Peak Performance

Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success

by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

Purchase the book here.

SECTION 1: The Growth Equation 


  1. The secret to sustainable success 
  • The following equation holds true regardless of what an individual is trying to grow: Stress + Rest = Growth 
  • The cycle of stress and rest is often referred to as Periodization.
  • Having the right balance is key (stress needs rest and rest supports stress); not having the right balance (either too much stress and not enough rest or not enough stress and too much rest) can lead an individual to get hurt or burn out or become complacent and plateau. 
  • For intellectual and creative development, spend time either pursuing your activity with ferocious intensity or engaging in complete restoration and recovery. 
  •  To avoid running out of energy, only take a few challenges at once. 
  1. Rethinking Stress 
  • Stress is not only harmful, but it can be positive by serving as a stimulus for growth and adaptation.
  • The effects of stress being positive or negative depend on the dose. 
  • Growth occurs at the point of resistance and skills built from struggle.  
  • The human mind is constituted of two types of thinking: System 1 (automatic/default; driven by instinct and intuition) and System 2 (thoughtful and analytical; effortful mental activities).
    • System 2 is activated when an individual is struggling, which results in true development.  
    • Best learning occurs when an individual has to work for it (developing a new skill requires effort as skills come from struggle). There are benefits of being challenged and even of failing; It provides a chance to learn, grow, and hone skills. 
    • Fail productivity: Avoid seeking support right away, allow yourself to struggle.  
  • Uncertainty can be a good thing as it signals the emergence of a growth opportunity. 
  1. Stress Yourself 
  • Experience does not make someone an expert. Rather the amount of deliberate practice an individual puts in.
    • “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
    • Perfect practice refers to seeking manageable challenges, setting goals that barely exceed your current capabilities, and deep concentration. (Top performers have their body and mind 100% when doing work).  
    • Quality trumps quantity: Do one thing at a time (Be a single-tasker) to ensure learning and growth. 
  • People are not addicted to winning, but they are addicted to the chase.
    • Similar to drug addiction, people are addicted to smartphones. They crave the hit of dopamine when they check notifications. 
    • The best way to prevent smartphone distraction is by removing it from your sight. (out of sight leads to out of mind)
  • A study shows that top performers across all fields are unable to sustain work and deep concentration for more than 2 hours
    •   For better performance, work in chunks of 50 to 90 minutes or even smaller separated by short breaks. 
  • Mindset is a powerful contributor to how we view stress and how we will respond to it.
    • “The way we think about the world has a profound effect on what we do in it” (The way individuals view stress depends on how stress influences us)
    • Challenge yourself to view stress productively for better performance and improved health. 
  1. The Paradox of Rest
  • Meditation and mindfulness are beneficial in the rest and relaxation part of rest and recovery.
    • When it comes to practicing mediation, frequency trumps duration. 
    • Try having “calm conversations” during stressful events. 
    • Mindfulness will help you to shift your focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about the stress; it helps you turn stress off and transition into a more restful state
  • Creative insight usually comes when our brains are at rest, such as on a walk or taking a shower. 
    • The subconscious mind always runs in the background. It’s only when people turn off the conscious mind and shift into a rest state, insights from the subconscious mind surface.
  • More stressful tasks need longer breaks.
  • Stop viewing rest as passive: When you frame rest as a resource for supporting growth and adaption, rest becomes productive.
  1. Rest Like the Best
  • Take a walk for at least 6 minutes to foster creativity and can help to overcome mental gridlock. 
  • A study shows that nature inherently makes people feel good, improves their mood, helps transitioning from stress to rest, and promotes creative thinking.(Put yourself in the way of beauty; be in nature) 
  • Feeling connected to others: Surround yourself with friends to alter your stress to rest. 
  • Sleep is productive: We do not miss out by sleeping, but we miss out by not sleeping
    • Aim for a minimum of 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.
  • Napping helps in restoring energy and focusing during mid day lulls (a strategy worth considering for long and intense days)
    • 10 to 30 minutes is good enough for a nap.
  • Hard work becomes smart and sustainable when it is supported by rest. 
  • Discount from work during both single-off days and extended vacations. 
  • Use this equation: Stress+Rest=Growth as a guide to help structure your days, weeks, and years. 


SECTION 2: Priming 

  1. Optimizing your routine 
  • Great performers not only hope they will be on top of their game, but they actively create the specific conditions that will elicit their personal best.
  • Performance can be improved by priming yourself into a positive mood before work, particularly when it includes problem solving and creative thinking. 
  • The work environment matters. Surround yourself with objects that invite your desired behavior. Your environment will enhance your productivity. 
  • Consistency is key: link your work to the same routine, and perhaps to the same environment, for better, more automatic performance.
  • Routines and environments can help individuals in expressing their talent. ( talent is based on “stress + rest = growth” equation)
  1. Minimalist to be a maximalist 
  • Being a minimalist is a prerequisite to be a maximalist.
  • We have limited energy, so devote it to things that really matter.
  • Identify your chronotype using tools (those who are more alert in the morning, called larks, and those who are more alert at night called owls)
    • For better performance and to ensure an appropriate balance between stress and rest, work in alignment with your chronotype. 
  • Around yourself with those who support, motivate, and challenge you. (positive energy, motivation, and drive are all contagious. Negativity and pessimism are also contagious. 
  • Great performers are not consistently great, but they are great at being consistent. 

SECTION 3: Purpose 

  1. Transcend your “self”
  • New realm of possibilities emerges when we transcend our self and minimize our ego. 
  • To overcome egos self-protecting mechanism, link your activities to a greater purpose.
  • Purpose promotes motivation. 
  • Giving back is a powerful antidote to burnout. 
  1. Develop your purpose
  • Create your purpose statement by using customized sentences of your core values

Photo by Clay Knight on Unsplash

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