4 Lessons from Peak Performance | Brad Stulberg & Steve Magness

The Surprising Secrets to Step Up Your Game

Jack Yang
4 min readJul 3, 2020
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with New Science of Success

Overall Impression

A sweet book that focuses on three aspects of better performance, both athletically and mentally, that are often overlooked: rest, ritual, purpose. The book looks into the three keys to take your game to the next level through scientific evidence and anecdotes from high performers. When I first pick up this book, I thought it is going to be another one of those self-help books that are full of cliche. I was pleasantly surprised that this book actually contains a lot of useful, science-back information that I could apply to my work routine. This book becomes especially relevant during a time when people are increasingly being burnout from work.

Score: 4/5

Recommendation: For people who feel stressed out or need a little boost in productivity


1. Stress + Rest = Growth

This is one of key takeaways from this book is that you can combine stress and rest to work for you.

Contrary to popular belief, stress isn’t necessarily a curse. Just like bodybuilding, you have to stress your body a moderate amount in order to gain muscle. Too little and you won’t see any progress. Too much and you might hurt yourself. The same theory applies to your work. You should stress yourself with a manageable challenge and, by tackling it, you would gain valuable skills as a result. When under stress, see it as an opportunity for growth instead of as a source of pain. With that being said, rest is still extremely important.

Even though modern society encourages “nonstop grinding”, rest also plays a crucial role in self-growth. During resting, our body switches to recovery mode and our mind works in the background to generate creative solutions. Therefore, plan your vacations and breaks according to your work. Make sure to have plenty of rest following an extended period of stressful work.

2. To Be a Maximalist, Be a Minimalist

Why does Zuckerberg wear the same outfit every day? Because he is removing any unnecessary distractions from his daily life, hence the heading of this paragraph. Making decisions take away some of our mental energy. When we make too many unnecessary decisions on a daily basis, we would not have enough energy reserved for our primary activity, whether it is our work or something else. Therefore, we should simplify our lives by eliminating options and so we don’t have to waste our resources on trivial tasks.

3. Prime Yourself for Better Performance

Great athletes or performers usually have a pre-performance ritual that they follow religiously. For NBA players, it might be running around the court or pull up on the rim. For singers, it might be some jumping jacks or vocal warmups. They have these rituals because they prime their mental state with those actions. In other words, they get into the “zone” once they perform the ritual. This technique doesn’t only apply to athletes or singers but also to mental tasks. For instance, have a before-work ritual, whether that's cold-pressing a cup of coffee or organizing your desk, to situate your mind into the peak performance mindset. In addition, researchers found a positive mood plays an important role in boosting performance. Make sure you practice the ritual every time before you dive into your work, as the saying goes “consistency is the enemy of fear.”

4. Find Your Purpose

When faced with great difficulty, people often stumble due to the limitation of physical strength or mental energy. However, research has found that such limitations are often illusions created by the mind to protect oneself from injury. In order to overcome this mental restriction, we should remind ourselves of our core value and aim for a purpose that is greater than ourselves. The book contains a worksheet for finding your purpose, which I found very helpful. Usually, purposes should be based on how you can help others in a way that aligns with your personal values. For instance, a good purpose is “I want to help children to receive the best education possible”. A bad purpose might be “I want to be a billionaire” because it is too self-oriented and does not necessarily reflect your core value, except that you probably love money. Having a personal purpose puts you in a positive feedback loop: purpose brings you motivation, motivation brings effort, effort leads to better performance, better performance reinforces your belief in your purpose. Such a loop pushes marathon runners to finish up the last mile, encourages a critically ill patient to survive, and helps you to achieve your goal.