High Performance: lessons from the Best on Becoming your Best by Jake Humphrey and Damian Hughes, 2021

“High performance begins in the mind: before you can behave like a high achiever, you must think like one. Next comes behaviour, in which you turn that newfound psychological state into concrete actions. Then, through that behaviour, you can pass a culture of high performance on to your wider team, which will help both you and them. High performance ripples outwards from our minds to our actions, to our teams.”

The Gist

This is a self-help book with a sporting and activity emphasis which is short and easy to read. It derives from the excellent The High-Performance Podcast series which has been running since March 2020. In the podcast guests from different walks of life are interviewed by Humphrey and Hughes on their ideas and experiences around defining, delivering, and sustaining high performance. The book attempts to wrap some theory around what they say

What’s Good

I bought it on Kindle so that I could navigate my way around more easily. It’s well-structured and in my edition the notes and links were really useful. The case studies are largely sports or activity oriented and are excellent. They include Billy Monger, Robin Van Persie, James Timpson, Evelyn Glennie, Ant Middleton, Zack George, Reece Wabara, Jo Malone, Chris Hoy, Siya Kolisi, Toto Wolff, Ben Ainslie, Kasper Schmeichel, Holly Tucker, Kelly Jones, Phil and Tracy Neville, Mauricio Pochettino and Gareth Southgate.


If you are interested in elite performance this book may frustrate you. The very different personalities of the co-authors are evident in the text. Hughes takes us through some of the more populist theories of individual and organisational performance from the last thirty or so years – triune brain model, multiple intelligences, learned helplessness, grit, growth mindset, flow for example – but doesn’t question their validity or relevance. Humphrey adds his own Pit Stops which are tips in the form of his own life lessons. For me the words of the interviewees are more insightful than the theoretical models to which they are attached.

Something to Try

I liked the reference to positive psychologist Martin Seligman’s formula for judging whether your attitude is optimistic or not. In his research on learned helplessness, he came up with three ‘Ps’ that indicate you’re overgeneralising. People who view their problems as pervasive, permanent and personal tend to end up with worse life outcomes than those who view them as specific, temporary and external.