13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do  | Book Review

Values Make Us Strong

Amy Morin’s personal and professional reflections addressing common leadership confidence issues is a worthy companion to Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Counseling stories and What’s Helpful/What’s Not Helpful sections serve as chapter bookends providing reinforcement and easily accessible future reference.

Morin’s opening Mental Strength truths (pp. 12-13), grounded in personal values ideal for overcoming fear as a central theme, are reminiscent of conflict avoidance contributing to 83% of leaders (Emerge Leadership Group) not held accountable for their actions. Morin’s thirteen characteristics and their leadership technique correlation inform this review.


Feeling sorry for ourselves wastes energy (p. 21), requiring an attitude adjustment. Morin recommends trading values (self-pity for gratitude p. 27) and making conscious efforts to do something contrary to how you feel (p. 23) thus helping break the habit. She advises using a journal (p. 29)  for teaching others gratitude, exemplified in a story (pp. 30-31) reminiscent of Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Indirectly recommending After Action Reviews, Morin calls out a common reflection (p. 148) “You [We] don’t invest much time in analyzing why your [our] attempts to reach your [our] goals are unsuccessful.” She cites the 2012: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition – “it is difficult to completely unlearn what we were taught when we were younger (p. 149)” - perhaps corresponding to our Energize2Lead dominant colors (p. 150: stubborn, impulsivity) and behaviors. On page 155 Morin asks -- What could I have done better? and What can I do differently next time? -- just like the end of an Academy Leadership workshop or during an After Action Review.

Morin’s sharpest analysis targets Why We Give Up (p. 183) starting with “almost everyone has given up on something after a failed first attempt.” She references the 1998 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology experiment where those praised for effort were more eager to learn from mistakes than those for self-esteem, leading to

Grit is a better predictor of success than IQ (p. 187)

demonstrated by Walt Disney’s inspiring Oswald story (pp. 191-192) how after his initial failure in the cartoon industry led to unprecedented success within a few years during the great depression.

Morin recommends we all record our thoughts more. She references (p. 201) a 1997 Study The Emergence of Solitude as a Constructive Domain of Experience in Early Adolescence  - similar toSusan Cain in Quiet) - concluding:

“Although it can be a challenge to slow down and take time out for yourself, there can be serious consequences if you don’t.” (p. 202)

On pages 205-206 Morin outlines an effective journaling process.

Personal Leadership Philosophy

Morin asserts pleasers lose sight of their values (p. 98) and points out that among the Top Five Regrets of the Dying (Bronnie Ware) people often said they wished having more authentic lives.

“No matter what your values are, you’ll stop behaving according to them if you’re focused primarily on pleasing other people.” (p. 99)

On pages 101-103 Morin presents a values clarification exercise (similar to a Life’s Compass Rose) and advises living one’s values (p. 109), even if not well received.


Morin submits six types of change (p. 56) and five stages (pp. 57-58) of transformation as thoughtful steps before asking What I Will Do Differently? (WIWDD from Academy Leadership self-evaluations). Asking what we can do today (similar to Goldsmith) by means of active questions is a terrific additional idea.

On page 118 Morin challenges “fear meters” reliability, reminding us of continuously streamed contemporary media hype (p. 122). Instead, she lists eight risk level questions (pp. 123 – 125) allowing informed decision-making, thereby reducing fear of taking calculated risks.

Energy & Triggers | Know Yourself

Thinking before we react (p. 43), similar to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and Why Forgive?: Officer McDonald’s (p. 41) amazing redemption story highlight ways for us to retain our power. For those easily holding grudges (dominant green E2L), pages 48-49 highlight benefits of absolution.

Morin describes delegation challenges (pp. 74–75) and wasted energy control via a bi-locus of control, or separating what we truly can control & what we cannot. On page 83 she wisely advises influence rather than control by listening first, speaking second. Finding the best ways to use energy and Create Your [Our] Own Definition of Success (p. 174) leads to celebrating other’s successes in turn leading to competing only with oneself.

Self Coaching | Turn Knowing into Doing

Morin cautions us of The Problem With Expecting Immediate Results – if we don’t apply any new information or learning, then we will not cross the Knowing-Doing Gap (p. 235). She finishes with good self-coaching questions (p. 241):

How will I know if what I’m doing is working?
What is a realistic time frame to see initial results?
What kind of results can I realistically expect to see within one week, one month, six months, and one year?
How will I know that I’m staying on track toward my goal?

Note: Amy Morin generously provided a copy of her book for review.

JE | February 2016