Book Review: The Practice of Groundedness

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I bought The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds–Not Crushes–Your Soul by Brad Stulberg because I loved a book he wrote with Steve Magness, Peak Performance. I gave that book a top review and named it one of the top five books I read in 2018.

I expected a lot from The Practice of Groundedness. I think Brad Stulberg delivered.

In some ways, the new book is an attempt to compensate for problems in the beliefs behind Peak Performance. Stulberg puts it this way early in the book.

“I thought the recipe for success and happiness was to cultivate a fruitful passion and then use the principles of Peak Performance to channel it, to climb toward mastery.”

Living out those ideas had mixed results. Some people thrived. Others succumbed to a common condition in modern life. Stulberg names the problem “heroic individualism” which he describes as “an ongoing game of one-upmanship, against both yourself and others, paired with the limiting belief that measurable achievement is the only arbiter of success.”

Do you know some people who practice heroic individualism? How about you? I know that I have and that when I did, I wasn’t very happy, and I was only successful in one area of life. Everything else suffered.

Stulberg describes how he fell into the trap. He gives you a checklist (if you need one) to gauge whether you practice heroic individualism. Here’s why and how Stulberg says he wrote this book.

“Might there be a way to be more at ease and content, more solid and whole, and still perform to the utmost of your potential? To answer these questions, I looked to scientific research, ancient wisdom, and modern practice.”

I think he did a good job. Here’s a quick overview of the book.

The book is divided into two parts. Part One is “The Principles of Grounded Success.” There are seven chapters.

The first chapter is an introduction to the book. It describes Stulberg’s experience and his thinking leading up to the writing.

The next six chapters are each about a single principle of groundedness. Each chapter has a description of the principle, followed by a “practice” section that suggests ways you can live out the principle in your life. Here’s a list of the chapters.

Chapter 2: Accept Where You Are to Get Where You Want to Go

Chapter3: Be Present So You Can Own Your Attention and Energy

Chapter 4: Be Patient and You’ll Get There Faster

Chapter 5: Embrace Vulnerability to Develop Genuine Strength and Confidence

Chapter 6: Build Deep Community

Chapter 7: Move Your Body to Ground Your Mind

Part 2 is about living a grounded life. There are two chapters. Chapter 8 is From Principles to Action and Chapter 9 is Focus on the Process, Let the Outcomes Take Care of Themselves. A conclusion follows the two chapters.

Here’s where I have a quibble with the author. After advising us to choose simplicity over complexity in chapter 8, he says this.

“For each principle of groundedness, come up with one to three concrete actions that you can take to water it. Also come up with one to three concrete actions that it would be wise to stop. Think of each principle as a state of your inner being. Your job is to take an inventory of your everyday actions—your doing—and try to align them with your being. Be as simple and specific as possible.”

I disagree with that. I think if you try that you try to take on an enormous amount of change all at once. That rarely ends well. Here’s a better way.

Read chapters two through seven. Either skip the practice sections altogether or skim them if they help you understand the principle. After you’ve read the whole book and reflected on what you’ve learned, pick one area to work on. Read the practice section for that area. Then pick one area of practice to try. As you work on that one, you will probably discover ways to integrate other areas into your life.

In a Nutshell

The Practice of Groundedness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds–Not Crushes–Your Soul is an excellent book with tons of solid suggestions to improve your quality of life.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on GoodReads.


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