In this book review:
- 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, by Amy Morin.
- How We Learn, by Benedict Carey.
- The Golden Rules, by Bob Bowman.
What the book is about
This book was written by Amy Morin. Amy is a licensed social worker and psychotherapist who rose to fame after a blog post she wrote about mental strength became viral.
She wrote this book from her perspective as someone who had to deal with the loss of 2 people very close to her, and also drew from her experience as a social worker and therapist, working with young people who have also suffered losses.
In this book, she outlines the 13 "key strengths" she believes people should develop to cope of life's hardships.
If you've been to any of my talks or watched any of my videos or even read any of my blog posts, you would have noticed one clear trend: I am a big fan of TOOLS which we can use to advance our lives and reach a higher level of performance.
In the world of high performance, tools can be psychological techniques and processes we can utilize to change our perspective of a bad event, or a bad experience. They can be used to break out of a vicious circle of negativity. They can be used to break bad habits and build new ones, etc...
I dedicate the majority of my time to researching and testing these tools.
In my personal opinion, this book falls short on providing the reader with any practical tools.
In fact, I would even characterize the book as "frustrating", because the "13 things" she advocates people should do to become mentally strong are very "abstract" and 99% of the time would NOT be in one's own control, ESPECIALLY when in the middle of dealing with a painful personal situation.
The majority of the tools are things like "mentally strong people don't waste time feeling sorry for themselves", or "they don't give away their power", or "they don't focus on things they can't control".
I mean, really??? Don't you think people facing problems ALREADY KNOW that? What they need is someone to teach them the TOOLS to effect that change. If you don't provide people with tools, you'll actually be beating them down, because you've just given them 13 MORE things they can't accomplish!
THAT, my dear reader, is why I rate this book a 1/5: I see it more as a source of frustration and potentially further negativity for people seeking help to get out of a negative mental loop.
I think I've said enough!
What the book is about
What if everything we've been taught about learning since our days in elementary school was wrong?
Do you remember the materials you studied for at university by "cramming" for 24hrs straight just before the exam? Why is it that you may remember more concepts learned in school than in university?
This book explores all the different aspects of learning: the way we were taught to learn, as well as alternative ways studied by psychologists, and which lead to a superior level of learning: the kind of learning which creates superhuman memories, the ability to retain information for years, etc.
In this book, Benedict Carey looks at a variety of aspects relating to learning, including how to manipulate our environment to learn better, which "study frequency" is best for long-term memory retention, how to manipulate our physiology (body/brain) to strengthen our memory and much much more.
By contrast with the previous book I reviewed here (13 Things), this book is absolutely brilliant because it approaches things from a completely opposite direction:
- It tells you HOW the brain works.
- It provides you with a variety of TOOLS you can use to boost your learning & memory abilities.
- It provides you with real-life examples and case studies of HOW you can use those tools.
Even while I was STILL reading this book, I was ALREADY implementing some of those tools and concepts and I've found them to be powerful and effective.
I'm a big fan of books about the science and methodologies of "learning".
As a species, we have evolved tremendously over the past few decades, but the "way we learn" has hardly changed.
We are busier than ever, and distracted by our environment more than ever.
Finding new innovative techniques to learn quicker, more efficiently, and (most importantly) to be able to retain information for a long time can elevate our lives to unprecedented levels.
I've put this book on my VERY short list of "to read again". Need I say more? :-)
What the book is about
Bob Bowman is probably the most successful Olympics coach in history: he's mostly known as Michael Phelps' coach since the 5x Olympian's early teenage years.
As you may be aware, a coach working with an athlete from such a young age and uninterrupted for 17 years is much more than just a coach teaching people who to swim faster: he becomes a mentor, a father-like figure... someone who gets involved in every aspect of his/her athlete's life.
Today, Bob Bowman is also the official coach for the US Olympics Swim team for Rio 2016. He's coaching Phelps of course, but in addition he's coaching the rest of the team including many swimmers (male and female) who have trained with him for a decade or more.
He's had to deal with mental breakdown, depression, lack of self-confidence, major disappointments, and the tempers of teenagers, both male and female.
This book brings together Bob's 10 top rules to succeed in all aspects of life, drawn from his work as a swim coach for almost 30 years.
Those rules are relevant as much in the boardroom or a start-up as they are on the pool deck.
Any elite-level coach worth his/her salt can develop skills in the "technical" aspects of coaching.
It takes much more to keep an athlete focused and motivated for a goal that is 4 years away, especially when the athlete is a teenager who can't see beyond 1 month down the road. It takes a lot of planning, goading, adjusting, and more.
As someone who strongly believe in the power of long-term planning, goal visualization, motivation, etc., I wholeheartedly agree with every single one of those 10 rules (and numerous "sub-rules") in this book.
They are the kind of "top 10 rules" you would want to write down and stick to your fridge or your bathroom mirror for a "gut check" every morning.
So why only 3/5? Well because for the most part, I found those rules to be, well, "just rules". You're probably aware of them already, but this book acts as a concise reminder for them.
But once again, I felt that this is yet another book that falls somewhat short on providing the reader with the "tools" to implement those rules.
It's nowhere near as bad as the previous book I reviewed here (13 Things), because it does provide SOME examples on how to implement those rules, but it's not really a "how to" guide to transformation.
I am still recommending that you read this book (it's a short/quick read).
It is always fascinating to look into the mind of someone this successful and for such a number of years (this will be the 5th Olympics for Phelps, that's 20 years of elite-level success).
And as I mentioned earlier, these rules are the kind you would post on your bathroom mirror: but to get the full benefit of the comprehension and the power behind these rules, you would want to read them first (and also read the examples of how he implemented them in both sports and life).