A couple +1s ago, we had some fun hanging out with Trevor Moawad and discussed some wisdom from his great book: It Takes What It Takes.
As you may recall, we chatted about his distinction that the highest level of achievement comes when we reach “Conscious Competence.”
In this state, we’re consciously aware of the things we do that help us consistently (key word: consistently!) perform at our best.
👆 That Self-Awareness paired with Self-Mastery is what makes the great so great.
Today I want to chat about another one of the Big Ideas from his book: neutral thinking.
In fact, this concept is the central theme of the book and shows up in the sub-title: “How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life.”
To bring the wisdom to life, Trevor shares a story about his friend and client, the Super Bowl winning quarterback, Russell Wilson.
He tells us: “Down 19-7, Russell hadn’t gone into the tank. You could tell when the Seahawks next got the ball back. ‘We can still win this game!’ Russell yelled. ‘Let’s go! Four minutes and fifty seconds!’
Why hadn’t Russell given up? Why did he treat the next play as if the previous ones didn’t matter? Because he stayed neutral.
Neutral thinking is a high-performance strategy that emphasizes judgment-free thinking, especially in crises and pressure situations. It is the cornerstone of what I teach the athletes and teams that employ me. The thing about neutral thinking that resonates with so many elite athletes, most of whom are deeply skeptical of any self-help, is that it’s real. It’s true. It acknowledges that the past is irrevocable, that it can’t be changed with mantras or platitudes.
Neutral thinking shuns all attempts at illusion or outright self-delusion, which are often the foundation of other motivational systems. Neutral thinking strips away the bull and the biases, both external and internal.”
Quick context: Russell Wilson is the quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. Until recently, he was the highest-paid NFL player in history. He’s also one of Trevor’s clients and the two of them created a business together called Limitless Minds. Russell wrote the foreword to the book and is a case study Trevor comes back to throughout the book.
In this scene, Trevor tells us about a playoff game in which “Russell played one of the worst fifty- five minutes of his young football career.”
He had thrown FOUR interceptions and they were losing badly.
He kept his thinking “neutral”—embracing the reality of the situation while focusing on what needed to get done.
Now, it’s obvious to see that he wasn’t negative and drowning in his failures. (As Trevor tells us, although positive thinking sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, negative thinking ALWAYS delivers negative results.)
What’s less obvious to see is that he wasn’t thinking POSITIVELY per se either. The reality is that there wasn’t a lot to be “positive” about and if he pretended that everything was all sunshine and rainbows, he would have sounded inauthentic and would have been less effective.
He simply looked at the clock, did the math and got to work on the next most important task.
That’s NEUTRAL thinking.