Book Review: The New Psycho-Cybernetics
“The New Psycho-Cybernetics” is an updated edition of a book that has sold over 30 million copies since being originally published in 1960. The time-tested ideas originally put forth by Dr. Maxwell Maltz have become the basis for personal development, education, sales training, and sports coaching .
About the Author
Dr. Maxwell Maltz began his career in a field of medicine sometimes called cosmetic surgery or plastic surgery. Early in his career, Dr. Maltz learned the tremendous impact that cosmetic surgery could have on a person’s performance. He saw “F” students becoming “straight A” students after surgery. He saw shy, insecure people become confident and extroverted with even minor surgery. This led to him publishing “New Faces, New Futures” in 1936.
Through continued work in cosmetic surgery, Dr. Maltz came to realize that cosmetic surgery alone could not change a person’s performance. There needed to be a corresponding change in self-image.
This was the genesis of psycho-cybernetics.
What is Psycho-Cybernetics?
To be transparent, I am not a believer in self-help, ‘you-can-do-anything-on-which-you-set-your-mind’ philosophies that too many authors promote.
Psycho-cybernetics is different. Psycho-cybernetics defines our ability to achieve goals or a desired level of performance in terms of a “goal-striving servo-mechanism consisting of the brain and nervous system, which is used and directed by the mind” (quote from “The New Psycho-Cybernetics”).
In the industrial world, a servo-mechanism is part of an automated machine. The servo-mechanism causes the machine to zero in on its target through a series of measurements of position and corrections to the path as it makes its way toward the goal. The example of a servo-mechanism used in the book is a guided missile. The guided-missile works by locking onto its target and continuously adjusting its trajectory en route to its target.
The goals you attempt to communicate to this servo-mechanism must first pass through a filter of the individual’s self-image. If the self-image is negative, results of the servo-mechanism will be negative or, at least, less than ideal. Just as a faulty sensor can cause the guided-missile to miss its target, a negative self-image will lead to less than ideal performance.
Or, think about setting up to hit a golf ball over a water hazard when you are sure the ball will end up in the water. More than likely, it will. (The book contains many examples of psycho-cybernetics applied to golf.)
The good news is that the converse is also true – a positive, accurate self-image will promote positive results.
How is Psycho-Cybernetics Relevant to Triathlon Training?
There are at least three ways that we can apply psycho-cybernetics to preparing for and racing in a triathlon.
Believing You Can Succeed
As noted above, our self-image is the filter through which our built-in servo mechanism views our goals. For me, consistent, structured training gives me a positive self-image and confidence that I can complete a race. The more races I have completed, the more confident I have become that I will finish any race.
Think about being whacked on the head or yelled at during an open water swim. A positive self-image will help us brush off these challenges and focus on finishing the race. A negative self-image will set us back or cause some to drop out of the race.
Visualizing Stronger Performance
Dr. Maltz cites a study that reveals the power of visualization.
Researchers studied the performance of three groups of students in shooting free throws. Their assignments and results on day 20 were:
- Group 1 – Practiced shooting free throws every day for 20 days. The result on Day 20 was 24% more free throws made compared to Day 1.
- Group 2 – Did not practice; shot free throws on Days 1 and 20 only. The result on Day 20 was no improvement over Day 1.
- Group 3 – Shot free throws on Days 1 and 20; on days 2-19, students visualized throwing free throws and correcting their aim when they missed. The result on Day 20 was 23% more free throws made compared to Day 1.
The group that visualized shooting free throws improved as much as those who actually shot free throws each day.
Admittedly, shooting free throws is not an endurance sport. However, we can still improve our performance in triathlon by visualizing certain activities in transition. Some even say they rehearse, or visualize, how they will respond to the inevitable contact during an open water swim or to pain that sometimes occur during a race.
Not Letting Others Define You
Albert Einstein’s colleagues considered him to be a daydreamer and even “dumb” at mathematics. Fortunately, he did not let their opinion affect his success.
Some may consider us to be too old to take on a new challenge such as a first triathlon or even longer distance. Or they may consider our goals to become a stronger athlete to be pointless.
Don’t let another human limit you.
In Case You Choose to Read or Listen to “The New Psycho-Cybernetics”
There is a good possibility that your local library has a copy of “The New Psycho-Cybernetics”. I first consumed this material through an audio version of the book downloaded from our local library to my smartphone.
However, if you want to purchase a copy of the book or audiobook, you can do so at Amazon.com using the link below.
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