The Zone of Optimal Performance, Rebuilding the Colosseum, Moto-Songwriting, and More

Bring Ambition Newsletter - January 7, 2021

Welcome to the first Bring Ambition Newsletter of 2021!

The Bring Ambition Newsletter, is an experimental biweekly newsletter where I share 5+ things that are fascinating me lately in the world of professional and personal development, the psychology of performance, meta-learning, lifestyle design, and more. You'll find unconventional resources, cool gadgets, mini-essays, and inspiring content, to name just a few...

Without further ado, enjoy this edition of the Bring Ambition Newsletter!

1. ) The zone of optimal performance

To be at your best, you need to be in a calm "Zen" state, freeing yourself of emotion so you can focus on performing and executing, right?


Elite performers, no matter their area of expertise, not only perform in spite of stress, it actually helps them. The Yerkes-Dodson law was developed by psychologists at the turn of the 20th century, and demonstrates the empirical relationship between pressure and performance. As perceived stress and arousal increase, our performance actually increases along with it — but only to a point.

As physiological and mental arousal rises, we enter a state of "beneficial stress" called eustress. We become more motivated, alert, and engaged. Our nervous system primes us for action, expanding our capabilities and potential. We're able to perform optimally, overcome obstacles, and even grow our capabilities and self-efficacy in the process.

It's when arousal and stress cross from eustress to distress that performance starts to suffer. Distressed performers are more easily fatigued. They become beset by panic and anxiety. Their performance breaks down, and they leave feeling defeated, ineffective, and burnt out. The sheer intensity of the sensations might cause the breakdown, or it could simply be an inability to process and handle them appropriately. At the first sign of stress, they think "something is wrong," and the vicious cycle begins.

Remember next time you step up to the starting line, the exam room, or even an important presentation: great performers use discomfort as fuel. They feel the fear and do it anyway. It's not about suppressing or ignoring your emotions. It's about accepting, managing, and channeling them into peak performance.

2.) Most badass thing maybe ever:

"Italy Will Rebuild the Colosseum’s Floor, Restoring Arena to Its Gladiator-Era Glory." The kid in me is thrilled — I remember watching Gladiator in theaters and becoming obsessed with Ancient Rome. The caveat is that the arena will be used only for "high culture," i.e. concerts and theater. No one’s expecting gladiatorial combat to be resurrected, but can we at least get a UFC event in there?

RelevantHere are some other Ancient Roman amphitheaters that are already renovated and hosting theatrical and sporting events.

3.) In case you missed it:

14 Journal Prompts for Special Occasions, our blog post from New Year's Eve, has been getting some positive attention. My personal experience: I answered every prompt in my journal. I admit it was cognitively and emotionally taxing, but it was incredibly valuable in helping me close the door on 2020 and metabolize its lessons, and face 2021 with renewed energy and ambition. On Monday I woke up at 4:30am (Jocko Willink-style) and got right to work.

Give the prompts a try if you haven't already — you can choose a few select questions, or climb the mountain and answer every one.

4.) Quote of the week:

"Nothing you'll take the time to conceive and execute isn't some aspect of you... Every novel (or picture or song) is really veiled memoir." — Chuck Palahniuk

5.) Inspiring video:

"Wesley Schultz: On Motorcycles and Music." Wesley Schultz is the guitarist and lead vocalist for the folk band The Lumineers. In this video he discusses two things I love, motorcycles and songwriting — where they intersect, what role they play in the creative process, how to write songs while riding (yes, really), and much more.

Relevant - If you enjoy the article and short video, check out Wesley on Triumph Motorcycle's For the Ride podcast here.

Happy New Year to all new and existing subscribers! Hope you're kicking butt already in 2021.

Jon D'Alessandro

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