Overachievement Book Nuggets


imageThis post is an index of my book nuggets from the book Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More, by John Eliot, Ph.D .

Book nuggets are simply my key takeaways from the book, including key principles, patterns, and practices.

Overachievement is a book focused on exceptional performance in work and life.

Dr. Eliot draws from his real-world coaching of Olympic athletes, surgeons, actors, salespeople, and superstars in other fields.  He also draws from cutting-edge research in cognitive neuroscience.

Book Nuggets from Overachievement

Here are my book nuggets from Overachievement so far:

  • Confidence is Knowing and Going – Confidence is about having a vision and executing against it.  According to Eliot, confidence is knowing and going.
  • Design a Routine for Exceptional Thinking – Do you have a routine for getting into your best mindset?  Exceptional thinking is when you’re in the moment.  You’re fully focused on the task at hand.  You’re not practicing.  You’re performing.
  • Getting Out of a Slump – Getting out of the slump involves stop focusing on what can go wrong, focus on what to do right, and take action.
  • Use Qualitative Feedback to Improve Your Performance – How can you systematically improve your performance?  Create your own feedback system.  The key is to focus on the quality of your work and the quality of your thinking.
  • Sharpen Your Focus One Pitch at a Time – Focus on one pitch at a time.  It’s not about reducing your workload and having less to do.  In fact, Eliot writes that you can use the chaos of your day to build exceptional focus.  Find the simplest, most specific, most immediate task to narrow your focus.
  • Positive Action Over Positive Thinking – Great performers use positive action over positive thinking to produce great results.  Great performance is not about repeating mantras to yourself.  But if you do fall off track, it’s about reminding yourself to get back on the horse.
  • Build Real and Durable Confidence from the Inside Out – Don’t build your confidence from your track record.  That’s fragile.  Base it on things you control, such as your mindset and your actions.
  • Stay Motivated Through Healthy and Sustainable Commitments – How do you stay motivated?  How do you keep a sustainable pace?  Do you passionately take on challenges or do you try to do just enough to get by?  To produce great results, you need a healthy commitment.  A healthy commitment is performance-enhancing, while an unhealthy commitment drains you.
  • Your Best Performance Happens in the Trusting Mindset – Great performers just step up and do what they’re great at.  They don’t focus on the results. Great performers trust their skills. The Training Mindset is when you analyze your performance.  Exceptional performance is about simply performing.
  • Use Stress to Be Your Best – Stress is your body’s response and anxiety is your cognitive response.  The most common assumption is that if you feel stressed, you need to learn how relax.  The counterintuitive point is that it’s the anxiety that’s throwing you off your game.  Sometimes it’s as simple as just knowing that how you think about your stress, is what causes anxiety.

The Hard Style of Personal Development

What I especially like about this book is it’s focused on hard-core personal excellence.  It’s extreme performance for extreme scenarios.  In martial arts, there’s soft styles, such as Tai Chi and there’s hard styles, such as kickboxing.

I think the same is true in personal development, where one path, the soft style, emphasizes goal-setting, relaxation, visualization, stress management, and flow.

The other path, the hard style, is focused on ratcheting up your performance by changing how you think about pressure and learning how to welcome it, enjoy it, and make it work to your advantage.  It’s about testing yourself and standing strong when tested, using the best of sports psychology.  It’s a path of personal excellence.

I think there’s a lot more prescriptive guidance on the soft style and not enough on the hard style, so I think this book is an absolute gem.  At the end of the day, I think your best performance comes from having the tools and techniques of both the hard and soft styles at your disposal.  I’m a fan of scenario-based techniques, using the right tool for the job, and being flexible in your approach.

From the Back of the Book

Here is a relevant excerpt from the back of the book:

“Relax.  Set goals.  Focus on the outcome.  Lose yourself to the Zone.  All reasonable, sensible advice when you are facing a performance challenges, such as a big presentation at work. 

And all utterly, hopelessly wrong. 

According to John Eliot, Ph.D., ‘Such self-improvement balderdash will do nothing but relegate you to a career in mediocrity.  Overachievers don’t think reasonably, sensibly or rationally.  If your wish in life is to fit in with the crowd, then this is not the book for you.’”


  1. taking with me this one:
    “think about pressure and learning how to welcome it, enjoy it, and make it work to your advantage”.

    I am now realizing that when I am not under pressure i am slacking and achieving much less results. Seen my blog lately? Only one post this week – think it is because i am under presser. HAHA – unfortunately the contrary is true – i have too much free time, less obligations, less pressure. Funny, huh? No pressure – less productive… 😉

  2. Hi J.D.
    It’s so true…”relax, set goals, and focus on the outcome”.
    What a great way to stay positive and have something to strive for.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  3. JD,

    I think your blog is unique because it offers the ‘hard’ approach to personal development. I like your hard-headed, practical approach, and am a big fan of the right tool for the right situation myself.

    I like your post title “Confidence is Knowing and Going” and am off to read it now!

  4. This reminds me of a quote I came across once (I forget who said it now sorry). Went something along the lines of, “All reasonable men adjust to their circumstances. All unreasonable men expect their circumstances to adjust to them. Therefor all progress is made by unreasonable men.” 😉

  5. I used to be a lot better at the hard approach.(I am hard on myself – but hard approach is about being *sensibly hard* (like you explain in your individual nuggets)
    I used to think that I go soft on myself because I have little kids …but that is exactly why I need the hard (more methodical)no nonsense approach.

  6. @ Melissa

    I wish everybody would share their favorite book nuggets from their favorite books.

    I think it would help more books become a part of every day. In fact, I think it’s really what Web 2.0 is all about. You can read books, but then it’s the sharing and mentoring that takes it to the next level.

    @ Alik

    Mastering pressure and using it to be your best is the way to go. I think some pressures are good, but I think some are the result of poor anticipation or planning. Treating stress is your friend can help you achieve more and enjoy the process.

    @ Giovanna

    It’s one approach that certainly works for some scenarios.

    @ Daphne

    Thank you. There’s so many patterns and practices to share. I think it’s time for personal development 2.0.

    @ Louisa

    I love that qote and it’s so true. If nothing else, it at least justifies being unreasonable 😉

    @ Maya

    That’s a good way to articulate it. It is about the methods and techniques.

    It’s about the skills. I think real results are a combination of motivation, skills, and feedback. It’s a learning loop.

  7. Hi J.D. That’s a good analogy – never thought of it as soft vs. hard. Now you got me all raring to go to the bookshop 😉 There is a technique sports psychologists use to get people into the zone, but the interesting thing is the zone is sometimes 10/10 (ROARING MAD) to 1/10 (nearly asleep) for different people. And you’re right most PD books tend to go towards the 5/10 zone.

  8. I like chicken nuggets, the organic kind!

    No but truly, J.D., I love going the softer route in getting things done, being soft on myself that is in attitude and motivational techniques. It just opens up such positive flowing energy. No need ever to fret, really. There are never any problems — just ways of looking at things, I learned that from Liara Covert! I guess you know her blog? She is a true Dream Builder, as you are.


  9. @ Jannie

    Thank you.

    The beauty is, all roads lead to the same town. That’s why I’m a fan of getting to the principles. When you’re principle-based, you can’t go wrong.

  10. That is an interesting focus for a book. Their is a lot to be said for “zen” approach, but it’s also important to think about other avenues for peek performance.

  11. @ Gennaro

    That’s right. It’s about reading the situation and using the right tools for the job. When I see some people fail it’s because they only had one approach or style. Bruce Lee was more effective in a variety of scenarios because he studied boxing, wrestling, … etc. and took the best from the best.

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