Takeaways from Reading The Principle Circle by Jamie Gilbert

After reading The Principle Circle by Jamie Gilbert I am now 3% of the way toward the finish line of my goal to read 37 books in the offseason. I teach math and I think the idea of percentages is a concrete way of directing your efforts toward goals and one of my biggest takeaways from this book came from a quote that relates this idea.

“Growth works in small gains. They’re one percent gains and they are usually only in a few key areas. Even though everyone can get one percent better each day, must won’t. You know why? Because, one percent isn’t sexy.”

I gave this quote to my assistant coaches and players to help direct their thinking and mindset when filling out their three goals for the offseason. I think it is very easy to look at the start of a season or the date of a road race that is months away and blow off opportunities to improve because the finish line seems so far away. That’s the mindset of pretty much everyone, but the people that are truly great overcome that perception in their mind and get better anyway. I also got a lot out of some of the questions that Gilbert asks. Here are two:

  • What are you saying about me when I can’t hear you?
  • What is the one message that plays over and over in your head that you would shut off if you could?

The first question is something that makes me think about how I’m acting in the heat of the moment during a game. Every player on the sidelines can hear what I mumble (it’s a bad habit) and so even though the player on the court cannot, their teammates on the bench now have to immediately doubt themselves on the court. The mumbling does not make our team better, so I just need to quit it.

The second question is something that I want to ask of players. There are some players that are particularly tough to get back on track when the game is not flowing in their direction. I think by giving them this metacognitive cue it is a way of asking what is the greatest problem in the mental part of your game. By getting to the bottom of the problem, I can help players work toward a solution. Too often with players that have mental collapses in competition, they never even fully recognize their problem.

One final concept that struck me about this book was vulnerability. If players confided in one another about what they are weak at and told teammates that they were stronger in those areas and asked for help, it would make our team better. I asked players about if they had ever confided in a teammate for help and they struggled to think of specific instances. If we were to do this, I think it may not cure a teammate who is vulnerable, but it could give more mental toughness to a teammate who is being consulted and also strengthen the bonds of each player in that instance. This is something that can easily be built into our team culture to make the team less coach-directed and give players more accountability for helping one another.

As a side note to reading this book, I also read Jamie Gilbert’s book that he co-authored with Joshua Medcalf called Burn Your Goals. That book indirectly had more influence on me as a coach than anything else I’ve read. At the end of the book they recommended reading forty more books. I have read all forty of those books and would recommend the same list. More of their work can found at their website Train2BClutch.

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