The Performance Paradox: A Book Review by Bob Morris

The Performance Paradox : Turning the Power of Mindset into Action
Eduardo Briceño
Ballantine Books (September 2023)

“Vision without execution is hallucination.”  Thomas Edison

Presumably Eduardo Briceño agrees with Edison but would probably add that ambitious people spend too much time and energy on performance and not enough on improving performance.

Anders Ericcson’s research reveals that the key to peak performance is what he characterizes as “deep practice.” That is, redundant practice under expert and strict discipline, being highly focused on a series of fundamentals (“chunking bite-sized pieces’) of an extended improvement process. During thousands of hours, the aspirant begins to “feel it”: becomes at one with, for example, playing a violin, moving chess pieces, or hitting a golf ball. Peak performers in basketball such as Michael Jordan and Stephon Curry describe being in a “zone” when making every shot. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods had rounds of golf when they felt like they could make every putt.  The best in any field spend far more time on on improving execution than they do on performing. Their objective is to reach and then remain in (as long as posible) what many of them characterize as a “zone,” being in a “flow.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “muh-hay-lee-chick-sent-mee-high”) defines flow as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer joy of doing it.” He has identified eight characteristics of flow:

1. Complete concentration on the task;
2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;
3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);
4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding;
5. Effortlessness and ease;
6. There is a balance between challenge and skills;
7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination; and
8. There is a feeling of almost total control over the task.

According to Briceño,”The performance paradox is the counterintuitive phenomenon that if we want to improve our performance, we have to do something other than perform. No matter how hard we work, if we only do things as best we know how, trying to minimize mistakes, we get stuck at our current levels of understanding, skills, and capabilities.”

So what?

“We think the answer is to just work harder and faster, but the way to improve our results is not to spend more time performing. It is to do something else that is a lot more rewarding and, ultimately, productive.”


“To thrive, we must reconnect with the curiosity and learning habiots wse all had as children, before school taught us to focus on performance. Th is opens up boundless possibilities for what we can pursue and who we can become, preparing us to grow in our careers as our responsibilities evolve, the world changes, and new challenges and opportunities arise.”

Briceño wrote this book for those who are determined to accelerate their personal growth and professional development. He explains HOW.

And for those who are also determined to overcome the Performance Paradox in teams and organizations. He explains HOW.

And also for those who are determined to complete the transition from individual transformation to global impact. He explains HOW.

He uses several reader-friendly devices, notably a “BIG IDEA” head note at the beginning of each chapter and at its conclusion, a set of “REFLECTION QUESTIONS” and a “LOOKING FORWARD” head’s up.

I commend Eduardo Briceño on his creation of this book. It is a brilliant achievement.

Here are three concluding suggestions. First, think of this book as the only source you need for a self-directed learning experience. It contains everything you need to learn and think about, now, at this point in your life. Read one chapter a week.  Here are the other two suggestions: highlight key passages, and, perhaps keep a lined notebook near at hand while reading The Performance Paradox in which to record your comments, questions, page references, and goals (preferably accompanied by deadlines) as well as your responses to the aforementioned “REFLECTION QUESTIONS.” The two tactics — highlighting and recording — will help to facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

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