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Book Review: Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance by Dr. Jason Selk

What do you want for yourself in the near future? To move up to Regional Vice President of Sales? To launch a successful startup and kill the competition? To be earning a seven-figure salary?

Go ahead and dream, because it’s going to happen if you want it to.

According to leading performance trainer and Dr. Jason Selk, we can meet any goal we set for ourselves if we rigorously and relentlessly apply the 10 fundamentals of Executive Toughness. In his new book, Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance (McGraw-Hill, 2012), Dr. Selk presents a new version of his famous 10-step Mental Toughness program for athletes, this time adapted for leaders and businesspeople.

A thought leader in human performance and goal achievement, Dr. Selk is known throughout the sports world as the man who helped turn around the fortunes of the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2006, when he was hired as their first Director of Mental Training, Dr. Selk showed these ballplayers that there’s more to winning than physical skill, mechanics, and teamwork. Winning comes from the mind. He trained them to develop a goal-achieving mindset using his 10-step Mental Toughness program. That year the Cards went on to win their first World Series in 20 years; they nailed it again in 2011 under Dr. Selk’s tutelage.

Now he travels the world teaching Fortune 500 and 100 executives how to use the same mental training techniques to sharpen their focus, become smarter and more productive, significantly improve their leadership effectiveness, and outperform their competition.

This book is terrific because the 10 Mental Toughness fundamentals can be used to achieve any ambitious goal, including health and fitness goals: losing 25 pounds, running a marathon, or quitting smoking, for example. Dr. Selk’s unwavering upbeat attitude is exactly what you want in a trainer who is going to help you change your life. To quote him, “The fundamentals presented in this book have worked for every one of my clients who has made the commitment to using them over the past 15 years. When I say every client, I don’t mean most clients. I literally mean every client.”

Well, okay. I’m sold. That was on page XV of the book’s preface, and it got me motivated enough to tear through the rest of the book in about two hours to learn his secrets. I was riveted by the idea of training one’s mind in order to shape one’s future. I’ve read plenty of New Age self-help books that have a similar message (the old chestnut that anyone can “manifest” abundance, a soulmate, or well-being, for example). But it was refreshing to hear variations of this message from a man’s perspective — a man who is no stranger to pumped-up, sweaty, testosterone-infused locker room giants, superhuman Olympic medalists, and world record holders.

One of Dr. Selk’s techniques is to create a 30-second “self-image video” in your mind, which enables you to “see” yourself in your new life, complete with details of what that life feels like and exactly what you do every day, and with whom. Replaying this video every day in your mind begins to shape that very future by creating an intention that your brain naturally follows. This may seem woo-woo to some, but it’s exactly what the Olympic diver does in the seconds before she makes that perfect 10 dive. In fact, athletes were doing “visualization” long before Oprah and her ilk made it mainstream.

Dr. Selk says all exceptional performers and highly successful people possess three traits in common: accountability, focus, and optimism. His 10 Mental Toughness fundamentals help you develop and strengthen these three traits with ingenious habit-creating and behavioral change techniques, daily drills and tasks, and the100-Second Mental Workout, performed every day. This latter item is a real gift to readers. It’s impossible to use the excuse that you don’t have 100 spare seconds a day to do this mental training exercise. I won’t divulge what it is, but when you buy the book, you’ll have this nifty, motivational, behavior-changing trick to use for the rest of your life.

If you were to walk away with only one big idea from this book, it’s that you can’t achieve goals by focusing on the problem. You have to focus on the solution, and more specifically, the process that will help you get there. Once you set an ambitious goal, you then identify the top three tasks, or process goals, to finish every day that will best help you achieve your big. By doing the three process goals every single day, you will reach your goal. Makes sense.

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.