Book Review: Peak Performance

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I admit it. I’m a sucker for books on productivity and improving performance. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve looked for ways to improve my own productivity and performance. I’m not an athlete. I’m an author, ghostwriter, and book writing coach. My purpose is to help other people discover and create great business books. That’s what I want to be fit for, and productive at.

I don’t know how many books on improving performance and productivity I’ve read over the years, but I’m sure it’s over 100. As a result, when I read a new book, I’m not looking for some grand secret that no one has yet discovered. I’m looking for a fresh presentation of some things that I already know. I’m also looking for a tip or two about how I can change my behavior to do better. Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with The New Science of Success delivers on both of those.

The authors introduce themselves and the book by telling the story of how they both achieved significant levels of performance and success early in life, then had that all come apart. They made their first connection online and shared their individual stories with each other. Here’s how they describe what happened next.

“What started out as a two-person support group morphed into a close friendship, followed upon a shared interest in the science of performance. We became curious: Is healthy, sustainable peak performance possible? If so, how? What’s the secret? What, if any, are the principles underlying great performance? How can people like us – which is to say just about anyone – adopt them?”

Here’s the core truth that this book builds on.

“The key to strengthening your biceps – and, as we’ll learn, any muscle, be it physical, cognitive, or emotional – is balancing the right amount of stress with the right amount of rest. Stress + rest + growth. This equation holds true regardless of what it is that you’re trying to grow.”

That’s not new. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz wrote an excellent book about that basic principle almost 20 years ago. The title is The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.

Stulberg and Magness build on that core truth in the three sections of their book. Section one is about the growth equation. Section two is what they call “priming” and discusses optimizing your routine. The third section is about developing and living out your purpose.

What makes this book different is contained in one of the quotes above. The authors aren’t just after peak performance. Lots of people write books about that. They’re after “healthy, sustainable peak performance.” That difference from other books is important and significant and why I thought this was a great book.

This is the kind of book that repays reading straight through. Sure, you can jump around from topic to topic, but the organization is perfect for a straight-through read.

Every few pages, the authors summarize their key points in a section called “Performance Practices.” This is great for helpful review. They even go further by putting a recap of all the performance practices toward the end of the book.

In A Nutshell

If you’re looking for solid advice on improving your performance at anything in a healthy and sustainable way, Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with The New Science of Success is the book for you. It’s well-researched and well-written.

Bonus: If you would like to see some of my highlights and notes, check out my review of this book on GoodReads.

Reading Suggestions

Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg


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