My favorite books on performance

The topic of resources on top performance in sports and other professions came up in a recent conversation I had at lunch. I thought it was a good idea to share here some my favorite books on performance psychology and top performance.

The Pressure Principle. Dave Alred was the personal kicking and performance coach of Jonny Wilkinson, the English rugby player who helped the English team won the 2003 World Cup, and is the current performance coach of Molinari, the Italian golfer who won the British Open and some other big tournaments recently. I tremendously liked the part about moving from an expectation of fear to an expectation of achievement.

Winners. Alastair Campbell writes engagingly, has experience on winning at the highest political level with Tony Blair, and wrote a great collection of biographies of winners discussing how to win.

The Mental Game of Baseball. All books by Dorfman are brilliantly written, sprinkled with anecdotes and a tough-love approach to solving problems, and are generally applicable (I never played baseball myself). He was the first performance psychologist in baseball.

Finding your Zone. I re-read religiously the chapter on Eric Heiden every year, it changed my perspective on how to face challenges.

With Winning in Mind. Lanny Bassham was an Olympic winner in rifle shooting. Very interesting his idea of self-image growing not in sync with abilities eventually limiting performance.

Zen in the Martial Arts. Hyams was a journalist and a Bruce Lee’s student when he was teaching privates in LA in the 70s. A terrific short read which is broadly applicable.

Speed Trap. It is sold as a book about the famous 1988 Seoul scandal of Ben Johnson’s doping, but it is much more about the development of top performers by Charlie Francis, a great mind and a great coach. 

Finally, an article that every once in a while makes the rounds of the internet: The Mundanity of Excellence. Brilliant read, but it underestimates the genetic components of performance and success.