing them the right way the wrong way and the right way again.

Small incremental improvement and the critical value of repletion (habit forming) repetition is key to learning.

Journalists are taught to write in an inverted pyramid format – originally because of the risk that a wire transfer would be interrupted or cut short. 1st sentence the lead has the most essential elements of the story. Information then appears in decreasing order of importance. Hemingway ‘Writing is architecture, not interior decoration.’

‘Great coaching is not about how many balls you can throw. It is understanding how many your team can catch.’

Struggle is to wrestle priorities out of complexity.

Alex Ferguson’s ability to offer succinct advice was arguably his greatest skill.

Jurgen Grobler has revolutionized British rowing with his relentless focus on a guiding question – will it make the boat go faster?


‘I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think’. Socrates

Think about your best and worst performance – what percentage of the difference is mental?

Arguably the success of GB cycling has really been about getting the athletes to think.

Braislford’s culture was defined with the acronym CORE standing for:





Athletes were Kings and Queens with many specialist advisors but in order to function in that role they have to take responsibility. They are empowered with autonomy and respect but clear consequences if they don’t perform – they have all the tools so no excuses.

How do we get people thinking and then keep them thinking?

Tips based on how our brains shift and focus attention.

Break the pattern. George Loewenstein behavioural economist at Carnegie Mellon – curiosity happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge

P95 Word list / gap exercise proves the point about what catches our interest.

The trick to convincing people they need our message is to highlight some specific knowledge they’re missing.

Rosser Reeves a US advertising agent – protagonist in one of the most famous stories in advertising.

Reeves and his colleague one afternoon were having lunch in central park on the way back they encountered a man begging for money. He had a cup and a cardboard sign that said I AM BLIND. Reeves bet his colleague he could dramatically increase the amount the man would receive by simply adding 4 words. He was given permission to do this and they sat back to see what happened and sure enough the money flowed into the mans cup. The 4 words he added? It is springtime and so the sign now read It is springtime and I am blind.

Lesson = how good are your tripwires in getting people to think?

David Lee Roth Brown M&M’s clause in Van Halens stadium contracts was designed to check the contract was being read and adhered to.

Example of a French Rugby Team that provided a form for players to apply for their selection it had questions around what kind of team member they would be how they would respond to a crisis and how they liked feedback. Very helpful for guiding players toward taking responsibility and allowed a more individual response to each player.

Mistakes are good struggle makes you smarter – the obstacle is the way.

Encourage fallibility in leaders – easier for others to be transparent when leaders set the tone by example.


Cus D’Amato Mike Tyson’s trainer had very strong focus on the mental aspects of the sport. Have to control fear or it will run like wildfire.

University of Virginia Psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book the Happiness Hypothesis uses the model of an elephant and a rider to describe the relationship between the emotional and rational parts of the brain – the rider thinks he is in control – but probably not as much as he believes!

To build a winning mindset you need to be able to distinguish between the elephant and the rider (who is 5 times smaller and weaker).

The essential difference between reason and emotion is that emotion leads to action and reason leads to conclusions. (Neurologist Donald Calne)

‘All learning has an emotional base’ – Plato

Michael Phelps coach Bob Bowmen originally a child psychologist trained him from age 8 often used to though him curve balls changing times disrupting routines – training him to contain his elephant. WIN – what is important now?

To teach you have to be able to contain, entertain and explain.

Brain is designed and optimized for survival – its default is what is in it for me.

In English there are 558 words that describe emotions. 62% of them are negative versus 38% referring to positive feelings.

Positive vs negative solution finding example questions on page 175.

Positive illusions – only 2% of middle managers believe their leadership skills are below average. 25% believe they are in the top 1% in their ability to get on with others.

Emotion drives action – effective change therefore needs an emotional trigger.

Positive emotion seems an anomaly from an evolutionary point of view – what is the point? Research hypothesises that it engenders curiosity, play and learning.

Importance of fun. Whenever researches ask children what they want in a teacher 2 things always come up – consistency and a sense of humour.

Von Restorff effect named after psychiatrist and paediatrician Hedwig von Restorff = galvanizing effect on motivation and memory. In an incident where something unexpected occurs the brain appears to snapshot the immediate before and after .

Practical vs abstract. Practical language helps us understand abstraction confuses.

The difference between a novice and an expert is the ability to think abstractly. Less is more. Explain as if to a 6 year old.

Power of stories based on research of Gary Klein a psychologist studying decision-making in high stress environments.

Visualization / mental practice in general will produce around 2/3rd of the benefits of actual physical practice. Stories are like flight simulators for the brain. A review of 35 studies with 3214 participants shows mental practice / rehearsal improves performance significantly.