Synopses & Reviews
In those times when we want to acquire a new skill or face a formidable challenge we hope to overcome, what we need most are patience, focus, and discipline, traits that seem elusive or difficult to maintain. In this enticing and practical book, Thomas Sterner demonstrates how to learn skills for any aspect of life, from golfing to business to parenting, by learning to love the process.
Early life is all about trial-and-error practice. If we had given up in the face of failure, repetition, and difficulty, we would never have learned to walk or tie our shoes. So why, as adults, do we often give up on a goal when at first we dont succeed? Modern lifes technological speed, habitual multitasking, and promises of instant gratification dont help. But in his study of how we learn (prompted by his pursuit of disciplines such as music and golf), Sterner has found that we have also forgotten the principles of practice the process of picking a goal and applying steady effort to reach it. The methods Sterner teaches show that practice done properly isnt drudgery on the way to mastery but a fulfilling process in and of itself, one that builds discipline and clarity.
By focusing on process, not product,” youll learn to live in each moment, where youll find calmness and equanimity. This book will transform a sense of futility around learning something challenging into an attitude of pleasure and willingness.
Where does great performance really come from? Thomas Sterner knows and he sees how profound the answer is.”
Geoff Colvin, author of Talent Is Overrated
I use the techniques I have learned from The Practicing Mind every day. The approach is relevant for both business executives and their junior golf children on and off the course. I recommend it to all my students because its lessons will help them in both golf and life.”
Eric MacCluen, PGA Professional and Director of Golf Instruction at Applecross Country Club
The Practicing Mind engagingly transforms difficulty into devotion, offering a practical, easy-to-understand approach that will transform your view of even the most challenging or mundane steps on your journey of life.”
Marney K. Makridakis, author of Creating Time and founder of ArtellaLand.com
Thomas Sterner gives us a useful, thoughtful, much-needed book on the often-overlooked science and art of practice. It blends careful research with plenty of enlightening and entertaining personal stories. Anyone hoping to excel at anything should read this. Keep on practicing!”
Roy F. Baumeister, coauthor of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
As you embrace the process-oriented approach described in The Practicing Mind, youll achieve better results in any endeavor.”
Michael J. Gelb, author of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci and Brain Power
Our culture has been focused on instant gratification and immediate rewards for decades. Weve forgotten how to go about learning and improving our skills in favor of winning the lottery or letting someone else do the hard work. We dont learn how to accomplish a skill by careful and long practice or discipline. But were also becoming increasingly aware of an overall sense of mental exhaustion, a lack of discipline, and an inability to focus. We are realizing that the endless struggle to fulfill insatiable appetites is fruitless and even tiresome, making our world ripe for a new path and eager for a new set of instructions.
What were discovering is that everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions. When the proper mechanics of practicing are understood, the task of learning something new becomes a stress-free experience of joy and calmness, a process which settles all areas in life and promotes proper perspective on all of life's difficulties. And, if you think of practice as boring and difficult, its because youre not very good at practicing yet. This book will transform a sense of futility around learning something challenging into one of pleasure and willingness.
According to Thomas Sterner, when we practice” something we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal. His early experiences with practicing, however, were not good. In fact, that frustration formed the foundation which would help him understand both the mental and spiritual struggles in which he found himself. Those early experiences, of wanting to accomplish something and having to deal with a personality that was not particularly well-disciplined at the time, went a long way in helping him understand how we fail at endeavors that may be very important to us.
From that experience came this book that teaches the principles of good practicing the process of picking a goal, whatever that may be, and applying a steady effort toward achieving it, regardless of pitfalls and frustration. Without an understanding of proper practice mechanics and without an awareness of our own internal workings, we are almost assured of using up the initial inspiration and motivation which propels us into any endeavor, leaving us feeling we cannot reach the goal that had seemed so worth striving for just a short time before. When the author took golf lessons, for example, he was one of the few golfers who practiced what was taught in the free hour of tee time after each lesson. The others were too busy, or too frustrated, to stay and repeat the teachers suggestions. The lessons werent enough; practice was required.
Our society sets us up for failure in this endeavor. We are so used to always multi-tasking, for example, that when we decide we want to reel in our minds and focus ourselves on just one activity, we cant. Our minds are so agitated, and that agitation has a tremendous amount of momentum. The practicing mind is quiet. It lives in the present and has laser, pinpoint focus and accuracy. It obeys our exact direction and all of our energy moves through it. Because of that, we are calm and completely free of anxiety. We are where we should be at that moment, doing what we should be doing and completely aware of what we are experiencing. There is no wasted motion, physically or mentally.
And yet weve all learned through practice; weve just forgotten how. A childs first steps, for example, or riding a bike, or learning to read or write. As children, we existed in the present moment, so we didnt grow frustrated if we didnt reach our goal on the first try. We got up and tried again. Everything we learn and master in life, from walking and tying our shoes to saving money and raising a child, is accomplished through a form of practice, something we repeat over and over again. For the most part, we are not aware of the process as such, but that is how good practice manifests itself when done properly. It carries no stress-laden anticipation of when is the goal going to be reached?” When we practice anything properly, the fact that we are engaging in a difficult learning process not only disappears, but more importantly it dissolves into a period of inner calming that gives us a rest from the tension and anxiety that our get it done yesterday” world pushes on us every day of our lives. For this reason, it is important to recognize and be in control of the process and to learn to enjoy that part of life's activity. The Practicing Mind will help readers relearn that level of commitment and focus, showing them that when they reside in the present moment, practice becomes effortless and enjoyable, and often the practice becomes the goal, as we take baby steps but relish each of those steps.
Early life is all about trial-and-error practice. If we'd given up in the face of failure, repetition, and difficulty, wed never have learned to walk, tie our shoes, or ride a bike. So why, as adults, do we often throw in the towel when at first we dont succeed? The technological speed, habitual multi-tasking, and promises of instant gratification of modern life don't help. But in his study of how we learn (prompted by his experiences as a musician and adult newbie golfer), Thomas Sterner has found that we've also lost the principles of practice, the process of picking a goal and applying a steady effort toward it. The methods Sterner teaches show that, done properly, practice isn't drudgery on the way to mastery but a habit of fulfilling focus, mind-calming clarity, and joy-filled effort in and of itself. The practicing mind savors the baby steps that lead to great strides.
About the Author
Thomas M. Sterner has studied Eastern and Western philosophy and modern sports psychology and trained as a jazz pianist. For more than twenty-five years, he served as the chief concert piano technician for a major performing arts center while operating a piano remanufacturing facility. He has also worked in the sound and video arts fields as a recording engineer, audio and video editor and processor, and composer. He is an accomplished musician, private pilot, student of archery, and avid golfer. He lives in Wilmington, Delaware.