Book Review: Elite Minds by Dr. Stan Beecham

Review by: Jacqueline Thompson Graves

Not long ago I went bowling. I was doing fairly well, not paying much attention to the score, just enjoying quality time with my grown up, now gone-from-home son. About the fifth frame I realized the manager was standing behind our lane, watching us bowl. He stayed there as I picked up my spare on the sixth frame. It was then I really looked at the scoreboard and realized I had so far closed every frame, bowling either a strike or making the spare. “Maybe he’s watching to see if close all my frames,” I thought. I got nervous. “Fat chance, Buddy,” I silently told him. “Prepare to be disappointed.” Sure enough, on the seventh frame I left one pin standing, right in the middle, like a big in-your-face naughty symbol. The manager sighed and walked back to the front desk.

It’s hard to be perfect. It’s hard to even be really good. If you’re like me, it is not hard to picture yourself blowing it, like a field goal kicker who misses a gimme from the 20 yard line that would have won the bowl game. But to envision yourself being carried off the field on your teammates’ shoulders? No. Maybe you had those dreams when you were 10, but we all know better than that now, don’t we?

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always teach us how to make lemonade out of lemons. Sometimes we are just left staring at a bunch of dried out, good-for-nothing citrus. It takes more than lemons to make lemonade. You need sugar, water, posterboard, ice and a whole lot more to make a profitable stand.

Dr. Stan Beecham makes his living taking people from those who can’t close all their frames to those who are bowling 300. Although he works primarily with athletes, his lessons apply to all of us, which makes reading his book worthwhile for anyone. He sums up his approach to his consulting business in his intro to Elite Minds, stating: “When you truly study top performers in any field, what sets them apart is not their physical skill; it is how they control their minds.”

Beecham then makes his case for mind over matter, for spirit over body, for attitude over aptitude. We have all known talented individuals who accomplished little and known those who were not initially impressive, but ended up on top. “How did that happen?” you ask. Beecham encourages his readers to take risks and make things happen. “Playing scared keeps you close to the porch,” he advises, “and no one ever got lost or broke a world record in their own backyard.”

Beecham’s writing style is breezy, filled with stories and anecdotes. He may have his PhD, but you don’t need one to understand the book. “My observation is that there is very little truth telling in corporate America,” Beecham says, pulling no punches when discussing why most people learn nothing from their failures. “If you want to create an environment where performance improves, you must first make it safe to fail.” Then he goes on to offer his readers this nugget: “You have to practice better if you want to get better.”

Towards the end of the book, Beecham wraps his thoughts full circle, reminding his reader, “Running is physical. Racing is mental.” What race are you running, reader of the book review? Whatever it is, your success is not dependent upon your physical actions, but upon your mental ones. Elite Minds can help you view yourself and your world through a new lens, a lens that takes away the “hoping to do better this year, this time around” and replaces it with tools to enable you to do so. In the same way Beecham helps an Olympic hopeful become an Olympic medalist, he can help you strip away what is keeping you from winning. Less than 200 pages, 20 short chapters, one per day could see change in the next month. “Average will find you, but you have to go out and hunt for greatness,” Beecham challenges. What about you? Ready for a little elite?

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