Sunday, November 18, 2018

Book Review: 'Elite Minds' by Stan Beecham

If the mind is what the brain does, this is how and why it controls the body

In the title of this brief commentary, I make a distinction between the brain and the mind but agree with Stan Beecham: “Your brain is the software, your body the hardware. Simply put, your body does what your brain tells it to do or what your brain thinks your body is capable of doing.” This is what Henry Ford had in mind long ago when observing, “If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.” In this book’s first chapter, Beecham offers a superb briefing on the fundamentals of understanding the mind. More specifically, he pins down the major differences between the conscious and the subconscious mind.

So what?

“Typically, while we are keenly aware of what we think and feel (conscious), the majority of us have very little understanding of what we really believe about ourselves and the world around us (unconscious). And this is where performance shortcomings arise. What you believe about yourself and your world is the primary determinant of what you do and, ultimately, how well you do it.”

That last sentence is very important because it correctly indicates (a) why Beecham wrote this book and (b) why the information, insights, and counsel he provides could be of incalculable value to those who have not as yet fulfilled their potential.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Beecham’s coverage:

o Preparing the subconscious mind for success (Pages 16-17)
o Performance (23-28)
o Changing thoughts and behavior (25-29)
o Changing beliefs (25-29 and 129-133)
o Learning and un-learning (28-31)
o Self-deception and truth-telling (29-33)
o Better as hindrance to best (36-39)
o Beliefs and belief systems: self-fulfilling prophecy (43-45)
o Neurochemicals and flow/zone (49-50)
o Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (54-56)
o BPO mini-case study (63-67)
o Expectations and risk-taking (66-70)
o Creating shared belief systems (78-80)
o Success driven by failure (87-92)
o Doing your best vs. perfection (94-95)
o Correlation between effort and performance (105-106)
o Expectation of winning (130-133)
o The Buddhist monks living on Mount Hiei in Japan (155-162)
o St. Francis’ story (169-171)
o Army Special Forces (183-189)

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, we have a Farmer’s Market at which merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I now offer a few brief excerpts from Beecham’s lively narrative:

“It just so happens that what we think will happen, frequently does. It’s call the Self-Fulfilling Prophesy [which] states that the beliefs one has about the future can actually dictate behavior in the present, which in turn causes the predict to become true.” (Page 43)

“My friend and former priest, Paul Winton, once told a group of us, ‘Show me your checkbook and calendar, and I will tell you who you are.’ In other words, you can measure a person by how they spend their money and their time. I couldn’t agree more...[The high performance doctrine] says that the desire to use your timer more effectively leads to a better person. In other words, true desire leads to doing what leads to a better being.” (146-147)

“Fear is what keeps you from being fully motivated, passionate, and driven and setting big hairy-assed goals. If you had no fear, you would be motivated. [I presume to add, unless motivated by fear.] If you were fearless, you would be driven and running around with your hair on fire. If you weren’t scared, you would be taking over the world, and everyone else would be lined up behind you.” (175-176)

Winners such as Nadia Comaneci, Michael Jordan, and Sam Walton the book really did “think differently to create a competitive edge and maximize success.” One key point is that they and other peak performers always do their best and thereby improve during a relentless process. They became better because of factors – notably deliberate practice -- that Anders Ericsson thoroughly examines in Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt April 2016).

These are among Beecham’s concluding thoughts: “We think that those who have achieved greatness did so by their own hard work and dedication. That may be true but it is not the whole story. They were picked, and they decided to play along with whatever it is out there that does the picking. The people I have described in this book all got a call.”

Long ago, someone asked Henri Matisse if he painted all the time. “Oh no, no, of course not. But whenever my muse visits me, I better have a brush in my hand.” Who knows when a “call” will be made? Meanwhile, the focus on doing one’s best every time must be sustained. I agree with Stan Beecham: “Sometimes life gives you choices...other times you just have to. In a world full of people, there’s so few who can fly. I thank God for the few who dare to fly.”

In this context, I am again reminded of an ancient Chinese proverb: “The reason birds can fly and man cannot is that the bird has perfect faith. To have such faith is to have wings.”

Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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