12 min read ⌚
A Guide to Performance Excellence
Have you ever felt like you should be able to achieve more than you are achieving?
Have you ever felt like your results don’t do justice to your skills or dedication?
You might be lacking a lesson or two of something which is often overlooked, but just as important:
Who Should Read “The Art of Mental Training”? And Why?
Dedicated “to the Warrior/Champion within you,” The Art of Mental Training is for everyone who wants to become a little more than he is.
It is a book that reveals the fundamentals of sports mental training—colloquially referred to as “the science of success”—an often-overlooked aspect of great accomplishments.
Even though athletes should be able to take away much more from the book than people from other walks of life, don’t ignore The Art of Mental Training even if you are an artist, a lawyer, or a doctor: everybody needs a little mental training to be better.
About DC Gonzalez
DC Gonzalez is a peak performance coach and a bestselling author.
A former Federal Agent, he has also worked as a military cyber-security specialist and an aviator in the Navy.
A student of renowned NLP Master Practitioner, P.C. Siegel, Gonzales has trained numerous top athletes, pro-fighters, soldiers, executives, actors, doctors, musicians, lawyers, psychologists to achieve new levels of performance and greatness.
The Art of Mental Training is his only book so far.
“The Art of Mental Training PDF Summary”
“Whatever is going on inside your head,” writes DC Gonzalez in the introductory “Note” to The Art of Mental Training, “has everything to do with how well you end up performing.”
In a nutshell, that’s what this book is all about: to use Timothy Gallwey’s phrase, it is about “winning the inner game of tennis.”
A student of the world-renowned sports and peak performance authority, P.C. Siegel, Daniel Gonzalez is a former Federal Agent, Aviator in the Navy, and Military Cyber-Security Specialist—in addition to being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and a Peak Performance Coach.
So, in other words, he has not only the theoretical knowledge but all the experience necessary to turn you into the Warrior/Champion you can become.
However, in The Art of Mental Training he chooses to relay his lessons in a much more communicable way: not via studies and references, but by way of twenty-five story-filled chapters, framed within a single fable—that of DC Gonzalez becoming the Mental Warrior that he is today with the help of his teacher, Leo-tai (correct us if we’re wrong, but we think that P.C. Siegel is hidden behind this name).
It’s a Karate Kid type-of-story (the “D” in DC Gonzalez’s stands for Daniel, and Leo-tai actually calls him Daniel-san throughout the book), aimed to teach you that after a certain point, you don’t need to develop your skills anymore, but your mental competence to use them.
So, sweeping up the porch and hunting flies with chopsticks is not only useful but also necessary, if you want to become a true Warrior/Champion in your life.
Find out why!
The Three-Minute Lesson
As the mental-edge trainer for university athletics, it was easy for DC Gonzalez to notice which athletes wanted the mental training and which athletes didn’t care.
He starts his book with one of the latter, let’s call him Jeremy, a freshman interested in only the physical aspects of the sport he practiced: wrestling.
But then, after being drawn to the top-seeded wrestler in the tournament (“a seasoned senior accustomed to annihilating opponents with comparative ease”), he rushed over to DC and started begging for a quick session of mental training. The pressure had gotten the best of him: he had practically lost the match even before it had begun.
DC had no more than three minutes to teach him the basics. And that made all the difference! True, in the end, Jeremy didn’t win, but he lost only by a point, taking the top-seeded wrestler to the distance!
“What he did is not difficult,” says DC Gonzalez, “no magic, no hypnosis, no smoke or mirrors. I simply guided him through a process with three simple instructions. I gave him one minute to deal with each instruction, before giving him the next one. In that short time, he was able to change his state completely.”
It’s all in the head. After all, Jeremy didn’t learn anything wrestling-related per se; and, yet, he evolved from being an already beaten fighter to one capable of challenging the best one in just three minutes!
No matter what your game is, or what the challenge is, the difference between great performances and average performances is mostly mental. Once you reach a certain level of skill, it’s your mental skills that start making all the difference. The better they are, the better you become—and the better your results will be.
Gaining the Mental Edge
If you watch soccer, you have probably already heard the name Pelé.
Widely regarded as one of the best footballers in history, Pelé averaged almost a goal per game throughout his career and lead his national team, Brazil, to three World Cup titles.
Of course, he had exceptional talent, but so did many of the players he played against: Beckenbauer, Puskas, Bobby Moore. And yet, all of them deemed him nothing short of a God.
So, what made him different than the rest? – that’s what DC Gonzalez wondered about for years after watching him play one warm summer night at Tampa Stadium.
And then, he came across a story about him in the writings of the late and great Gary Mack, a noted sports mental trainer. In the interview, Pelé shared with Mack what he considered to be the two keys to winning – Enthusiasm and a Mental Edge.
What does that mean in practice?
In three words: mental highlight tapes.
First of all, Pelé, to quote a teammate of his, was “always smiling and upbeat. You never see him bad-tempered.” He had a real enthusiasm for football. He seemed like a guy who’d get up, grab the ball and play a bit even if woken from a deep sleep.
But there was more to it.
You see, Pelé had a routine. Before every game he played, he would go into the locker room about an hour early, reserve a private corner there and lie down using a towel and cover his eyes.
And then, he would start playing his film in his mind’s eye. It was a film about his beginnings, on the sandy beaches of Brazil, the feelings of sheer joy in his heart every time he’d touch the ball. It was also a film about his greatest moment: the dribbles, the assists, the goals. Finally, it was a film about what was going to happen during the game that followed.
“He imagined everything before it ever happened,” writes Gonzalez, “the crowd, the atmosphere, the field, his own team, his opponents, he saw himself playing irresistibly like a champion—as a force that could not be stopped. But most important, he told Gary, was to remember that it was not just about vision and imagery, but also about feeling the emotions associated with success. He pointed out that he vividly imagined how good it all felt.”
Enthusiasm and Mental Edge. These two had already prepared Pelé for greatness long before the physical stretching. You may call it arrogance, but it is not—it is confidence. And there is a big difference. Confidence is one of the keys to performing well; arrogance—the opposite.
“One must consistently practice mental skills and pre-game routines in order to tap one’s full potential,” concludes DC Gonzalez.
The Critical Three
What Pelé discovered intuitively is something mental trainers no for a fact: visualizing the future creatively makes your mind and your body prepared for precisely that kind of a future. From thereon, the equation is pretty straightforward: negative visualizations bring about negative results; positive visualizations result in glory.
DC Gonzalez writes:
Interrupt negative self-talk and images the moment they arise, shut them down on the spot. Replace them with positive self-talk and positive images. Concentrate on showing your brain exactly what it is that you want to achieve, never dwell on what you do not want to happen.
But that is only one of “The Critical Three,” the fundamental tools for the Warrior/Champion according to both Leo-tai and, now, DC Gonzalez!
The first of these Critical Three is something you constantly do, but also something you must do properly if you want to prepare for greatness: breathing.
Of course, we’re not talking about just any kind of breathing: we’re talking about focused breathing, aka the technique most often associated with meditation.
It starts with drawing the air in deeply and slowly to the bottom of your lungs through your nose while expanding the diaphragm. Then, after holding it momentarily, you need to slowly push the air out of your lungs by drawing the diaphragm in.
It is important to let the air out through “a relaxed and slightly opened mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue pressed lightly against the ridge behind the front teeth, with the tongue touching the roof of the mouth.”
It is just as important to not think about anything during the process. Just observe your breathing and pay no attention to anything else. That’s the only way to relax.
Which brings us to the second tool of the Critical Three set.
We’re talking about both mental and physical relaxation. And we’re also talking about deep relaxation.
It is only in the state of deep relaxation that the conscious mind stops controlling everything and makes way for your subconscious mind to take matters in its own hands. And you need this for the final step of the journey: the mental highlights reel.
What does deep relaxation entail?
Well, more or less, what Pelé was doing.
First, it means moving to a quiet place where you can’t be disturbed. So, phones off. Then, lie on your back with your feet slightly apart and your arms slightly extended from your band. Make sure you’re at ease: the place shouldn’t be too cold or too hot, your clothes shouldn’t be tight or uncomfortable.
Now, fix your eyes on a point above you on the ceiling, and take three long, deep breaths through your nose. Feel the wave of relaxation overwhelming you as you exhale them.
Once you exhale the third one, start imagining your eyelids getting heavier. Do so for the length of the next ten breaths, while you’re repeating mentally the word “deeper.”
Now, it’s time you started relaxing your muscles, starting with your toes and moving upward. Focus on relaxing each of them. Visualize each muscle loosening, and feel the wave of relaxation moving through your body. Allow yourself to be relaxed.
Don’t rush it, don’t think about it, and don’t force anything. And don’t worry if you fall asleep. In case that happens, imagine a staircase with five steps going up and you slowly climbing up the steps. Tell yourself that you’ll feel “more refreshed, more alert, and more aware” with each step you take. When you reach the last one, you’ll wake—rejuvenated and ready to take on the day.
However, once again, don’t rush things: allow yourself to be relaxed for about twenty minutes—even a little more than that.
Now, in the state of deep relaxation, you’ve opened “a direct channel to your subconscious mind,” and you’re ready to “feed it images and feelings of success.”
In other words, you’re ready to write, star in, direct and edit your “movie,” the one that describes how you’ve accomplished what you have so far and shows how you’ll accomplish even greater things very soon.
Just 20 minutes of deep relaxation is enough to prepare you for the final step of your journey to mental preparedness. Imagineering has to come from within you because only then it actually affects motivation and volition.
Show your goals and objectives to the conscious mind, and it will find thousands of reasons not to believe them. Show them to your subconscious mind, and it accepts the input as being true. Afterward, it sets out to help you make it come true.
Yup, that’s what DC Gonzalez is saying: “Fake it until you make it.” But that actually works. After all, it is what one of the greatest authorities on our subconscious mind, Timothy Wilson, has demonstrated in Strangers to Ourselves.
DC Gonzalez concludes:
That’s how the Mental Warrior uses breathing, relaxation, and success imagery. He doesn’t do it once. Instead, he incorporates them into his training routine using repetition over several weeks and months, so that the success conditioning has a chance to actually be absorbed by the subconscious mind and to take root, thus helping to improve self-belief, self-confidence, and performance. Through practice like this, the Mental Warrior is able to engage and use the power of his subconscious mind in order to help him achieve his goals.
Key Lessons from “The Art of Mental Training”
1. Enthusiasm and Mental Edge Are Keys to Winning (Says Pelé)
2. The Fundamentals of Mental Training: The Critical Three
3. The Three-Minute Lesson, Revisited
Enthusiasm and Mental Edge Are Keys to Winning (Says Pelé)
This is how Guardiola, one of the greatest football coaches in history, motivates young players when necessary: “Each night when you are going to sleep,” he says to them, “ask yourselves if, right then, you’d get up, grab the ball and play for a bit. If ever the answer is ‘no’ then that is the day to start looking for something else to do.”
Because the key to winning is not merely talent or hard work—it’s also enthusiasm. If you want to do something, you will do it better.
And if you want to excel at it, use the routine practiced by Pelé before each of his games: imagine yourself excelling. Play out the game in your head before you even run out to the field. Because that’s how you get a mental edge.
The Fundamentals of Mental Training: The Critical Three
“The Mental Warrior learns about focused breathing, relaxation, and imagery,” said once his teacher to DC Gonzalez, “and then he sets off to actually use them.”
Because these are the critical three tools to achieving greatness. Set aside between half an hour and an hour before each game for a routine which includes these three aspects of mental training.
That way, you’ll convince yourself that you’re ready for whatever comes next. And your subconscious mind will do everything to help you when the moment of truth comes.
The Three-Minute Lesson, Revisited
Remember Jeremy, the wrestler DC Gonzalez transformed with a three-minute talk before his first match?
Well, Gonzalez comes back to the story later in the book and reveals what he had actually told him. Unsurprisingly, it has a lot to do with the three critical elements explained above, this time, compressed and put into impromptu use.
“Thoughts create the emotions and feelings that are the cause of your state,” DC Gonzalez said to Jeremy. “Whatever state that may be, your own thoughts put you there. “
“So, whenever you find yourself in a disempowered state remember this,” he goes on, “you can alter your thoughts and your state by focusing on three different critical elements:”
• Self-talk: Ask yourself, “What would the self-talk of a champion sound like as he prepared for competition?” If you need some inspiration, here’s what Gonzalez told Jeremy to use as the basis for his pep-talk: “I’m strong, I’m fast, and I dominate. I control the match, I never give in, and I never give up. I’m powerful, I’m a force of fury, I’m a force of dominance, and I am a champion.”
• The way you carry your body: Ask yourself, “How would a champion’s body be moving as he prepared for battle?” Even if your body language doesn’t shape who you are, it certainly shapes how your opponent sees you, right?
• Breathing: Ask yourself, “And how would that champion be breathing as he prepared to enter the competition and face his opponent?” You have the answer above.
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“The Art of Mental Training Quotes”Imagineering is vital because it leads to greater self-belief and greater confidence, which in turn leads to better performance and achievements. Click To Tweet If anger arises, make the decision to not let it control you. Redirect its energy; use it to make your resolve stronger. Become like the smiling assassin that sees his mark. Click To Tweet Champions focus on what they can control. They know that while they can’t always control what takes place during an event, they can always control how they respond to an event. Within every setback lies the hidden opportunity… Click To Tweet Especially when things are at their worst, your self-talk must be positive, encouraging, and empowering. Shut down the Internal Critic. Click To Tweet You have to learn to control yourself before standing a chance of controlling your game. Getting your intensity revved up too powerfully prior to competition will actually hurt your performance. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
The Art of Mental Training is neither a long book nor one that is a difficult read. And yet, it seems like everything you might need if you want to learn how to excel and become a peak performer.
Nicely written and infused with quite inspiring if merely mystical energy via its framing fable of Leo-tei, The Art of Mental Training is one of those books that can really make you feel like you are the next Daniel-san.
You know, the best around.