The School of Greatness - Critical summary review - Lewis Howes

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The School of Greatness - critical summary review

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Self Help & Motivation and Personal Development

This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy

Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.

ISBN: 9781623369026

Publisher: Rodale Books

Critical summary review

Greatness, according to former professional football player Lewis Howes, is not only about the character and habits that lead to success but also about those that can help you overcome any challenge or adversity. It is – as he writes in the introduction to “The School of Greatness” – about “lifting yourself up from the depths of despair and using mindfulness, joy, and love to harness your dreams. It is a progression through a series of lessons – eight areas of focus and continual improvement.”

So, get ready to explore these eight areas with us – and prepare to learn what you need to do to live bigger, love deeper, and leave a legacy!

1. Create a vision

“If we cannot see the possibility of greatness, how can we dream it?” – asked once famed acting coach Lee Strasberg.  Dreaming, contrary to popular opinion, is not a time-wasting activity, but one of the foundations of success. According to Howes, most great achievers are able “to visualize the outcome they desire in a competition” knowing “what they want and where they want to go” from the outset. This is not just a platitude: to most athletes, visualization is “as much a part of their process as any aspect of training.”

Consequently, it is not an impromptu activity – it’s, instead, a methodical practice that follows certain rules and recommendations. These are the three you need to pay most attention to:

  1. Be specific. “If you want to be great at anything,” writes Howes, “you’ve got to have a clear vision of exactly what you want, why you want it, and when you want it to happen.” In other words, don’t visualize yourself as the next All-American: devise, instead, a goal that’s “attainable but slightly out of reach.” 
  2. Let your vision be your identity. If you don’t know who you want to be ten years from now, you don’t really know who you are today. Visions provide identities. The most powerful among them combine dreams with a set of clear goals.
  3. Turn the telescope around. Visions are so powerful because we become what we envision ourselves being. That’s why it’s dangerous to aim low: you’re not humble, but you’re actually underselling your potential to yourself.

So, what are you waiting for? Write down a goal that will overstretch you. Print it, and hang it somewhere you will see it every day. Imagine your perfect day itinerary (PDI) and strive toward it. Choose five principles and stick to them no matter what. All journeys to greatness start like this.

2. Turn adversity into advantage

For most people, adversities create unimaginable amounts of stress; great people, however, have ways to turn them into an advantage. If you want to be like them, follow this simple 5-step procedure:

  1. Be aware of the adversity. There are two types of adversities: minor (such as parking tickets and relationship fights) and major (such as an illness or a death in the family). The latter is usually inevitable so, if you don’t want to be overwhelmed by them, you need to prepare your response in advance. In the case of the former, you need to find the why, the root of the problem and deal with it.
  2. Write it down or share it. Once you become aware of some adversity along your way, channel your stress in advance by putting your feelings on paper. What you resist, persists. So, don’t: let it all out!
  3. Acknowledge yourself. With the negative feelings out, you can now fill the empty space with some affirmations. Acknowledge yourself for being on time at work, eating clean, or simply for trying hard. It will make you feel better.
  4. Express your gratitude. You can’t be upset when you’re focusing on what you are grateful for. So, tell someone (your partner, parents, or friends) three things you are most grateful for in this moment. Remember: in the world of feelings, giving is receiving.
  5. Reconnect to your vision and take action. It’s time to return your focus to what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Reaffirm your vision. Take positive action.

3. Cultivate a champion’s mindset

Champions see the world differently than other people – and this is primarily thanks to four tools that help them understand who they are: visualization, meditation, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence:

  1. Visualization. “The purpose of visualization,” as we noted above, “is to see the results you want to create before they happen.” And it’s a powerful tool not only in terms of life’s objective but also in terms of everyday activities. Champions see themselves catching the ball before they walk out on the court. Imitate them.
  2. Meditation. Meditation is, of course, about clearing the mind of everything that might hinder one’s focus – from distractions to doubts. And it isn’t difficult at all – in fact, a 15-second breathing exercise is all you need to know to start. You can do it right away: just close your eyes, breathe in through your nose for a count of five seconds, hold the breath for two, and breathe it out through your mouth for a count of eight seconds. Repeat. That’s it.
  3. Mindfulness. Mindfulness goes hand in hand with meditation. It’s about learning how to value the present moment. Starting a gratitude journal is a great mindfulness practice.
  4. Emotional intelligence. One of the key aspects of emotional intelligence is knowing yourself. So, list your five strengths and five weaknesses and check them with three people who know you well. Do this from time to time – and grow while doing it.

4. Develop hustle

The reason why the greats are better than you at overcoming obstacles is that they are better equipped – both mentally and physically – to make sacrifices and hustle through barriers. True, “it takes more than hustle to be great, but you can’t be great without that burning desire to do what others are unwilling to do.” To develop hustle:

  1. Play around with what-if scenarios. To overcome the fear of failure, concurrently with your vision, develop your strategies for the worst possible scenarios that might happen in your endeavor. Experience the negative feelings. Then, turn these negative “what ifs” into positives “what could bes.” Process everything. Be prepared.
  2. Work the hustle muscle. There are four areas everyone can be hustling: body, mindset, relationship, and skills. Develop each of them accordingly: every day, do one thing that makes your body healthier and stronger, read a few pages from a thought-provoking book, connect with someone you know or don’t know, and try to learn a new skill of any sort.

5. Master your body

True, we don’t choose the body we’re born with, but we can build and maintain with the proper care. Here are three things you can do to master your own body starting right now:

  1. Take a picture of your body… naked. Accepting and loving your body is the first step toward improving its condition. So, evaluate yourself. Be honest. Write down the parts of your body you want to improve on.
  2. Develop a fitness lifestyle plan that you love. Though everyone’s lifestyle plan may differ in the details, the general structure is similar. Start with carving out the time. Then, start moving and get active. Third, find an “accountability partner” for support. Finally, expand your comfort zone with each day passing.
  3. Find out what’s MISSING. Missing is an acronym for mineralization, inflammation, stress, sleep, inhalation, nutrient density, and gut health – seven areas of critical importance for your health. Ignore any of them at your own peril.

Needless to add, mastering the body is about a lot of “dos” and even more “don’ts”. You don’t need anyone to tell you that smoking, drinking, binging, overeating, and oversleeping belong in the second category. On the other hand, meditation, physical activities, dancing, listening to music, and travels should inevitably help.

6. Practice positive habits

“We are what we repeatedly do,” said Aristotle once. Excellence, in other words, is not an act but a habit. So, it should surprise nobody that highly successful people share pretty similar habits. 

According to a 2014 analysis by Entrepreneur magazine of the wealthiest people alive, most of them maintain a to-do list, write down their goals, and wake up at least three hours before work. They also read no less than 30 minutes a day and listen to audiobooks during the commute. None of them watches TV for more than an hour a day, while all of them exercise at least four days a week. Most importantly, they all network a lot and seem to believe in lifelong educational self-improvement, and in the fact that while bad habits have a negative impact, good habits create opportunities.

Try to add some of these positive habits to your daily life. A good way to achieve this is the 28-day morning routine challenge. Just pick one habit of the ones listed above and spend the following four weeks practicing it each morning. In time, it will become part of your character. 

7. Build a winning team

“You can’t achieve greatness alone,” writes Howes. “Success is a shared process.” So, it’s of vital importance to find the people you’re going to share your success with. They can be mentors or partners, employees or supporters, teammates or fans. Whatever they are – you need them as much as they need you. To build your winning team:

  1. Take inventory of your relationships. Discover who among your friends is serving you in your life or holding you back.
  2. Join or create a mastermind. A mastermind, according to Howes, is “a group of influential individuals who support you to take your business or life to the next level.” So, they are not group therapy: they are a non-competitive, supportive, peer advisory, brainstorming board.
  3. The three lists to freedom. Create a 3-column table with the following headlines: things you don’t like doing, things you can’t do, and things you shouldn’t do. Optimize accordingly.
  4. Develop a personality matrix. Discover who you – and the people around you – really are using a personality matrix. Only then you’ll know who you need to complete you.

8. Be of service to others

The happiest and most thriving people are those who give back: greatness matters little if you don’t contribute and help others achieve it. To do so:

  1. Choose your avenue of service. See where and how you can give back. It can be in your local community, the arts, cancer research or fund-raising – your contribution can come through anything: your time, talent, or treasure. Either way, everything, and everyone matters.
  2. Do your first act. Put your money – or expertise or hours – where your mouth is. Start small. Then, build upon your first act. Nothing beats the emotion.

Final Notes

Even though most of the ideas in “The School of Greatness” are commonplace, Lewis Howes’ enthusiasm is contagious – even when his tone is paternalistic. 

It’s not difficult to envision many people who’ll find this book both inspiring and helpful.

12min Tip

Whether you’re an athlete, an entrepreneur, a mom, an organizer, a freelancer, or a designer – strive to be great. Believe in lifelong improvement. Foster good habits. Try!

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Who wrote the book?

A former professional football player and two-sport All-American, Lewis Howes turned to writing after a career-ending injury left him “out of work and living on his sister’s couch.” Ever since, he has made a name as one of the more popular lifestyle entrepreneurs and high-perf... (Read more)

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