My bookcase has 27 books with insights on the mental game of baseball. Those books are the best of the best; others were given to Goodwill. Mind Gym will increase my number to 28; it’s worth reading!
One lesson is know your numbers, which was about the athlete being aware of his body and its’ characteristics when performance is optimal. Applying that to myself, I am aware of how I feel when my desire to write is on fire, like it is now.
The book encourages the reader to ask countless questions about themselves. Asking questions is a big part of improving, both for players and for managers/coaches. Mike Hazen said everyday he asks himself how he can improve the Diamondbacks.
Similar to building muscles with physical exercise, I hoped the book would help me build a stronger mind with mental exercises. And I was not disappointed, but I had to read the book to find the mind exercises. The mind exercises flow within the text. I made a list of 20 exercises (with page numbers) to help me find them when needed.
One of the book’s great ideas was for the reader to create an imaginary retreat to think about situations and prepare for challenges. The reason it is a great idea is it can result in thinking ahead; one of my biggest life lessons is that thinking ahead is a rare and valuable skill in this world. Nevertheless, the book talked about looking backward to gain self-awareness of how the reader reacted in the past.
If I’ve made the book sound difficult – it’s not. The book is easy to read. It’s fair to say that reading as few as 5 pages anywhere in the book gives the reader a valuable insight. It includes lessons from great athletes.
One especially enjoyable part was an abbreviated story about Randy Johnson. In May of 2000, in the top of the second inning, after Damian Miller and Danny Klassen hit back-to-back homers, the Padres pitcher might have been getting even when his pitch hit Randy Johnson on the arm. Certainly, Randy Johnson was angry. Instead of exploding with that anger, he channeled that energy. He struck out 2 batters in each of the next three innings. Later, in the eighth inning, he hit an RBI single which added an insurance run. He pitched the complete game. The Diamondbacks won 5-3. Details added from Baseball Reference.
And as an optimist, another favorite part of the book was his three rules for changing pessimism into optimism. Although my view of optimism differs from his, nevertheless I liked his rules. How I see his three rules:
- When I lose or have a setback, it is temporary instead of permanent.
- When I have problems, they are specific to one area so I don’t let it impact my attitudes in other areas.
- When I win, it’s because we played well, when I lose it’s because they were lucky.
One highlight was when the book talked about gremlins, which are self-defeating thoughts and actions. As he pointed out, we all have gremlins. My view is many of the gremlins cannot be permanently vanquished – they sneak back resulting in never-ending battles. Awareness of when gremlins return is an important step towards optimal performance. The book deals specifically with ten gremlins, but it’s up to the reader to find where in the book. His gremlins:
- Anger, although it can be channeled for good per the Randy Johnson story.
- Self-consciousness with a focus on image instead of task.
- Perfectionism if the player is self-condemning for each mistake on his journey to being the best.
- Stubbornness, unwilling to learn or change.
- Lack of motivation to be the best.
- Low competitiveness, lack of effort and work.
- Allowing distractions or embracing conflicting lifestyles.
- Lack of persistence, an absence of optimism.
Some ideas in Mind Gym are worthy of exploring in greater depth. Perhaps the book could be better with an appendix with references for in-depth exploration.
One section of the book was on mental toughness. I wanted more depth on that topic. One step in that direction was in an animated youtube video, Mind Gym Book Summary & Review by Janis. Mental toughness is important in baseball because successful players must persevere through setbacks/losses, physical and mental bruises, and injuries.
Thinking ahead, I imagine that Mind Gym will become a timeless classic, similar to the book As a Man Thinketh.