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Book Summary: Getting to Neutral – How to Conquer Negativity and Thrive in a Chaotic World

Getting to Neutral (2022) is a step-by-step guide to conquering negativity and embracing the state of neutrality in a stressful world. By delving into deeply personal experiences as well as insights from leading athletes and coaches from around the world, it shows how anyone can find calm and clarity in their everyday life.

Introduction: Learn to thrive in life in neutral gear

You probably know all about the power of positive thinking – but is it really all it’s chalked up to be? Simply expecting the best without thinking the situation through may not lead to the results you want. And sometimes, it’s just exhausting to be happy all the time!

But what’s the alternative? Negative thinking certainly can’t be the answer. Being pessimistic and expecting the worst out of life can only leave you feeling depressed and morbid.

It’s time for a new approach: living life in neutral.

Living in neutral means examining the facts rationally to make decisions. It means giving what happened in the past importance, but only as a frame of reference and not as a predictor of the future. Living this way, aligned with your values and priorities, you will not only be able to make better decisions, but also live a fuller and more passionate life.

Book Summary: Getting to Neutral - How to Conquer Negativity and Thrive in a Chaotic World

Why neutral thinking beats both negativity and positivity

In September of 2019, the author Trevor Moawad woke up in a great mood. He was looking forward to what was shaping up to be an exciting fall season in his career as a mental conditioning coach. Having put the difficulties of a recent divorce behind him, he was ready to throw himself into work again.

But when he passed his mirror, he was startled to see that his eyes suddenly looked yellow. Too busy to dwell, he popped on a pair of sunglasses and headed out into his day. Shortly afterwards, though, he was afflicted by severe itching.

Weeks later, he found out why: He had cholangiocarcinoma, a type of bile duct cancer. The C-word. And to make things even worse, the world was just starting to face its own C-word: COVID-19.

As the COVID pandemic came into being, the dangers of too much negative thinking became clear. People panicked about not wiping down groceries properly. They tended to worry the worst would happen to loved ones. They spent their time seeking out gloomy statistics and predictions to brood about, focusing only on the stories about deaths and overlooking news about vaccine development or international cooperation.

Now, this level of negative thinking is unproductive, depressing and even harmful when it leads to pessimism and hopelessness – and it’s something most people are aware of at some level.

But did you know that positive thinking can also cause harm? Simply being optimistic without any basis can lead to becoming more negative and depressed when desired outcomes don’t come to pass.

So what’s the ideal alternative? The answer is neutral thinking. Rather than careening between doomsday thinking or toxic positivity, neutral thinking is a fact-focused way of thinking in a judgment-free zone. When you think neutrally, you don’t ignore the past, but you understand that the future does not have to mimic the past.

Neutral thinking doesn’t mean you should become devoid of passion or feeling. Instead, it requires stepping back from emotion at the time of decision-making, using facts and analysis of past experiences to make a decision about moving forward and then moving into that decision with enthusiasm and passion.

Let values guide you into shifting to neutral

The first step to shifting to neutral is simply this: Ask yourself, ‘what is the next thing I need to do?’ And one person who exemplifies this is Si France, owner and CEO of Welbe Health.

Welbe Health is a company that allows seniors to live at home with access to 24/7 care without having to move into a nursing home. When COVID-19 hit, Welbe’s clientele was one of the most vulnerable populations. France could easily have become overwhelmed trying to care for them. But he used the concept of neutral thinking, distilling instructions for his employees to a simple daily checklist: Read the day’s plan; do what you are assigned; care for your loved ones.

That was it. Dealing with each day in an organized, rational, informed and structured manner, Welbe employees used the events of the recent past to guide them without wallowing in them. France prepared for the future without catastrophizing, using the best information that was available each morning. Each day’s goal was just to do your best for that day.

And it worked. Probability and statistics show that 60 of France’s clients should have died during the pandemic. But only 10 did – meaning that 50 people survived against all odds.

Now, like all great concepts, thinking neutral sounds simple until it’s time to put it into practice. In reality, a situation that calls for switching to neutral is one that probably has you shaken. It might be a diagnosis, a layoff, a loss or a perceived failure of some sort. Or perhaps it’s the anticipation of something big – a game, presentation or job interview.

So how can you switch to neutral? What can you use to guide you there?

The answer lies in values. Your value system is unique to you, and it should prevail regardless of any chaos in your life. Identify your values. Do you believe in family above all? Or do you value fitness? Adherence to truth? A love of beauty? Kindness? Teamwork? Hard work?

Identifying and stating your values helps you see what you cannot do without. You can use them to anchor you to your daily decisions.

Let’s say that you have a big presentation at work on Monday and you anticipate a stressful weekend coordinating the speech, graphics and other presenters. Rather than a panicked negative response or a false positive that could lead you to not preparing well, think of your values. Let’s say they are hard work and family. Knowing those two priorities can help you plan a morning of intense preparation, but an evening spent with the kids at the park.

Knowing that you have planned tasks that align with both your values, you can approach your day with the knowledge that your goals will be met without compromising your principles. And you can coast into Monday morning on neutral.

Link values to habits for ideal results

You may have heard of Navy Admiral William McRaven’s famous speech to the University of Texas graduating class of 2014. The speech, which has since become a viral sensation, teaches students ten lessons that McRaven learned during Navy SEAL training that can help them change the world.

The first one? “Make your bed.”

It may sound ludicrously simple, but doing this every morning means that no matter what happens the rest of the day, you will have accomplished at least one task. And if you can build on that, perhaps you can accomplish more.

Now, while values help guide your actions, habits are what help you perform these actions well, day after day. Ask yourself every day what habits help you live a life that aligns with your values, and make sure you stick to them.

Take it from someone at the top of their game: Serena Wiliams. While playing professionally, Williams wrote down notes for her game on scraps of paper and studied them between matches. This was not just to up her game but also to keep her focused on tennis and not everything else happening around her. In 2007, one word featured repeatedly in her notes: ‘Yetunde,’ the name of her half-sister who had recently been killed in a drive-by shooting. Reading her sister’s name locked her into focus: She would play her best because it was to honor her sister.

As well as developing good habits, it’s important to understand which habits to break. One habit that can drag you into a vortex of negativity is doom scrolling. When you are on social media multiple times a day, scrolling through reels and photos and stories about political divides, shootings and the freefalling economy, it is virtually impossible to bring yourself up to neutral. It’s probably not a coincidence that rates of depression, anxiety and suicide have risen steadily during the years that social media has become prevalent.

So try to cut that cord. Stop – or at least try to reduce – the scroll. Put the phone down and step out of the zone of negativity.

There are other traps that seek to trip you up and shake your focus. This might be texting during an online class you are supposed to be concentrating on, surfing the internet while playing with your kids or just plain gossip. The list is endless.

To divert your attention to what matters, consider making your own lists – lists of what’s important to you. Study these lists to help you shift to neutral in your own, unique way.

The importance of pregaming – without cheerleaders

As the author progressed through his C-word diagnosis and treatment, he learned how to get through the process neutrally. His success had a lot to do with preparation.

Before a big procedure, he made sure to not overload himself with information. He took in only what he needed to know to get through this next step. Even while sitting in a doctor’s office, he purposely chose to sit in a specific chair so that he could avoid looking at computer screens that might overwhelm him with test results. Before a major surgery, he spent the evening watching Cinderella Man, the movie where Russell Crowe plays a boxer who fought his way back into a championship after being forced to spend years away. He chose this movie deliberately.

On the morning of surgery, he went to church, and then walked with his ex-wife down to the beach. When he walked into the hospital, he was ready.

Whatever you are up against – a presentation, an exam, an audition – preparation is important for getting into neutral. This also includes what not to take in. For example, the author deliberately didn’t read about the side effects of chemotherapy because he didn’t want to think about a lot of scary things that probably wouldn’t help him get through the process anyway. Instead, he talked to trusted friends who advised him on specific things, such as keeping himself well fed so that he could face his physical challenges better.

Being neutral means essentially becoming your own team manager so that you can take care of yourself the way you would an elite athlete. But pick your team wisely. The author made sure he was only surrounded by those who could help him stay neutral – no negative people but also no cheerleaders exhausting him with positivity. You don’t want energy vampires or those who are too consumed with their own problems to support you. You also don’t want people who are outwardly supportive but who secretly resent putting in work for you.

With the right preparation and the right team, you can face any situation that comes your way. Whenever a challenge arises, allow yourself to feel whatever comes – be it anger, sadness, frustration or anything else. Once you let it out, you’ll be able to ease your way to neutral.

Leading from neutral

In 1989, American journalist Maria Shriver became pregnant with her oldest child. She wanted to take maternity leave, but was told that such a thing didn’t exist. If she took time off, she would probably lose her job. So she didn’t.

Although Shriver had no choice in the matter at the time – maternity leave became protected by law a few years later – now that she is a leader, she chooses to lead her employees very differently. One crucial component that she uses daily is emotional intelligence checks – in other words, how is everyone feeling?

Taking a more caring approach doesn’t mean Shriver is abandoning the rational aspect of neutral thinking. Rather, taking an “emotional temperature” gives Shriver – or any coach, teacher or even parent – valuable information that can guide them in how they treat the people they lead.

This is important in any field, and especially when dealing with the very different generational mindsets you find in today’s workplaces. Boomer and Gen X coaches and leaders, for example, can get irritated by what they perceive as their younger counterparts’ quote-unquote “softness.” But a good coach won’t try to change people in their team. Instead, they will meet their team members where they are.

One person in your team might need a more structured challenge while another might need a more fun approach. Accepting others’ differences, generational or otherwise, is crucial to leading with neutrality.

And one thing’s for sure: yelling or scaring people into excellence definitely isn’t the best approach to leading. Even Navy SEAL training has evolved to a point where candidates are given support and training before they try out. A neutral coach will look at the past to inform their leading decisions, but will understand that past techniques will not necessarily work going forwards.

Now, before you can be a good coach, you need to understand how to be a coach for yourself. In other words, you need to treat yourself the way you would the members of your team. So use your values to guide you, and rely on facts rather than opinions. Don’t ascribe false largeness to things. Nothing is so bad you can’t recover from it. Nothing is so good you can’t improve.

When you’re living in neutral, you can face any challenge with poise and clarity.


Rather than harmful negativity or toxic positivity, the best and most productive mental state to inhabit is a neutral one. Neutrality means learning from the past but understanding that your next result can be different. It also means cultivating habits based on your core values, and preparing in the right way.

When you’re living in neutral yourself, you can also help those around you to reach neutrality. This way, you can all steer through life’s many challenges with calm and clarity.

About the author

Trevor Moawad (1973–2021), former President of Moawad Consulting Group and the CEO and cofounder of Limitless Minds, was a mental conditioning coach to elite performers. He is well known for being the mental coach to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and worked closely with prestigious NCAA football programs and coaches, the US Special Operations community, Major League Baseball, and the NBA.


Mindfulness, Happiness, Personal Development, Business Skills, Decision Making, Management, Leadership, Organizational Behavior, Sports Psychology, Problem Solving, Motivational, Self-Help

Table of Contents

Foreword Ciara ix
Preface Andy Staples xiii
Prologue 1
Chapter 1 Why Neutral? 9
Chapter 2 How to Downshift to Neutral 35
Chapter 3 Taking the Next Right Step 59
Chapter 4 Determining Your Values 85
Chapter 5 Behaving Your Way to Success 115
Chapter 6 Indiana Trevor and the Scroll of Doom 127
Chapter 7 Locking On/Locking Out 139
Chapter 8 Why Your Pregame Matters 157
Chapter 9 You are Your Own General Manager 179
Chapter 10 Everyone Needs a Coach 201
Chapter 11 There is No Finish Line 221
Postscript Russell Wilson 231
Acknowledgments 233
Notes 235


In this breakthrough book, the author of Wall Street Journal bestseller It Takes What It Takes provides life-changing, step-by-step guidance on how to successfully navigate adversity and defeat negativity by downshifting to neutral thinking.

It’s easy to be positive when everything is coming up roses. But what happens when life goes sideways? Many of us lapse into a self-defeating negative spiral that makes it hard to accomplish anything. Getting to Neutral is a step-by-step guide that shows readers how to use mental conditioning coach Trevor Moawad’s innovative motivational system to defeat negativity and thrive.

Neutral thinking is a judgment-free, process-oriented approach that helps us coolly assess situations in high-pressure moments. Moawad walks readers through how to downshift to neutral no matter how dire the situation. He shows us how to behave our way to success, how to determine and practice our values in a neutral framework, and how to surround ourselves with a team that helps us to stay neutral.

Filled with raw, inspiring stories of how Trevor navigated health challenges with neutral thinking as well as insights drawn from some of the world’s best athletes, coaches, and leaders, Getting to Neutral will help readers learn to handle even the most complex and turbulent situations with calm, clarity, and resolve.


“Trevor has been incredibly valuable in helping me and so many players and teams understand the value of neutral thinking. To not dwell on what is behind you or what is out in front of you, but to focus on the present moment. To look at the moment and be neutral about the situation and focus on what you have to do and what you can control. You will find this book very impactful in helping you understand the right mental approach for any situation in your life.” — Billy Donovan, head coach, Chicago Bulls, 2-time NCAA champion, University of Florida

“Now more than ever, every competitive organization wants the ability to recover quickly from setbacks or adversity. In enterprise selling, the ability for individuals and leaders do so is core to their success. The principle of ‘Neutral Thinking’, not being defined by a single circumstance, event, or attaching our worth to a single outcome but living in the moment, is the foundation that allows us to recover fast. Our resilience as a sales organization has improved because of our work with Trevor because we now live in the truth; what has happened, what is happening, and what can I do now to change the outcome. We are better sellers for it, and our customers more grateful for it.” — John Dougan Senior Director, Global Sales, Delivery and Coaching, Workday

“Every single day, professional and collegiate athletes are under tremendous pressure to perform at their best on a public stage . Trevor’s understanding and empathy for the visibility, scrutiny and accountability they face is unmatched. His strategies to help the world’s best get to a “neutral” mindset are applicable to athletes of any age. While wins, losses and statistical accomplishments are volatile, those who can stay neutral and in the present have the best opportunity to sustain success. For over 20 years, I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact Trevor’s work has had on individuals and organizations. This book will absolutely make a positive impact on every reader.” — Brodie VanWagenenen, Former GM, NY Mets, Ceo, Roc Nation

“Trevor has been a great asset to me and our program as we look to take the Maryland Football program to a consistent level of success each and every year. GET TO NEUTRAL provides important insights that can be applied both on and off the field.” — Mike Locksley, Head Football Coach, The University of Maryland

“Since meeting Trevor in 1999, his work with athletes, coaches, military, and the corporate world has centered on effective strategies to develop mental toughness. Educating others on the concept of NEUTRAL has been impactful to so many individuals and teams, but maybe none more important than himself after reading this book and knowing all he has endured!” — Chad Bohling, New York Yankees director of mental conditioning and consultant to the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Stars, and Wheels Up.

“Trevor Moawad is a beast helping elite athletes, leaders and warriors optimize their performance. I hired Trevor 12 years ago to come to Coronado, CA and help the SEAL community take our game to the next level. The results were outstanding and his strategies and approaches helped many warriors perform more effectively on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether you are a leader, an athlete or simply someone interested in becoming more effective when it matters most, Trevor Moawad’s neutral thinking strategies will be a game-changer for you.” — Tom Chaby Captain (retired) USN Former Commanding Officer – SEAL

“For the daily storms that knock us down and off course in life or business or sports, Trevor Moawad offers a powerful and practical path to bouncing back and achieving sustainable success. Forward and reverse are the two gears we may use most, but Moawad skillfully shows how a neutral mindset may be our best friend and most helpful ally in any crisis.” — Ben Sherwood, former president of the Disney ABC Television Group and CEO of MOJO Sports.

“Life is such a mental game, and every one of us could use Trevor’s coaching. Whether we are parenting, leading, or caregiving, understanding how to harness the power of our minds is such an asset. If you want to play the long game of life, Trev is your guy.” — Maria Shriver

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