Mental Conditioning from “The World’s Best Brain Trainer”

April 16, 2020

Book Review by Andy Ghillyer

Success – both personal and professional – can depend as much on mental ability as physical skills or innate talent. No matter what skill set or experience you bring to the challenge, if you don’t have the mental conditioning to survive a loss, you will never have what it takes to win.

In his new book, It Takes What It Takes: How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life, author and mental coach, Trevor Moawad shares his unique philosophy on winning based on lessons learned from personal setbacks and his involvement with some of the greatest career successes in the sports and business worlds.

Being blindsided with a cancer diagnosis while still in college, and then getting divorced just when his professional career was beginning to take off may sound like typical material for a book about positive thinking. This isn’t that kind of book. Moawad shares his personal challenges to underline the deliberate choice he made not to follow that “accentuate the positive” path that so many mental coaches offer to their clients. Nor does he suggest that you “fake it ‘til you make it.” For him, true mental conditioning requires neutral thinking.

Neutral Thinking

As Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson explains in the prologue, neutral thinking has nothing to do with negative or positive thinking. In fact, it’s the absence of emotion, focusing on the truth of the situation: “Where are we at?…How are we going to execute?”.

In football parlance, it’s not about the previous play (however bad it may have been) or the previous quarter, or even the score. It’s about the next play, and the one after that. You remain objective, unemotional, and focused on execution of that play to the letter. Emotion, Moawad argues, inevitably clouds your judgment (both negatively and positively). Too much negativity and you just quit. Too much positivity and you start believing in the miracle play that will save you – it most likely won’t. What can save you is keeping going.

Being unemotional is not the same as being robotic (a criticism often directed at Tom Brady of the New England Patriots). Neutral thinking, Moawad explains, is about being “defined by the present.” It’s about believing that “each moment has a history and life of its own,” and that by grounding yourself in that moment, you can avoid the bias of emotion and achieve the clarity of truth – what is really happening right now.

The transformational power of neutral thinking, for elite athletes and aspiring professionals alike, is that staying grounded in the present leads you to the realization that the next event is totally independent of the past. The loss of a promotion doesn’t dictate your entire career, even though it feels like a gut punch right now. The same applies to the end of a relationship. Advocates of positive thinking might remind you that there are “plenty more fish in the sea,” or that “the right one for you is still out there.” Neutral thinking will ask you to examine what happened and, more importantly as a teaching moment, what was your contribution to what happened.

It Takes What It Takes represents a unique philosophy on elevating your personal and professional performance levels. Neutral thinking has the potential to transform your life.


Andy Ghillyer

Andy Ghillyer is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He lives in Tampa, FL where he specializes in writing for the B2B and academic markets while raising a growing menagerie of cats and dogs. His other reviews are here.


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