Book Review: The Rise of Superman vs Locker Room Power

Adventure athletes are using flow to do the impossible

Adventure athletes are using flow to do the impossible

I was recently playing in a tournament in Houston grumbling to a fellow tennis friend about my struggle in finishing The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler.  My friend suggested I review Locker Room Power instead and I am so glad she did!

I honestly did enjoy the many thrilling examples Kotler gives of how high-adventure athletes have become an elite group of zone-hackers.  Kotler states that quite simply, the zone is the only reason theses athletes are surviving the biggest mountains, big waves and big rivers.  “When you’re pushing the limits of ultimate human performance, the choice is stark: it’s flow or die”.  But one quarter-way through the book I still didn’t see how the information in this book would apply to tennis players or musicians who wanted to learn how to enter the flow state without having to pretend that they are risking their lives running back for a lob or playing violin.  Sixty pages of nail-biting examples describing how extreme adventure athletes are quickly capable of entering the flow state when their lives are at risk is an exciting read and I do plan on completing the book to learn if the content is helpful in showing how people can surpass their personal best.

Excerpt from The Rise of Superman:  

It was a big day, waves in the forty-to fifty- foot range.  Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton had been there all morning, experimenting with the barrel, getting deeper and deeper, getting more comfortable as the hours went by. “We were definitely in the zone,” recounts Kalama, “but maybe too in the zone.  I towed Laird into a forty-five-footer, and he got so deep in the tube, was so relaxed, it was almost like he forgot where he was.  He let himself get pulled up the face-just way, way too high.”  On a wave like Jaws (Maui), the results can be horrific.  But when Jaws walled, Hamilton didn’t get pitched into the impact zone or sucked over the falls.  Instead, with his feet still in his footstraps, he did something no one has ever done before: jumped forward, hopping the board clear out of the wave and then dropping fifty feet straight down.  He did this while still inside that roaring barrel.  Stuck the landing too.  Absorbed the impact and rode off clean.  Laird never panicked, never even said ‘Oh, shit!’ He just jumped out of the wave, dropped to the bottom, and rode off.  Nothing to it.”
"The best way to counter a reputation is to build your own." It's called Locker Room Power.

"The best way to counter a reputation is to build your own." It's called Locker Room Power.

Locker Room Power by David Sammel

Locker Room Power by David Sammel is a quick but a deep read.  Within the first few pages of reading, this book has the feel of an insightful and practical book.  It is very clear that David Sammel authors from years of experience as both a competitor and a coach.  Sammel explains ‘Locker Room Power’ as that positive aura that surrounds an athlete and can be thought of as the X-Factor in competition.  LRP is the culmination of practice, the intent and commitment that creates a fear factor to sap an opponent’s self-belief.  With effective LRP many matches are won before a player steps on court.  Simply put, Locker Room Power is the perception that a player is better than he actually is, generated by other players talking about his game in a way that creates a positive aura.  Based on the fact that I used up an entire highlighter while reading this 106 page book, one can safely assume that I found LRP to be loaded with great quotes and helpful tips. 

Discipline and diligence is up there on the list, but one of the most important qualities of really successful people is humility.  If you have a degree of humility about you, you have the ability to take advice, to be coachable, teachable.  A humble person never stops learning.”-Todd Blackledge

The following statement from Sammel makes this book relatable, believable and practical: “One of the most significant factors about top performers is the capacity to find a way to perform when they are not in the zone.  One of the ways they do this is by fully accepting that it is impossible to be in the zone at all times particularly in high pressured performance situations.  In fact, it is no exaggeration to say, that the best performers understand and accept that they have to learn how to manage their mind out of the zone and that this is a never ending challenge.

Sammel provides the following equation to help make the term LRP more tangible.

D (esire) + (W)eapons) + B (elief) + R (esults) = LRP

He shares his coaching philosophy in five steps:

  1. Inspiration: Paint the dream but then forget about it and focus on the immediate next step.
  2. Work hard and good things will happen, you just don’t know when.
  3. Success is based on your weapons not your weaknesses, so spend more time building your weapons than improving weaknesses.
  4. Keep it simple.  Love the process and never work on more than two things at once.  
  5. There is no competitive advantage unless you create it-it is called Locker Room Power.  And the process of building Locker Room Power begins through understanding what constitutes a competitive mentality.

Sammel lists another five ideas on how to build a positive mentality:

  1. Perseverance is the mental foundation.  No ‘one-loss’ makes you bad and no ‘one-win’ makes you good.  Setbacks are part of the process and nothing to panic about.
  2. Tone of voice from the coach and the player is more important than what is said.  Loss of voice control rarely gets the job done.  Use a decisive and firm tone.
  3. Feeling sorry for yourself as a competitor is arguable a ‘sackable offense’.  Sammel accepts a short period of disappointment from his athletes after a loss (1 hour) but then it is time to move on and improve again.
  4. Same Sh*t different level.  The same tests need to be passed at every level.
  5. There is not greater confidence builder than preparation and believing that you are making progress.


In contrast to The Rise of Superman which feels a bit futuristic and unattainable, Sammel concludes Locker Room Power with the following:

Mental toughness is a choice.  Trust yourself and your game.  Work hard until you can trust your game.  Remember that success is committing yourself fully to your goal; the result is bonus.

Lizl KotzBook Review