#991 The Peak Performance Equation

Stress + Rest = Growth

In our last +1, we talked about some wisdom from Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness’s great book The Passion Paradox.

Recall1: We can have either a healthy “Harmonious Passion” in which we seek mastery and experience the joys of mindfully embracing our passion or… We can have a less-than-healthy “Obsessive Passion” in which our lives go off the rails in pursuit of outcome goals that become toxic.

Recall2: “Mindlessly living with a passion can be extremely harmful and destructive. Mindfully living with a passion can be the key to a life well lived.

And… Choose wisely!

Today I want to briefly chat about the central theme of their first book Peak Performance.

Brad and Steve tell us about the secret to sustainable success: “Think for a moment about what it takes to make muscles, such as your biceps, strong. If you try lifting weights that are too heavy, you probably won’t make it past one repetition. And even if you do, you’re liable to hurt yourself along the way. Lift too light a weight, on the other hand, and you won’t see much, if any result; your biceps simply won’t grow. You’ve got to find the Goldilocks weight: an amount you can barely manage, that will leave you exhausted and fatigued—but not injured—by the time you’ve finished your workout.

Yet discovering such an ideal weight is only half the battle. If you lift every day, multiple times a day, without much rest in between, you’re almost certainly going to burn out. But if you hardly ever make it to the gym and fail to regularly push your limits, you’re not going to get much stronger, either.

The key to strengthening your biceps—and, as we’ll learn, any muscle, be it physical, cognitive, or emotional—is balancing the right amount of stress with the right amount of rest. Stress + rest = growth. This equation holds true regardless of what it is that you’re trying to grow.

So, here’s the ultimate growth without burnout equation: Stress + Rest = Growth.

We need to Stress ourselves beyond our current capacities. But (!) not so far that we injure ourselves. (Think of that rubber band we’re stretching so there’s a nice dynamic tension but not so much we snap.)


We need to recover from that stress during baked in Rest phases.


Then we grow. Sustainably. Sans the burnout.

That’s Today’s +1.

Let’s remember our Peak Performance equation: Stress + Rest = Growth.

P.S. Jim Loehr talks about the same idea in his book: Toughness Training for Life where he tells us: “It’s important to understand that only rarely does the volume of stress defeat us; far more often the agent of defeat is insufficient capacity for recovery after the stress. Great stress simply requires great recovery. Your goal in toughness, therefore, is to be able to spike powerful waves of stress followed by equally powerful troughs of recovery. So here is an essential Toughness Training Principle:


From a training perspective then, training recovery should receive as much attention as training stress. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.

He also puts it this way: “Stress is the stimulus for growth. Recovery is when you grow.

So… One more time: Stress + Rest = Growth.

Let’s push ourselves just past our comfort zones. And… Remember to train our recovery.


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