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Book Summary: The Confident Mind – A Battle-Tested Guide to Unshakable Performance

You win your “First Victory” before an important test, meeting, or competition when you are confident enough in your ability to stop telling yourself what to do and trust your training to carry you forward. Acquiring such confidence starts by building up your mental bank account.

“Confidence is that feeling that you can do something (or that you know something) so well you don’t have to think about how to do it when you’re doing it. That skill or knowledge is in you, it’s part of you, and it will come out when needed if you let it.” – Dr. Nate Zinsser

In the following book summary, you’ll learn how to accumulate and activate “total confidence” before an important test, meeting, or competition.

Book Summary: The Confident Mind - A Battle-Tested Guide to Unshakable Performance

Build Up Your Mental Bank Account

Your mind maintains a “bank account” of memories for the sport, craft, or profession you want to excel in. Your mental bank account balance grows when you make E.S.P. deposits. E.S.Ps are energizing and encouraging memories of quality effort, success, or progress.

When your mental bank account is loaded with E.S.Ps, you feel confident and walk around with swagger. But when your mental bank account balance is low, you experience self‐doubt and panic when a performance is not going well. Luckily, every day we have an opportunity to make E.S.P. deposits into your mental bank account and become “rich” with confidence.

A confident tennis player deposits E.S.Ps into her mental bank account by closing her eyes at night and asking herself: “Where did I put forth quality effort today?” She thinks back to when she dug deep to finish that extra bench‐press rep at the gym. She ponders on it for a while, trying to feel the same exhilaration she felt and make the moment as colorful as possible to sheer the memory in her mind. Then she thinks, “What success did I have due to my effort?” and remembers completing the five‐set bench‐press exercise and revisits the pride she felt in that moment. Finally, she thinks, “What progress did I make as a result of my effort?” She considers how she increased her strength and how her increased strength will improve her tennis serve.

If two competitors put in similar effort, have identical successes, and make the same progress, but one competitor chooses not to highlight their effort, success, or progress each day, their mental bank account will feel lower, and their performance will be plagued with

Build up your mental bank account by getting into bed each night, reflecting on the time you spent in the field you want to excel in, and asking:

  1. “Where did I put forth quality effort today?”
  2. “What success did I have due to my effort?”
  3. “What progress did I make as a result of my effort?”

Trigger Total Confidence

As you approach a performance with the sense that your mental bank account is loaded with memories of quality effort, success, and progress, you are ready to deliver a confident performance. Now, you need the right pre‐performance routine to trigger “complete confidence” and kill any nervous mental chatter. Dr. Nate Zinsser teaches his elite performers a simple three‐step pre‐performance routine called C-B-A:

  • Cue your conviction: Come up with a phrase that helps you to fall in love with your performance butterflies and convert nervous energy into pure excitement. Answer the following question: What would you think to yourself in the moments before a competition if you were eager to show the world how great you were? In the book, a quarterback tells himself: “Do it like you know it!” A marathon runner tells herself: “Time to cruise!”
  • Breathe your body: Work your breathing muscles by pushing down and into your belly as you inhale, and then up and in through your rib cage as you exhale. As you work your breathing muscles, you’ll feel in control of your mental state. And as Belisa Vranich writes in her book Breathing for Warriors, “Focusing on my breathing means that I can let my body tap into what it knows and has practiced without my brain interrupting.”
  • Attach your attention: Pick something inside your performance to be deeply curious about – like the pace and rhythm of the words coming out of your mouth as you give a presentation, how the guitar strings feel on your fingers as you play, or the movement of a tennis ball as your opponent tosses it in the air before serving to you. When Tiger Woods played his best golf between 2000-2003, he told a documentary filmmaker that he often became so “entrenched” and so “engrossed” on a shot that all background noise and self‐conscious thought disappeared. He said, “It’s almost as if I get out of the way…and my subconscious takes over.”

After attaching your attention to a target inside your performance, let your subconscious drive your performance and accept all results. Dwelling on mistakes and berating yourself for poor results depletes your mental bank account and erases the confidence you built up with quality effort, success, and progress reflection. Therefore, thrive for perfection but quickly accept imperfections because you’re an imperfect human and beating yourself up is counterproductive.

About the author

Dr. Nate Zinsseris a renowned performance psychology expert who has taught three generations of soldiers, athletes, and executives to master the art of confidence and mental toughness. Dr. Zinsser is the director of the Performance Psychology Program at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the most comprehensive mental-training program in the country, where, since 1992, he has helped prepare cadets for leadership in the U.S. Army. He also has been the sport-psychology mentor for numerous elite athletes, including two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, as well as many Olympians and NCAA champions. He has been a consultant for the FBI Academy, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, and the New York City Fire Department. He earned his PhD in sport psychology from the University of Virginia.


Biological Sciences, Sports Psychology, Biology, Engineering, Relationships, Parenting and Personal Development, Self Help, Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Confidence Is and Isn’t
Chapter 1 Accepting What You Cannot Change
Chapter 2 Building Your Bank Account #1: Filtering Your Past for Valuable Deposits
Chapter 3 Building Your Bank Account #2: Constructive Thinking in the Present
Chapter 4 Building Your Bank Account #3: Envisioning Your Ideal Future
Chapter 5 Protecting Your Confidence Every Day, No Matter What
Chapter 6 Deciding to Be Different
Chapter 7 Entering the Arena with Confidence
Chapter 8 Playing a Confident Game from Start to Finish
Chapter 9 Ensuring the Next First Victory: Reflect, Plan, and Commit-or What? So What? and Now What?
Epilogue: The Bus Driver, the General, and You 292
Appendix I Performance Imagery Script Sample
Appendix II After Action Review Worksheets
Reference Notes


Believe and be unshakable.

The Director of West Point’s influential Performance Psychology Program shares the secrets of mental toughness and self-belief in this definitive guide to mastering confidence, the key to performance in any field.

Dr. Nate Zinsser has spent his career training the minds of the U.S. Military Academy’s cadets as they prepare to lead and perform when the stakes are the very highest—on the battlefield. Alongside this work, he has coached world-class athletes including a Super Bowl MVP, numerous Olympic medalists, professional ballerinas, NHL All-Stars, and college All-Americans, teaching them to overcome pressure and succeed on the biggest stages.

Dr. Zinsser has come to understand that one single trait above all others makes peak performance possible: confidence, or the belief in oneself. Whether your mission involves leading a platoon into combat, returning an opponent’s serve, or delivering a sales pitch to a roomful of skeptical prospects, you perform best when you are so certain about your abilities that your flow of fear, doubts, and confusion slows to the barest minimum. What’s more, Dr. Zinsser has come to understand that confidence is a skill that can be taught, improved, and applied by anyone to enhance nearly every aspect of our lives and careers.

Now, for the first time, Dr. Zinsser distills his research and years of experience, offering a fascinating guide to the science of confidence and providing readers with a practical, step-by-step program to best harness their belief in themselves to achieve success in any field. TheConfident Mind is a complete guide to confidence: how to understand it, how to build it, how to protect it, and how to rely upon it when your performance matters most.

Video and Podcast


“Few humans know more about how to stay motivated under less-than-ideal conditions than Nate Zinsser, author of The Confident Mind. He runs the performance psychology program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he seeks to imbue cadets with the mental and emotional fortitude to stay positive through a grueling four-year program and ensuing military deployments.” – Bloomberg Businessweek

“To succeed at any challenging venture—in business, sports, art, music, writing, or any other sphere—you need to have confidence in yourself. But many of us find confidence to be a fickle trait that vanishes when we encounter unexpected adversity or spells of bad luck. In The Confident Mind, Nate Zinsser shares practical, proven methods that will allow you to develop and maintain reliable self-confidence even when the world seems to be conspiring against you. His methods aren’t fairy dust: They require commitment, effort, and ongoing practice. But they really work.” – Jon Krakauer, #1 bestselling author of Into Thin Air

“The Confident Mind is a must read for all those who ‘perform’ in their chosen field. Dr. Nate Zinsser shares constructive and practical insights to empower the reader through stories and science to claim the confidence we each have within ourselves. This book will resonate with anyone who dares to dream.” – Margaret Tracey, Director, Boston Ballet School; former Principal Ballerina, New York City Ballet

“Dr. Zinsser’s advice is the foundation for success at every level. I hope every soldier, sailor, airman and marine reads The Confident Mind and puts these crucial principles into action.” – General Robert Brooks Brown (U.S. Army, Retired), former commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific

“No performer can enter the arena and win without first achieving victory over the internal enemies of self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty. In The Confident Mind, Nate Zinsser provides specific techniques and advice for achieving the state of mind you need to perform right when you need it most.” – Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of The War of Art

“Studying confidence with Nate Zinsser brought me to the next level in my football career and helped me win two Super Bowls. People talk all the time about how a confident attitude is what makes people succeed in pressure situations, but rarely does anyone actually do anything about it. Here is your chance: I recommend The Confident Mind to competitors everywhere, no matter what sport or what ‘game’ they play.” – Eli Manning, Two-time Super Bowl MVP

“Confidence is the key that unlocks every player’s and every person’s potential. You won’t find a better, more helpful book on confidence anywhere than Nate Zinsser’s The Confident Mind.” – Dr. Bob Rotella, author of How Champions Think

“While training for the Olympic bobsled team, I had to win the battle in my head before I was ever going to beat anyone on the ice. Doc Z helped me do just that, making me a better athlete, coach, husband, and father. The Confident Mind will show you how to prepare your mind for competition and life.” – Michael Kohn, USA Olympic Men’s and Women’s Bobsled Teams Head Coach and 2002 Olympic medalist

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