Book Notes by Abi Noda

The Fearless Mind - by Craig Manning

ASIN: B004APA2U4 READ: Oct 3, 2013

Critical Summary

Although The Fearless Mind starts off sounding like a typical self-help book, it quickly shifts into science and practical lessons drawn from Manning's experiences as a professional tennis player and coach. This book is a double-shot of motivation with a good breakdown of our self-defeating tendencies and how to overcome them in order to achieve high performance. I felt that the book would've been more practical had it focused more on the mental skills journal template it offers and specific techniques and challenges related to it. Since reading this book I have implemented a similar journaling template and wish that this book had provided more guidance around adoption and execution.

Kindle location numbers are based off of a total of 2758

Whether we're on the court, in an office, or spending time with our children — we are always performing. Performing at the highest level of our ability comes down to how well we have learned to control our minds to rid ourselves of interference and stay focused on what needs to be done. If we allow interference into our psyche, it doesn't matter how much potential we have or how hard we work; we will not be able to make our dreams come true.


No one can make our dreams come true for us.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

— Marianne Williamson

If we have the fearlessness to follow our hearts, there is not much we cannot do. But when we don't have a clear objective or dream that is ours, all the skill and knowledge in the world will not help us.

Thomas Huxley: "The great end of life is not knowledge but action". Our actions define us.

What time have you wasted, allowing your mind to swim around in unproductive ways because you haven't had the courage to chase your objectives?

A Fearless Mind

Most of us have spent little or no time developing mental skill sets that protect us from the crippling effects of self-doubt.

What if we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve, had a plan to achieve it, and never allowed any negative emotions or self-defeating thoughts to inhibit us, allowing us to execute what needs to be done to achieve our objects? Do we believe we couldn't achieve our dreams? Do we think we couldn't make it happen?

A fearless mind is achieved when we have cleansed ourselves of the barriers that prevent us from reaching our greatest potential. We do this by learning to accept what we have control over and what we don't. Once we understand what is our responsibility and what isn't, then we are able to channel all our energy into mastering those aspects that we have direct responsibility and not waste energy on those things that are not within our responsibility.

The two most prominent areas of wasted energy are guilt and fear.

Guilt: When we allow our minds to dwell too much on the past, it impinges on our ability to live in the moment and enjoy the reality of what life has to offer.

Fear: When we attend to what may or may not happen in the future, we open the door to fear. Our attention is again directed away from the moment, lowering our ability to make good decisions.

CROCODILE EXAMPLE — In the moment, there is only action. Only when we allow our minds to worry about the future, is there fear.

We should attend to the present in the hope that whatever we will improve upon in the here and now will benefit us down the line.

We are setting ourselves up for failure when we expect outcomes that are not within our direct control. eg. How fun is it work for a boss who evaluates our performance on variables we cannot control?

High Performance

In order to reach our greatest potential, we need to stop fighting with ourselves and consolidate our energy for the purpose of achieving whatever it is we choose.

Inherent abilities can point us in a direction. But high performance is created, not given.

High performance is any task that is performed well — when those factors within our direct responsibility are being controlled and mastered; when we are completely at one with ourselves.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice is activity that does the following:

  1. Is explicitly intended to improve performance - it is critical to channel our mental energies toward objectives that we have direct control over, which in turn builds confidence and feelings of empowerment. In contrast, directing our mental energy toward objectives we don't have direct control over (eg. "I've got to win today") greatly increases the level of anxiety and creates feelings of helplessness

  2. Reaches for objectives just beyond one's level of competence - We need to be continually reaching for objectives that are only a little bit beyond reach so that we feel it is obtainable. If it is too far out of our reach or skill level, it only promotes thoughts and feelings of helplessness. This is why most New Year's resolutions fail.

  3. Provides feedback on results - We need to measure our performance in order to continually develop skills and enhance our confidence — feedback allows people to take responsibility for their own growth. Feedback is used to evaluate which skill sets are contributing to improved performance and what skill sets need to be isolated for continued improvement.

  4. Involves high levels of repetition - We need to isolate skills and work on them over and over again until the skill is mastered.

Example: Simply hitting a bucket of tennis balls with no objective in mind is not deliberate practice. Hitting twenty slice serves with the objective of placing the ball within two feet of the target 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that daily — that's deliberate practice.


Excuses and alibis prevent us from being accountable, for taking responsibility. Sure, it's part of our nature to blame others, but if you keep going down that road there can be no destination. Just road. — Wayne Bennett

What happens to our dreams?

Most people don't really give their dreams a chance. People talk about doing this or that, but few ever give it a go. Very few people give the slightest effort to make their dreams a reality. Others try half-heartedly, giving inconsequential effort before bagging it for safer, more convenient endeavors. However, research tells us that the few who do give it a go become high performers through perseverance over long periods of time.

Why do so many of us fall into the cycle of mediocrity? Why do so many of us settle for average?

Fear is a large component, as is uncertainty and confusion within oneself — we unwittingly develop a fearful mind and settle for what is safe and easy instead of pursuing our dreams.

Don't get too locked into thinking dreams will never change; we need to have the courage to adjust our objectives.

Task-oriented vs Ego-oriented

task-oriented == performance oriented == focus on what needs to be done; stays focused on present

ego-oriented == outcome oriented == focus on outcomes and how they affect self-worth; play not to lose; fragile self worth that's dependent on outside variables, resulting in unstable frames of mind and up-and-down performance

research shows that task-oriented individuals persist at tasks longer, choose more challenging tasks, work harder, and perform better under pressure

our orientations can change from one moment to the next — it takes practice to build mental habits so our thoughts don't betray us at critical moments

3 Stages of Development (Ericsson)

  1. growth is rapid - attention is on learning and improvement, not on winning or outcomes
  2. growth slows down - attention shifts toward winning/losing, since we don't control that, anxiety is heightened
  3. growth stops completely - we quit because of frustration and perceived lack of success

Setting Goals

It is vitally important for us to always be working toward a clear purpose; otherwise we can get stuck swimming in circles and fighting with ourselves, leading to self-defeating behaviors. It is easy to get depressed if we allow our mental energies to be directed in ways that are not in our best interest. (eg. traveling the world playing pro tennis, but being very far from happy — once Craig realized the pro tour wasn't for him, he found it very hard to focus and push himself).

The only way we cannot achieve objectives that are within are within our direct control is when we engage in self-defeating behavior.

Set objectives that are in your control and just a little beyond your reach — when we set appropriate objectives, fear has little to no room to exist in our mental processing.

In order to motivate ourselves in such a way that insures us to action, it is important to set objectives that are just outside of our reach — thereby stimulating effort in the pursuit of the objective.

Writing down objectives each day helps:

  1. channel your energy in a productive way
  2. commits you to a purpose
  3. helpful reminder to yourself for why you are doing what you are doing


Performance mindsets:

arrogance - "I'm good, you stink"
cockiness - "I'm good and I'm telling everyone"
confidence - "I'm good"
passive - "I'm not very good"
pessimism - "You are good, I stink"

Arrogance and pessimism involve comparison with another, making your state of mind dependent on performance of others.

Confidence is the best approach to high performance — competition with oneself; the battle of self-mastery. Confidence is the most consistent factor in distinguishing highly successful from less successful athletes (l. 1954).

4 modes of developing confidence:

  1. Previous performance accomplishments - confidence is gained when we learn and reinforce what we have done well in the past
  2. Vicarious experiences - If someone else can perform the skill, so can we
  3. Verbal persuasion - the brains neuro-pathways are programmed by what we communicate to ourselves most often. repeatedly telling ourselves we can do something builds confidence
  4. Physiological states - being able to control our bodies so they function as we desire enhances our confidences


Anxiety is our natural "alarm system". We don't want to get rid of our anxiety, but we need to learn to control it. Often times our body triggers our alarm system when there is no danger — an anxious mind does not function at its best.

How do we control anxiety?

The most important way Craig's found to lower and control anxiety is through setting appropriate objectives that motivate us the right way, reducing anxiety.

Anxiety/fear/guild causes our minds to go all over the place

The Law of Attraction

  1. Visualize the Mona Lisa
  2. Do not visualize the Mona Lisa with a mustache

The mind turns thoughts into mental images quickly — telling ourselves not to do something can at times be like programming ourselves to do it

Expending greater mental energy attending to what is good about what we do accelerates growth more than focusing on our weaknesses

Decision Making

"The worst hit shot to the right spot is better than the best hit shot to the wrong place"

High performance is dependent on consistently making good decisions. Even with all the skills and knowledge in the world, without good decision making our skills are useless.

Mental Skills Journal

1 Objective: ___________________ 2 Plan:

3 Strengths: a ________________ b ________________ c ________________ 4 Weakness: a ________________ 5 Performance: Motivation 1 2 3 4 5 Anxiety 1 2 3 4 5 Concentration 1 2 3 4 5 Belief 1 2 3 4 5 Decision Making 1 2 3 4 5

The first step in the Mental Skills Journal is to set an objective for the day that channels your energy in a productive way. Writing down your objective each day commits you to a purpose. In order to motivate ourselves in a such a way that inspires us to action, it is important to set objectives that are controllable and just outside our reach — thereby stimulating effort in pursuit of the objective. Simply setting a clear objective and having a plan contributes to feelings of control and lowers anxiety. The journal further directs attention to the positive aspects of our performances, which also lowers anxiety. There is a section in the journal that asks for an evaluation of the day’s anxiety level, which encourages greater self-awareness. Using the journal provides feedback on the day’s performance and on the day’s decisions. The greatest key to achieving your objectives is to learn from your previous performance accomplishments and make an active commitment to do something different the following day. Utilizing the journal allows you to see how your choices impact your performance.