“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” (Theodore Roosevelt)

This is the premise of the great book, High Performance, by Jake Humphrey and Damian Hughes.  Jake is a TV presenter – most well known for his work on BT Sport and previously on the BBC covering Formula 1.  Damian is an expert on high-performance sporting cultures and a visiting professor at Manchester Metropolitan University and their combined passion and experiences have provided us with a practical and inspirational book.  Should you wish to take your learning from this book one step further, they have also written ‘High Performance, the daily journal – 365 days to becoming your best’ – full of great thought-provoking questions to reflect on and plan some great actions.


So what is high performance?  Jake and Damian utilise Roosevelt’s definition “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” throughout the book, recognising that everyone has their own level of high performance – for example, my level of high performance when I rode a horse, was different to the Olympic dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin.  Similarly, my motorbike riding high performance can be defined by undertaking a 2000m tour around Portugal whereas Valentino Rossi, Italian former professional motorcycle road racer, would define his high performance by his nine Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Champion wins!


High performance for me, is also ‘infinite’, (Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game) where I seek to continuously grow and learn and this never ends.  My high performance is not ‘finite’ in that I will feel I have reached high performance when I have achieved one particular goal.  It is continuous, never-ending, full of growth and learning.  Take the motorbike riding for example, whilst having completed my motorcycle training, I’ll continue to undertake advanced training, touring different places, visiting different countries, sharing my riding experiences with my husband and an infinite number of friends, meet new bikers…. And so it goes on.


It is interesting to reflect there is much in society which places importance on the following:

  • Instant gratification
  • I’ll be happy or successful when…
  • Unhealthy comparison with others
  • Perfection
  • Self-worth being measured on the amount of ‘things’ (car, house) or the amount of fame you have…


Jake and Damian’s great book takes us through some important chapters which turn the negative impact of the areas above, showing us we can all achieve high performance and in turn, high self-worth and happiness, through the following steps:


High Performance Mindset

Lesson 1: Take responsibility

Lesson 2: Get motivated

Lesson 3: Manage your emotions


High performance behaviour

Lesson 4: Play to your strengths

Lesson 5: Get flexible

Lesson 6: Find your non-negotiables


High performance teams

Lesson 7: Lead the team

Lesson 8: Craft a culture


Introducing you to a high performance mindset, the book starts by taking you through a journey recognising that blame and fault, whilst easy, is not the way to go!  Where Life + Response = Outcome, you will read through real examples which show we have choices and to focus on what we can control.  With brilliant quotes – for example, “Success is only 20 percent talent” (Kelly Holmes), you can take control of your mindset and turn mistakes into learning.  True motivation comes from within and having a strong sense of purpose, and belonging.  Whilst much of society is driven by the value of material items, these are short-term wins and do not drive motivation.  When it comes to managing your emotions, the red v blue brain describes how the ‘emotional’ red brain is reactive, prone to panic and if not managed, can take over.  This may seem easier said than done, however, through deliberate practice and developing new habits, Jake and Damian take you through the DAC attack – Demands, Abilities, Consequences – where asking yourself simple questions – for example, What is actually demanded of me?  What abilities do I have that can help?  What is really at stake? – these can develop an improved sense of perspective instead of leaping to catastrophising!


When developing high-performance behaviour it is important to focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses.  Referring to the research of the Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, excellence is linked to a state of mind and he described this as a state of ‘flow’ – where we become completely immersed and happy in what we are doing.  Therefore, focus on the things you are absolutely passionate about, the things you get lost in and provide you with that euphoric, focused happiness.  When working on flexibility, the book focuses too on Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset’ which demonstrates the openness to growth and learning where your capabilities are not fixed.  By adopting this approach, asking for the views of others, looking at problems in different ways, we can look to approach our high performance in more creative and innovative ways.  Finally in this section, when finding your non-negotiables, these are the behaviours which you turn into trademark habits – they are simple and consistent behaviours which you are absolutely religious about and will practice without fail, to achieve your high performance.


Finally, when building high-performance teams, the focus here is on leadership, not telling people what to do.  Great leaders will be goal orientated, set the direction and then trust everyone to find their own way.  Leaders will focus on collaboration, not attempting to do everything on their own or focusing on themselves.  ‘Culture is created by people” (Gareth Southgate) and people need to have a strong sense of purpose and to be connected to it – throughout a whole team or organisation.  Leaders need to have high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) which is about self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy and great social skills – these are Daniel Goleman’s five levels of emotional intelligence and developing these will develop your leadership competency.  Everyone in the team finally needs to have a sense of trust and safety – the ability to offer ideas, challenge or discuss, without fear or retribution – this is the foundation stone for high-performing teams.


I really do hope I have done justice to this awesome book.  If I had hoped to write a book, it would be this one!  Full of research, inspiration, true stories and practical guidance.  If you want to find your own high performance, look no further!


If you want even more inspiration, do check out Jake and Damian’s High Performance Podcast – hear from inspiring interviews from Matthew Syed to Jonny Wilkinson.  Every podcast I’ve seen so far is BRILLIANT!