Episode 154: Dr. John Sullivan on Why The Brain Always Wins, and the Importance of P.R.O.C.E.S.S.

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Clinical sport psychologist and applied sports scientist Dr. John Sullivan talks about his book, The Brain Always Wins, where he explains the difference between the brain and the mind, and breaks down the 7-component framework to maintain and accelerate brain health.  

Guest Bio:

Dr John SullivanDr. John P. Sullivan is the founder and CEO of Clinical & Sports Consulting Services.  He is a Clinical Sport Psychologist and Applied Sport Scientist for Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, and within the professional ranks of the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLS, Olympics, and the Elite Performers of Military.  He has worked in the NFL for 13 years coordinating clinical care, human performance technology, and facilitating the league’s Rookie Success Program.  He is the Assistant Director of the South County Sports Medicine/Sports Performance Concussion Clinic in Wakefield, Rhode Island.  Dr. Sullivan has worked as a mental health professional for nineteen years and provided professional services in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, college counseling centers, and private practice.  He is a licensed psychologist and well-rounded clinician/practitioner, having served children, adolescents, adults, and geriatric patients.

Dr. Sullivan is a thought leader who has provided services for a broad variety of athletes, and has served as a consultant, practitioner, lecturer, and researcher in the area of Sport Psychology both domestically and internationally. He is an active member of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the Big East Conference Sports Medicine Society, and a frequent collaborator with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) regarding education initiatives and provides expert oversight.  Dr. Sullivan serves on several scientific advisory boards for developing technology companies in the areas of sport and well-being.

(source: www.performancedocs.com)

Show Notes:

(03:54) When you hear the word successful, who’s the first person that comes to mind and why?

(04:59) How do you apply some of the things you’ve learned from Nelson Mandela into your personal life and the work that you do?

(06:17) John’s background

(11:07) You talked about the influence of your mom and dad and your older brothers. Do you feel like being the youngest of three allowed you to develop almost a differentiator of self awareness, the awareness of your surroundings, more than other people in your family or other people that you grew up with?

You have to work to find a way to put yourself in other people’s shoes because it’s easy to be upset. There’s a reason to be upset. It’s real.

(14:19) Let’s dive into your book, “The Brain Always Wins.”  Why did you write the book? Why are you and Chris (Parker, co-author) are the two best people to cover this topic?

(17:30) So you break the concepts in The Brain Always Wins into seven components, and you used the acronym PROCESS… One of the things I talk about a lot, is that I have been influenced by coaches and players that I’ve read… These guys influenced my thought process on, remove the outcome once you’ve set a goal and focus on the steps that you can take to get there. And you’ve turned this into an acronym to really focus readers on the most important things. Why did you choose that word and why is it so important?

(21:18) I feel like, especially in the self-improvement world, it’s just the literature in that genre, anybody who wants to get better is constantly poring over these TED talks and readings and psychological books. But there seems to be an over-reliance on goal setting and goals. And that’s I guess why I’ve been so focused on process because it takes the anxiety out of the equation. The over-reliance on goal setting tends to, if you do not have the right process or framework in place, it sets you up for failure. What’s your thought on that?

(22:52) If you don’t process everything that could go wrong in each one of your steps, you are not really fully preparing.

(24:42) Give us a snapshot of each of the 7 components of the acronym PROCESS.

We are wired to rest, and through rest, essential things happen.

We feel before we think… Our feelings are part of our decision-making process and that management of them makes us much higher performers.

We are really wired as human beings to connect.

(31:09) I think that your work has really made me re-think the way that I approach my work with my customers.

(33:19) Let’s dive into some of the potentially commonly asked questions that you can get from this process. You mentioned the mind versus the brain. This is really key. Tell us about the differences between the mind versus the brain and why this is important.

(37:47) Can someone influence their emotion, or change their potential emotion, if they have optimized for their physical training, their rest and recovery and their nutrition, or does the emotion just trump anything?

(39:48) Do you believe, or is there science that shows that someone can be clutch? And if so, how does that happen?

High performers in every environment manage emotions.

(42:42) I don’t know if there’s a difference between clutch and being poised. Do you believe there’s a difference?

(45:09) One of the things that’s always brought up in sports and business is that sports is 90% mental or your approach to work is 90% mental. Does research support this, or is it some random number that’s thrown out there?  

(48:40) From this conversation or from the book, what are the 1 or 2 things that you want our readers or listeners to take away as a small win?

Everything that you do serves your brain.

Rest and recovery is an underutilized skill in our culture that stops us, a lot of times, from achieving the things we want to.

Performance and health are not two separate things.

We are wired to connect.  

(52:34) Do you have 2 to 3 books that have most influenced you that you would recommend to our audience?

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler


Dr. Sullivan’s Websites:


Co-author Chris Parker’s Website: http://www.chrisparkerpowerofwords.com

Book: The Brain Always Wins: Developing Successful Mind Management By Dr. John Sullivan and Chris Parker



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