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Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness

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Below, Steve shares 5 key insights from his new book, Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness.

The author is a performance expert and an elite coach, and in this book, he is showing us that the old model of toughness that was based on fear and hiding weakness is not the model we should be using anymore. In a world that pushes us towards reacting, slowing down to respond is a skill society desperately needs. You train first, nurture progress, then you evaluate and put those who can't do the work through even more training. A study of elementary school students found that overconfident readers often chose books way above their level of comprehension.

Magness’s book helps us to see that by leaning into discomfort, anxiety and all the stressors that coming from trying to achieve difficult things we can learn to respond to things in ways that work successfully rather than instantly reacting and causing ourselves further stresses. To create space so that you don’t jump straight from unease to the quickest possible solution, but to the [correct] one.

They throw tantrums because they have little idea what that barrage of emotions is when their teacher tells them to redo their work, or when a friend rejects them on the playground. There are several parts of his book that I marked that I would like to go back to and spend more time with so that I can fully appreciate all the insights this book has to offer. On the other hand, if we see the stressor as an opportunity for growth or gain, as something that is difficult but that we can handle, we’re more likely to experience a challenge response. Understand who you are and your capacity, bravado won’t save you, be in the moment, learn to grind, root your effort in larger meaning. Unfortunately for the author, who clearly cannot be expected to look at examples from just outside his cultural landscape, the resilience part of the book was incredibly banal, at least in my part of the world.It is written in a straightforward, down-to-earth manner that should have no trouble holding even the finicky reader's attention. And the surprising science of real toughness did not seem to have much rigorous science quoted and discussed at length, only select studies cherry picked and quoted which confirmed the author’s priors.

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